Monday, 28 March 2016

Progress, peace and learning to have fun

I have not written for a long time mainly because I just lost the will to document all the on goings in my head since it meant thinking about it even more than I already was doing and partly because I was just too fed up to be bothered.
In the time that has passed I have had some very bad lows and some high highs leading me to think I might actually be mildly bi-polar if such a a thing is possible. I have not dared look into it as depression scares the hell out of me.

I have made huge progress with my OCD and have managed to rid my mind of my thought loops. Basically compulsively repeating a list of worries over and over in my head. This I have done since childhood so this is massive for me! Of course it returns sometimes but only for a short while until I regain control.

I did have, what appeared to be, another OCD / GAD/ depression breakthrough moment last October. I went to Brighton for the weekend with my husband and his best mate Gary and his girlfriend Sara. I was not really all that bothered about going as it was to see Joe Bonamassa in concert who the guys had worshipped for years but I barely knew who he was – I don’t tend to pay attention to this stuff as I am too busy obsessing about everything in my head. My usual fearful and negative mind was telling me that I would be bored and not really enjoy Brighton - I had never been before. Anyway, off we went. It was awesome! I loved Brighton as it is so busy and vibrant and I loved the concert and came out with all the good brain chemicals running wild. In the pub afterwards the subject came around to my husband’s brother Matt. Gary was commenting on Matt’s OCD and that he avoids various things he is afraid of. So there was I in my high as a kite good mood full of positivity and joy thinking “Oh yes I also recognise those as OCD behaviours and I have similar ones which I just know I can overcome!!”. I had this sense that I could overcome it all. Also, I had been really down about karate for a while, missing lessons. I lost my Mojo you could say and my confidence with it. Feeling empowered with the happy chemicals running wild I thought I am going to go back and go for it! So I did. For about two weeks…

Then something happened. I will not go into great detail due to its personal nature (sorry to disappoint – you don’t get the juice!) but suffice to say I met a friend who was very dear to me and they let me down. They acted like a good and close, caring friend and then in the blink of an eye - nothing! They virtually disappeared. I had become very attached and was gutted and heartbroken to say the least. I missed the person but also I had allowed this friendship to distract me from many things in life and in particular karate which I had as I said earlier regained my passion for.  Then when they turned away from me I felt I was left with nothing. I had so easily allowed this to happen. I have learned a lot from this experience.

I am learning about my highs and lows and that it is often only a feeling and does not always have much of a basis. I get low about something and then with a boost of happiness it just disappears as though the source my unhappiness does not matter anymore. Like it was just an obsession. Some highs can come from big or small events and last hours or weeks and they also have little basis. They are just there. I think this is what happened after the concert with my thoughts on OCD and karate. It was just a high making me feel that way? It can only be real if it sticks and I so easily let go. I'm not really decided yet what I make of all that.

I have been reading a book called “Dare to Live” by Mirian Subirana. I cannot recommend it enough. It teaches us to let go of attachments. We can love people but we cannot own them. We can like our possessions but we should not become emotionally attached. If you can learn to accept this you can rid your life of a lot of fear and anxiety as you no longer fear losing them. Also, not to pin happiness on wants and desires. We want possessions and we want status. Best instead to work on goals which allow us to progress as people. Of course, in my opinion, we will always want stuff but as long as you understand you cannot always have what you want and don’t be emotionally dependant on it it’s ok. I think you can choose a balance which suits your needs. I now meditate each day. I tried before but didn't stick at it but this experience has made me see that I really need to. If I don’t things break down again. I am always so up and down, high and low. I need meditation to keep on the straight and narrow. It keep the storm away - to maintain some peace in my mind. I am focusing on being peaceful and loving while letting go of fear and anger by understanding and acceptance. I have also made a promise to myself to only have optimistic and positive thoughts. Quite a challenge!

I have also learned that I must do things I enjoy. I don’t spend enough time having fun. I really would love to do something creative and achieve a sense of progress. I can of course progress in karate but increasingly I am falling out of love with it. I really don’t know what will happen there. I lose confidence every time I make another go of it. We’ll see but I don’t think I should pressure myself to do something which is not working for me at the moment.  Anyway, because of something I am up to (more about that later) it will be necessary for me to have a rest from it in a few weeks’ time. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder or maybe I will find something else that excites me.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The wait is over...

I have finally found out what causes my eczema. After all these years of having terrible, painful, itchy, bleeding, embarrassing skin on my hands I have found the cause. I've had it since I was a baby and rather than improve as I got older as is common it got worse. 

Incredibly it completely cleared up when I was anorexic in my early twenties. Naively I thought it had gone for good but once I had made the tremendous effort of managing to eat and was getting better the eczema came back with a vengeance. It was slowly creeping back for a long time. I first noticed it one day at work. I thought my skin looks as though it is glowing red from the inside. I tried not to think about it and just hoped it was something else and would get better. It didn't and the swelling started. I gradually started to get more worried but didn't know what to do so tried to ignore it. I switched jobs and remember not long after I started came the day when I knew with certainty that the "curse" as I call it was definitely back. My skin all over my hands was swollen and bright red like glowing torches. Bizarre and very uncomfortable. They itched all over. I felt devastated. I felt as though I was having a panic attack. Eczema and not knowing the cause has always been a great source of anxiety for me and now my anxiety went into overdrive. I couldn't stand not knowing the cause. To say I was obsessed was an understatement. Of course because of the timing I thought it must be something I was eating so I went through the laborious task of eliminating various foods from my diet. Not something I needed to be doing just as I was recovering from an eating disorder. I also had blood tests for food allergies but nothing useful came up. I had a skin patch test when I was a child but it showed up nothing of any apparent significance. 

So in my not so healthy mind and out of desperation I decided to stop eating to see if my skin would clear up again. It did. After about 4-6 weeks my skin looked good. Not 100% like before but much better. My anxiety was sky high with the hunger. I didn't sleep well which further exacerbated the anxiety. I would go over and over in my head what the cause could be. It was on a loop and I could not stop it. It was literally all the time. My OCD had taken full advantage of my hungry state and had got me good. The only time I would think about something else was if I absolutely had to such as at work or if someone spoke to me and then I would struggle to focus on that. Of course this could not continue for ever and I knew that but did not want to face it. I ignored it until I had two panic attacks. One was when I went to bed one night. My energy levels were so low I only just made it up the stairs. I staggered into bed and felt this almighty rush of fear. It is hard to put it into words. It was absolute terror as though something worse than death was about to happen. I actually considered for a moment jumping out of the window. Partly to make an attempt to flee and partly because facing the unknown object of my fear seemed worse than death. The other time was when I was at my parents for the weekend. We went out on the Friday night and I had a couple of glasses of wine and as usual did not eat enough. The next day when we were out I came over very shaky (which I managed to hide) and anxious. I kept it together until we got home at which point my heart was beating way too fast and I felt terrible. I sat there on the chair in the living room pretending to watch TV while my mum read the paper. I thought shall I tell her? Everything? It was on the tip of my tongue. But how could I tell my mum I was starving myself to improve my eczema. I knew deep down it was crazy and I needed help but was so desperate for my skin to be better. If I admitted it I would have to eat and my skin would become bad again. I would lose "control". Also it felt like too much to spring on my parents. I knew they would have helped me but I just couldn't tell anyone this secret. I said I needed a little sleep because we had been up late the night before and I went off to bed. Of course drinking and staying up late would not have helped my anxiety. I was shaking and shivering. Feeling very cold and anxious. I wrapped myself up in a dressing gown and duvet and tried to relax and sleep but just couldn't. After a couple of hours I went down stairs and we had dinner. I slowly started to feel better after that and managed to sleep that night. The next day I was still feeling the panic but it was on a lower level.

The impact of the eczema along with OCD and anxiety had a huge impact on my quality of life and effected everything I did. I had just started trying to eat a bit more but was still cutting out dairy and wheat when I was asked by work to do a first aid course. I was in such a state I should not have been at work let alone on any kind of training course. While such courses are made to be relatively easy I was still going to struggle. I just didn't have the mental energy. I was exhausted and my OCD rituals in my head were relentless. I would repeat phrases, sentences and lists of things which bothered me over and over again. My concentration skills were almost non existent. I was lucky that my job was relatively quiet or I really would have been in trouble. I spent four days on this course and left with a fail. I was ashamed and very depressed. I emailed personnel to tell them when I got back in on the Monday having worried all weekend. They did not respond to my email. Heaven knows what conclusions they drew about me from that! 

I knew I had to get help so I decided to see a dietician who was convinced I would be an easy case and that it would be dairy products or wheat or one of the other usual suspects. Not so. I explained I already tried this. She was stumped as to what was going on. So I accepted my eczema and that I was not going to find the answer. I felt that there was no one who would help me. I was out of ideas. Doctors only have a very basic knowledge of eczema. I have had doctors insist they cannot figure it out for me and that I must do it myself only to have others laugh when I come up with an evidence backed idea of what it might be. I decided I had had enough and slapped on the steroid creams that doctors are so afraid of. They say they and bad for you because they can thin the skin. I think to myself ok let's look at this. You can have sore, itchy, dry, swollen, weeping, cracked, bleeding, painful, taught, sleep depriving, debilitating, embarrassing skin on your hands and I my case the detrimental effect on my mental health or you can apply a steroid cream which will clear up all the above in no time. I would give any doc 24 hours with my skin before they would be begging for the steroids. They don't take quality of life into account. I have been using steroids on my hands ever since. 

I found some answers at the beginning of the year when I discovered that the contraceptive pill was partly to blame. I came off it and the swelling and redness from the inside went which is fantastic. The red glow has gone. 

Three weeks ago I had a skin patch test at Harley Street in London and found I am allergic to Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon Pereirae) which is the sap from a tree called Myroxolon balsamum which grows in El Salvador. This sap is used in many cosmetics, toiletries, detergents foods and drinks and is difficult to avoid. I am also allergic to various other fragrances used in many cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes. I am going through the process of checking out all my products for these allergens and researching alternatives. I'm actually finding it all very interesting and even enjoying learning about all these chemicals. I hope I can now move on from all the frustration this skin disease brings by finally knowing the cause. I often feel that I am able to tolerate and even find peace with something if I have the knowledge to deal with it. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Finding my peace

The last year and a half has been a testing time. My OCD and Anxiety have led me down a dark path but I have managed to find my way back. My OCD made me feel powerless and frustrated. My fears and anxieties drove me to despair. This all brought  about an intense anger from which came dark thoughts of people telling me I was useless and no good. Constantly taunting me on a daily basis. Living a meaningfull happy life felt out of reach and things seemed hopeless. Suicidal thoughts became the norm. I felt powerless to help myself with all the noise and angst in my head. Whenever I got an idea of what I might do to help myself I found all I could do was compulsively repeat it to myself over and over again.

I had therapy for OCD and GAD early this year which helped. The therapist has both herself which gave me more confidence in her method of overcoming them and that I also could. I managed to gain control of both with determination and the sense that I just had to get myself out of this. But the anger was still there and remained an intense problem. I had therapy for this more recently. I needed to have some peace in my mind. My therapist helped me to understand that all the issues come from fear. OCD and GAD come from fear of course and fear causes anger. Also they cause frustration and a sense of a lack of control which feed the anger. They make me feel as though I am weak which again feeds anger. Knowing they all come from fear seemed to be a turning point. It made it all seem more simplified and manageable if it was all from the same place. It felt like a challenge I could take on and I felt empowered to face and fight the fear head on. I always knew the issues were all closely related but I had still always viewed them as separate. I think partly because I like to pull things apart and look at them and also because they have their own methods of treatment. But of course they originate from the same place.

I have started to use meditation to calm the angry thoughts and to help me have clarity of mind so I am better able to deal with things. This has been very effective. With a chaotic, obsessive mind it is very difficult to work through problems. Like a run away train thoughts are out of control. Imagine you are in a room full of papers you need to tidy into orderly piles. The problem is there is a whirlwind I the room. When you tidy the papers as soon as you put them down in a neat pile whoosh they are all over the place again. It is out of control. You need to switch the whirlwind off. Meditation does this. Meditation gives me a much needed sense of peace and calm and clarity. This enables me to sort out what I need to in my mind.

Looking at the more long term effects of anxiety I have found it changed me as a person. I became introverted, closed off and distant making it difficult to maintain friendships. I have found that I have lost out on close friendships because I feel as though I cannot connect with people. Partly because of a lack of interest due to being down and obsessed with my own mind and partly because I felt I was living a lie. Having this big bad secret I could not share with anyone for fear they would turn against me. Anxiety is a lonely place. I feel I have lost out for years due to anxiety. Not only on friends but also on opportunities not taken for fear things will go wrong or that I will show myself up by not being good enough.

Now I feel I am in control of things. I have found a more peaceful place. It is early days but I feel I am at a point where I am starting to think about how I can move forward and progress in my life. I now feel able to think beyond my mind problems. No longer obsessing about my anxieties and plagued by angry thoughts. I am much more positive about myself and my ability to overcome these difficulties and stay on top of them. Maybe I would like to start something new. Something for me to enjoy and feel a little achievement in.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Learning my value

Following on from my last blog – a long while ago it seems - today I have reminded myself of the reason I have so much anger, lack of self-esteem, insecurity and general disharmony in my life. It is because I am not what I value. I have lots of things which I value such as a lovely husband, good job, karate, family, friends and possessions. But I am not anything which I grew up to value. I grew up noticing all the pupils who were brighter than me at school. Also, I noticed the ones who were prettier, thinner and had natural talents and abilities. Of course, we all compare and unfortunately I had none of these things. The trouble is I have always valued them and have not really placed enough value elsewhere. Put this together with my feelings of inadequacy brought on by being ruled by OCD and anxiety. The constant feelings of being controlled by these disorders and feeling powerless against them adding greatly to my lack of self-esteem.  Consequently I now feel empty, as though I am nothing. It looks like a whole package: brains, beauty and natural talent. How wonderful to have the full set. But what are you if you don’t even have one of these? Empty? Nothing? Probably not, if I am being fair and reasonable. But this is how I feel. I am trying to see other attributes which I do have. I am organised and good at my job. Is this good enough when pitched against brains? Probably not but I do give it value. I am not a beauty but am ok looking and it is often commented on how young I look for my age. I have managed to maintain a slim figure while others are putting on weight as they age. I have no natural talents but I am doing well in karate which is a great skill to acquire. I have also learnt to drive in spite of my anxiety doing its best to stop me. Of course I have been comparing up since childhood. Maybe I can compare down more and realise my value. I need to feel I am something otherwise this lack of self-esteem just eats away at me. The vicious thoughts mentioned in my last blog still plague me but not nearly as much as they used to. So I am making some progress then! I am getting better at recognising my value but it is a slow and long process. I often forget why I feel the way I do when I get caught up in life’s twists and turns as we tend to do. I feel better each time I realise why I feel this way. It gives me a sense of clarity and understanding. From that point I feel I can maybe make progress and learn to change the way I feel. I did believe that OCD and anxiety played the largest part in my feelings of low self-esteem. However, there are many things in life which effect my self-esteem. Currently my OCD and anxiety are pretty good so they are not to blame at the moment. Can you change your values? Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe I just need to learn to appreciate other values. Accept what I am not and learn to see and value what I am.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Self attack

I think I can be pretty good at figuring all this stuff out sometimes. I blog that I have this problem and wonder what should I do about it. Next blog I have it sussed. Not so with everything. One thing I cannot fully understand is the viscous thinking in my head. Thoughts of people telling me I am rubbish. Scenarios my imagination thinks up right out of the blue for no reason which is apparent - they are just there. Arguments, confrontations, derogatory remarks, being laughed at, made fun of always by fictional people most of whom are faceless, nameless and rarely the same. I know this is all because of self hate. Hate because I am not good enough because I have these problems which mean I am imperfect, because I did not do well in school, because I don't think I have anything to offer the world. This is all deep stuff. But really I think I'm alight. I am a good person who gets on well with everyone and I work hard for a living and am good at what I do. I have my loving husband and family. I have my karate which I love and am fairly good at. I'm really not that bad at all. But this is my conscious thinking. Which is quite different to my unconscious opinions (outlined above) formed when I was growing up and feeling bad about myself as I discovered I didn't have any academic ability and believed I didn't have any skills. Even though I now realise this is not true I still feel the same worthlessness deep down. How can I make it go? I think I won't find the answer to this one because I think it won't leave and I have to live with it. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Perspective - Found it!

The other day I was getting very wound up about a karate competition I have in November. I was being overly critical and harsh with myself about practise and preparation. I then became very involved with things at work and became busy in my home life getting the decorating finished in time for Christmas and also the Christmas present shopping - already but I like to get it done in good time! This pressed me to find a way to cope with it all. I had "a word with myself" as I like to call it and decided that I needed to get perspective and calmly get on with it all if I wanted things to be less chaotic and stressful. I am now managing to think more realistically about my tasks and goals without the sergeant major attitude I develop about perfection. This has made me see that I simply need to work hard and do my best with a positive attitude not a strict, critical attitude which my insecurities and fears inflict upon me. It's so easy when you can see this. I have experienced similar situations before when I have only had one thing to focus on I have got very intense about it. When more things come along which I need to deal with I seem develop a more balanced attitude so I can cope with the load. 

Of course fear of making a mistake or failure or simply lacking in confidence has a strong part to play in being too hard on myself. When I am afraid I feel things are vitally important and that it is imperative I do things to perfection and I am terrible and not worthy if I do not. When I am more confident I cope better when things don't go as I'd choose. Since I have not been so preoccupied with my problems lately and am freed from the OCD loop in my head I have been happier generally and my confidence has grown because now I can think! 

I made a little mistake at work a couple of days ago and instead or berating myself I thought no harm done, won't do that again, move on. Not beating myself up about it I have realised does not mean that I don't care it just means I haven a sense of perspective and reason.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Strict, slack or somewhere in between?

If your not disciplined and strict are you slack? Where is the happy medium and how do I get there?

I know I am very hard on myself. I always have been. If I make a small mistake I am very upset and annoyed with myself. I know that my disappointment with myself is often disproportionate to the situation yet I cannot stop it. It causes me to feel anxious and low. I try to rationalise but don't manage this until after I have felt very bad for a while first. It is similar in this respect to my disproportionate anxiety when it's triggered by a relatively small threat. It takes a long time for me to calm down and come to my senses - to be blunt. Now I understand I need to learn to go easier on myself but where do you draw the line between being strict and being slack? If you say "Oh well, never mind that I did not do well. Better luck next time". Are you just being fair to yourself or are you being slack because you either don't care or cannot be bothered? I really believe that if I said "Oh well never mind" I would never endeavour to progress. We are told that we should be kind to ourselves and not take things so seriously but then we don't learn or improve - surely? Am I wrong? I have spent half the weekend annoyed because of a small mistake I made and whilst I know I need to correct the mistake I don't think I should feel so bad - but I still do. 

I guess I am thinking that feeling bad about something you did not achieve or do well motivates you to improve but it is also true that if those feeling lead to depression you can lose all enthusiasm and motivation. I wonder how I can feel it enough to be motivated but not so much that I am down. How can I find my happy medium?