Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Much Energy Does It Take To Appear Normal?

I admire each and every person who has to function when they are experiencing a severe OCD attack. Living with OCD can be both mentally and physically debilitating. It zaps you, drains you, leaves you exhausted and depleted. Added to this is the fact that OCD is often embarrassing, and people suffering with it go to great lengths in order to hide it. The combination of these two things can be very draining on both mind and body.

If someone you know has OCD and feels like this, it could help them a lot if you were aware of this. You will then understand if they appear edgy, tired, or impatient. There is a certain comfort in understanding.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts and the Sky

I have been thinking about what I wrote yesterday, Are You the Thinker or the Thought, and it reminded me of something that I heard from one of Deepak Chopra’s great books. I have them on audio and it has been so great to listen to him that way. He has a very pleasant and relaxing voice which is great if I’m anxious or unable to sleep. Anyway, getting back to my topic, Dr. Chopra said to look at the sky. The sky is you, the thinker. He said to observe the clouds that are passing by. Those are your thoughts, they come and go, but the sky always remains constant. I really like this analogy because it makes me realize that I am separate from my thoughts. This helps me to realize that bad thoughts are like dark clouds; they pass over, but eventually clear. I hope that all your thoughts are like a sunny sky.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Are You the Thinker or the Thought?

People with OCD often struggle with unwanted thoughts which produce uncomfortable feelings. If you have this problem, stop and think about this – where do these thoughts come from? Do they come from an outside source, or are you generating them? Are you the thinker or the thought?

Too often we with OCD take these thoughts at face value and believe them unconditionally. That is because we have trained ourselves to do this subconsciously. I believe that our brains create patterns which trigger certain thoughts automatically. An example of this is once I bought a new necklace. I put it on and 5 minutes later the phone rang and I heard bad news. From then on every time I attempted to wear the necklace I believed that something bad would happen. It was such a strong thought that I couldn’t wear that necklace anymore. Now I know my own mind created that pattern, but back then the fear was too strong. Just realizing this may bring comfort and help you to understand the nature of OCD.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Exercise and OCD

Exercise is a big stress buster and can help relieve some of the symptoms of OCD. However, exercise shouldn’t become an obsession or you will be defeating the purpose. Don’t feel that you have to do it. You should just enjoy whatever your workout is and look forward to it.

It is a scientific fact that exercise raises endorphins, which are happy brain chemicals responsible for good feelings. Any amount of movement is beneficial. Also, household chores as well as climbing stairs, walking in the mall, or playing video games such as the Wii, count as a work out.

I know that I feel much better and less fatigued after physical movement. Also, when I’m feeling stressed out exercise always helps. Besides that, make a conscious effort to do any kind of physical activity will show on your body, and a better appearance is sure to make anyone feel good. I hope you have an active and happy day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Emotional Pain Always Has A Physical Component

OCD takes a huge toll on the body, both mentally and physically. Emotional pain always has a physical component. If you are having a bout with OCD or any co-related conditions, such as depression, generalized anxiety, attention deficit disorder, etc., it may help if you notice your physical symptoms. OCD can make you tired, achy, nervous, and depressed. You may get headaches or stomachaches.

If you are suffering from severe OCD please realize that you need to be kind to your body. If possible, rest up and get as much sleep as you can. Also, make sure you are getting proper nutrition and are well hydrated. Paying attention to the physical body will help the mind. They are not separate, and when one is affected, so is the other.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents and Mental Issues

Since this is Presidents week I wanted to write a little more on some of our Presidents who suffered from various mental issues. I read that Calvin Coolidge had hypochondria, and Grant and Thomas Jefferson were diagnosed with social phobia. Richard Nixon and George W.Bush had alcohol problems.

According to a Duke University study, "A fairly high number of people have mental disease at some level, so it would be surprising if presidents didn't," said John Aldrich, professor of political science. "Certain things, like depression, are associated with artistic accomplishment. At least 10 presidents were affected by episodes while in office, and the study found evidence that symptoms interfered with their performance in almost all cases."

According to the article, contemporaries of Grant, James Madison, Rutherford Hayes and Woodrow Wilson who watched them as young men would have thought that these men would do very little with their lives based on their seeming mental problems or deficiencies.

It is very difficult to function normally when faced with a mental issue, I can only imagine what the Presidents went through.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Did Any US Presidents Have OCD?

February 16th is President's Day. I am wondering how many of our Presidents have had OCD? I guess we will never really know. I do know that many of our Presidents suffered with depression and anxiety, which are co-existing conditions. I was looking around the Internet and came across this..."If you suffer from stress and anxiety disorders, you are not alone. Many famous people also suffered or have suffered from the same or similar illness. A survey shows that 49% (18 out of 37) of US Presidents from 1776 to 1974 suffered from mental disorder. The most common disorders are depression (24%), anxiety (8%), bipolar disorder (8%), and alcohol abuse/dependence (8%). ¹"

One well known presidential depression sufferer was Abraham Lincoln, who many consider our greatest President. If you want to read about it, check out From Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness Copyright © 2005 by Joshua Wolf Shenk. Shenk says that many people in Lincoln's family suffered from a variety of mental issues, and that he often had thoughts of suicide. To me it is quite an accomplishment that Lincoln was able to function as he did and turn the destiny of our nation. I will write more about our Presidents tomorrow.

I hope that you have a great President's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday the 13th and OCD

Friday the 13th is one of those quirky days that unite people in superstition. Many people fear the number 13, but Friday the 13th takes it to another level. Triskaidekaphobics are people who can be perfectly fine on any other day, but have a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Even people who are not usually superstitious take notice on this day. I was looking around the Internet and read that "According to experts it's the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people won't go to work on Friday the 13th; some won't eat in restaurants; many wouldn't think of setting a wedding on the date." There are approximately 21 million Americans who will be very uncomfortable today.

There are many superstitions surrounding this fateful day -- particularly Good Fridays: "a child born on Friday is doomed to bad luck; do not feed anyone butter churned or eggs laid that day. Courting, and especially marriage, on Friday is a folly. Do not move to a new home or new job on that fateful day; do not rise from an illness; and please, please do not take a journey -- for as the fishermen say, 'A Friday's sail, always fail."

I would like to point out that it is ironic that some of these people can view OCD rituals as ridiculous and irrational. There is a difference between OCD and superstitions because superstitions are learned beliefs and OCD is self generated. However, if people with OCD perform rituals to avoid something bad happening, is that really so different from people who won't leave their homes or drive on Friday the 13th because they are afraid of bad luck?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

OCD and Your Pet

OCD and Your Pet

I think that pets are amongst the most wonderful things on earth. A beloved pet, dog, cat, bird, etc., can be beneficial in relieving some of the stress associated with OCD. There are several reasons for this. One is that there have been scientific studies that show that interacting with animals in a positive way reduces blood pressure. Just stroking an animal can be very relaxing and calming, relieving some of the stress OCD can cause. Also, pets listen to you. They don’t care what you say or how long you talk, so you can tell you pet anything. They never judge you and don’t care what you look like, how you are dressed, or how much money you have. They don’t care if you have an addiction or an illness. They just want to be with you.

Another reason why pets can help OCD is that they always live in the moment. Animals do not focus on the past or the future, the only thing they know is NOW. This can be a valuable lesson for people because the only reality is NOW. The past and the future are only in the mind.

You are the center of your pet’s life. Doesn’t it feel great to be the center of someone’s universe? You are your pet’s reality. If you have a pet, focus on the feel of the fur or feathers, look into your pet’s eyes and remember the moment and the joy you feel. That is a great mood enhancer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

OCD and the Inner Fire of Happiness

People with OCD have a biochemical imbalance. It’s not really a “Mental Illness.” I have seen people who have “the right stuff” in their brains walking around with the cozy fire of happiness inside themselves. They are able to feed the fire from within, keep it nice and stoked no matter what life throws at them. Having OCD has made me feel like a person who is in a wet forest with no matches. I’ve been cold and damp and desperately in need of a warm inner fire. I have tried to generate one, and every once in a while have produced a spark, but the gloom and damp of Intrusive Thoughts overtook me.

I did not give up hope. One of the things I did was to constantly challenge my automatic Intrusive Thoughts, until I managed to produce a spark which ignited a small flame. I nurtured this flame of hope until I was able to bask in the warm glow of self contentment.

I want everyone with OCD to be able to produce their own inner fire of happiness, to be able to change their brain chemistry naturally, and to realize that they can break out of the cycle of frustration and despair that OCD causes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

OCD and Happiness

Happiness, true happiness, has to be self-generated. It has to come from within the spirit. I’m sitting here with the realization that sometimes my OCD has been so severe that I have been unable to generate even one happy feeling that would sustain a good mood. I would get fleeting glimpses of what I believed felt like inner happiness, but then they would flicker away in an instant. I have discovered that I have been great at instantly generating INTENSE feelings of fear, depression, and anger.

This is not the way things should be. I now know that my OCD automatic Intrusive Thoughts have been responsible for most of this. If your OCD is responsible for producing negative moods that are disrupting your life, it is because your thoughts are producing a potent batch of neuro-peptides, which are the brain chemicals responsible for mood. If you can understand this, then you will realize that by practicing to focus on something that is pleasant to you, real or imaginary, you can change your brain chemistry. This won’t happen instantly, but it can be a new beginning.

One of the best things a person can do is to focus their attention on only the good things that are happening in their lives. Looking around the Internet, I came across an article by Rick Hanson PhD - how to trick your brain for happiness. Part of this article says to focus on happy thoughts. I agree with this and hope all your thoughts are happy!...

Just having positive experiences is not enough to promote last well-being. If a person feels grateful for a few seconds, that’s nice. That’s better than feeling resentful or bitter for a few seconds. But in order to really suck that experience into the brain, we need to stay with those experiences for a longer duration of time—we need to take steps, consciously, to keep that spotlight of attention on the positive.
So, how do we actually do this? These are the three steps I recommend for taking in the good. I should note that I did not invent these steps. They are embedded in many good therapies and life practices. But I’ve tried to tease them apart and embed them in an evolutionary understanding of how the brain works.
1. Let a good fact become a good experience. Often we go through life and some good thing happens—a little thing, like we checked off an item on our To Do list, we survived another day at work, the flowers are blooming, and so forth. Hey, this is an opportunity to feel good. Don’t leave money lying on the table: Recognize that this is an opportunity to let yourself truly feel good.
2. Really savor this positive experience. Practice what any school teacher knows: If you want to help people learn something, make it as intense as possible—in this case, as felt in the body as possible—for as long as possible.
3. Finally, as you sink into this experience, sense your intent that this experience is sinking into you. Sometimes people do this through visualization, like by perceiving a golden light coming into themselves or a soothing balm inside themselves. You might imagine a jewel going into the treasure chest in your heart—or just know that this experience is sinking into you, becoming a resource you can take with you wherever you go.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Who Am I Protecting and What Can I Do About It?

I’m thinking about OCD rituals, and the many that I have performed in order to “Protect” someone. Thinking about this has helped me to go back in time and freeze my actions in my mind and dissect them. I’m thinking about exactly why I was performing them. Who was I “protecting,” and what was I “protecting” them from?

Think about the odds of what you are worrying about actually happening if you don’t perform the ritual. Challenge your actions. Realize that your ritual is a by-product of habit. You are conditioned to do this. The process has been embedded into your subconscious, and helped along by your brain chemistry.

If possible, sit down and list your ritual in detail. Then write the reason you are performing it. Then next to that list the degree of anxiety you feel and the probability of the event occurring.

TEST your rituals by beginning with the least powerful ritual and see what happens when you break it down this way. You may be surprised by the results!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

OCD and The NOW

I’m sitting here thinking about all the time I’ve wasted due to OCD. It may add up to years. I’ve spend endless hours ritualizing, ruminating, worrying about the past and the future. How much of the present has been lost? Can it ever be recovered?

I must realize that the past is done and can’t be undone. I must realize the gift of the Present, the NOW. That is all there really is anyway. What’s good about that is that there is always a fresh NOW to become involved in. Right NOW is the best time in life to change the future. What we do NOW sets up the future. We can have hope, we do have choices. This applies to OCD as well as everything else.

One of the things that help my OCD is focusing on the moment I am in. I notice everything around me such as the sounds, the smells, and I try to see beauty in whatever I am looking at. I realize the abundance, not the lack. If you are mindful and grateful for what you do have, you won’t be so focused on what is wrong. Also, focusing on NOW takes away the worry about what may be. I will be writing more about this in future blogs.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Does Anyone Know How You Really Feel?

The answer is YES! People who have OCD well know the frustration, despair, anxiety, panic, shortness of breath, heart palpitations - the complete discomfort that OCD causes. Not to mention the embarrassment of having to perform seemingly ridiculous rituals. I used to be, and at times still am, embarrassed that I have OCD. For many years I would do anything to hide it. I felt alone and isolated even in a room filled with people. I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I didn’t know there were so many other smart, sensitive people who were suffering also. If you are alone and suffering, please know that there are millions of others who feel as you do.

I admire each and every person who has to function, to get through the day when they are experiencing an OCD attack. It ZAPS you, drains you, leaves you exhausted and depleted. I don’t think that most people have any idea of what it is like to live this way. An OCD attack can leave someone mentally fatigued and physically weak. It can take all of a person’s energy to reach deep inside themselves just to appear to function normally.

If you or someone you know is suffering with OCD, it’s important to know that there is comfort in just understanding. You are NOT insane or alone. Your torture lies in biochemistry, as did mine. There are many ways to change biochemistry, as I have discovered. You don’t have to live this way. There is HOPE!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Does A Person With OCD See?

I think that people with OCD see what many others don’t think about. Their sense of security is compromised because they realize that we are all precariously perched upon this earth. We are in a place where anything can happen, and it can be a scary thought. I think that most other people are focused on earthly matters, which is probably much better then the thoughts floating around in the heads of people with OCD. They won’t allow themselves to relax and have fun because they have to rescue and help themselves, loved ones, even pets from things that they are aware of that could go wrong. They have to perform seemingly ridiculous rituals to keep things safe. They feel as if they are the Gate Keepers, the Watchmen, scanning the horizon. They feel the crushing responsibility of protecting and keeping everything perfect.

My wish is that all people with OCD can experience calm and joy. I hope they will be able to feel like winter has just ended and spring is here with renewed hope. Let Happiness Bloom! I want people to break free of their trapped minds and pursue their dreams. I hope they are all good ones from now on.