Other Ramblings...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Tale of Tail Chasing.

According to The Daily Mail (that highly reputable news source), when dogs chase their tails, they're doing something which is similar to ritualistic behaviour in humans.  The same dogs who are habitual tail-chasers are also more likely to be startled by loud noises and timid in their general behaviour.

Although this is 'fascinating fact' sort of stuff, it does seem to be quite useful in others ways - scientists are able to examine the behaviour of dogs and whether differences in breed, gender, upbringing and diet have an effect on the behaviour the dogs display.  The plan is then to investigate whether this translates into human behaviour, giving researchers an insight into the development and treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in people.

One of the emergent theories is that dogs are more likely to develop anxious, compulsive behaviour if they've  been separated from their mothers early in their lives.  This, for me, makes a lot of sense: I've always found that my OCD is worse when I'm separated from my Mum, and one of my main anxiety triggers is being on holiday away from my home and family.  Although my family can leave me in the house alone and I seem not to have a problem with that.  Maybe with dogs and people it's a lack of routine which triggers obsessions and compulsions in people who are predisposed to anxiety disorders?

On another note, it really annoys me how the Mail lists stepping on the cracks in pavements (or not depending on which way you swing!) as a 'mild symptom'.  Obviously the author's never walked down a road with crazy paving...

Monday, 27 August 2012

I Did It.

I drove to work.  And, and, I didn't swerve onto the other side of the road and kill anyone else.

Because I've got control, and whatever OCD tells me, it's not going to make me do anything.

In theory!


I am driving in the car alone for the first time.

Four weeks ago, I passed my driving test, and I am therefore, legally, considered to be a safe driver and of a standard to be allowed on the road alone.

Why, therefore, is a voice in my head telling me that it'd be all too easy to swerve onto the other side of the road?  My hands are on the wheel, but what if I don't have any control over them?  What if I can't stop myself driving into the path of oncoming cars?

The same voice tells me that the people driving behind me are about to shop me to the police for dangerous driving,  For not being fit to be on the road.  Rationally, as far as I'm aware, I'm doing nothing wrong on a road I've driven down, with my parents by my side, a hundred times before.  Rationally, I know that I'm no worse than anyone else who has just passed their test.

The dilemma is this: do normal first-time drivers worry like this?  Do they want to pull over so that they don't harm the drivers coming towards them?  I know driving alone is supposed to be nerve-wracking, but are these thoughts normal, or are they intrusive?

I think that that's one of the things about being me which I find most difficult: which bits are normal teen angst and which bits are mental illness?  What is normal and what is not?

And what do I do about it?  Do I drive anyway, and hope that I don't do any of the things that my head says I'm going to, or do I never drive again, so that there's no way I can hurt anyone else?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


I've been thinking about CBT for the past couple of days.

Do I want it?  Do I need it?

When I was seventeen, I began a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, after being referred (grudgingly, because apparently 'everyone' has varying degrees of OCD.  My GP has never believed in it.) by my doctor.  At that point, my compulsions were about the same as they'd been since I'd settled down at Secondary School.  Not the worst they've ever been, but definitely present.  I think I was just sick of having to put up with it morning, noon and night.  I was bored.

The CBT itself was disastrous.  My therapist wore a nasty brown cardigan and spent both sessions I attended telling me that I was 'very gifted' (I'm not).  The highlight came when, on asking me how I saw myself, I replied, 'I think I'm quite empathetic.' and she said, 'Never call yourself pathetic; it's just not true.'.

I would have carried on, I think, because there is no other way for me to access CBT and also because she probably would have been able to teach me some techniques but, as is the way of the NHS, they suddenly decided to change the way access to counselling works in England, and my sessions were delayed by a year.  By the time I was re-offered them, I was at a totally different stage in my life; going through a better patch with my OCD and tackling my final school exams, all of which left little time to be tackling compulsions and obsessions and intrusive thoughts.

My OCD, at the moment, is - I think - on a downwards spiral.  For a while, I've been managing to limit myself to mental compulsions, but I had to take the stairs instead of getting in the lift at work and I had to walk back a couple of steps so I could get onto the pavement in the 'right' way this evening.  I'm also developing a nasty intrusive thought about someone stabbing me when I get out of the lift at work, which is probably where the lift avoidance compulsion is coming from.  After a horrific Autumn last year, I really don't want to go there again.

On one hand, I'd really love to go and tackle this thing once and for all.  I'm fed up of it dominating my every thought and being scared of going on holiday in case I can't cope with the change in routine, and feeling like the odd one out amongst my friends because they're all 'normal'.  I'm also ready, I think, to tackle it.  I want to do it.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that I want to go back to the doctor's and talk to anyone about it.  I hate talking about my OCD - writing about it is different somehow - and I don't like talking to people about either my obsessions and my compulsions.  As I mentioned earlier, my doctor is most unsympathetic and doesn't really appear to believe that OCD exists.  I also don't think there's much point being referred back to the same counsellor as before.

So, my question is this: do I go and ask for more CBT?  And, if so, how?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Religion and OCD. My View.

This is in response to this post on The Beat OCD Blog, which is written by a lovely lady called Ann who makes much more sense than I do!

Religion and OCD.  It's something I've thought about a lot, for quite a long time.  I think that the two are intrinsically linked for people with OCD, especially for people who don't have the typical contaminant form of the illness.

When my OCD started, I thought that God was telling me to do things.  I can see you all leaning back from your computers, thinking 'Oh my goodness, she's schizophrenic; she's hearing voices...', but I'm not.  It's quite different.  Actually, the 'voice' which I attributed to God when I was seven was my OCD giving me compulsion orders.  Since I came from a church-attending family, it seemed only natural that God would tell me what to do in order that I was a 'good girl'.

As I grew older, my compulsions became mainly prayer-based.  I developed a number of prayer related compulsions within that as well, including holding my breath for ten seconds after each prayer, and a complicated series of 'Amens' at the end of each prayer, sometimes repeating the word about a hundred times, or until it 'felt right'.

Of course, when I was seven, I didn't know I had OCD.  I didn't know that it wasn't 'God' telling me how to live my life, and it never particularly concerned me.  I thought that every member of our congregation fulfilled the same 'rituals' in their lives.  I was normal.

When I was fifteen, I went through a stage where my OCD got a lot worse very quickly and the praying became, once again, the basis of my compulsions.  I began praying up to a hundred times a day, and I had praying rituals which could last for up to an hour before I would allow myself to sleep at night.  The subject I was praying about - my sister's health - was something which really upset me and so the praying ritual became quite upsetting as well.  I began to believe that God wasn't listening to me and, the more I felt that my compulsive praying was being 'ignored', the more I believed that I had to do it.

Now, I'm still a compulsive prayer, although it's not the main focus of my OCD anymore, and something I tend to turn to when I'm going through a bad patch, or all my other rituals aren't fulfilling whatever I need them to fulfill.  I think that understanding that my need to pray is not something based on religious conviction has helped, and understanding that God wasn't setting me personal challenges any more than anyone else also helped me to begin to stop the compulsions.

So, where does that leave me on the religious front?

Over the last ten years, I've gone from total atheism to seriously considering becoming a vicar, calling at about every degree on the spectrum on my way through, and back again.  I've thought a lot about what my OCD means to my faith, and whether it's wise to allow myself to have faith at all, from a mental health perspective.

At the moment, my belief stands thus: I think that I like the feeling that faith has, but I'm not sure if that's not just my OCD feasting on something which allows me compulsive thinking in mainstream society (ie that I'm allowed to repeat prayers and sing hymns because it makes me a 'better person' and that it is acceptable in non-OCD society).  However, I also think that organised religion is something which promotes an OCD way of thinking; we do good things to please an entity which may or may not exist.  We also repeat the same prayers and eat bread and drink wine in order that we'll gain entry to a paradise upon our deaths.  If we don't fulfil these things, then we'll go to an eternal hell.

Sound familiar?  Obsessively compulsively familiar?

So, for the time being, I'm happy being loosely Christian.  I enjoy going to church occasionally, and I enjoy listening to church music.  I don't want to be sucked into the prayer/sacrament/heaven thing because my brain creates enough of those situations as it is, thankyou very much.

I don't know whether this post makes any sense but thankyou for reading if you got this far!  Perhaps you could comment, or write your own blog about religion and OCD?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Not the Best Day of my Life.

It has been 23.12 forever.  As I type that, it changes to 23.13.  Liar.  I’m not sure how I feel.  Empty, maybe.  Fed up.  I don’t feel how I’m supposed to feel.  Sick.  Today I ran away.  I didn’t mean to run away; I went ice skating and then I just didn’t have the energy to go home.  I stayed out for too long: a salad in McDonalds and a bus ride around Chilwell kept me out just long enough to catch the 7pm bus home but then I walked on and on.  I just couldn’t face opening the door to the age old recriminations.

I’ve had enough.

They say I’m jealous.  I think I’m mad.  My sister is ill.  Again.  My sister is always ill.  Thing is, in my heart of hearts I know she can’t help it, but I can’t have anything to do with her when she’s ill.  It’s not a conscious choice: I wish it were.  It would make things so much simpler.  Thing is, truth be told, I’m horribly frightened of her…you know…of something awful happening to her.  And I don’t want it to be my fault.  If I have nothing to do with her, then that can’t happen.  But I can’t tell anybody that.  They already think I’m mad.

Yes, Elvis; I’m lonesome tonight.

It’s 23.18.  I feel like I’m waiting.  I don’t know what for.  Morning, perhaps?  Or maybe for the time to tick on to midnight?  Or maybe until I’m so sleepy that my eyes will close and I won’t have to lie in the darkness and wonder why I was born as me.  23.20.  I’ve made another two minutes.  Good going.
Sometimes, I feel like shouting, ‘Yes, she might be ill now, but she’ll get better.  And sympathy.  Buckets of sympathy.  And then she’ll get better.’.  I won’t get better.  I was born being me and I’ll continue to be me so long as I live. Nothing will change. In my head, when I picture myself, I see lots and lots of scribbles.  A mess.  Spaghetti tangled on a plate.

There is nothing straightforward about me. 

In three weeks, I’m going on holiday to Center Parcs.  I can’t wait.  But I know that, the moment I get there, I’ll pine for home so badly that it’ll hurt.  I am twenty.  Older than most people are when they move away from home.  I so badly want it to be me who can do exciting and adventurous things in other countries; who can have an amazing year in Halls.

It’ll never be me.  Nothing is ever going to be easy for me.

Tomorrow, she gets her results.  Already, I’ve been accused of wanting her to do badly.  The bad mood, black sheep in the corner, hoping for her failure.  At one time, I would have been fiercely competitive, hoping that I might just get the edge on her.  I couldn’t care less now.  I really honestly couldn’t.  She’s got everything else: the looks; the intelligence; the popularity.  What’s A Level grades on top of that?  She even gets the straightforward illnesses.  Who could compete?

My neck hurts from leaning against my radiator and there is a pile of clean washing on my floor.  I am too tired to move.  There is no point.  Besides, if I were to move, the delicate equilibrium might become unbalanced.  I might have to stop pretending that I. Am. OK. and my world might close in on itself.  You never know.  I can cope in this moment, in this position, but will I be OK with the next?  It’s not worth risking it.

I love her so badly.  So very badly.  I can feel my friends getting annoyed sometimes because I’m talking about something she’s done or said again.  I want to be with her and I want her to include me.  I want to be her best friend and I want to be able to show her off: ‘This is Anna.  She’s my little sister.  Yes, mine.  And there are not others.  It’s just the two of us.  Kate and Anna.  Anna and Kate.’.  She’s everything I’m not.  And I’m everything she doesn’t have to suffer from.

My phone has just vibrated with a text.  I can manage to be cheery, funny Kate at least there.  As long as other people don’t know what’s going on inside, then it’s fine.  Everything’s fine.  Chin up. 1, 2, 3…smile.  Smiling at the ceiling releases endorphins.  Did you know?  As long as you’re busy, you don’t have to think about being miserable.

So, yes, I am jealous.  As jealous as jealous can be.  I wish I were her so badly that I might crumple with it; sucked and slurped into my own bitter core.

Monday, 13 August 2012

In Other News...

Apparently, hoarding is no longer thought to be a symptom of OCD.

It's still thought to be an anxiety problem - something which is undeniable; I've recently been trying to sort through the possessions of a probable hoarder and she is anxious - but, according to the Daily Mail (yes, I know, but it's the first place the article came up on the internet), hoarding is now thought to be a problem with making decisions, and brain scans show that, when faced with making choices about which belongings to keep and which to give the old heave-ho, people with hoarding problems just can't decide.  This, however - in true hoarders - doesn't extend to other people's belongings.

I think I disagree with this.  People with OCD have problems with making decisions, and so we - or maybe it's just me? - let OCD make decisions for us.  I, for one, have got incredibly lazy: I let my OCD tell me when it's the 'right time' to get up, and when it's the 'right time' to stop brushing my teeth.  Some days, my conscious brain has almost stopped making any decisions altogether because OCD-me has taken over.

I imagine that this is how a hoarder feels when faced with the task of getting rid of the rubbish: they don't make a conscious decision based on whether something works, or is useful, or they need it; they just let their hoarding-them take over and make the decision for them.

Maybe hoarding is closer to OCD than scientists have decided?

When Things Don't Add Up.

I think that this blog gives the impression that I live a very miserable life, in which I am hemmed in by OCD.

For the last week, I've been on my summer holidays, and I think that the following is an apt allegory for my life in general.  

The holiday was amazing.  I'd be back in the blink of an eye if I had the option and I'd probably never come home again if I had that option as well.  It wasn't perfect: Dad had a back injury and couldn't really leave the hotel, so that meant we couldn't do everything we'd planned, but the weather was gorgeous and the food was nice (and I was trying very, very hard to eat everything put in front of me and not panic about the consequences).  I can definitely say it was one of - if not the - best week of 2012 so far.  

But, and this is the big but, by the end of the holiday, it was taking me ten minutes to leave my hotel room.  I managed - somehow, in the space of a week (!) - to develop a complicated enough string of compulsions to last me ten whole minutes.  And I think they probably could have begun to take a lot longer, but I ended up being quite firm with myself.

I'm not quite sure where they came from, or why exactly I was doing them, although I do wonder whether they had something to do with the stress of returning to normal life at home, because they got progressively worse as my return-home date got closer.  

However, I've had a good couple of days since I got back, which is relieving, especially because I was pretty bad before we went on holiday, so I guess I can't complain too much!

Updatey thing: Sorry that this ended so shockingly!  In my defence (Your Honour), I'd just returned from my holiday and I hadn't used my brain in over a week!