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My experience of CBT, again…

A couple of months ago I started cognitive behavioural therapy again and this time I’ve been having a CBT therapist come to my home once a week. I was apprehensive to start this again as this is my fifth bout of therapy for OCD and I always have it going through my head, what can they teach me that I don’t already know?

So my therapist has been trying to break down my safety behaviours which I admit I didn’t really realise I was doing. It’s not something I knew much about before I started talking to my therapist Claire. So even though I do exposure therapy all the time, it turns out I have safety behaviours that stop me from fully exposing myself to harm. Everything from turning away from bins when I’m walking my son to school to avoid having panic attacks, to holding washing away from my body when I’m doing laundry to avoid contaminating myself and my clothes. 

In my first therapy session we made a list of many common issues that I have with my contamination based OCD, and then broke down the issues into stages of safety behaviours. For example, I have a lot of trouble doing the laundry. Many times I would wear gloves, then wrap the washing in a towel to avoid contact with contaminated laundry, then I would hold it away from my body so only my hands are contaminated and in between each step I would wash my hands up to ten times. Each of these steps is a safety behaviour. 

We decided to start with tackling the laundry as it is a basic everyday activity I can struggle with. So after breaking it down into steps my therapist asked me to first take away the gloves and then only wash my hands ten times after putting on the washing without washing ten times after each step. Which admittedly felt like a big step to take away the gloves let alone to stop washing in between each step. 

So then comes exposure response prevention. Time to try it. The first time I managed three minutes before the urge to wash my hands was overwhelming. So I established a routine of doing it every other day as it causes me so much anxiety that it wipes me out for the day and the anxiety takes ages to dissipate. After doing this for several weeks the anxiety still wasn’t coming down but I was able to go up to seven minutes so I felt like any improvement was better than no improvement. 

 However half way through my course of CBT I had a meeting with my therapist and a senior and she felt like because my anxiety isn’t coming down but staying at a high level and then I still get an overwhelming need to wash my hands, that actually she felt like I was reinforcing my belief that I needed to wash my hands.She didn’t feel it was progress. That to me was really upsetting as I’ve been trying really hard with the exposure response prevention and it was incredibly disheartening to realise I hadn’t made the progress I thought I had made. So she suggested that I touch the washing and then not wash my hands at all which I said no to. I felt like that would be an automatic panic attack and I’m not putting myself through that if I don’t have to. So we decided that I needed to do the exposure therapy for a shorter amount of time so that the anxiety didn’t spike as high and the urge to wash my hands wasn’t as overwhelming. That way I’m not reinforcing the belief that I need to wash my hands to decontaminate myself so I don’t get sick.

As I’m now nearing the end of my treatment course I find myself thinking, what now? Well there is an option that i will be referred again to Springfield hospital which is an OCD specialist unit for inpatient stays in london. I was referred to them before but although they agreed I needed an inpatient stay I didn’t meet the requirements in that I wasn’t on the correct medication and that I needed one more bout of therapy. Which is how I ended up having at home therapy instead of having to go to outpatients. I have been switched to different medications that Springfield recommended and now it is up to my team at the CMHT to decide if im to be referred again as if not there is no more help available for me.

Having an inpatient stay for 3 months obviously is not ideal as I have a family, but we decided together that if it was needed I would go as it is the best help available for OCD in the country, but even then the wait list is a year. So essentially I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. What do I do for the best? I feel as though I have tried all the therapy available to me and I’ve hit a dead end. I don’t want to suffer with this for the rest of my life to a debilitating degree. When you wash 150 times a day it really takes a toll on your skin. My skin is so dry and scaly that I always have cuts on my hands which take ages to heal because of the constant washing and use of antibacterial gel. I check things hundreds upon hundreds of times a day. Doors, plugs, gas taps, all sorts of things and the anxiety that accompanies it gets overwhelming. In between washing my hands and checking things it takes a lot of time out of my day and that doesn’t include intrusive thoughts. Which sometimes are incredibly overwhelming by themselves, luckily they come and go and are not constant otherwise I don’t know how I could cope. Seeing images of death and violence of yourself and family all day is incredibly distressing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

I hope that I get some resolution soon and that the therapy won’t be a complete waste of time. Fingers crossed. So far it hasn’t helped much and even if they say I’ve not made much progress I’m still proud that I’ve managed to do it at all. Any progress is better than no progress. I’m always being told that recovery is a long process and boy is that true, but this time I’m determined to try not to give up. So wish me luck. Even if I don’t get referred to Springfield I don’t want to waste my life. You get one life and I want to make the most of it. Small steps can lead to big changes and that’s what I need to focus on.

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for OCD

Okay, so Cognitive behavioral therapy, what is it? CBT is a form of therapy that looks at different aspects of our thinking patterns, and how we can break the cycle of negative thoughts that cause our behavior’s. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly used therapy treatment used in conjunction with medication as it has proven to be the most effective form of therapy.

CBT looks at different types of thinking distortions which cause us anxiety. Some of these are:

Magical thinking

The belief that thinking something will make it happen.

I used to think this didn’t apply to me but it does more than I thought. If I feel contaminated I worry and think that I will contaminate others. The persistent thought I will make them sick. When I know that in reality a thought is just a thought, but it does not feel that way.

Emotional Reasoning

With emotional reasoning we assume that because we feel a certain way it must be true. So if you feel contaminated, you are contaminated. If you feel worthless, you are worthless.

I find emotional reasoning to be something I really struggle with at the best of times, because it affects your mood and really drags you down to a dark place.

Catastrophising

With catashrophising some people call it making a mountain out of a molehill. With this everything feels so much worse that it potentially is ( I know I do this all the time to me it feels like the end of the world) and blowing things out of proportion or making them seem less important than they are.

Jumping to conclusions

With this we jump to conclusion that are usually negative without even having any evidence or even being in the situation most of the time.

Mind reading

This is assuming we know what someone is thinking, even if we have no proof to go on.

All of these thinking patterns combined, help to fuel our anxiety and by isolating which thinking distortion we struggle with, we can look at how much of what we believe is actually true. This however is a lot easier said than done because it is a genuine belief.

EXPOSURE RESPONSE PREVENTION

Arguably the most important part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is exposure response therapy. ERP is where you expose yourself to something that you fear and try to wait as long as possible before completing your compulsion. The idea is that you let the anxiety sit as long as possible before you complete your compulsion and you do this many times until it becomes easier.

An example of this is if you fear contamination you could touch a bin, then you try not to complete your compulsion like wash your hands for as long as possible or for a set time. Then you could complete your compulsion .The idea is to repeat this many times, eventually for a longer period of time so the anxiety is no longer crippling.

However it does not work for some people myself included. Some of these aspects of CBT include, challenging core beliefs, breathing techniques and relaxation, challenging negative thinking, behavior experiments, types of thinking and exposure response prevention. Arguably exposure response prevention is the most important and anxiety inducing part of CBT.

There are some areas of CBT that I have found more helpful than others. For instance through CBT I was able to discover which memory triggered my OCD and it that respect it was helpful. However if you are to do CBT successfully, you will need the support of your friends and family .It forces you to look back and it is a daunting and distressing experience so be prepared. I am about to go into my fifth bout of CBT and it is something I am stressing about enormously as Exposure response prevention is like my worst nightmare. All I know is that the support of my family in the next few months will be vital. So keep your loved ones close. In conclusion I would give CBT a chance as it may give you the tools to help you control or combat your OCD for good.

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What is a bad day like with OCD?!

So with OCD do you believe there is such a thing as good and bad days. Whilst sometimes I may not think so, I know that today I would be lying. Today was a bad day. A really bad day. Today we took our son to the park, and from the second I tried to lock the house I knew it wouldn’t end well, but I was determined to go. All I could think about was how contaminated I felt. From the dustbins I passed on the roadside, to the rubbish overflowing at the park trailing on the floor, to every person that passed us. I felt dirty, I was contaminated and it would make me sick, not only me but I was putting my husband and son at risk. Leaving the house felt dangerous, reckless and even though I was wearing a mask, had disposable gloves with me and alcohol gel it didn’t help. Nobody I saw was wearing a mask, people weren’t 2 meters apart and to me it all felt incredibly overwhelming and getting sick is a massive fear of mine. Today it felt like I would get sick, not that I might get sick. 

My panic attack started as soon as my husband locked the door, I physically couldn’t do it, but seeing him lock it is just as bad. What if he hasn’t locked it properly? What if something bad happens because he hasn’t checked it the right amount of times? Somebody could break in, there could be a fire. I know realistically that he checked the door, (once) and that I completed my checks of all the plugs, gas taps, back door, tv and other electrical appliances but it didn’t feel right. On our walk to the park, We have to walk past dustbins which I have a real problem with. To me they feel brimming with contaminated objects and just being near them sends me in a tizzy. So I walked as far away from them as the path would allow, turning my head. That increased my anxiety more. By the time we got to the field I was having a full panic attack. Heart racing furiously, sweating, breathing heavy into hyperventilation, tensing my eyes so much it gave me a headache, and bad thoughts racing a mile a minute. I struggled to control by breathing, feeling like I couldn’t breath and the longer it lasted the worse it got. With every family that passed us my fear increased. What if they have coronovirus there not wearing masks. What if the germs make me sick, make my family sick. it will be my fault. I had a medallion in my pocket from when we went to disney last year. I started twirling it in sequences of 5 and then squeezing it, hard hoping this would help get my breathing under control. It makes no sense I know but often OCD doesn’t. After 20 minutes I was in intense panic, I shouted to my husband “we need to go, I cant breath,”

On the way back there were even more people and my mask was soaking for breathing heavy for so long. When we made it home I ran inside and washed my hands in the usual sequence, 10 times with soap, it helped a little but not enough. I was still panicking. I didn’t know how to calm myself. I messaged my friend Sophie and she called me immediately. She knows how to help calm me down, she kept telling me to breathe as I really was still hyperventilating and just allowing me to tell her what happened and how I was feeling helped. We just chatted and she distracted me long enough to help me gain control, reminding me every so often to breathe when she could see I wasn’t. With shaking hands I drank my hot chocolate and once I got off the phone with Sophie I laid in bed listening to a playlist of calming music I have. My head was pounding and I felt exhausted, my muscle aching and sore. I felt like I had run a marathon. All in all my panic attack lasted about an hour and even now 4 hours later I feel tired and wrung out, stretched to far and feeling like I never want to leave the relative safety of my home again. Today was a bad day. I feel bad that I paid no attention to my son at the park, I watched him but felt detached, too panicked to get involved. I struggle with this often and I always feel guilty for not being there for my son when he wants me. The guilt haunts me. Had it been just me and my son we wouldn’t have gone out, it was only with my husband there that I felt able to try. Today I failed. Maybe another day I will feel more able but for the rest of today I will curl up on the sofa, watch a cheesy movie and try not to ruminate too much. Hopefully my anxiety will calm.

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A day in the life

A seemingly normal day can flip in an instant, a single touch, thought or action changes everything. A loss of control if only for a moment unravels your entire day, consumed by a singular feeling; – fear. Many people experience fear but in some people fear isn’t just a worry it consumes every thought and action. Fear doesn’t discriminate; age, race, sexuality, or religion, we will all fear ‘true’ fear at some point in our lives. This is what living with OCD is like.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder isn’t about mild discomfort or wishing something was different. It causes me intense discomfort and anxiety (obsessive thoughts) which causes me to complete an action to ease my feelings (compulsion). For example, if I touch something dirty I become consumed by thoughts such as “this is going to make me sick the germs will contaminate me and I will make my family ill.” These are Obsessions, they are intensely distressing and difficult to control. With Obsessions come Compulsions; you’re immediate and unavoidable response. When this happens I wash my hands a certain way and number of times or check objects in sequence, depending on what my thought was about. The compulsion helps to ease my anxiety but rarely does it abate entirely.

Obsessions and compulsion can be almost anything and they affect each person differently so what affects me may be entirely different to someone else suffering from OCD. One person’s mountain can be another’s molehill, but the struggle is the same even if their journey is different from mine. Living with and overcoming fear is something everyone can relate to in some way. Yet what is your initial thought when you hear the term OCD? Many people believe OCD to be a way of saying your; particular, fussy,  a clean freak, or overly tidy. In reality, it is much worse than that. They are many misconceptions and assumptions surrounding anxiety and unless you have experienced it personally, it can be very difficult to understand and empathize with. Although there is support for suffers of OCD there needs to be more support available for the families too as it is detrimental to family life, I speak from experience. Personally, although my family is supportive it can be frustrating for them and they make things worse without meaning to, so it is important to keep communication honest and open. I would say to anyone who knows somebody personally with OCD if you are unsure of how to help; ask. They will probably know best what helps them. 

So what helps me?

Open communication.

This means being able to say if I am having a bad day, not just suffering in silence. As what I am capable of changes daily.

Don’t assume, ask

There is nothing more frustrating than someone just writing me off without asking. Instead of saying “she can’t do this she will freak out and have a panic attack,” ask. I may be able to face a situation head-on with support. 

Have a back-up plan, be prepared

If I know I am doing something that will trigger specific symptoms; I plan for it. Whether it be carrying alcohol gel and wipes, a list, a change of clothes, or lots of research beforehand. This allows me to prepare for challenges I may face more effectively.

Celebrate your victories

Some day even the smallest task feels insurmountable, it is important to understand if putting on my shoes without a panic attack is all I can manage, then that is a victory. It is too easy to berate myself for what feels like a lack of ability. 

Self affirmation

It is a constant cycle forcing myself to counteract negative or intrusive thoughts. When these thoughts attack instead of thinking “this won’t contaminate me it’s not dirty” I am not fooling myself and I’m allowing the thought to have power over me. Instead, I try thinking I know it is dirty but it won’t make me ill, I can use antibacterial gel to kill the germs and wash my hands as soon as I can. I will be okay.” This is something I find the most difficult as when the panic starts to take over it can be paralyzing and it is so easy to focus on the negative thoughts. I try to utilize this on a daily basis, in the hope eventually it will help to ease a major panic attack.

Find an outlet

I find it useful to immerse myself in an activity I enjoy as an outlet for my   feelings. enjoy scrapbooking, writing, painting and cake decorating, as it gives me something to focus on when I am feeling anxious.

These are techniques that I find helpful, they may not work for everyone, but it is important to figure out what works best for you.

I know that for some people suffering from OCD it can be difficult to open up and share what obsessions and compulsions are affecting you. There can be a heavy burden of guilt and shame, even confusion.

 When I first had these thoughts of feeling contaminated and being fearful of something bad happening I was very confused and embarrassed. I was fifteen years old and dealing with a lot of stress from school, as well as having a hard time with bullies who made my life hell. My self-esteem was through the floor and I was crying daily unable to find a way out. I started feeling dirty and I started to wash my hands more and more. It was the only thing that made me feel better. Although that didn’t last long. I became fearful, worrying about everything, I would sit under my desk at night putting my fingers in the plug sockets to make sure they were off having to count to thirty, if I didn’t something bad would happen. Once everyone was asleep I would go downstairs and check the doors and switches. I would stand in front of the front door unable to move away and going to sleep each night resulted in terror, I was afraid I would never wake up. To a fifteen-year-old girl, this was terrifying. When I finally found the courage to speak to my parents they didn’t believe me, it took some time until they realized I was serious and then they took me to the doctors. It was the doctor who told me that I was exhibiting signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I didn’t understand what it was but I was at least glad that there was a name for the madness I was feeling. At Sixteen I started seeing a Psychologist, he, unfortunately, was not helpful. He told me it was stress-related and that it would go away. Over the years my symptoms got progressively worse, I had constant panic attacks, depression and I went from washing thirty times a day to around one-hundred and fifty times a day. Work became near impossible, and working with children was my job. I love children and I wanted to continue in that career but children are well known for being unaware of hygiene at a young age and sometimes I wished I had gone into a different profession.  I wish I could say that now at thirty things are better.

 For many people getting a diagnosis takes years, and treatment options are limited. The main treatment option available is a combination of medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Honestly, although studies say this is a proven effective form of treatment, I feel it depends massively on each person and the therapist that you get. I have been through four cycles of CBT and I only found it effective in discovering what triggered my OCD and what the thought processes are behind it. I found a self-help book on OCD more effective than attending therapy as I found the experience very stressful. Once your twelve-week treatment is over you are left with no help afterward to process and continue with recovery. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the most commonly used therapy treatment used in conjunction with medication as it has proven to be the most effective. However, it does not work for some people myself included. CBT basically looks at different aspects of our thinking patterns and how we can break the cycle of negative thoughts that cause our behaviors. Some of these aspects of CBT include challenging core beliefs, breathing techniques and relaxation, challenging negative thinking, behavior experiments, types of thinking, and exposure-response prevention. Arguably Exposure Response Prevention is the most important and anxiety-inducing part of CBT. As in essence, ERP is where you expose yourself to something that you fear such as if you have a contamination obsession you could touch a bin, then you try not to complete your compulsion like wash your hands for as long as possible or a set time. Then you could complete your compulsion. The idea is to repeat this many times, eventually for a longer periodS of time so the anxiety is no longer crippling. Sounds easy right? I guarantee you it’s not. I still struggle with this after fifteen years.

Therapy can be a very uncomfortable experience because you are forced to challenge your behaviors and it causes a lot of extra anxiety. Typically you can be referred for either group therapy or one-to-one therapy. I have tried both, I have actually just finished a group therapy course. Although personally, it was not effective for me I do think it can be helpful for some. It is a good option if you want to meet other people who suffer from similar issues, and it is helpful to hear what techniques work for them. For this reason, I think it is a good starting point as OCD is an incredibly lonely illness, and finding others who understand can be difficult. One to one therapy is more intensive. You look more at the core beliefs of why OCD becomes an issue in the first place. How can you move forward if you don’t know why you feel this way in the first place. What is the trigger? You are also able to do behavior experiments and Exposure Response Prevention therapy. This is definitely helpful as when you do it on your own it can be very easy to give up because it is distressing. 

I feel it is important to raise awareness for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as it is not something many people talk about. There is often judgment and the only way to break the stigma is for it to be spoken about. If you would like someone to speak to, I am happy to connect with others who suffer from anxiety and OCD you can contact me through my BLOG http://www.lifewithocdandme.com or my Facebook under Stacey Frewin.

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My family see no progress? How do I make them understand.

Living with Obsessive compulsive disorder is difficult and complex, but even more so when living with your family. Often my family will say, you’re having therapy why aren’t you better yet? Oh my if only It were that easy. The First thing I have to say about this, is put yourself in my shoes. Many of us live with these obsessions and compulsive for years before even getting a diagnosis, let alone finding help. Even then therapy isn’t foolproof. In fact therapy is very distressing for most people, as it makes you face up to things you may actively avoid. So if you have finally built up the courage to ask for help (believe me its not easy) and attend therapy, there is nothing more deflating than hearing “why aren’t you better yet?”

For some people the change they experience in there symptoms may be mild, or not at all. For others they may feel change emotionally, instead of crippling anxiety through not completing a compulsion, they may feel less stressed during the completion of their compulsions. Or perhaps simply there mood is lifted, and they feel more optimistic about the future and facing their OCD head on. Either way for the sufferer this is huge progress.

For an example if someone is out and trying to do their shopping but is so worried about contamination that even with gloves on picking up an item is very distressing, how do you think they would feel if they managed to pick up two items. Managing to stave off a panic attack in the meantime? Would you call that progress if you knew how it felt. If you experienced it prseonally, I guarantee that you would. To an outside it would seem like nothing has changed. To the sufferer they may have done something that they haven’t done in years, so to then hear negativity is very discouraging. Saying “why cant you just do it?” is not helpful. At all.

As difficult as it may be I do believe communication is key. You need to properly explain to your family just how your condition affects you, and how it impacts your daily life. As if they do not know the full impact, they will not understand what equates as progress to you. Let them know that their disregard for your progress hurts. Unfortunately for many even explaining it to your family will not be enough as they have no way to understand what it feels like. I would encourage your family to read up on Obsessive compulsive disorder to try and have at least a little understanding of the challenges you face. Perhaps keep a diary of progress that you notice, as and when it happens. Then you can keep accurate updates on your progress.

I understand that for families it makes things remarkably difficult. You may be irritable, depressed, constantly stressed, anxious, twitchy, fearful and much much more and your family may be worried about “setting you off” or “triggering” you. However if you are able to come to an understanding with your family, they may understand your progress better and family life will be easier.

I hope this helps at least a little and good luck xx

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Welcome to OCD and ME

“This is me, quirks and all”

Hello,

My name is Stacey and welcome to OCD and ME. This blog is about the struggles of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for both sufferers and their families. 

Writing a blog and speaking publicly and is completely out of my comfort zone, however I believe some things are worth talking about.

Mental health is one of them.

Mental health and emotions is something that everyone has, yet how many of us actually take time to work on our mental well being ? 
People often say, talk to someone, that its okay to ask for help, but when you’re the one that Is struggling, well how many of us actively seek the help we need,  I know I am guilty of this. There is still an enormous stigma surrounding mental health and as a result many don’t place mental health as a priority. More than ever people are being encouraged to share the stories and just talk, a problem shared is a problem halved, especially if cake and coffee’s involved!

I don’t just want to talk about general mental health, but something deeply personal to me. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 
This is something I have struggled with for what feels like most of my life, knowingly since I was fifteen, but my symptoms appeared as early as seven years old.  It affects every part of my life, my relationships, physical health and daily living to a severe degree. I don’t write this lightly or for sympathy but hopefully to shine a light on a secretive and debilitating condition. 

Today was a bad day.

Today sucked, there’s no other way to put it. It was just one if those day where you have a complete mental breakdown. I was at women’s wellbeing group at the local church and some one was talking about their career, and it just hit me. The knowledge that I was useless. I don’t work due to the severity of my OCD, there’s nothing I contribute, and I’m a terrible parent to my son and the feelings I got, completely overwhelmed me. As the tear streamed down my face, I felt the need explain to the lady why I don’t work and what OCD was and what it had stole from me. I literally couldn’t stop crying. it rehashed some of my deepest insecurities. That my husband and son were better off without me, and that they deserve better. Everyone was supportive and said lovely things but it doesn’t change the unshakeable feeling that I am a worthless, useless person, who has no talent and nothing to offer. I had a really good cry and the weight lifted from my shoulder’s slightly leaving me hollow.

I want to do something with my life. I’m trying to decide whether or not to join a creative writing course at my local university, just a short course. Writing is something I’m passionate about even if I’m not good at it. At least this would give me something to focus on . I wish I knew if it would make a difference to the depression I’m feeling.

I want to try to get better, but recovery is a long tough road and one I’ve been on for 15 years already. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this time will be different.

New year, new start.

2020 has been a year that no one will forget, a year of loss, of struggle and of anxiety for everyone. I have been thinking alot on this today of a year that seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. Now that 2020 is over what will my new years resolutions be, for 2021? Well, short answer there won’t be any. Every year I make a list of new years resolutions and every year I know I will break them. I want this year to have a more positive start and so I think back to the good things this year has bought to my family. We finally moved into a house, I discovered a new hobby and I went to group therapy for OCD. I got to spend more time with my husband and I wrote two children’s books. Although it feels like I have not achieved much this year, I have my family and my health and that is more than so many. I know I am lucky.

Back to my new year’s resolutions, and although there won’t be any, I instead want to focus on the long term changes I need to make and focus on how I can bring them about. The main focus of this coming year is to bring my anxiety and OCD to a more managable level. There is no set goal for how many times I wash, or the number panic attacks I will have to measure success. More so how I feel, in myself. Right now the anxiety is so overwhelming and I’m always exhausted. Intrusive thoughts are a near daily struggle and depression makes it difficult to feel hopeful. I can no longer count how many times I wash in a day its so many. Dry, cracked bleeding hands covered in cuts with the constant sting that I’m used to. To reduce this in any capacity would count as success to me and that is my goal.

I have always struggled with my self image and self confidence, they say you need to love yourself first, well I can’t say that I do. However I want to learn to accept the parts of myself that I hate to really try to embrace them. To alleviate some of the self loathing and self doubt that clouds my mind, that the depression can feed from.

What this year has taught me is that it is OK to struggle, that you are not alone. Even if you feel you achieved nothing you can look back at your darkest moments and say I survived.

Here’s to a hopeful 2021. Happy New year everyone x

Not feeling so great – To try or not to try.

Do you ever have those days, those times when you wonder why? Why bother, why try, something sets you back, words said that just derail you for the day even if to someone else there inconsequential. That is how today has felt for me. I started the day with some motivation despite not sleeping and having nightmare again. Thank-you for that aripiprazole.

I have been thinking of starting up a sugar-craft business on etsy selling gumpaste flowers. Its one of the only things i’m okay at and with some practice I think it could be worth it, if i can get the confidence to try. So i was speaking to someone close to me about it and from the offset i knew it was a bad idea. I was hoping to maybe get some ideas or share some and maybe get some advice. However what I was met with was negativity, just a string of everything that could go wrong (as if i hadn’t already thought of that) and my mood plummeted instantly. Even if they didn’t mean it to sound negative, it started off a chain reaction of thoughts that just made me feel awful about myself.

Sometimes I think my family think of me as a burden, as just the girl with OCD, crippling mental health problems and forget to see me as I am – just Stacey. I don’t just want to be seen as the girl with OCD. Who cant live a normal life, or have a normal job with all my obsessions, compulsions, panic attacks and fits of depression. I feel as though they think that I am not a capable adult, and I guess sometimes i’m not, but I try I really do. I have to remind myself that although I am having a bad day, there’s always tomorrow. keep trying again and again until your’e not drowning. I’m lucky and I know it I have a husband I love and a son who I adore even if he drives me nuts occasionally. I don’t know when or how but one day I will set up my sugar craft business, because even if it fails at least I can say I have tried.

Keep well xx

Staycation Disaster!

So last week I got back from my holiday in Newquay, and although it was lovely to see my son having fun, for me it was an entirely different experience. You might ask “why would you go away during a pandemic if you’re that worried” and that is a valid question.

Every year we go to down Cornwall, normally Newquay or Bude with my mother and brother in law. Its one of our favourite places to go and we always have a great time. However this year we didn’t book to go anywhere because of lockdown, but when that lifted my mother in law was desperate to go on holiday. So we booked somewhere we had been before, white acres in Newquay. We went last October and it was a fantastic, good clean caravans, well kept facilities and lots of fishing lakes so that kept my husband happy (he’s fishing obsessed).

This time however …not so good.

Park dean had advertised that there would be enhanced cleaning practices and social distance enforcement but it didn’t seem that way. Sure there were signs about social distancing and wearing masks but, enhanced cleaning not so much.

When we got to our caravan it wasn’t up to scratch. It had a horrible dog smell and visible dirt, we spent the first hour giving the caravan an intensive clean, scrubbing everything we could think of. We took A LOT of cleaning supplies with us as we were worried this may happen, but I would have cleaned it anyway. Not to mention the boiler was leaking, we opened the cupboard to find a dirty bucket of water propped under the boiler. We told reception and someone came to look at it but they weren’t qualified to fix it, we was told someone would come later or the following day. No-one came. We was not impressed as to me it felt like a safety hazard so I checked all the carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they were working, just to be safe.

Anyway we went to find somewhere to eat and Newquay was horrendous! Needless to say I didn’t make it to the high street. Nobody was wearing masks, people were crowded together with no social distancing and even worse I could see people coughing in close quarters. It was like nobody gave a damn, that coronovirus isn’t still an issue. Obviously rationally I know that there could be lots of explanations for someone coughnig other that coronovirus, but to me at that time the fear I felt was all consuming. I felt in a constant state of panic, muscles tense and cramping, sweating, racing heart and racing mind. I knew that that I had made a bad decision.

I foolishly hoped that more people would take precautions.

Padstow was even worse.

My first thought was people were packed like sardines, it was that busy, not to mention 2 of the 3 public toilets in Padstow were shut in the busiest time of year. It was a bloody joke. I had such a severe panic attack that I almost passed out, I felt as though I was suffocating and the exhaustion that followed was profound. Eventually we made it to the beach in Padstow which was not to busy thank goodness but that probably had to do with the 2 mile trek to get there with all your stuff in the boiling heat.

There were however some places that had fairly decent practices and you had to pre book so they could control numbers. they were the best places to visit. Both Lappa valley railway and Tamar valley donkey sanctuary had this. They both had plenty of hygiene stations and social distancing cues. In Lappa valley they were spraying the swan pedalos down with antibacterial spray before and after each use. The golf sticks and balls for mini golf had a spray station but again that was very much dependant on who was using it at the time.

Being on holiday with OCD is immensely difficult at the best of times, during a pandemic its not worth it. I was washing constantly, feeling contaminated the whole time, it was like ants crawling under my flesh no matter how much I washed cleaned or checked, it was never enough. The anxiety was a near constant presence always worrying and thinking, how can I keep myself and my son safe. How can I stop from being contaminated. knowing that I couldn’t stop it was the worst part. No matter what precautions I took we cannot control our environment or how close other people to go us. I had so many panic attacks each one leaving me completely exhausted physically and mentally. Always feeling like I am a burden to my family and to my son. Being only 5 its difficult to explain to him why he constantly had to be using alcohol gel or antibacterial hand wipes very frequently without pushing my thoughts and feeling on to him. My husband to take a lot the the slack with that as I would start to get irate through stress every time I tried. I felt constantly guilty for not being able to just interact with my son as I wanted to.

There were bright moments that made it worth it, bude is somewhere we love and max had been climbing the walls to go to the beach the whole week. It was busy however Summerleaze beach is large and so even with a full car park there was space on the beach. It made me happy to see his joy at blowing bubbles and building sandcastles like a boy of his age should (even though I despise sand). So that at least made the anxiety worth it!

So here are some tips of things I think are useful if you choose to go on holiday during the lockdown easing.

  • Plan, plan, plan. I find it helps to do your research, what is in the area? is it pre bookable and does it have limited capacity for better social distancing? Also do they have information on enhanced hygiene practices.
  • Keep an emergency pack in the car. This may sound obvious especially if you suffer with anxiety on a regular basis, but keep a bag full of supplies in case. Extra disposable gloves, masks, antibacterial hand and surface wipes, anti bacterial sprays and hand gel. spare clothes, wet wipes and anything else you feel you may need in an emergency. Make a list if that helps.
  • Speak to your hotel or holiday park. Find out there enhance practices and tell them your situation if you feel comfortable. They should be willing to accommodate your requests.
  • Ask them to wear a mask. I felt very awkward about asking my server to wear a mask when bringing out my food, but the thought of them breathing on it made me feel horrendous. When I asked they said to me don’t ever feel embarrassed to ask, were happy to help.
  • Sanitiser spray is a life saver. Most people will use alcohol gel but sanitiser spray is a great option especially if you are concerned about your clothes or bags becoming contaminated throughout the day. They come in handy sizes small enough to carry in your handbag and when I came out of a shop or a crowd I would spray myself and bags down so I didn’t contaminate myself by touching something I forgot to sanitise.
  • Disposable gloves come in handy. I’ve had a habit of carrying gloves around with me for years so if the anxiety gets severe enough I put them on to try and stem a panic attack. Especially if you need to use bathrooms when your out and about to try and avoid contamination until you feel ready to deal with it.

Hopefully this may help a little. Feel free to comment below or contact me through email stacey.frewin@hotmail.com or my facebook page under stacey frewin.