Liebster Award

I’m pretty new to blogging so it’s been amazingly encouraging for me to receive an award from my fellow blogger Kacha. I just simply adore her blog as she shares things that I can totally relate to: her journey through depression and burnout – and interesting facts about psychology & mental disorders. Reading her blog has helped me a lot – so please check it out!: https://journeythroughlife591163021.wordpress.com/

The Liebster Award is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. β€˜Liebster’ in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. The award is a way to be discovered but also to connect and support the blogging community.

The rules of the Liebster Award are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog which nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions your nominator asked.
  3. Nominate two to six other bloggers who might appreciate the boost.
  4. Ask them several unique questions.
  5. Let them know you have nominated them.

Kacha’s questions (and my answers to them):

If you had an intro music, what song would it be? Why?

To be honest, this first question is the easiest one for me to answer. I was born in 1992, which means that I was a teenager in the late 2000’s – and I guess I have not grown up ever since. Deep inside of me, I am still an emo kid even though I do not look like one anymore. So, if I had to choose an intro music, I’d definitely go for my favorite song: Never too late from Three Days Grace.

What is popular now, but annoys you?

Now, this is a more difficult question to answer. Honestly, there are not too many things that “annoy me”. But if I really had to name one, I think it’d be Hashtag OCD. I just find it kind of annoying when people tell me they were “so OCD” (only because they like cleaning) or when they add #OCD to Instagram images that have nothing to do with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

If you opened a business, what kind of business would it be?

One thing that you should know about me is that I’m addicted to baklava – so If I could open my own business, it would definitely be a baklava shop! πŸ™‚

Not sure what baklava is? Check this Wikipedia article!

Who in your life brings you the most joy?

My family and my friends. It’d be impossible for me to pick one person in particular. πŸ™‚

Where is the most beautiful place you have been?

Oh la la, an extremely difficult question to answer! Traveling is my passion and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of beautiful places. Yet, there’s one city I’ve fallen in love with: Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

My Questions

  1. What is your favorite book & why?
  2. Why did you start blogging?
  3. What one-sentence bit of advice would you give to your 13-year-old self?
  4. Who is one person that inspires you and why?
  5. Name a country you’d love to visit!

My nominees:

Rethinking Scripture
Lampelina
Talking OCD
Cynthia’s War Room
Beautifully Unstuck
PurpleStar

Blessings

Mark

Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and OCD

I can not wait for winter to end. Do not get me wrong: I love mulled wine, snow, Christmas and New Year’s Eve is always very fun, however, I’ve been suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or more commonly known as the “winter blues“) since my teenage years.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD?)

It is a form of depression that occurs at the same time each year – usually during the winter, but there’s a rare form of SAD that is known as summer depression. In my case, it usually starts in fall and gets much worse in January – yes, that’s why I have chosen this topic for today’s post! It’s the 17th of January and I feel that I can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. Okay, this sounded a little bit exaggerated and do not get me wrong: I am not fed up with my life and overall, I am pretty happy but it’s still pretty difficult for me to beat the winter blues.

And lately, I’ve been wondering about one more thing: does Seasonal Affective Disorder make my OCD worse? So, this is the question that I’ll try to answer in today’s post.

How common is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

We can say that it’s pretty common but it also depends on where you’re coming from. I’m from Budapest, Hungary – a country that’s on the same latitude as North Dakota – and in my country 1 out of 10 people suffer from the winter blues.

Why is it so common?

I do not know what winters are like in your city, but in mine, they are definitely not easy to “survive” if you’re suffering from a mental disorder. I know a lot of people love winter and most of my friends would tell me that I’m exaggerating and that winters in Budapest are not that bad – and to be honest, I do not disagree with them. I do think that January in Budapest would be very enjoyable if I did not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But unfortunately, living with two different anxiety disorders can make it very hard to live through winter.
Not sure what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is? Check: Frequently Asked Questions about OCD

The most difficult thing for me is that I can barely see daylight: it’s still dark when I go to the office and it’s already dark when I leave work. I do not mind cold weather, but the lack of sunshine always makes me feel anxious and hopeless.

What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

So, I’ve just said that the lack of sunshine made me feel hopeless. But it’s not the only thing. The symptoms of SAD may also include:
feeling sad
losing interest in activities – for me, January is definitely the most difficult month of the year and together with that, it’s also the least productive one: I just do not feel like doing anything.
changes in your appetite and eating habits – in my case, this means a lot of chocolate
increased need for sleep – I’ve always been a night owl, but during winter, it’s even more difficult for me to wake up in the morning
anxiety
having difficulty concentrating
– and in extreme cases: having thoughts of death or suicide

Causes

I’ve done a little bit of research on this (books, websites and talking to psychologists) and what I have found out was that the exact causes of seasonal affective disorder are still unclear but the most likely one is the lack of sunshine. (That’s why it’s more common in countries that are far from the equator)

Want to read more about the causes of SAD? Check this WebMD article

Is there a link between OCD and Seasonal Affective Disorder?

I’ve found a pretty interesting study on this topic. It says that half of OCD patients have seasonal mood changes – and according to the same study, 1 in 4 people (without OCD) reported to have mood swings.

Click here to see more info about this study.

Does OCD get worse in winter?

One thing that I’d like to tell you before sharing my opinion is that I am not a certified psychiatrist and I have not conducted any research on this topic. I’m just a guy who’s been suffering from OCD for a decade and who likes sharing his own experiences.

My OCD definitely gets worse in the winter. And to be honest, I do not exactly know why this happens, but I think that it’s not only because of the lack of sunshine or the cold weather. I guess it’s a question of lifestyle. As I have mentioned earlier, during the winter months, it’s much more difficult for me to wake up in the morning, so this means that I drink much more coffee than usual – and as we know, if you’re suffering form an anxiety disorder, it’s better to avoid caffeine.
You may say I’m a hypocrite: I keep telling people that it was better not to have caffeinated drinks if they’re suffering from anxiety, yet I am addicted to coffee. It’s like preaching water but drinking wine. But I think everyone has their own weaknesses and mine is coffee.

Another thing that makes my OCD worse is the feeling of hopelessness. I love the holiday season so December is one of my favorite months of the year, however, January is a completely different thing: it’s a month that I have to survive. And the feeling of hopelessness is often accompanied by the lack of motivation – they are such a beautiful couple, are they not? So as I am not motivated to do anything, I give myself more free time: more time to overthink everything, more time to worry about insignificant things and more time to act on my compulsions.

How to beat the winter blues?

Thanks for God, there’s a way out. Again, I do not want to be a hypocrite: I’m struggling with winter blues, but I’ll share with you a list of things that help me a lot:

1. Get as much light as you can
Sunshine is very important so go for a walk whenever you have a break at work/school. Today, I went for a longer walk during my lunch break and it made me feel so much better.

2. Keep yourself busy
One of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder is the lack of motivation. However, it’s important to keep yourself busy.

3. Go out with your friends
I’ve always been a very social person and during winter I go out almost every single night. Of course, it’s not the best idea to run away from your problems and drown your sorrows in alcohol but it’s important to socialize!

4. Exercise
I know this sounds pretty clichΓ©e but it is important. I’ve never liked going to the gym so I’ve found other forms of exercise that worked for me such as running or hiking.

And I enjoy going for long night walks in my city, Budapest.

Source: Szeretlek Magyarorszag
https://www.szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/bp_nemeth_zsolt_1.jpg


5. Travel
Traveling can be very expensive but you do not have to go to exotic places to enjoy yourself. A city break with your friends can also help you overcome your winter blues.

6. Light Therapy
I am planning to try this one because I’ve heard that it helps a lot. So I’ll share my light therapy experiences with you on my blog.
However, one thing that helps me even though it’s dangerous: tanning bed. I know a lot of people will not agree with this one. There’s no safe amount of tanning and those who use tanning beds are at high risk for developing melanoma. Furthermore, research says that tanning beds do not ease SAD symptoms. So it may be placebo but using a tanning bed will usually make me happier. I really do not want to promote indoor tanning and please do not follow my example – the reason why I have mentioned this one is because my blog is my safe place” , where I feel that I can talk openly about myself and my mental problems.

How do you cope with the winter blues?

As you know, there’s one more thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section! πŸ™‚

Mark Wester

Flying with OCD: What does it feel like?

Are you afraid of flying?

You are not alone: fear of flying is quite common but fortunately, there are a lot of useful techniques that could help you overcome it. But I do not think I am the best person to tell you how you can get over your fear of flying: simply because I am not afraid of flying – I am suffering from another condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And in today’s post, I’d like to share with you what it feels like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight. Obviously, everyone’s different and I can only talk about my personal experiences, but if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them in the comment section!

As you may have noticed, I have not published any new posts for the last few days – not because I’ve been lazy or I had writer’s block, but because I had to travel to London. I love traveling: it’s one of my biggest hobbies and sometimes I have to travel for work too, which is absolutely amazing! So over the years, I’ve got used to flying but the OCD monster never sleeps and it can definitely make your travel experience a little bit more…hm…let’s say challenging.

So what does it feel like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight?

OCD used to make my life a living hell, but thanks for God I’ve been feeling a lot better nowadays. I’m still getting intrusive thoughts and I have a couple of compulsions I haven’t been able to get rid of yet, however, I can say that I’m pretty much able to keep my OCD under control. But taking a flight can still be pretty challenging for me. Why?

The first challenge is getting up in the morning. I’ve always been a night owl, so I’d never be able to wake up without an alarm. On an average day, I do not really stress over waking up in the morning, but when you have a plane to catch, it’ll obviously be a different story. So the night before my flight, I always check if the alarm is set – and do not think I check it only once or twice! No way, I just have to check it at least 5 times – or until it feels right. And I usually set the alarm on two different phones, because at the end of the day, you can never know: what if one of your phones turns off by itself? I’d never want to take that risk. Obviously, it’s much easier if my flight is in the evening – cause then, I do not have to worry about getting up early in the morning.
Note: Repeated checking is one of the OCD symptoms. To read more about different OCD symptoms, please check my post about: 6 types of OCD

So I was able to wake up on time – with the help of a hundred alarms and a back-up phone. But this only the beginning of the journey. I do not like packing so I usually do it at the very last minute. I guess I’m one of the most disorganized people on this planet (disorganized, with OCD – how is it possible? Check my article about 5 common misconceptions about OCD) so I usually throw all my stuff in a suitcase, but I’m always worried about forgetting to pack something important. And this worry makes me pack, unpack and repack my suitcase a couple of times. Again, until it feels right. Because at the end of the day, you can never know. Did you really put that t-shirt in your luggage? And what if you forgot to pack your underwear?

And the most hilarious thing is that there are things that I’ll always forget to pack. Even after unpacking and repacking my suitcase a million times. But obviously, this has nothing to do with my OCD.

Then, we’re looking forward to the next challenge: leaving the house. You can not just easily leave the house. It doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I think I should become a risk analyst, because I can come up with an endless list of possible disasters in just a few seconds:

– what if you forgot to turn off the oven?
– what if you forgot to shut off your hair straightener?
– what if you forgot to close the windows?

The list of “what if” questions is never ending. And obviously, these intrusive thoughts will also force me to check everything. So, I check if the oven is turned off at least 5 times and the same goes for any electrical equipment.

But most importantly: the doors. One can not just leave the house without making sure that the door is locked! Now, checking if your door is locked is a completely normal thing to do, but in my case this checking can easily go out of control.

To be honest, the journey to the airport is not too interesting. I usually take a bus and I do not like touching the handrails on public transport but I would not blame this on my OCD: handrails are definitely not clean and it’s better not to touch them. Do not get me wrong! I’m not obsessively worried about getting contaminated or something, I just do not like touching them.

Budapest international Airport

Spending time at the airport can be much more challenging though.

Let’s start with the security check: what if you faint while standing in the queue? That’s not very likely but it is not impossible. And if you faint, you can even miss your flight! It would be extremely embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Another thing that I’m afraid of is doing something crazy. Do not get me wrong! I wouldn’t want to blurt out obscenities and I would never want to harm anyone. But I am afraid of doing it. Sounds irrational? I know, at the end of the day, OCD is not the most rational disorder. Thanks for God, there’s one thing that helps me fight my intrusive thoughts: talking to people. So when I travel with friends, it’s always pretty easy for me to overcome my anxiety – traveling alone is more difficult but there’re a lot of people at the airport so you’ll always find someone to talk to.

So I managed to pass through the security check, but there comes the next danger: Duty Free. Duty Free is a dangerous place, there’re so many things to be afraid of.

Like what if I accidentally or even intentionally steal something? Of course, I would never want to steal anything from Duty Free, but how do I know that I do not want to? What if I want to do it? What if I am a kleptomaniac? You can never know, can you?

Surviving Duty Free can be very challenging – and expensive: I do not only suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I am also a shopaholic. But then, boarding is much easier for me. It calms me down: it’s an amazing feeling to finally get on the plane.

Killing time on a flight may often be pretty difficult. And getting bored is quite dangerous if you have OCD. If you have too much time to think about different things, you’ll easily end up overthinking your intrusive thoughts.

What if I do something crazy? What If I light a cigarette on the plane? What If I accidentally set something on fire? What if I start shouting? I mean I do not want to do any of these things, but you can never know, can you?

So the intrusive thoughts are one of the reasons why I’d never get on a plan without a book. Reading helps me get rid of the little OCD monster that sits on my shoulder and keeps whispering horrifying things into my ears.

Finally, arriving to your destination is definitely the best part. OCD can make your life difficult, but do not let it control you! Avoiding situations that you’re afraid of will not help. The world is full of wonderful places and you shouldn’t let OCD rob you of all the amazing experiences.

As you know, there’s one more thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your OCD travel stories in the comment section!

Mark Wester

Can OCD be beneficial?: How OCD frightened me into learning 7 foreign languages

Can Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be beneficial?

Okay, I know this is a pretty surprising question. How could a mental illness be beneficial and how could it have any positive side effects? But a lot of people have asked me this question so in today’s post I’ll try to give an answer to it by sharing one of my personal stories.

OCD frightened me into learning languages

You may ask yourself: did this guy go totally crazy? Did he run out of ideas to write about? Learning languages has nothing to do with OCD. But let me tell you my story and I promise you it will make sense.

My parents are from Romania but I was born in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. So I can say that I come from a pretty multicultural background and speaking other languages has always been an important part of my life. But it turned into an obsession during my mid-teens. And by obsession, I do not mean that I was addicted to studying languages or that I was actually enjoying it. Not at all. It was something much darker: full blown OCD.

Ever since my high school days, I’ve had severe financial anxiety: I’ve always been afraid of not finding a job or not having enough money to live on. And in my city, it’s much easier to find a job and to earn a decent amount of money if you speak foreign languages. So as a result of these two factors, a surprising thing was born: obsessive compulsive studying.

It all started by the usual intrusive thoughts:
what if I will not be able to find a job?
what if I will never have money?
what if I will end up on the street?

And I guess most OCD sufferers have already experience the vicious cycle:
The intrusive thoughts that will turn into terrifying anxiety. An anxiety that will soon start ruining your life so you just have to do something to get rid of it: and that is how compulsions start.
(Read more: Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?)

So I arrived to the conclusion that speaking a lot of languages would save me from a horrible financial disaster so I decided to register on a couple of language learning websites and I spent a lot of money on language books. Studying languages is a very fun thing to do but as I have mentioned earlier, I did not do it because I was enjoying it! I spent most of my days reading course books and chatting with foreigners on the internet because it would give me a temporary relief from anxiety. And I’d have never skipped one single day: it would give me an anxiety attack if I could not spend at least a few hours a day on improving my language skills.

A gift from OCD

I can say that my efforts paid off: ever since I graduated from high school it’s been relatively easy for me to find jobs. But has this solved my anxiety issues? Of course not! My language learning obsession is over but we all know how creative the little OCD monster is: it’s always able to come up with something new. And I wouldn’t like to bombard you with stories about my other obsessions (but if you’re interested, you can check them on my blog feed: https://over-coming-ocd.com/blog-feed/)

Answering the question: Can OCD be beneficial?

There are OCD sufferers who are obsessed with cleaning: so obviously their homes will always be very neat. Others are obsessed with symmetry, so they might be able to design extremely beautiful things. And OCD forced me to learn foreign languages. So it does have positive side effects.

But is OCD beneficial?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the most terrifying mental illnesses in the world and I would never call it beneficial. And I do not say this because I am a negative person. I always try to look on the bright side of things and I am proud of having OCD: it’s a part of me and it helped me a lot to become the person who I am today. But the benefits are dwarfed by other things OCD sufferers have to live with: intrusive thoughts, obsessions, compulsions, anxiety – and a lot more.

Your story

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please do not hesitate to share your OCD experiences in the comment section!

Mark Wester

Demons are real: Stop Negative Self Talk!

Do demons actually exist?

Yes, they do. The world is full of demons and they do not always look like the evil mythical creatures you see in Hollywood movies. Real demons are much scarier, because you can not just run away from them: they’re living in the darkest underworld of your own mind. In today’s post, I’ll write about the different faces of my personal demons: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

If you’re suffering from OCD, GAD or Panic Disorder, it’s very likely that you have already met your demon: a cruel monster who has millions of faces and who whispers terrifying things into your ears. And this demon has a much less dramatic name: Negative Self Talk.

It’s a perfectly natural and healthy thing to have an inner dialogue with yourself: and let’s be honest, self talk can not always be positive.

But if your inner voice is often (or always) negative, it will make your life a living hell. I’ve been suffering from OCD for a long time and one of the biggest challenges that I always face is fighting my negative inner voice.

What do you see when you’re in the dark and the demons come?

4 faces of our Personal Demons

Your inner demon has four different faces. Or maybe even more? Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section! πŸ™‚

The Critic

One of the faces of your inner demon is the critic – and this monster loves telling you things like:
– you are a loser!
– you’re not good enough for your partner!
– and you’re worth nothing!

I guess the majority of people have similar thoughts from time to time, but if you’re suffering from nay kind of anxiety disorder, it’s much more likely that your negative self talk will get out of control. I’ve been single for a very long time and one of the reasons why I’ve not been able to find the love of my life is definitely “the critic”: how can you even go on a date if your inner demon keeps telling you that you’re nothing more than a loser and that nobody would ever fall in love with you?

While having an inner critic in your head will not give you OCD – as OCD is likely to be caused by a combination of different things (check this post for more details: https://over-coming-ocd.com/2019/12/23/why-do-i-have-ocd-causes-and-risks/) – but it will definitely worsen your anxiety and your symptoms.

How to fight the critic?
I will be honest with you: winning the war against the critic is not an easy thing to do. And it definitely takes a lot of time. One of my biggest mistakes of my OCD journey was that I used to believe I could cure my OCD overnight. Fighting your demons can take a long time, but believe me: it’s worth it!

I think the first step is to learn how to recognize the critic (I’ve already given a few examples above) and then, you can fight this demon by replacing your negative thoughts by positive ones. One of the things that actually works for me is asking the “so what?“question. So if the critic tells me that I’m a loser, I’ll just ask myself: So what? So what If I am a loser? I can be a happy loser, can I not?
And also, when I was a kid I used to think I was a prince, have these thoughts turned me into a prince? Unfortunately an answer is no. So if my critic tells me I’m a loser, It will not mean that I am one!

The “Anxious” demon

The Critic is an evil and cruel monster: it wants you to feel that you’re worth nothing. Now, the anxious demon is a little bit different from that: it’s not necessarily evil, it’s just annoying and it can turn your life into a living hell by asking you things like:
– what if I get a heart attack?
– what if I accidentally harm someone?
– what if I can never sleep again?
– what if people notice that I have a panic attack? They’ll think I’m totally crazy!

The anxious demon does not want to hurt your feelings. It just can not stop worrying over any single event in your life. This demon is as dangerous as the critic, and in my case, this is the one that is the most difficult to fight. For me, it’s always been easier to tell myself that I’m not a loser than convincing myself that the disaster I’m so scared of will not happen!

What can you do to get rid of the “anxious” demon?
I think the first step is learning how to make a difference between your rational and irrational thoughts. If you have way too many “what if” questions that’s very likely that your fears are not the most rational ones.
Another thing that worked for me is trying to agree with my thoughts: okay, I know it sounds pretty crazy but believe me, your anxious demon will always be able to come up with a new “what if” question and it’ll be a never ending story.

Want to read more about my fights with the Anxious Demon? Check:
In the prison of your own mind: Responsibility OCD
Set yourself free: How to break the vicious cycle?
OCD: Living a lie

The Victim

I’m giving up! I can’t take this anymore! I’ll never be able to overcome my fears and I’ll never be able to change my life for the better. The Critic has already told me that I am worth nothing and I think it was right.

Sounds familiar? Guess many of us have similar thoughts, the problem is when these kind of thoughts take over your life.

I used to think I wasn’t strong enough to overcome my OCD but learning more about the behavior of the Victim demon helped me a lot.

What helped me:
Everyone’s different. Some people feel much better after reading inspirational quotes, others will find it helpful to think about all the amazing things they have achieved in their life. As for me, what truly helped me was being angry at my “victim” demon: so it tells me I’ll never get better, let me show this monster that I will!

The Perfectionist

I have to admit that I’ve always been a perfectionist. And this is one of the reasons why it’s been pretty challenging for me to recognize the little perfectionist demon that sits on my shoulder.

The critic wants to hurt your feelings and it wants you to believe that you’re pathetic. But then, apparently your perfectionist inner voice does not want to be mean to you. It just wants to remind you that you and your life must be a hundred percent perfect. You should do whatever it takes to look like a cover girl, you should be the most professional person on the planet and obviously you should achieve all of this on your own.

Being perfectionist is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can definitely make your anxiety worse. I’m sure you have already heard this a few times but: nobody is perfect and we should accept ourselves the way we are!

I do not want to lie to you: I have not been able to get rid of my “perfectionist demon” but one thing that helps me a lot is telling myself that there are a lot of people who love me: even though, I’m far from being perfect! πŸ™‚

Fight your demons!

Negative Self Talk is a pretty complex topic and you can find a huge numbers of amazing articles about it on the internet – I’ll soon publish a post with the list of articles I’ve found particularly useful.
So even though, I haven’t been able to include every single piece of information about negative inner voice, I really hope this post will help some of you πŸ™‚

And as you know there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please, share your story in the comment section!

Mark



In the prison of your own mind: Responsibility OCD

Have you ever been afraid of accidentally putting someone in danger?

Well, worrying about others is absolutely normal. But people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder take these worries to a new level.

Lately, I’ve been spending some time on Reddit and reading other people’s stories about “Responsibility OCD” reminded me to an obsession that used to give me a lot of sleepless nights. This is what I’ll write about in today’s post. And why do I think that having OCD is like being in the prison of your own mind? Read my story, and you’ll understand!

OCD, the bottle of champagne and Reese’s

The obsession that I’m going to talk about started on a beautiful Friday night. I’ve always been a very social and out-going person, so my Friday nights are usually about going out with friends and having a couple of drinks. So on the night when my obsession started, my friends and me went to my city’s “party district” – it’s a place full of so-called “ruin bars” (bars that are built in the ruins of abandoned buildings in the old Jewish Quarter). We wanted to make sure that we’d have enough drinks so we decided to buy a huge bottle of champagne at a supermarket and we were drinking it while walking to our final destination.

A ruin bar in Budapest.
Source: http://www.magyarnemzet.hu

Now, buying a bottle of champagne is not something unusual – but getting that particular bottle of champagne was a decision that I’d regret for a long long time.

The first mistake we did made was overestimating the distance between the supermarket and the bar where we were going to.
Unfortunately, we had not had enough time to finish off a whole bottle of champagne and as it was very cold outside we really did not want to stand at the corner and drink. So we decided to leave our half full bottle of champagne on a bench. Here, I’d like to ask everyone not to judge me for doing that: the nightlife in my city often gets very crazy which means that there’s always someone who’ll want to finish off a bottle of drink they find on a random bench. So at the end of the day, we just wanted to be nice.

But things do not always work out the way you thought they would. Especially if you have OCD. The beginning of the night was pretty nice: chatting, drinking and having fun – exactly what you’d want your Friday night to look like. However, OCD is a kind of monster that one can never escape from.

I normally imagine my OCD as a kind of ugly monster who whispers irrational things (intrusive thoughts) into my ears and that’s exactly what that terrible beast did on that night. It wanted to remind me of the bottle of champagne we’d left on the bench.

Wait a sec….what does it have to do with OCD? At the first glance, nothing at all: but believe me, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is very creative and it’s capable of creating new, shocking obsessions out of insignificant things. And I ate Reese’s (love them) right before drinking from that bottle of champagne.

Okay, Mark went nuts. At this point, I guess many of my readers are like: now, what is this weirdo guy talking about?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder….a bottle of champagne left on a bench and Reese’s?

But let me tell you what my inner OCD voice was telling me: so you ate Reese’s – which are full of peanut butter – and then, you were drinking from that bottle of champagne and finally you decided to leave it on a bench so that someone would take it and finish it off.

But what if the person who finds it is allergic to peanuts?

What if that poor person is allergic to peanuts?

And you will be the one to blame for that! If someone dies, that will be your fault! Totally your fault!

So what do you think I did? Obviously, I ran out of the bar to check if the bottle of champagne was still on the bench. And of course it was not. Are you kidding? Friday night in the party district? Guess it disappeared a few seconds after we left.

And the disappearance of this bottle of champagne meant the start of a new obsession.
Someone having an anaphylactic shock because of me was not the only thing I was afraid of, but my OCD came up with an endless list of disturbing possibilities:

Let’s say, the person who finds it is not allergic to peanuts. (I checked a few statistics to see how many people have peanut allergy and I tried to convince myself that it’s extremely unlikely that the person who picked up our drink was suffering from peanut allergy)

But another what if question soon appeared:

What if someone put laxatives into the bottle? (You know, there’s always that person who thinks such things are funny.) And then, the person who took the bottle of champagne could be allergic to laxatives! Or both to laxatives and to peanuts!

Or even worse: what if someone put poison into it? It’s EXTREMELY unlikely but it can happen, can it not? And if it happens, I will not only be responsible for someone’s death but I will be in a big trouble.

A storm of “what if” questions, doubt, guilt, fear of uncertainty.

By the end of the night, I checked all allergy statistics available on the internet, all Budapest news and I guess my friends would have preferred running away from me because I’d ask them at least 10 times an hour what they thought about this whole situation: you know, the typical reassurance seeking – guess most of OCD sufferers are way too familiar with it.

And this obsession went on for a couple of weeks. Feeling of guilt, constant doubt, thousands of Google searches and hundreds of phone calls with friends.

How did this obsession go away?

It appeared suddenly, out of nowhere. And it took time to get rid of it, but it got gradually better and better.
One thing that particularly helped me was understanding the way OCD works. Something that I just call the “OCD cycle”.
Check out this article to learn more about it: https://over-coming-ocd.com/2019/12/27/ocd-how-to-break-the-vicious-cycle/

What did I learn from this obsession?

  1. You may not be able to stop having intrusive thoughts but the harder you fight against having them, the more likely they come back.
  2. OCD has a lot of different faces and compulsions are not always easy to recognize.
  3. Try not to rely on others: it’s very tempting to seek reassurance from your loved ones but it’s something that you can not do 24/7. It’s very difficult to stop doing it but if you get used to it, it’ll be even more difficult for you to cope with your anxiety when they’re not around.
  4. Never ever leave a bottle of champagne on a bench: okay, avoiding certain situations will not help your OCD, but at the end of the day, leaving a half full bottle of alcoholic drink on a bench is not an okay thing to do.

Share your story!

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours! πŸ™‚

Please share your OCD stories in the comment section!

Mark

Now on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarkWester14 . Follow me!

5 common misconceptions about OCD

Is OCD a cleaning disorder? Is everyone a little bit OCD?

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in this post, I’ll try to answer some of the most common questions and bust 5 myths about OCD.

OCD is about cleaning

When I told one of my friends I had OCD, he’d reply to me: I can totally relate, me too I am pretty much addicted to cleaning. And let’s be honest: my friend was not the only one who thought OCD was a kind of cleaning addiction.

But OCD is not just about hand washing, cleaning and being neat. It’s much more complicated than that and while there are a lot of OCD sufferers who spend a crazy amount of time on keeping things neat and organized, people with OCD can have obsessions related to a much wider variety of things including:

fear of harming others/yourself (I used to be afraid of intentionally blinding myself: read my story)
unwanted sexual thoughts
fear of losing control
body focused obsessions (found a very nice article about this one: http://www.steveseay.com/ocd-core-fears-body-focused-obsessions-compulsions/ )

Want to learn more? Read my article about the 6 types of OCD: https://over-coming-ocd.com/2019/12/11/6-types-of-ocd/

Now, speaking about myself, I can tell you that I’ve never had any cleaning obsessions even though I was diagnosed with OCD a decade ago. My flat is definitely not too clean and it’s definitely one of the most disorganized ones I have ever seen. So when you see me sharing stories about contamination OCD or cleaning obsessions, those are usually the stories of my friends. (Obviously, with their permission!)

Oh, and yes: friends. Another reason why OCD is far from being a simple cleaning addiction is that people with OCD do not actually enjoy cleaning. They do it because they just have to do it – one of my friends is suffering from contamination OCD and he just has to clean his kitchen couple times a day, because he’s afraid that if he does not do that, something terrible will happen.

All the stereotypes made me wonder whether contamination OCD is more common than the other types, so I spent some time googling it and I’ve found some nice statistics:

Source: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Obsessive-compulsive-disorder-in-children-and-Thomsen/933ca8b70b6a8fe9567e02b9b6df2006be903f7a

Now according to this, obsessions regarding dirt and infections are far more common than the other ones. One thing that I am wondering about:

Is it really more common or is it just more well-known, so people feel more comfortable talking about it?

Is it easier to talk about your fear of contamination than telling others that you’re afraid of pushing someone off a building?

To be honest, I do not have an answer to this question. Please share your thoughts in the comment section! Looking forward to reading your opinion!

Everyone’s a little OCD

1 in 40 people suffer from OCD. That’s a lot, but it’s definitely not “everyone”.
A lot of people have intrusive thoughts or even obsessions but that does not necessarily mean that they have OCD.
As I have mentioned above, OCD is so much more than a cleaning addiction or the love of symmetry: it’s a terrifying mental disorder that can easily turn your life into a living hell.

Doing a self diagnosis is definitely not the best idea, but if you’re interested at the clinical definition of OCD, please check this: http://beyondocd.org/information-for-individuals/clinical-definition-of-ocd

Now, you can not be a “little OCD” : you either have it or you don’t but Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has different levels of severity – called the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.
https://www.ocdtypes.com/ybocs_ocd_scale.php

OCD is a rare condition

One common misconception is that everyone is a little OCD – and another one is exactly the opposite: OCD is a rare condition. Now, if 1 in 40 people has it, then we can say it’s pretty common.

You can see when someone has OCD

If you just look at a person, you won’t be able to tell whether they have OCD. It’s not always obvious – or I can even say, it’s never obvious.
Simply because you do not know what’s going on in the other person’s mind. It can be very difficult to differentiate an addiction from a compulsion. I’ve found a pretty nice article that describes the differences between the two:
https://www.verywellmind.com/the-difference-between-an-addiction-and-a-compulsion-22240

And secondly, obsessions and rituals are not always visible to others. OCD sufferers often have mental rituals, such as counting or repeating words in their head.

Source: Wikipedia

People with OCD do not know that what they are doing is irrational

Olala, how many times I heard that my thoughts and compulsions were totally irrational. And how many times I had to tell people that I knew it was.
But to be honest, I really do not mind when people tell me that the things I am doing and the thoughts I am having are irrational: for some reason, it calms me down and it gives me reassurance.
However, on the other hand, I do have to tell you that most people with OCD are perfectly aware of the fact that their obsessions and compulsions are not rational. But it doesn’t mean they can stop having them. Sounds pretty paradoxical, doesn’t it? I know, but that’s OCD!

To be continued

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing about my experiences and sharing my stories with you: reading yours!

Have you ever heard any misconception about OCD that you think is worth sharing? If yes, please leave a comment!

Mark

Light at the end of the tunnel: Getting diagnosed with OCD

Getting diagnosed with a mental disorder is definitely not a good thing. But learning that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made my life much easier: it helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After years of suffering, getting diagnosed with OCD gave me hope and it showed me that there’s a way out of the labyrinth of my intrusive thoughts.

How did my OCD start?

In some cases, OCD may start suddenly, but the onset of the symptoms is generally gradual: and to be honest I can not tell you when exactly my OCD started. I guess it’s been with me ever since I was a small child but it got out of control when I was a senior in high school. I was going through a pretty difficult period: I broke up with my partner and together with my relationship, my high school years were also gone. I did not know what to do with my life and I was worried about my future. So, it was a perfect time for my OCD to kick in.

And to make things worse: I was suffering from harm OCD – I was terribly scared of harming someone I love and before getting my OCD diagnosis, I used to think that I was going insane and I was terribly scared that if I told others about the intrusive thoughts that I had, I’d end up at a mental hospital.

And over the years, I had many disturbing thoughts that made my life a living hell, such as:
The call of the void
Pure O: Living In Endless Fear
OCD: afraid of blinding yourself

How did I get diagnosed?

It used to be extremely difficult for me to speak about my OCD – because I did not use to know that the condition I had was called OCD. But as I started looking worse and worse every single day and I was running away from my loved ones (I was afraid of staying at home because I was constantly worried about doing something terrible), one day, my Mum asked me what was wrong. That was the first time when I told someone about my feelings.

And telling my Mum about my feelings helped me a lot: it was the first time when I realized that I might not actually be a psychopath but there might be something else in the background. And that is when I decided that I should go to a therapist.

The First Counseling Session

Obviously, my therapist was not able to come up with a complete diagnosis by the end of our first meeting, but she helped me a lot: she told me that even though my thoughts were very disturbing, they were not as dangerous as I imagined them to be and that there were a lot of people out there who were suffering from similar intrusive thoughts and many of them were living a full life.
So I can tell you that life looked so much more beautiful after my first ever counseling session and I am still very grateful to my therapist who helped me a lot at the beginning of my OCD journey.

Why is it so hard to diagnose OCD?

I think OCD is a very difficult mental disorder to diagnose: and not because it is worse or more complicated than other conditions people are suffering from, but because there are so many misconceptions about it.

Lately, there’s been an increasing awareness of OCD, however, mainstream media still portrays it as a kind of cleaning obsession or as an obsession over symmetry and order. But it is not only about that: OCD is a very creative mental disorder and it has a lot of different types and faces.

So it’s almost impossible for OCD sufferers to realize that they have OCD: Hercule Poirot has OCD and there’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners on TV, but then I am afraid of jumping off a bridge, hitting someone with a car or harming someone I love – that sounds very different, doesn’t it?
Note: click here to read more about the different types of OCD.

And this is exactly one of the reasons why I started this blog: I really want to raise OCD awareness. It’s a personal matter for me. I do not want more teenage Marks to go through the terror I was going through.

How is OCD diagnosed?

I am planning to publish a more detailed post about diagnosing OCD, At the moment, I can share with you a very nice article about diagnosing OCD from BeyondOCD: http://beyondocd.org/information-for-individuals/clinical-definition-of-ocd

Should you tell others you have OCD?

I think it’s extremely important to tell your family and your close friends about your OCD. I know it can be very difficult, but having someone to help you is an amazing thing and it will help you a lot!
I used to be so afraid of telling others about the way I felt, because I thought they’d judge me or they’d think I was a lunatic, but believe me: most of the people I have talked to reacted very positively and they’ve been supporting me ever since the day they learnt about my OCD.

Things that help you fight the OCD monster!

Understanding OCD: A vicious cycle of doubt and guilt.
12 things that will help you overcome OCD
Set yourself free – 5 things that keep your OCD alive

Do not feel guilty for having OCD!

A lot of people feel guilty for suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They feel that they have wasted too much time on their intrusive thoughts – which is probably true – but the feeling of guilt will worsen your OCD. Forget about the past and focus on the future!

Share your OCD stories!

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my experiences: reading about yours. So please feel free to share your personal OCD stories in the comment section!

Mark Wester

How did I spend New Year's Eve? – Happy New Decade! :)

I have always thought that the 1920s was one of the coolest decades – and I really hope that the 2020s will be even cooler! I wish all my readers a Happy New Year and an amazing new decade!

And because it’s January 1st, 2020, I really do not want to start this year by writing another post about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – I think that would be way too depressing on the first day of the year. So, instead of that I’ll just talk about how I spent my New Year’s Eve – it’s probably a less exciting topic, but then I do not want to be a hypocrite – I just love sharing my experiences with other people.

Escape from the city

I was born and raised in the heart of Budapest – it’s a city with a population of 2 million people, so to be honest it’s not that huge but believe me: New Year’s Eve in the city center is pretty crazy. It’s something that I would recommend to everyone who has not seen it yet and who loves partying but to me, it is not that exciting anymore – I do not say this because I want to be original or something but after spending 27 years in the city center and having been to hundreds of parties, a huge social gathering is definitely not the thing that I wanted to do this year.

So instead of that my best friend and me decided to “escape from the city” and go to a castle in the hills.
Now that sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Sounds like 2 spoiled kiddos who really do not know what to do with themselves, but as our country is full of castles and palaces, it’s pretty easy to find accommodation in one of them. (And staying at a castle hotel in Central Hungary is cheaper than at an average 3 star hotel in Outer London)

And at the end of the day, New Year’s Eve is only once per year. So we should enjoy ourselves, shouldn’t we?

This is the castle (or mansion – do not know which is the most appropriate name for it) where we spent New Year’s Eve.

Food & Drink

New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without great food and drinks.

Wait, is it a good idea to drink if you have OCD?

It is probably not the best idea to drink alcohol if you are suffering from OCD – but everyone has to know their own limits. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is cutting down on drinking. But on the other hand, yesterday was New Year’s Eve so I wouldn’t say “no” when the Green Fairy approached me. Obviously, one has to be pretty careful with absinthe as it’s much stronger than it tastes like.

And obviously, alcohol will effect you less if your tummy is full with some venison stew. (Also promised myself I’ll eat less meat in 2020.)

So what did we do apart from going to a castle, eating and drinking?

The answer is: absolutely nothing πŸ™‚ And doing nothing feels great. Just chatting, eating, drinking – and watching stupid videos. Preparing for a busy New Year.

What are my New Year’s Resolutions?

I wrote a post about my New Year’s Resolutions yesterday, so you can find them here:
https://over-coming-ocd.com/2019/12/31/ocd-2020-make-your-new-years-resolutions-smart/
Together with a couple of tips for how to set SMART goals yourself that will help your personal and professional life (as well as your OCD).

Happy New Year once again! πŸ™‚

I’d like to thank all of my readers for following my blog and I wish you all an amazing New Year.

And one more thing: you know there’s only one thing I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please tell me what you did on New Year’s Even and what your New Year’s Resolutions are in the comment section.

Mark

OCD 2020: Make your New Years Resolutions SMART!

Are you planning to make any New Year’s Resolutions?

You are not alone: most of us make New Year’s Resolutions, but unfortunately, only a few people can actually achieve their goals. Every single year, we promise ourselves that we would lose weight, eat more healthy, quit smoking but for some reason, we are not always able to keep our resolutions. (According to Google, 80 percent of people fail to keep their New Year’s Resolutions.)

Why is that?

Because our goals are not always SMART enough.
A lot of businesses use SMART goal setting to define their objectives – and if it works for them, why would it not work for us?

Setting goals brings a lot of benefits. Whether for life or work, goals can take you much further than you’d ever imagine and defining your objectives is among the first steps you can take in order to fight Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!

There are a lot of articles on the internet about how to write SMART goals, but in this post, I’ll talk about goal setting from an OCD point of view.

What is a SMART goal and how can it help your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Timely

How can we set a SMART goal to achieve our New Year’s Resolution?

Specific

Making your goals specific is the first step. Having a clear target is very important and this target can be something very simple (now, simple does not mean that it’s necessarily easy). For example, if you avoid going over bridges, you can set a goal for yourself that next year, you will cross a bridge at least once a week. Or in my case, one thing that I want to work on is my uncontrollable door checking habit: every morning, I have to check at least 15 times that I have really locked the door. It may sound funny to people who do not suffer from OCD, but believe me, it is not a fun thing: especially when I am in a rush.

Measurable

Now, how can you make your goals as specific as possible? By making them measurable! And why is it important to make them measurable? Because what can not be measured, can not be managed. And also, because it’s an amazing feeling to see your progress and to be able to compare yourself to who you were last year.
For example, if you’re obsessed with cleaning, a perfect goal that you can define for next year would be doing less cleaning. However, what do we exactly mean by “less cleaning”? This is where the personal factor comes into the picture. If you clean your kitchen 3 times a day, your new year’s resolution could be to clean it only once a day. Or once a week: but you’ll always need to make sure that your goal is realistic!

Attainable

This has always been the most difficult part for me. I’ve always been a perfectionist and to be honest I am not the most patient person that I know. So back in the past, I always used to come up with goals that had simply been impossible to accomplish. Such as: I will overcome OCD in 2 weeks or I will quit smoking in 4 days, and so on.
It’s a good thing to push yourself, but you should always know your limits. If you’re not sure whether you’d be able to stop doing a certain compulsion in 4 months, give yourself a year. And if you’re not sure what is or is not realistic, consult your therapist.

Relevant

This particular step is for making sure that your goal is actually important for you. If you achieve your goal, will it make you feel better? Is it worth the effort?
If the answer is no, look for something else. If the answer is yes, go for it! πŸ™‚

Timely

How much time do you want to give yourself for achieving your goal?
It’s extremely important to give yourself a specific deadline – it will keep you motivated and it will make you more focused towards achieving your goals. And obviously, another thing that you’ll need to consider before setting deadlines for yourself is whether those deadlines are realistic. It would be simply amazing if we could stop doing our OCD rituals by tomorrow end of day, but unfortunately, I do not think this could be possible.

My SMART goals

So what are my New Year’s Resolutions?

To be honest, I do not have too many, because I do not want to promise myself something that I know I would not be able to do.

I have 2 compulsions that seriously interfere in my life: one of them is checking locks and the other one is Googling. I usually need to check 15 times if my door is locked, so by the end of 2020, I would like to break free from that habit: so I will check it only once, after locking the door! As for the Google part, it’s much more difficult for me to come up with a SMART objective, but on an average day, I spend about 2 hours on Google (for seeking reassurance and for calming myself down) – so by the end of 2020, I’d love to reduce that to 30 minutes a day.

Another New Year’s Resolution that I have is cutting down on alcohol. I do not think that I am an alcoholic, but I drink 2-3 times a week (obviously,this may be shocking to many of my readers, but in our country, this is pretty normal). So my New Year’s Resolution is that by the end of 2020, I will cut back on my drinking and I will only drink once a week.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my thoughts and ideas: reading yours! πŸ™‚ So please share your New Year’s Resolution in the comment section!