Tuesday, April 26, 2016

ENJOYING BEING AT HOME AGAIN

'Anything is possible and that's the problem. Or is it?': Khara Plicanic talking about her experiences of living with OCD and how she attempts to keep her symptoms at bay.

Even though PMT induced me to fall short of accomplishing a couple of exposures this week concerning my obsession that wherever I am in the house, I'm going to poison my beloved cat, Tigger, I was able to reduce my SUDS level from 48 to five by not pandering to the compulsion to seek reassurance from my partner Jan / write down that I hadn’t, in fact, caused him any damage – and I’m beginning to enjoy spending time with him again.

I challenged myself during some of these ERP sessions, to confront this fear head-on; to exercise in the room where Tigger’s food and water are for 20-minute bouts. The intrusive thoughts that flooded my mind afterwards of Tigger dying because I’d poisoned him, were dreadful, but I can now view such thoughts as simply being part and parcel of fighting OCD; the disorder’s pathetic attempt at keeping me a prisoner of my own mind.

Without the encouragement and empathy of Jan and members of Support 4 Everything OCD on Facebook, when certain images, for example, my fetching fly spray from the cupboard with Tigger in the next room, would ‘stick’ in my mind's eye and tempt me to avoid carrying on with exposures, I don’t think I’d have made the progress I have.

For the first time in a long while, I was able to refrain from noting down reassurances to myself that I hadn’t been contaminated when people accidentally bumped into me on busy London streets or on the Tube: As Khara puts it on the above TED talk, I was, in those moments, able to ‘widen my focus’ and know that the chances of someone deliberately sticking a contaminated needle in me while I'm walking along, are very remote indeed. I also continued to delete reassurances I’d written to myself over the years from my iPhone.

CARA; the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse in Essex emailed me the contact details of Nia; East London Rape Crisis, who I’ll phone for help with the PTSD side of my diagnosis in preparation for tackling my most established OCD: the fear of being raped, attacked or contaminated by men.

Finally, do check out the ‘Pages’ tab on here which includes a link to the ‘OCD and Anxiety Treatment’ work offered by the widely-respected Dr Bradley C. Riemann, Ph. D. and the Rogers Memorial Hospital. Thanks to my friend, Patricia Ann Zabran for telling me about this!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TIGGER OR TRIGGER?

Tigger in my office helping me to gain some perspective!

Instinctively, I started ERP on my obsession that wherever I am in the house, I'm going to poison my beloved cat, Tigger. I've had it for about four months and the intrusive thoughts that accompany it are terrifying: As the fear and anxiety I could’ve poisoned Tigger backlogged (especially after I deliberately put myself in the vicinity of his food and water), the ability I had to concentrate on my work diminished and I became disorientated.

During this first exposure (for which my initial SUDS level before commencing ERP was 99), I managed not to ask my partner, Jan for / write down reassurance to myself that I hadn't poisoned him, for nearly nine hours. During this time, Tigger was playing with me (because he loves me, bless him). Once I’d begun to feel tired, however, I was unable to keep going, and my brain felt like mush!

At one point during the week I got stressed at work and had a migraine. Consequently I failed one of my ‘I haven’t poisoned Tigger’ exposures, and OCDs I’d fought hard to contain reared their ugly heads again briefly. Even though in the end I’d given in to my need to seek reassurance I’d done no harm to Tigger, I reminded myself I’d been able to put off performing this compulsion for a considerable amount of time – and that was progress.

Over a period of six days, I reduced my SUDS level regarding this exposure to 48, and even refrained from seeking reassurance from Jan while she was out all day and I was left alone with Tigger, that I hadn’t poisoned his food or water: Distracting myself from the anxiety with reading and TV worked, and being premenstrual resulted in me feeling not so hypervigilant. It was only a week ago that this OCD was so bad I could barely move.

I obsess that I’ll poison Jan, too, and still sip from cups of tea I make her to confirm to myself I haven’t potentially killed her…

Engaging in ERP, for me, is about getting my brain to ‘speed up’ and not to dwell on every little detail so that I’m more able to go with the flow of life.

In addition to the above, I really struggled to stop from myself from sabotaging the successes I’ve experienced thus far in this bid to rein in my obsessive-compulsive behaviour – but I managed to (just)! I also deleted some of the notes of reassurance I make to myself on my iPhone, which shows I’m beginning to trust in my physical safety more.

Some peoples’ silence in response to my opening up about the abuse I’ve suffered (which I believe triggered my OCD), is something I take very personally, and makes me feel further isolated with my emotional difficulties, so I’ve emailed CARA; the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse in Essex that Survivors’ Network, Brighton recommended to me, for more support. Watch this space!

Thank you to everyone who's supported and encouraged me this week – I really appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LIONHEART

I bought this little guy from a local charity shop as a reminder that I am a fighter.

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” – Marcel Proust

In retrospect, I think that engaging in dialogue with my mum which I knew, deep down, was only going to cause me distress, had been a self-sabotaging act: Even though I have compassion for myself, there’s a part of me that isn’t comfortable with long periods of feeling happy and relaxed – and OCD has served the purpose of perpetually ‘putting me in my place’. I really am done with feeling this shit and guilty, though, but am having to dig really deep to find the strength to identify and override this urge to self-destruct.

I’ve worked hard on my OCD, ‘Walk down the street in trainers / shoes / boots without checking behind me for blood or contaminated needles, and don’t seek reassurance from my partner, Jan, or write down that I hadn’t been contaminated by anything on the pavement’ to reduce the anxiety it provokes in me (especially when wearing lightweight trainers) to a SUDS level of 0. Also, without as much conscious effort, I’ve been able to prevent myself from compulsively having to write down / ask Jan for reassurance that I haven’t deleted and deleted again any important emails.

Even though I’ve got these obsessions under control, I realize that the anxiety and intrusive thoughts I experience in relation to doing these activities are always going to be there to a lesser or greater degree - and that now I must, to keep up the momentum, push myself to move on to the next exposure.

As I’d predicted, this journey to recovery is bringing up a jumble of traumatic memories, nightmares featuring my father and conflicted feelings, which I could use some help with, so this week I’ll explore a couple of support outlets for victims of abuse I’ve been told about.

The BBC (in England) aired the documentary, Abused – The Untold Story, about the DJ Jimmy Savile: It’s really positive how nowadays, the voices of victims of sexual abuse are being heard and taken more seriously.

At one point I became despairing about the new OCDs my brain is creating to replace the ones I’ve just conquered. Janet Singer brilliantly describes this ‘replacement OCDs’ happening in her blog: ocdtalk: 'Just right' OCD. That evening, exhausted, I took myself off to bed at 9 pm: I’m finding complete rest essential when I hit a all-time low.

A few days later I felt almost ready to destroy the reams and reams of reassurances I’ve written down over the last 10 years as a result of my obsessions, in a bid to feel ‘lighter’ – which can only be a positive sign.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A JUGGLING ACT

'New Life' by my Polish concert pianist friend, Nuna Kurek.

Regularly watching episodes of the TV show, 'I Survived' on CBS Reality, during which everyday people recount how they survived some of the most horrific and terrifying situations imaginable, has really inspired me and helped me gain perspective on some of my worst ‘OCD’ fears: I’m forever seeking reassurance that no man has raped, attacked or contaminated me (I’m petrified of being alone with any man – even if it’s just in the street), in case he turns violent and I won’t remember he’s fatally violated me. 

I have to remind myself that just like some of the victims in the show, I have survived being sexually abused by my grandfather, being beaten by my parents, an attempted rape, a psychotic stalker, and am still alive and functioning. In other words, I’ve survived the worst, and now it’s a case of trying to confront the resultant trauma which has manifested itself in symptoms of OCD and PTSD.

This week, with regards to my ‘Walk down the street in trainers / shoes / boots without checking behind me for blood or contaminated needles, and don’t seek reassurance from my partner, Jan, or write down that I hadn’t been contaminated by anything on the pavement’ exposure, I managed to victoriously persevere with this (mostly in boots, varying the terrain I was covering), and to reduce my SUDS level from 15 to 1. Once I’d got to a SUDS level of 4, I’d almost forgotten that I even had this OCD, and barely felt any anxiety once I got home to ‘safety’. I still don’t feel entirely comfortable about doing this exposure wearing lightweight trainers, though, which is why I’m going to carry on repeating it until I get my SUDS level down to a definite 0.

The better I was getting at walking down the street without checking the pavement behind me, the more my brain was creating ‘replacement’ walking-related OCDs, such as having to ask Jan to reassure me / write down that the man I’d just simply passed by, hadn’t hurt me: OCD is such a cruel disorder, which latches onto anything it can to make my life a perpetual nightmare.

As a consequence of the confidence I’ve gained doing this exposure, however, I’ve almost been able to eradicate my compulsion to write down reassurances to myself that in going through my emails, I haven’t deleted and deleted again any important ones. I do ask Jan for reassurance instead, sometimes, and I can’t resist the compulsion to write reassurances down if I have too much other stuff whizzing around my brain, but I’m happy to be headed in the right direction with this OCD.

I must be mindful of having to ‘keep all the balls in the air’; to stop myself (particularly when I feel tired, ill or stressed), from relapsing and engaging in old ‘OCD’ behaviours such as checking page numbers when I’m reading, which I’ve worked so hard to curb.

Foolishly perhaps, given that I’m trying to focus on my recovery, I re-opened the fragile line of communication I have with my mother via email. As ever (for reasons too lengthy to go into here), nothing was resolved and I ended up feeling conflicted, confused and unable to articulate my feelings: It'd be more straightforward if we both plain hated each other, but despite everything that’s happened, we still think of each other every day and have loving things to say to each other.

Janet Singer of the excellent blog, ocdtalk had posted a radio discussion that was recorded on March 21st 2016 in which she joined Dr Michael Tompkins as a guest on ‘About Health’ with Rona Renner. I listened with great interest as many aspects of OCD were addressed and listeners asked questions. You can access the programme here. The main point I gleaned from it is that THE ‘OCD’ THOUGHTS AREN’T IMPORTANT, and it confirmed my suspicion that the heightened sensitivity I have to smell and sound are connected to my OCD (I can’t tolerate, for example, passengers on a train I’m sitting to next to, sniffing – which is why I wear earplugs). Again, I believe that this all harks back to a need to control my environment.

Check out Kay Ska's blog, This is what a person with mental health looks like, in which myself and this blog are featured under 'March 2016'.

Many thanks to those of you I’ve just met and faithful friends, who have taken the time to walk this tough road I’m on with me: It means an enormous amount and is giving me the strength I need to go on.