Catastrophic Thinking – Living In The Shadow Of Disaster or Life Is Like A Fairy Tale

Has it ever happened to you that your partner did not answer your call and you got extremely worried because you thought he got into a car accident? Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself with a terrifying disease just because you felt a little bit more tired than usual? Have you ever been afraid of getting fired for a minor mistake at your job?

Well, I am pretty sure that I am not the only person who answered yes to all of these questions. I have been living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for a crazy long time and I have to say that I am very talented at imagining the worst possible scenarios in every single situation. I have always thought I could be an excellent risk analyst – like I could literally tell you at least 10 possible disasters that could happen to me at this very moment!

Now, talking about disasters – this pattern of thinking I have just told you about even has a name and it is called Catastrophic thinking. Very descriptive, is it not?

Catastrophic thinking can be defined as ruminating about irrational, worse-case outcomes. And it is needless to say that constantly imagining the worst-case scenarios can lead to severe anxiety and can prevent people from taking action in situations where it is required. Like how could you think logically if you’ve just been haunted by a terrifying image of your severely injured boyfriend or when you’ve just imagined yourself being fired from your job?

My grandma always tells me that my catastrophic thinking is the direct result of my lifestyle. Modern life she says. Needless to say that I have never agreed with her argument – and the other day when we were talking about this topic – ’cause of course, I have the tendency to catastrophize things and I was just telling her about all the shocking stuff that could happen to me – I remembered a Romanian folktale she used to read me when I was a child.

Human Foolishness

Human Foolishness is a story written by 19th century Romanian writer, Ion Creanga – one of my favorite authors, you should definitely check out his books!And…surprise! It talks about catastrophic thinking!

Of course, the title of the story is far from being politically correct but I think we can forgive him for that. I mean – back then, people were not particularly worried about political correctness and they did not have access to a vast amount of information about psychology.

But in spite of everything, Ion Creanga’s story gives us a perfect example of catastrophic thinking in a very humorous way – I am not sure if any of you agrees with me on that (please share your thoughts in the comment section) but I think that making fun of things is a great way to deal with some of the “catastrophic thoughts”.

Anyways, this has been a crazy long introduction so let’s take a look at the story!

Bucharest Village Museum – Source: romania-insider.com

Once Upon A Time, When It was..

because if it hadn’t been, we would have no story to tell you.
It’s been said that there was a married man and this man was living together with his wife and his mother-in-law. His wife, who had a newborn child, was rather dumb and his mother-in-law was no genius either.

One day, our man leaves his house to go about his business like every man does. His wife was bathing their baby, swaddling and nursing him and then she put the baby in bed, right next to the stove as it was winter. Then, she started singing a lullaby and swinging the cradle until he fell asleep.

After the baby fell asleep, she was sitting there thinking and suddenly she started to cry as loud as she could: “Oh my, oh my, oh my babyyy…my baby!”

Her mother, who was sewing behind the chimney, threw her tools away, jumped up and asked with dread:

“What is it, mother’s dearest? What happened?”
“Mother, mother! My child will die!
“When and how?”
“Here is how. See that salt block on the chimney?”
“Yes, I see it. So?”
“If the cat climbs up there, it will throw it straight to my baby’s head and kill him!”
“Woe to me, you are right my girl! The little one’s days are numbered!”

And there they were. Looking at the block of salt on the chimney, with their hands clenched as if someone had tied them. Both of them crying like crazy as if the house was on fire. While they were in the midst of self-disfigurement, the man of the house entered the door hungry and worried.

“What is it? What startled you?”

Catching their breath, they began to wipe off their tears and tell him about everything while mourning about the disaster that had yet to happen. The man, after listening to their story, said astonished:

“Oh my… I have seen many fools in my life. But never like you two. I will go away to wander the land and if I find anyone dumber than you, I will come back home. Otherwise, I won’t.

So, off he went. And needless to say that he managed to find people who were “dumber” than the two poor women – including a guy who wanted to bring sunlight into his place with the help of a bucket, an agriculture expert who wanted to throw nuts into the attic with a fork, and a wannabe Darwin prize winner who almost killed his cow (and probably himself too) while trying to bring it to the top of a barn to feed it some hay.

Read the full version of the folktale here

I have always wanted to live in a fairy tale. And after reading this story I realized that I actually was living in one – ‘cause I can totally relate to the 2 women who were crying over an imaginary disaster.

Catastrophic thinking is not something that you would expect a folktale to talk about. But this one does. Calling people who’re suffering from a mental health disorder “dumb” is absolutely unacceptable in todays world but I really think it was a great thing that a 19th century author wrote a story that talked about a problem that a lot of people have.

It helps a lot to know that you are not alone with your problems. In the 19th century, people did not write blogs and didn’t have social media platforms where they could share their experiences. And let’s not even mention about the lack of therapy options. But Ion Creanga’s story surely gave them something they needed: reassurance that all of us have our problems (our “foolishness”) and characters that a lot of people could relate to!

Further Reading

Well, todays article was about this great piece of Romanian literature. But I am planning to write a few more posts about Catastrophic Thinking in the near future. Until then, please check out

And a few more Romanian folktales ❤ (many of them collected by Ion Creanga)

Or read Childhood Memories from Ion Creanga – perfect read for a cozy autumn evening!

More From Mark Wester

Why Excessive Hand Washing Is Not My Main “OCD Problem” During The Pandemic

What is it like to live with OCD in times of a pandemic?

Well, every person has their own answer to this question and I think it is time to share mine. The other day, I was reading through articles about OCD in the age of COVID-19 and one thing I noticed was that the mainstream media mainly focuses on excessive hand washing and cleaning but it does not really talk about many of the other struggles that people with OCD have recently been through.

Hmm.. does it surprise me? Not at all. For a long time, we were portrayed in the media as neat freaks. And I have the impression that since the pandemic began, we have been upgraded to neat freaks that other people can learn from. Or to “those poor neat freaks who have never needed help more than now.”

Do I wash my hands more frequently than usual? Of course I do. Will it make me feel anxious when I cannot wash my hands properly? Yes, it will.

But is excessive hand-washing my main “OCD problem”? No. My main struggle is my compulsive news checking.

I have OCD. I am a very social and outgoing person who has been forced to spend most of his time at home since the pandemic began. I have always been interested in reading news. I enjoy spending time on social media. And I am extremely worried about my loved ones’ health.

Well, this is all it takes. I have just given you a recipe for the ultimate OCD disaster.

When I open my eyes in the morning, the first thing I will normally do is checking coronavirus news and I have various reasons for doing so. Sometimes it is just pure reassurance seeking – I know that the situation couldn’t possibly get any better but I just really need to make sure that it didn’t get any worse. There are some mornings when I must – yes, MUST is definitely the right word! – read the news because if I do not do that, one of my loved ones will die. Oh my…it was so painful to write this down but that’s really the way how I feel sometimes.

During the day, I try to keep myself as busy as possible but unfortunately, I will always find some time to analyze the new coronavirus statistics.

What do I mean by “some time”? Well, it depends. On some days, it’s “only” an hour but on other days I can easily spend five hours trying to convince myself that coronavirus may not be too dangerous to my loved ones’. But I am just an armchair expert and the numbers that I find on the internet will usually make me even more confused. And let’s be honest – even if one day, I found something reassuring, it wouldn’t make me feel less worried because there’s always that terrible “what if”.

If you have OCD, I am sure you know the annoying “what if”. Let’s say that I manage to arrive to a conclusion that my loved ones are not considered to be at a higher risk from coronavirus. But does it mean they are perfectly safe? Of course not. It just feels like an endless cycle – sometimes, I am able to calm down and stop worrying but then, there’s either a “what if’ question popping up in my head or – even more often – there’s always someone who will start talking about the virus. And I do not want to be mean but I have to say that there are some people who actually enjoy spreading fear.

And I wish I were only reading the news and stats. Recently, I have found a few interesting threads on one of our local online forums and I can waste reading them. And well, most of the times there’s nothing reassuring on these online forums so today I decided to stop reading them completely. Let’s see how it will go.

I am not extremely worried about my own health. Of course, I know I am not invincible and I try to take good care of myself but I am more anxious about my loved ones’ safety. And this is the anxiety that makes me spend hours on reading the news. ‘Cause I always hope that one day, I’ll find an article that says it’s all over.

Why did I want to talk about this?

Dear readers – I love all of you – I think you noticed that I haven’t posted any COVID-19 related article for the last 4 months. You know the reason why? It is because I wanted to keep my blog a “safe-place” where you can browse through the articles without being constantly reminded of all the sad things happening around the globe. But today I felt that I just had to share this story with you because I am sure I am not the only person who “suffers from compulsive news checking” and I hope that reading this article will help those who are going through the same struggle.

How to stop compulsive news reading?

I do not want to be a hypocrite – I haven’t been able to fully overcome my news reading compulsion. (Guess that is pretty obvious considering the beginning of the article). But there are a few things that have helped me cut down on my compulsive news reading.

Delete Social Media Apps From Your Phone

As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy spending time on social media. Or well, should I say “I used to”? The first step that I took for getting things back under control was uninstalling social media apps from my phone. I have not deleted my accounts but I have uninstalled Facebook and Twitter. And I can tell you that I’ve been feeling so much better since I stopped looking at my newsfeed – like…my social media feed was literally scaring the sh**t out of me. And then, we all know that Facebook is not even the most reliable place to get your news from.

Create A News Reading Schedule – Or Should We Call It “Worry Schedule”?

I read the news every single morning even before the pandemic started and I do not want to give up on staying up-to-date. But when you read the news, it’s just so difficult not to get carried away and start reading literally every new article about the current situation.

And my personal solution to this problem was to come up with a news reading schedule: I have decided to allow myself 2 hours per day when I can read all the news and worry about them. And I am proud to say that most of the time I stick to the schedule – of course, 2 hours is still a crazy long time to spend on reading apocalyptic articles but my long term plan is to reduce my “worry time” to half an hour.

Go For A Walk – Without Your Phone!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably now that I love walking the streets of my city. And I used to take my phone to my daily walks but I do not do that anymore!

Decide Where You Get Your News

Another thing that’s important is to make sure you get your news from reliable sources. The internet can be a dangerous place and it’s sometimes difficult to spot fake news. And while fake news is the biggest danger, another thing that I have noticed over the last few months is that some news sites are “more panicky” than others. Again, I am not telling you to bury your head in the sand but if you have anxiety problems, I think it’s better for you to get your news from sites that do not use sensationalist deadlines.

Seek Professional Help

I would like to emphasize that I am not a professional therapist – I am just a guy who’s been struggling with OCD for a few years now and I hope I can help people by talking about my experiences. However, the first step to recovery is seeking professional help!

Further Reading

Your Feelings

How has the pandemic affected your mental health? Did it make your OCD worse? Do you also find it difficult to stop reading the news? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section!

Love you all,

Mark

How To Keep Sane While Working From Home?

Am I the only person who literally hates working from home?

Probably not. There is plenty of articles on the internet about the advantages of remote working but this time I will talk about its disadvantages. I know home working has its own benefits, of course but it isn’t for everyone. Let’s take me as an example – I am an extrovert who enjoys being around other people and for me, spending time at the office used to be a kind of therapy that was helping me keep my OCD under control.

I had the option to work from home even before the pandemic but I have never been a great fan of it. I would be a hypocrite if I told you that I never enjoyed building my career while sitting on my favorite couch but spending a whole week working from home used to be totally unthinkable for me.

But since the beginning of March, the world has changed. And the unthinkable has happened. I have been working from home for way more than a week – it’s actually been 6 months since my last day at the office and I must admit that remote working has taken a huge toll on my mental health.

Back in March, I thought it would be something temporary. I thought we would be back to the office by summer. But it’s already September and chances are very low for us to go back to normal anytime soon.

Now, please do not get me wrong – I am not here to complain. It’s been a difficult few months for all of us and I am pretty much satisfied with my life and grateful for the things that I have and for the fact that my loved ones are healthy. But I really think it’s time for me to talk about my struggles while working from home and sharing a few techniques that are helping me survive! I am sure I am not the only person who’s going through this and I hope that sharing my story will help some of you.

So first of all, let’s take a look at my struggles!

My Journey To Burnout

As I mentioned above, home working has taken a huge toll on my mental health. But what do I actually mean by that? Has it made my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) worse?

Well, not exactly. I mean OCD does make you more vulnerable to developing other mental health issues so I am sure I would be doing much better if I did not have OCD, however this time I am experiencing something completely different. Something that I do not know if I ever felt before.

Burnout.

It has taken some time for me to admit that I was completely burned out. And it’s taken even more time to figure out the reason why I ended up feeling this way.

Related reading:
One of my favorite blogs on WordPress is Kacha’s Food.for.Thoughts which is full of interesting articles about depression and burnout:
https://journeythroughlife591163021.wordpress.com/category/mental-health/burnout/

Avoiding Work

Avoiding work was the first sign that something was wrong. I have always been a workaholic and when I worked from the office, I would never ever avoid work or I would never say no to any incoming request. Well, unfortunately that is not the case anymore.

My favorite part of my job was spending time with people, organizing meetings, training courses and social events – and yes, I know you will say that I can do all of that on video calls but that is just not the same! And another reason why I simply adored my workplace was the fact that I did not use to be forced to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours a day.

Now, that the things that I loved the most have been kind of “taken away from me” – that sounds so dramatic, I know lol – the tasks that I once found enjoyable are no longer as exciting as they used to be.
And while I am still doing my job, I often feel that I would prefer avoiding doing anything at all!

Apathy & Exhaustion

During the first few weeks of home working, I could still see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, I realized after a few months that remote working was here to stay. And this realization made me feel completely apathetic, exhausted and hopeless

There was a time when I felt that I just did not want to get up in the morning. Why should I? To spend another day in isolation doing things that I am no more interested at and counting down the minutes to finish working?

Lately, I have been doing better. I have learnt to accept the situation and I am trying to get the most out of it. At the beginning, my plan was to survive this period but it’s no longer an option as nobody knows how long it would take so at the moment I am trying to do everything to make my workdays a little bit more enjoyable.

Declining Performance

Well, after everything I said I think you won’t be surprise if I tell you that my performance at work has significantly declined. And I am sure you can imagine how that feels to a workaholic like I am.

To make things worse, this is where our friend, OCD comes into the picture and asks:
– You are not as hard working as you used to be. What if they fire you because of that?

And as ridiculous as it sounds, my OCD has recently decided to become my career coach who keeps telling me that I should put myself together unless I really want to get fired. And well, we all know OCD so it doesn’t only tell me that I could be fired over not working enough but also that if I get fired, I will never find another job and I will end up living in the street. How motivating, is it not?

Inability To Disconnect

Now, I surely know that I am not alone with this problem. Many of my friends have told me that they were struggling with the blurring boundaries between work and home life. Our employers do not ask us to work longer hours but for some reason we still end up checking our work mail long after our shift is over.

How To Keep Sane?

Oh my….it just felt so great to complain a little bit and to tell you about all the struggles I’ve been through recently. Talking about our problems helps a lot but it’s only a part of the solution and fortunately, there are a few things we can do to make home working a bit more enjoyable.

Get Up At Least An Hour Before You Start Working

One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was waking up literally 10 minutes before the first meeting of the day. And I am sure you can imagine how it made me feel – having no time for a coffee, for taking a shower or for brushing my teeth. Or for anything else that used to be a part of my daily routine.

So one thing that makes me feel a lot better is getting up at least an hour before I start working. I have always been a night owl so it’s quite unbelievable that I am the one who’s telling others to wake up earlier but if I have to choose between sleeping a little bit less or feeling completely miserable for the rest of the day – ’cause that’s how the “morning rush” will make me feel – I think I will go for sleeping less.

Dress For The Office Even Though You’re Working From Home

Lose the pajamas! Yes, I know they’re comfortable to wear but if you’re dressed for bed, your brain will think it’s bedtime. And in this case, pajama was just an example because as for my experience, it’s pretty much the same think with any other comfortable piece of home wear.

What to wear instead? Well, maybe it’s just me but dressing for the office actually helps me a lot. I have always loved beautiful clothes and taking my time to get ready for work/ social events. During the first few months of home working, I was wearing a T-shirt with boxers but some time ago I came to realize that I’d actually been missing my “old style”.

So nowadays, my morning routine includes doing my hair, my eyebrows and dressing up in full office wear despite working from home.

Further reading:
The first rule of working from home: never wear pyjamas

Separate Work Area From Personal Space

Is working from bed bad for you? Now some people may say it’s not but as for my experience it definitely is. And not just because it can lead to back problems but also because your bed is meant to be for sleeping.

Remote work can easily blur work-life balance but having a designated area can help you keep the two things separate. I know it can sometimes be difficult – especially if you live in a small city center flat like I do – but there are a couple of creative ways to do that.

Further reading:
Establishing Your Home Workspace

Create A Work Routine

Decide on what your working hours will be and stick to them! It’s also important to schedule regular breaks for yourself and try to spend your break time outside of your “designated work area”. I also try to start and finish working at the same time everyday.

Further Reading:
How To Create A Routine When You Work From Home?

Stop Answering Work-Related Calls/Emails At The Day’s End

Talking about work routine – one thing that you definitely stop doing is answering work-related calls and emails at the day’s end!

For me, this has always been one of the hardest things to do because I have always been a great procrastinator – when there’s an email that I do not feel like answering early in the morning, I will just put it off and answer it sometime around midnight. And that’s obviously not the best thing to do when you’re trying to set boundaries between work and home life.

Take A Break And Go Outside

Scheduling analog breaks is another great way to keep yourself sane while working from home. And what could be more relaxing than going for a walk in a nearby park or enjoying the sunshine in your garden?

Unfortunately, I do not have a garden and there aren’t too many parks in my neighborhood but I enjoy going for long walks on the riverbank! 🙂

Go Out For Lunch With Your Friends

Well, this one obviously depends on the current pandemic situation in your region but if it’s safe to go out for lunch with your friends, why not do that?

I have a friend who lives very close to my place and we often meet up for lunch. And it’s just so refreshing after spending hours staring at my computer screen!

Call Your Colleagues

One of my main problems with working from has always been the feeling of being isolated. Fortunately, this is something that I could easily overcome by talking to my colleagues a little bit more often. You do not need to be at the office to spend some time with them!

Talk To Your Manager

Many of us may find it difficult to talk to our managers about the way we’re feeling. Especially when it comes to burnout – I mean, how could I possibly tell my boss that I feel completely unmotivated to do my job?

Well, that’s what I have done and let me tell you it wasn’t as hard as I expected. Managers are human beings just like anyone else and I am pretty sure that most of them are very understanding.

Take A Few Days Off

Well, finally if you feel that you just need to think things over and have some time for yourself, you can also consider taking a few days off!

Conclusion

Most of the people I know like working from home and I can understand why. I do agree that remote working has its own benefits and I am very glad that my workplace gives us the option to work from home as it helps us keep ourselves and our family members safe.

However, home working isn’t for everyone and while over the last few months, I have learnt how to manage my day and I am no longer on “survival mode” , I still cannot wait going back to the office.

How do you feel about working from home? What are the challenges that you face and do you have any tips to overcome them?

Further Reading

Mark’s List – 7 Things To Drink Instead Of Alcohol

What to drink instead of alcohol?

Now, that is a good question! For the last few months, I have been trying to cut back on drinking and I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way but I have to tell you that it is a pretty difficult thing to do! First of all, alcohol is a drug and withdrawing from it can cause a wide range of rather unpleasant symptoms.

But apart from all the well-known reasons, there is one more thing that makes it challenging for me to cut down on alcohol. And it is the fact that over the years, drinking alcohol has become one of my rituals and also a part of my everyday life.

When I get off work, I will normally go to the pub to grab a few drinks with my friends. Or when I do not feel like socializing, I will just read a novel while drinking red wine or gin & tonic. And sometimes I go for long walks and well – I enjoy walking with a beer in my hand.

And in these situations, I often ask myself the greatest question:

What Could I Drink Instead Of Booze?

Like, reading a novel is fun but my little “novel reading ritual” includes that bottle of red wine. So what could I do? Habits are hard to break. But we can try to make a few changes to them. And well…what if I replace that bottle of wine by something else? Something non-alcoholic?

Alcohol addiction is not easy to overcome and you cannot treat your alcohol use disorder just by replacing alcohol by non-alcoholic drinks but I do think that finding alcohol free drinks that you like will help a lot!

So that is why I decided to share the list of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks with you! Some of them are pretty much well-known, others are not.

Salep

Orchids are beautiful flowers but have you ever tried eating one? Or drinking one?
Not yet? Then it’s time for you to try salep!

Source: https://theistanbulinsider.com/

It is a hot milky drink that warms you up in winter and it is made from Orchis (a kind of orchid) and cinnamon. Salep is a popular drink in Turkey (its country of origin) throughout the Middle East and in the Balkans.

Where to get it from?

Well, it depends on where you are in the world. If there is any Turkish grocery store or café in your neighborhood, chances are high that they will have some salep for you (or at least that’s normally the case here in Central Europe). Or as far as I know, you can also order salep powder from Amazon.

And here is a recipe in case you’d like to prepare it at home:
Salep Recipe (Ozlem’ Turkish Table)

Tomato Juice

Tomato juice is probably less exotic than many of the drinks that made my list. And also it is something that all of us know so I do not think I provided you with any new information by mentioning it.

Source: http://www.morejuicepress.com


BUT it is one of my favorite “alcohol replacements” . Especially when I add some spices to it or when I make a Virgin Bloody Mary!

And let’s not forget that it’s a very healthy drink that is rich in nutrients like vitamin C, B and potassium.

Where to get it from?

I guess you buy it at any supermarket or grocery store. Yummy. But here’s a great Virgin Bloody Mary recipe for you! 🙂

Suan Mei Tang

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this on my blog but I grew up in Chinatown. And I simply adore Chinese cuisine so no wonder why Suan Mei Tang or Sour Plum Drink – eeeeeh its English name does not sound too convincing to be honest – is one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks.

Source: The Woks Of Life

Suan Mei Tang is a deep magenta colored drink made from sour plums, hawthorn berries, dried orange peel, licorice root, dried hibiscus and rock sugar. Sounds delicious, does it not?

Where to get it from?

Well, that is a difficult question because it really depends on where you are in the world. I think you will most probably be able to find the ingredients at Chinese grocery stores (if there’s any in your neighborhood) or if not: Amazon is always the answer. (Sounded like a paid ad but believe me, it was not. Was just trying to be helpful)

And the recipe: Suan Mei Tang (The Woks Of Life)

Tonic Water

Another well-known drink on the list. And well, as I mentioned earlier I absolutely, 100% adore gin & tonic. But tonic on it is own is fabulous too!

Source: Benson HE

Hmm… and what else to say? I love tonic water because it’s easily accessible and it has a very particular bitter taste that I am sure most of you are familiar with.

Oh yes, and recipes? I do not have any. Maybe one thing I could mention is that I normally mix it with sparkling water but again, I guess I am not the only person who does that.

Kvass

Are you a beer person? If yes, I am sure you will like kvass.

Kvass is a fermented Slavic & Baltic beverage commonly made from rye bread and I have always had the impression that it tasted like a sweet, non-alcoholic beer. Or well – non-alcoholic, it depends on perception I guess as it’s not fully alcohol free but it’s alcohol content is negligible (0.5 – 1%).

Source: https://www.svoimirykami.club/

Where to get it from?

Kvass is a popular drink in many Central & Eastern European countries. So if there’s any Russian or Ukrainian grocery store in your neighborhood, I am pretty sure they will have it on stock.

Or if not, here is a recipe: Easy Bread Kvas recipe (Natasha’s Kitchen).

Peppermint Tea

I love all kinds of tea but peppermint tea is definitely my favorite. I just love its refreshing taste and the fact that I enjoy drinking it all year long. A cup of iced peppermint tea is a wonderful summer drink but when you drink it hot, it will also be a perfect treat on a cold winter’s night.

Source: Healthline

And let’s not forget to mention that it’s caffeine free which is obviously not a bad thing when you suffer from OCD (like I do) or from any other anxiety disorder.

Where to get it from?

As for my experience, peppermint tea is pretty easily accessible all around the world. So you’ll most likely be able to grab it from your local supermarket or grocery store.

Recipe: How To Make Peppermint Tea Properly (Hot & Iced)

Soda Water & Lemon

This one is probably the simplest item on my list but I just love it. I have never been a great fan of traditional lemonade – reading this post you may have already noticed that I am not very much into uber sweet things.

Source: https://livfitness.ca/

So, I make my own “Mark style” lemonade which is nothing more than a huge glass of sparkling water with a table spoon of lemon juice added to it. Easily accessible, healthy and simply delicious

What Are Your Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

This post was about my favorite alcohol free drinks but every person has their own taste so please tell us about your favorites in the comment section! 🙂

Further Reading

Need Help With Alcohol Addiction?

More From Mark Wester

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images in these photos.

I Hope You’ll Die Next Time :)

Quite a shocking title but please carry on reading!

In light of the recent suicide prevention day, I would love to talk about a Hungarian movie that I think is definitely worth watching. As you may have noticed, I do not normally post film reviews on my blog – ’cause it’s actually difficult to write one without any spoilers in it. But then, as I am a mental health blogger from Hungary, I really feel that I should talk about this film.

I Hope You’ll Die Next Time 🙂

was released exactly 2 years ago, in September 2018 and I have watched it quite a few times since its initial release – especially since it’s been recently made available on Netflix.

Now, the title of the movie is pretty shocking on its ownwho on earth would put a smiley face at the end of such a sentence? Well, I’ll not tell you the exact reason why it is there as I really do not want to drop a major spoiler but all I can say is that the smiley’s there for a good reason: this is a movie about teenagers living in Budapest, the Hungarian capital and just like any other teenagers in the world, they normally use emoticons while texting each other.

Image from: Port.hu

So, what the movie is about? You may have already guessed from the title that it’s about suicide. But it also talks about other problems of teenage life such as cyberbullying, relationships with friends and parents, love and sex. And well, there are pretty interesting topics, aren’t they?

Synopsis

I Hope You’ll Die Next Time 🙂 tells the story of a Hungarian high school girl, Eszter, who is just like any other teenage girls – she loves manga, does cosplay and she has a crush on her English teacher – okay, I am not entirely sure whether having a crush on one’s English teacher is considered to be average but I guess it’s happened to some of us in our high school years. I mean ,I too had a crush on one of my teachers.

I know it may sound pretty much like a Hollywood romcom. But it’s not. Eszter’s life seems to be pretty happy but obviously something bad needs to happen. And in her case, things will start to take turn for the worse when her English teacher (Csababá) announces that he’ll leave the country for a foreign job.

Will Eszter forget him? Of course, she won’t. And I guess it will not be a major spoiler if I tell you that our teenage protagonist starts a sexting relationship with her ex-English teacher – who’s actually married by the way – and that’s when things really start going out of control.

Well, I will not carry on with the story but I think it’s pretty obvious that this whole situation will not end well. And by the end of the movie, you’ll also learn why the movie’s title is “I Hope You’ll Die Next Time”.

Oh and I think I should also mention about the beautiful visuals of the movie and about its great pastel colours (just love the atmosphere!). And another thing that I loved was that it includes video calls, text messages which make the whole thing look more realistic.

And at the end of the day, the most important thing is the message of this movie. The characters have a seemingly perfect life, living in one of the prominent Budapest neighborhoods but this doesn’t mean that they do not have their own problems such as bullying, self-esteem issues and other mental health problems. And parents often realize that there’s a problem when it’s already too late….

Director:
Mihály Schwechtje

Writer:
Mihály Schwechtje (screenplay)

Starring:
Kristóf VajdaSzilvia HerrCsaba Polgár

Where To Watch?

The movie is available on Neflix and also on HBO Go – but as far as I know, their catalog varies greatly depending on your region.

Other Movies To Watch

I am a movie addict. And when I do not know what movie to watch, I will normally check blogs or websites about movies. One of my favorites is: Assholes Watching Movies – I love that they have very strong opinions and they’re not afraid to share them! So if you’re wondering what movie to watch tonight, just check out their blog and I am sure you will find tons of ideas. 🙂

Your Suggestions

If there’s any movie that you’d like to recommend, please do not hesitate to share it in the comment section! 🙂

More From Mark Wester

Does Keeping Yourself Busy Help With OCD?

I have been thinking a lot about this question lately and I realized that there’s one thing that I got completely wrong – I used to think that keeping myself busy was the only way to fight OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and I guess I have kind of “overdone” it.

Please do not get me wrong, I still think that staying busy is one of the best ways to cope with OCD but it will only work if you do it in combination with other techniques and if you do not overdo it like I did.

So, what do I actually mean by saying that I have kind of overdone the whole thing?

Let me tell you my story. How it began – and how it ended.

As I mentioned in many of my previous posts, I was diagnosed with OCD in my late teens. While I do not actually remember the exact day when my OCD started (’cause I guess it has always been there in the background) I will never forget the day when I felt it was going out of control. I was a senior in high school and my class was having a particularly long holiday as we were supposed to be preparing for our final exams.

I guess having a long holiday is probably a positive thing for most people. Well, for me it was not. I was very anxious about getting into college so I had pretty much finished my preparation for the finals by the time our break from school started. Which meant that I had a month off – a whole month to think about all the crazy stuff that was going on in my head! Now, that was a terrifying thing for me. I was worried about my future and I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. And in addition, I also had OCD. A perfect recipe for disaster.

As I could no longer deal with the things that were going on in my head, I decided to seek professional help. I have already published a few posts about how I got diagnosed with OCD and what kinds of thoughts I was having so I really do not want to go into more details in this article.

Related reading:

Being Scared Of Having Too Much Free Time

Now, one thing I definitely need to mention about is a conversation that i had with my therapist who told me that keeping myself busy could help a lot. And who also made a few suggestions. Like – I could find a part-time job. Or go out a bit more often.

Well, I gotta tell you that I listened to her advice! But I guess I kind of misunderstood what she meant. Because for me, finding a part-time job meant working 40-50 hours a week and going out a bit more often meant going out every single night.

At the beginning of my OCD journey, I did not feel that there was a problem. Staying busy actually helped me forget about all the scary things going on in my head and it was just a great way to escape from my OCD monster.

So, after a few months of long working hours and parties, I started feeling that things were going in the right direction. The only thing that I was concerned about was a new fear that I had developed – the fear of having too much free time. Because I remembered what it felt like when I had to stay at home and did not have anything to do. And this fear was the beginning of a new chapter.

Fear Of Losing My Job / My Friends

My “busy new life” was just perfect – except for one thing. I started obsessing over losing my job or my growing circle of friends.

And that’s when my attempts to keep myself busy became an obsession. Doing some extra work or going out with friends was no longer about distraction – it was a compulsion just like lock checking or other repetitive actions people with OCD tend to do.

I felt that I couldn’t say “no” to any invitationbecause what if people will be upset with me? What if they will never want to see me again? I was just unable to say “no” to any request at work because you know..what if they fire me? And taking a day off work or spending a weekend without going to any social events were just things that I didn’t even dare to imagine.

Related reading

When Things Go Out Of Control

After a while I arrived to a point where I felt that I was just losing it. By saying after a while I mean a few years – ’cause that’s how long it took me to take up enough activities and to commit myself to do so many things that it was just impossible to handle.

So, after years of living a busy life, I started to feel that it just couldn’t go on any longer. And at the same time, this realization was also a great shock to me – for the first time in many years, I felt that I did not need to stay busy for keeping my OCD under control. And that was an amazing feeling!

The Aftermath

Now, I think you can guess that the story is not over yet. I cannot just simply undo the last decade and run away from the people I love and from my responsibilities. But I have been improving – I am trying to say “no” a little bit more often. Of course, not like literary but in my own, overcomplicated way.

I have become a little bit less proactive – but I think compared to most of the people I know, I am still pretty much a workaholic. Well, there are things that will never change.

And I focus more on my family and on my real friends – I know this will sound pretty ugly but you know how it is, there are people who come and go – and there are those people who’ll stay in your life. Back in the past, I used to attend every single social event that I was invited to. Nowadays, I spend more time with my “inner circle” and I try to make a little bit more time for myself. And over the years, I have learnt that the people who are really important in your life will not stop talking to you just because you did not go out with them last Thursday!

Why Exactly Now?

You may ask how come I decided to write about this topic. Well, you might have noticed that this is the first post I published after a 2 weeks break. There’s been a lot of thing going on in my life the last 2 weeks so I really needed to talk about this topic!

Conclusion

1. Keeping Yourself Busy Helps With OCD

At the end of the day, my personal experience is that keeping yourself busy is a great way to keep your OCD under control.

2….But Don’t Overdo It!

But just like with anything else – you shouldn’t overdo it. And I know it is hard to find a balance, so if you feel unsure about it, the best thing you can do is discussing with your therapist. So, do not be like me!

3. Stress Can Make OCD Worse

If you have a lot of things to do, it’s more likely that you’ll be stressed. And stress does not help OCD at all.

4. You Can Not Run Away From Yourself

Staying busy cannot be your only way to cope with OCD as there are moments in our lives when it’s simply not possible. Like, just think about the recent restrictions due to the pandemic – if this happened years ago, I think I would have lost my mind.

Further Reading

Reblog – Interview With Mark Wester

I first came upon Mark Wester’s blog, Overcoming OCD while researching about OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, due to a revelation by my daughter. I had no prior knowledge about this issue. Since then Mark and myself have been interacting through our comment section. Several days ago Mark sent me a message through email that he […]

The Interview – Overcoming OCD – Mark Wester — rts

George Ezra opens up about his OCD – Why is it important?

Normally, I do not follow celebrity news but I recently came across a podcast where George Ezra opened up about his OCD struggles and I found it so deep and relatable that I just felt that I needed to share it with you – in case you missed it – and I also want to talk about why I think it’s super important that celebrities like him open up about their OCD.

So this is the article that one of my friends sent to me the other day: George Ezra Opened Up About Living With OCD In A New Interview. And honestly, when I first saw the title, I would think that this interview was going to be just like most of the others – a meaningless conversation about how important cleaning is for George Ezra and how uncomfortable he feels when things are not perfectly organized in his wardrobe.

Do not get me wrong, I love this guy but I think you can totally understand why I was having such thoughts – I mean what could we possibly expect after Khloé Kardashian’s KHLO-C-D series that present OCD as if it was a fun thing to live with. (Here’s the link to one of her “fantastic” videos)

But well, let’s leave Khloé alone and talk about George Ezra. In this interview he was talking very openly about his Pure O – and well Pure O is something that I’ve been suffering from ever since my teens so I can tell you that I could totally relate to everything he said.

What Is Pure O?

Purely obsessional OCD – or simply, Pure O – means that you’re haunted by intrusive and uncontrollable thoughts, but these are usually not accompanied by any compulsions.

Now that’s a definition from a book but if you would like to read more about the topic please check out my post:

Pure O – Living In Endless Fear – well, I know the title may sound overly dramatic but it really feels terrible.

Hm..so well this is the Pure O that George Ezra was talking about and he perfectly described the way many of us feel:

It feels like you’re testing yourself. It feels like you go….
”God, in this situation the worst thing you could think is…”
And then you have that thought. And then you think

„George don’t have that thought again”
So you do. And then you go

„Well, if you’re somebody who could have that thought, does that mean you are this person? And if so, you’re fucking horrible mate”
And this in its worst, it would be before – and this might be me dramatizing it, but when I remember the times it was as if before my eyes had opened they would have started and it would last until I went to bed. And I wouldn’t have lived, I wouldn’t have been alive. Whilst everything was going on in your head, you’re vacant to the world around you and you’re not really..there.

And well, I guess I have nothing more to add. He’s described the way I feel.

Why is it important that celebrities like George Ezra open up about their OCD?

Well, George Ezra did say that the reason why he talked about his OCD publicly is because he was aware of the idea that somebody hearing him talk about might be helpful.

And I do agree with that. I spent years living with OCD without getting a proper diagnosis and the reason behind this was the fact that I used to think I was a psychopath and I would never have thought I had OCD because well – the media gets OCD all wrong. It’s usually portrayed as if it was all about cleaning – and well, even worse, certain TV shows can really give you the impression that it’s actually a useful thing to have!

So – I wish George Ezra talked about this 10 years ago!

Further Reading

Do you know any other celebrities who opened up about their OCD/ talked openly about their mental health? Please share in the comment section – together with your thoughts and experiences!

Love,

Mark


How Do You Learn The Best? – The 4 Learning Styles

Learning new things is fun but it can sometimes be very challenging. I am pretty sure all of us have attended classes that were unbearably boring or training courses that hadn’t met our expectations.
I, for instance, will never forget the completely incomprehensible mathematics classes I had to survive throughout my high school years.

Was my teacher bad at explaining? Well, not necessarily. I mean there were quite a few people in our class who could perfectly understand the explanations she was giving so I cannot say that she was the only one to blame for the fact that I found her classes absolutely intolerable.

Now, you may ask if I was actually paying attention to what she was saying and the answer to this question is definitely yes. I wasn’t particularly interested at mathematics but I really wanted to get into university and that made me pretty keen to learn.

And well, at this point you may be wondering about whether I was just “bad with numbers”. Let me tell you that I was not. Actually, since I started working, I have realized that I am pretty good at mathematics!

Oh yes, and forget to mention one more thing – those mathematics classes that I found incredibly intolerable and that made me want to escape from school, get a new identity and start a new life in Argentina – sounds crazy but that’s always the first thing I think of when something goes wrong in my life – were not even that boring. According to some of my classmates they were simply phenomenal.

Hmmm…..kind of a mystery, isn’t it? There’s a teacher who is pretty okay at explaining and a student who’s keen to learn and who doesn’t have any significant learning difficulties (missed to mention that earlier). So what went wrong?

Well, I think I know the answer. My teacher’s way of teaching didn’t match my learning style. And I guess we cannot even blame her for that as this problem goes well beyond the teachers. It’s about the whole education system!

Now, why do I write about this topic on a blog that’s primarily about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Because I think it’s a very important problem to talk about and it does have an impact on our mental health!

There are millions of students all around the globe who feel stupid for not being able to understand certain things they learn at school. People who have been told that they were good for nothing because they just couldn’t get good grades no matter how hard they had studied. And we are not able to change the whole system from one day to another. But one thing I can do is sharing my experiences and I really hope this will help some of you. And well , I am very passionate about this topic as I am a Learning & Development Professional – and back at school and at university, I was often told that I’d never have a proper career if I continued to live my life with my “rebellious” approach.

The 4 Learning Styles

So let’s take a look at one of the reasons why you may find it difficult to stay focused during a class or a training session:

Your teacher’s (presenters, facilitators etc.) style doesn’t match your learning style.

Now, what do we mean by “Learning Style”?

Learning styles were developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford and they identified four distinct learning styles or preferences:

  • Activist
  • Theorist
  • Pragmatist
  • Reflector

These are the learning approaches that individuals naturally prefer. It’s recommended that in order to maximize one’s own personal learning, each learner should understand their learning style and seek out opportunities to learn using that style.

Source: Honey & Mumford – Website of the University of Leicester

And well, we obviously shouldn’t categorize ourselves as these learning styles are not definitive and most people are a mixture of several of them. Take, for instance, me as an example – I am a mixture of “pragmatist” & “activist”. Now, what does that mean? Let’s look at the different learning styles! 🙂

Activist

Learning by doing – that’s what normally works for an activist. Activists need to get their hands dirty, enjoy the challenge of new experiences and often act before thinking.

They can learn the best by:

  • brainstorming activities
  • problem solving
  • group discussions
  • puzzles
  • competitions
  • role-plays
  • games

And as you might have already guessed, the worst possible learning experience for an activist is a presentation full of theories, abstract concepts and without any interaction. (A perfect description of my university – do not tell you its name ’cause I don’t want to do any negative publicity!)

Theorist

Well, if you think that the example that I gave above – about the presentation full of theories and concepts – is not that scary, you’re likely to be a theorist.

What do theorists like?

  • understanding the theory behind actions
  • models, concepts and facts
  • analyzing and synthesizing
  • systematic & logical theories

And what do theorists not like? Things that do not fit with theories they’re already familiar with or classes/ training sessions that do not explain the theory behind the practice.

Pragmatist

Okay, but how does it work in practice?

Pragmatists need to be able to see how to put the learning into practice. In the real world!

What they like:

  • Experimenting
  • Problem solving
  • Discussions
  • Case studies
  • Time to think about how to apply learning in practice

What is the worst possible learning experience for a pragmatist? Now, as a person whose main learning style is pragmatist I can give you the most perfect example – my mathematics classes I was talking about! Numbers, letters and theories without any practical examples. Okay, there’s a Pythagores Theorem but how does it work in real life?

Reflector

Reflectors learn by observing and thinking about what happened. They may avoid leaping in and prefer to watch from the sidelines, view experiences from a number of different perspectives, collecting data and taking the time to work towards an appropriate conclusion.

Learning activities that work the best for them are:

  • paired discussions
  • self analysis and personality questionnaires (so reflectors will hopefully like today’s post)
  • observing others
  • coaching
  • interviews
  • feedback from others

When do they learn the least? When being rushed or put in the spotlight.

What Is Your Primary Learning Style?

You can find out by completing this questionnaire. (not from my blog, it’s on Mint HR but that’s the best free one I could find.)

And well – do not forget to share the result in the comment section! 🙂 As I said earlier, mine is pragmatist.

Does Your Learning Style Affect Your Mental Health – Or The Other Way Around?

That’s a topic that I am planning to explore in more details in my future posts – well, please let me know if you’d be interested at reading about it at all.

At this moment, what I definitely know is that my learning style definitely had an impact on my mental health. My main learning styles are pragmatist and activities and I grew up in a country that has a very theoretical education system which doesn’t really welcome innovative ideas.

There are obviously many teachers who try to make things better and who do everything they can to make their students feel comfortable but their power is very limited – it’s the government that decides what and how students should study and many of the people in charge do not see any problem with our current education system. Sorry, didn’t want to get political just felt I had to share.

So back to my mental health – as I have OCD which in my case comes with a constant feeling of uncertainty, back at school (and mainly at university because that’s when my OCD really started to go out of control) I used to question my own capabilities. Do I have dyscalculia or why am I so horrible at math? Am I not as intelligent as the other people around me or why is it so difficult for me to pass an exam? Why do I feel like falling asleep during classes?

So yes, my learning style did affect my mental health but did OCD affect my learning style?

That’s something that I am not sure about. Logically thinking, I guess OCD sufferers could learn better with methods that normally work for activists – a class or a training course with a lot of activities can keep you engaged and can help you forget about your intrusive thoughts but this is just what I think – haven’t found any research data about the topic.

Your Thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing I enjoy more than sharing my stories – reading yours.

What is your primary learning style? How’s the education system in your country? What learning methods work for you the best? Do you think there’s any correlation between the different learning styles & mental health?

Share your thoughts in the comment section! 🙂

Further Reading

From Mark Wester:

Am I Going Bald? – OCD & Hair Loss

During my teenage years I used to wear my hair long. I was an emo kid who loved trying different hairstyles and I think I do not exaggerate by saying that my crazy haircuts were a part of my identity. Back in those days, I would spend hours in front of the mirror fixing my hair or experimenting with different hairstyles.

And I can tell you that throughout my high school years, I did not have self-esteem issues. Do not get me wrong, I did not use to think that I was the most perfect-looking guy of the universe but at the same time, I felt comfortable with the way I looked.

But unfortunately, things started to change as I grew older. I was 18 when I first noticed that my hair was thinning.

Or wait. What am I saying? Did I say “I noticed”? Well that’s not actually true. It was not me noticing it but a schoolmate who asked me whether I was going bald as she thought my hair was getting thinner. Honestly, I still do not know if she was just teasing me – ’cause she obviously knew how important my hair was to me – or if it was true and my hair really started falling out at the age of 18. Well, I could ask her but I guess she wouldn’t remember ’cause it’s been so many years and to be honest, I do not think it even matters anymore.

But what matters is that the remark she made meant a beginning of a new obsession. Do not get me wrong, I do not blame her for that. If she knew the way I would feel, she would have never made that remark. But anyways, I think you can easily guess that this new obsession I am talking about was an extreme fear of going bald.

It all started by me spending even more time in front of the mirror – but instead of doing my hair or trying out different hairstyles, I was just checking my hair and trying to make sure that it wasn’t falling out.

At the beginning, my “hair-checking” compulsion bit was still under control: I was just looking at it or brushing it a little more often. But one day I just felt that I needed to start pulling it out.

Did I Have Trichotillomania?

Now, first of all – what is trichotillomania?

Trichotillomania, also called hair-pulling disorder, is a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.

Read more: Trichotillomania (Mayoclinic)

Looking at this definition, you may think I had trichotillomania. But I do not think I did. In my case, the reason behind my “hair plucking obsession” was that I just needed to make sure that my hair was not falling out. And I didn’t feel relieved after pulling my hair out. On the contrary – I would be extremely sad when I saw the hair strands on my hand.

By the age of 20, my hair loss had become pretty noticeable. And I am not sure whether it was my obsession that lead to hair loss or it was my hair loss leading to this obsession. I have always thought it was a kind of “chicken or the egg dilemma”. Not sure if I will ever find an answer to this question but I think it’s more likely that it was my hair loss was caused by my “checking compulsion” rather than the other way around.

At this point you may ask if I am still having this compulsion. The answer to this question is yes….and no. After some time, my compulsion turned into a “simple habit”. A bad habit that I haven’t been able to break for years.

I still need to touch my hair and I sometimes need to pull it. But it’s a habit that doesn’t really have any meaning anymore. Back in my teens and early twenties, I used to do it because I wanted to make sure that my hair was not falling out. Nowadays, I am doing it simply because over the years, it’s become an automatic movement. I keep telling myself that I gotta stop doing it ’cause I know it can do a lot of damage to my already thinning hair. And when I pay attention, I will be able to stop playing with my hair but you know how it is. Sometimes you just kind of forget about yourself and you cannot control the things you’re doing.

Damaged Self-Esteem

Now that I have told you about the story of my thinning hair and my hair-loss-checking-compulsion, let me tell you how this whole thing makes me feel. a selfish reason why I decided to write this article.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that back in my high school years, I did not use to have self-esteem issues.

Unfortunately, that has changed over the years.

It took me a crazy long time to give up on my long hair but I finally had to let it go as I realized that I looked pretty deplorable. And well, much older than my age.

One thing that helped me make up my mind – and that I will never forget – is what a friend of a friend told me a few years ago. We had a get-together, everyone was a little bit drunk and we were trying to guess each others’ age. Now, I know that it’s never a good idea to play this game – especially not in my case, because people usually say that I look older than my age.

Anyways, when it was my turn and people started guessing how old I was, this girl (the friend of my friend) would tell me that I looked 30. You may say that a 30 years old guy is still pretty young and I do agree with you on that but you have to bear in mind that I was only 23 years old when this whole thing happened so I guess you can imagine how it made me feel.

It was a horrible feeling. And I was stupid enough to start seeking reassurance – which meant asking other people about how old they thought I looked. And I can tell you that I wasn’t happy with the answers they gave.

Restoring Self-Esteem?

I have learnt to accept myself and a few years ago, I found a very nice hairdresser (would give you his contacts but I see in my stats that most of my readers are from the US/ Western Europe and I am based in Hungary so…not sure you’d ever come here for a haircut) and lately, we’ve been experimenting with a few new hairstyles that actually make me look my age (I’m 27 by the way). So we could say that I have managed to “regain” my self-esteem. Of course, I still hope that I will have my long hair back but I no longer feel anxious over my thinning hair.

One thing I have learnt though is that it’s important to accept yourself and to work with what you got not what you hope for. And well, another thing is that you should stop worrying about what other people think of you. Like…I still miss my long hair but I do not care anymore if other people think I look older than I am or if they do not like the way I look. ‘Cause at the end of the day, all of us are beautiful people!

Further Reading

More From Mark Wester

Your Thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section! 🙂

Now On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mark_wester_overcoming_ocd/
Just in case you want to see some of my travel photos and what my balding head looks like 😀

Love ❤
Mark