Why Being an Advocate for Anxiety is So Important To Me

Hey friends!  Welcome back!  I truly hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about why it’s so important to me, to continue to tell and share my story about anxiety/OCD/panic disorder.  The obvious reason is that it helps others and helps me continue to push through my own anxiety when I consider the fact that I’ve talked to so many people and pointed so many in the right direction for help.

I wholeheartedly believe that one of the reasons God put me on this Earth was to be an advocate for anxiety.  The ginormous silver lining to the fact that I’ve struggled with anxiety since 4th grade, which then turned into panic disorder and OCD, is to be able to get up in front of anyone and tell my story, to help others.  It’s truly a gift.  It really is.

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When I was diagnosed with panic disorder, in the spring time of 2018, I was feverishly searching for someone else who had been through the same situations, someone else who got through it, and had tips and tricks or….just SOMETHING.  I googled, and I googled until I think I killed Google.  I searched for books that had some kind of similarity to what I was going through, asked my therapist for book ideas, searched Netflix for documentaries.  I literally turned up with nothing, which just made me feel so much worse and singled out.  I just wanted to find SOMEONE to relate to, read someone else’s story.

Most anxiety or PTSD situations start out by having some kind of trauma.  I didn’t have that.  I had a great childhood, a wonderful family, a great marriage and perfect kids.  I’m so thankful I didn’t have the trauma, but it always irritated me, because I would ask myself “why me, then  why all the anxiety disorders with no troubled past like the books and therapists say???”  Well the best answer I can come up with is “because it did, now get off your ass and help other people!”

My hope is that I can be “that person” that I was looking to relate to, 2 years ago when all this was happening to me, for others, if that makes sense.  I’ve been down several roads of anxiety disorders and come out on the other side victorious when it comes to panic disorder and general anxiety.  I’m not going to lie and say I’ve beat OCD, because I have not, and I’ve definitely still got a long road in front of me on the “stomach issue” part of my contamination OCD, BUT I will say that certain parts of my OCD have gotten better over the past year.  But, like with any anxiety disorder, it can come and go and OCD is generally a harder one to completely conquer since your brain is fighting itself.  That being said, I feel that sharing my obstacles and feelings regarding OCD can also be helpful to anyone else experiencing it.

I’ve said it before, but I’ve always been a story teller.  I’ve always wanted to write a book, about my life, and I would love nothing more than to be followed around by cameras most days of my life–haha!  So, if I can use whatever platform I have (though it may be small), to help other people through their anxiety struggles, I want to do it.  I want to be that person.  I want to be an ear for your irrational thoughts, because I’ve probably had them, I want to be the person to try and put your mind at ease and let you know that it’s not uncommon and so many more people have the same thoughts and same worries as you do!

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Just know, no one goes through (or should have to) go through any type of anxiety alone or feel isolated.  It’s such a common aspect of daily life now and it should be talked about.  Talking helps people work through it.  I’ve learned this time and time over, so now I’m reaching out….my ears are open and so is my heart.  If you don’t feel like you can talk to a professional or just aren’t ready to take that step yet, just know you will always have someone (me) to listen and offer some support.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Years and that your 2020 starts off blissfully and stress free 🙂

xoxox

 

Five Quick but Extremely Therapeutic Ways to Battle OCD

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Hi friends!

Now that we have discussed what OCD is, what types are out in the world and how diagnosis usually works; I wanted to give my 5 best, most helpful, tips on overcoming an intrusive thought spurred on by the OCD.

These are tips I’ve picked up in my years of therapy and through the many books and documentaries I’ve read and watched.  I truly hope they help.

1. Be present.  When an intrusive thought “attacks”, try to take yourself out of the situation mentally.  Be mindful of every single detail of your surroundings and try to focus on this.  What’s the air like?  Is it a pretty day?  What color is that tree?  I wonder when that field will be harvested (sorry, Indiana girl here).  Force yourself to take that thought, pick it up, and move it aside.  Sit with it, be ok with it, and move it aside by thinking grounding thoughts.

2. Breathe.  It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s life changing.  Breathing calms the body down like nothing else can.  Focus on your breath.  Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5, release through your mouth for a count of 5.  Do this about 10 times to regain control of your emotions and thoughts.

3. Pray.  I’m Christian, so this is one I use a lot.  However you choose to be spiritual and practice that; bring those tools to the table for this one.  Pray for relief and understanding, pray for a sense of calm and confidence. Don’t repeat the same prayer, try to keep it simple, to the point and mindful.

4. Write the fear down.  Do a “brain dump” of all the feelings you have at that very moment.  Why does that thought make you feel that way?  What brought the thought on?  How do you see yourself getting out of the situation or putting the thought aside.  Treat the thought like it’s a person if that helps.  Give it a name.  It may sound silly, but our brains acknowledgement a feeling better when it’s given a name.  What do you think you have to do, step by step, to defeat this feeling/person/thought?

5. Ground yourself with gratitude.  No really, it works in a moment of fear like nothing else.  When you feel the intrusive thoughts boiling to the surface, stop them by looking around you and seeing the things you are grateful for.  Are you alive and healthy?  Are you at work, out with friends, driving your own car?  Do you have kids?  Can you afford the privilege of college?  Do you have an animal you love? Close friendships?  Supportive people in your life?  Think of them, think of all of it.

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xoxox

Mary

 

OCD Awareness Week :Diagnosing OCD

Happy Friday, compadres!

Today I wanted to share a little about how OCD is typically diagnosed (in my experience) and what to push for when you see a doctor.

  1.  I initially diagnosed myself.  Yep.  How scary is that?  I was on maternity leave with Mason and googled my symptoms/thoughts.  I had an advantage I guess, if you want to call it that, because my grandpa had contamination OCD, so I had been around it my entire life.  My dad mentioned to me one night that I was showing some of the same symptoms and suggested I google it.  SPOT ON.  I immediately made a doctor’s appointment with my General Physician, and also planned to talk to my OB at my 8 week follow up appointment.  At both of my appointments with both doctors, they wanted to talk maybe 5 minutes about it, grouped it in the general anxiety classification and wanted to give me random anxiety medicines (I was already on one) and change what I was on. A few months later, I was officially diagnosed with contamination OCD and general anxiety by 2 other doctors.
  2. PUSH for understanding!   I knew I needed to speak to someone who specialized in anxiety disorders, so I was given information about a psychiatrist.  After our initial appointment, I had a plan that was tangible and we discussed medicines and other forms of therapy to tackle the intrusive thoughts.  Take Away:  Friends, as much as you love your everyday doctors, when it comes to anxiety disorders…you need to speak to someone who SPECIALIZES in anxiety disorders.  So many people have anxiety now that doctors are a bit blind when it comes to a specific type of anxiety disorder.
  3. Find a therapist. Like, a REAL psychologist or counselor that has actual degrees in psychology and is specially trained in treating anxiety disorders. I hate to belittle anything because ‘hashtag you do you’, but a social worker who specializes in couples therapy or general therapy isn’t going to do you much good. I was completely clueless the first time I had to look for a therapist! I knew nothing! I spent a lot of time on psychologytoday.com (not an ad) and a lot of time talking to friends that had a great relationship with their therapists. Unfortunately finding the right fit usually isn’t an easy task or usually correct the first time.  OCD is very tricky and can be harder to work through because of the hold the brain has on intrusive thoughts, so please be sure whoever you go to see has a lot of experience treating OCD and other severe anxiety disorders.
  4. If the doctor you see (unless they are a psychiatrist, of course) suggests medication and you choose to take it, do your own research before committing. Every person is different and our bodies metabolize medicines at different speeds. For example, I had NO idea my body metabolized pain medicine at warp speed and that my brain literally had receptor blocks to several of the most popular anxiety medications. My psychiatrist had me do genetic testing to see which medication would work best for me. I was soooooo thankful he had requested I take the genetic test! It helped him decide what anxiety medication would work best for me long term.  So please, please, please do some research and ask a lot of questions before committing to a medication.
  5. Finally, if you have been diagnosed with OCD of some kind, please know, as I am proof, it does get better, but understand it will take time and work.  My contamination OCD is pretty severe at times, but after 5 years of work, 2 therapists, multiple doctor’s appointments, multiple doctors, multiple types of therapies and a psychiatrist later, I finally feel like I have the appropriate combination for kicking it’s ass.  I finally have an amazing therapist who continues to educate herself on anxiety disorders and also teaches at a local college on the topic, I finally have a plan for medications and have found one that works for me, and I’ve put in major work through personal development, mindfulness, commitment to myself and confidence that has put me on a road to recovery (hopefully forever!).

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Please, if you feel like you have OCD, please, please, please reach out to someone….even reach out to me!  No one needs to suffer through the thoughts.  There is help available, and I will help guide you in the right direction as well as I can.

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xoxox

Mary

OCD Awareness Week-How Do You Know? (Types)

Hi friends!

This week I wanted to dive into all things OCD.  Today, let’s start with the basics.  By the way, in case you didn’t know, OCD is short for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  This is NOT what you see on TV, this is NOT what you see on cute shirts at Target, this is NOT just a clean room cleaned in a particular, controlled wayOCD is REAL.  It’s debilitating, it’s life altering, it’s scary, it’s frustrating and something NO ONE wishes they had.  Trust me.  First, let’s talk about what OCD is…..

Typically, there are 4 types of OCD that most sufferers fall into:

***Doubt and Harm: Examples would be checking to make sure things are safe, ie: Obsession--“The house will burn down because I left the stove on”, “I made a mistake”, “I will get robbed because I left the doors unlocked.”, “What if I said something that offended someone?” “What if I hit someone or an animal while driving and caused harm or death?”

Compulsion--Repeated checking of doors, locks, appliances, belongings, data entry, quality of work, etc, seeking ongoing reassurance from others that everything is “OK”, mentally replaying conversations over and over. Driving back to “check” no one was harmed.

***Contamination: (The category I unfortunately fall into)  Examples would be fear of germs, fear of contamination from the environment, another person, or fear of giving someone something you have and therefore contaminating them.   Obsession–“I will get sick, experience bodily harm or be in perpetual pain” which may lead to the spread of horrible germs throughout my household, (some even worry about death), obsessive house cleaning, office cleaning etc., “I will harm/make someone else sick”, (which is not as common), contaminated living/working space.

Compulsion: Excessive hand-washing, bathing, grooming, washing items/surfaces (ME!), avoidance, wearing gloves/masks, controlling bodily movements to avoid touching.  Avoiding people who are sick or are around sick people (ME!), avoiding crowded places and/or avoiding going out as much during times of the year when most people may be sick (ME!).

***Symmetry/Exactness: Disorganization and/or cluttering of objects. Non-symmetry. Odd angle placement of objects. Untidiness.  WHAT IT IS NOT: liking things a certain way, or in a certain place.  This is SERIOUS.  Some people will go into a complete panic attack and end up at the hospital over someone moving things around on their desk as a joke.  I cannot stress this enough….this is NOT about liking your belongings organized a certain way.  This is much more serious!   Obsessions: A sense of complete loss of control.  Non-specific.  Needing things to feel or be a certain way – to feel “right”.

Compulsion: Reorganizing objects to extreme levels. Placing objects at perfects angles to achieve symmetry.  Putting items out and knowing their exact angles and measurements and knowing when items are “off”, even the most organized people wouldn’t notice.

***Unacceptable Taboo Thoughts & Mental Rituals: Where an individual has unwanted obsessions that are often of a religious, violent, or sexual nature. This group has often been referred to as “pure obsessional” because of their lack of overt rituals.  Obsessions: Extreme thoughts about religious figures, and impulses to do violent things, such as to push pedestrians into oncoming traffic. People who have these thoughts typically have no history of violence, nor do they ever act on their urges or impulses; however, because OCD patients often believe their thoughts are dangerous and overly important, they devote a large amount of their mental effort in attempts to suppress them.

Compulsions: No actual physical compulsions. People in this category of OCD have purely mental compulsions.  People with mental compulsions are usually coping with thoughts that are unacceptable in nature (like sexual, harming or religious thoughts), or worries about illness and health.  Rather than perform an actual physical ritual, people will engage in these covert rituals and mental neutralizing.

***Other Forms of OCD you may not even be aware of:

Hoarding

Scrupulosity –ie, fear of doing something morally wrong, questions personal values, reciting prayers over and over, saying the same silent prayer multiple times, seeking forgiveness, counting prayer beads etc.

Causing Harm to People on Purpose –ie, random thoughts of harming someone or oneself (NOT to be confused with suicide).  Seeking reassurance they are not bad or immoral, having a general sense of responsibility to prevent harm from coming to someone.

OCD is not an adjective

Though the types I have listed are the most common types of OCD, there are probably always going to be other forms that are not talked about as much.  If you have any of these symptoms, please see a doctor and explain to them what is going on.  Also, keep in mind,when dealing with anxiety disorders, explain to your doctor that you want to really know and understand how to tackle the intrusive thoughts of OCD, for LIFE, not just be given a “band aid” so to speak.  More on this later.

Alright!  That’s all for today!  Happy Tuesday, all!

xoxo

Mary

 

 

International OCD Awareness Week

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I’ve recently been made aware that October 13-19th is International OCD Awareness Week.

I’m pretty excited about this, because if nothing else, people need to understand what REAL OCD is, and how debilitating it is.  Therefore, I’m going to be posting this week, with tips and coping skills I have learned (from professionals for the most part) over the 6 years I’ve had Contamination OCD.

–Tips that are tangible for anyone suffering from an anxiety disorder.

–Quick effective ways to feel some relief.

–Practices to master that help in panic situations.

–Ways to explain to those around you what OCD is, and how they can help.

 

Join me this week, friends, in educating yourself about TRUE OCD, and what it really is, and how you can help your friends/family/coworkers that have this debilitating anxiety disorder.

 

xoxox

Mary

 

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