Friday, January 6, 2017

A TOUGH CHRISTMAS


'Hearts' by Gemma Boyd: Spread love, peace, empathy and passion in 2017!


Christmas with my little family; my partner, Jan and our pets was a good one, but internally I struggled. 

On Christmas Eve I had an overloaded brain (which happens quite a lot since I've almost completely stopped compulsively writing down reassurances to myself each time my OCD is triggered): I'd had some pretty intense conversations the day before which I couldn't process, plus I was plagued by intrusive images (of an unwanted Christmas card from one of my abusers; a cup of tea I'd spilt at my double bass student's house; being stared at by a man while I was alone on my allotment).

When I spilt the tea, I apologized and my student was fine, but once I got home PTSD kicked in and I was right back being screamed at and thrown out of a 'friend's' house with nowhere to go for accidentally spilling red wine on his carpet: Such a small tea spillage became a major catastrophe for which I could expect to be punished or rejected, and Jan had to reassure me that all would be okay with my student.

The usual Christmas pressures and my performances as a musician had worn me out and so my ability to challenge the OCD was impaired. Having said that, though, I'd felt able to delete from the notes on my IPhone, more reassurances I'd written to myself on my travels that I hadn't been raped, attacked or contaminated. 

Soon after, this 'Notes' app packed up all together (probably from overuse ;)). I wasn't overly anxious about this, though, which shows that I'm learning to trust myself more and to separate out symptoms of my OCD / PTSD from the real me. I also took it as a sign that I don't need to write stuff down anymore so's to make it feel more real: I'm calmer inside.

Noting down reassurances to myself and keeping a far too detailed daily diary have been my main compulsions over the years, but nowadays I'm writing down only about a quarter of what I was doing: The other day I enjoyed a conversation with one of my fellow male allotmenteers without having to write down straight away afterwards, that he hadn't hurt me; yet another glimpse of the woman I used to be before OCD hit.

Next, I aim to stop asking Jan for reassurance that I'm safe and that I haven't been contaminated: Even though I can put off doing this until I see her in person instead of phoning her constantly, I'd like to knock this compulsion on the head completely. I'm hopeful that with the help of my counsellor, I shall slowly be able to do this.

Family issues which will probably always confuse, conflict and pain me, naturally come to the fore at this time of year, and even my friends are reluctant to talk about it (given that child abuse and mental health are still regarded by some as subjects best shoved under that carpet). Consequently I felt manic, alone and resentful for a few days. Due to this build-up of emotions I found hard to control, I was tempted to self-harm again - especially when I accidentally burnt myself and the physical pain lessened my mental anguish - but I didn't, and managed to salvage a friendship I almost destructively destroyed due to my distrust of peoples' intentions.

I was grateful for the phone conversations I was able to have with the women from Nia; East London Rape Crisis and for my yoga practice during this period, and tried to remind myself that the guilt and shame I often feel belongs to my abusers and not to me.

Looking back at how lost and defeated by my OCD I felt last year at this time, I know I've made some really significant progress but there's still a lot of hard work to be done - especially in terms of getting a handle on my 'checking' compulsions.