“Not So OCD” – A Guided Tour Around My Room

OCD is not an adjective – and I think many of you already know that. But despite the fact that there are more and more people who have been trying to raise awareness on OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I still see quite a few “I am so OCD” posts in my social media feeds.

Am I offended by them? Well, I do not think “offended” would be the right word to describe how I feel about this whole “I am so OCD” thing. I would rather say that I am concerned about it as using OCD as a word to describe the love for cleanliness and order can be a very dangerous thing.

There are many OCD sufferers who do not know that they have OCD and who may even be scared to seek professional help because they think their thoughts are just so scary and irrational that nobody would ever be able to understand them.

Let’s just take me as an example. Convincing myself that I should see a therapist took me an extremely long time. Before being diagnosed with OCD, I used to think that I was just downright crazy. And honestly, I would have never thought that I had OCD because I was (and I still am) the exact opposite of any OCD stereotype.

I am sharing this post because I really hope that it will help raising awareness and that it will help those who are in the same situation that I was in a few years ago.

According to the most common stereotypes, people with OCD are addicted to cleaning and love to keep things in order.

Check out: 5 common misconceptions about OCD

Well, let me tell you that I am far from being addicted to cleaning and I have never cared about keeping things in order.

And I think the best way to show you how wrong stereotypes can be is inviting you to a “guided tour” around my room. Am I proud of the things I’m about to show you? Of course I am not. I am one of the messiest people I know and my room could be the potential winner of an “ultimate OCD nightmare” competition.

A Guided Tour Around My Room

Now, let’s take a look at what my room looks like. As I said earlier, I am not proud of it and I really think I should be a little more organized but on the other hand, I do believe that sharing these pictures will help the world understand how wrong OCD stereotypes can be. So, let’s start our guided tour!

1st Stop – “The Chair”

We all know “the chair”. Some of us have it at our place. Some of us have seen it at a friends’ place. And well, the pile of clothes on my chair is something that definitely does not fit the stereotype that most people have about OCD. For those who do not exactly know what I am talking about, here is a picture with “the infamous chair.

Not sure if you have noticed but there’s also a carpet on my chair. Please do not ask me why it is thereI honestly do not know. I just love carpets and I found this beauty last year at a bazaar but I haven’t found the perfect place for it yet so for the moment, I’m storing it on my legendary chair.

2nd Stop – Suspicious Bottles

I have never been good at keeping things in order. Another proof of my messiness is the collection of random (and often suspicious looking) bottles that one can find while walking into my room. Why do I not throw them away? Well, that’s a long story – I just love mineral water but at the same time, I always feel guilty for polluting the environment with plastic bottles and I always promise myself that I will find a creative way for reusing them. Unfortunately, I often end up throwing them to the rubbish.

And to be honest, the other reason behind my “bottle problem” is the fact that I do not really feel bothered by these bottles.

3rd Stop – My Skincare Products

Skincare is one of my hobbies and I own a huge collection of different products – and as you can already imagine, these products are not beautifully organized on a shelf. I normally just throw them into a huge box that seems to be pretty organized to me (as I perfectly know where to find the things I am looking for).

4th Stop – My Books

I have been in love with books ever since I was a small child. I just love everything about them – their smell, their texture and all the beautiful stories one can find in them. I own more than 2000 books and I try to take good care of them but it’s difficult to keep things organized when you live in a small city center flat (like I do). My bookshelf doesn’t look particularly chaotic but it’s just way too small considering the size of my “private library” – and as a result of this, I have ended up storing my books at completely random places (in the kitchen, under my bed, in the wardrobe etc.)

5th Stop – My Bags

It’s not only my room that is a complete mess but my bags too are….hm..let’s say that their content is questionable. Well, obviously nothing scary but as you have seen, I am really terrible at keeping things organized and I often just throw things in my bag – so it’s usually full of sheets of paper, books, bottles of perfume (’cause I never know which one I will feel like using..), chocolate bars, at least one bottle of mineral water, umbrella (what if it rains?) and who knows what else.

Conclusion

While many people with OCD have cleaning compulsion, it does not mean that all of us live in perfectly maintained, super clean homes. OCD is one of the most misunderstood health conditions and due to the stereotypical portrayals in the media, many people think that it’s nothing more than a cleaning addiction or an extreme love for orderliness – while in reality, OCD is a terrifying mental disorder that millions of people have.

Further Reading

Your thoughts

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

4 Chronotypes – Confessions Of A Wolf

I have always had trouble waking up early in the morning. When I was a child, my parents used to tell me that one day I would get used to getting up early but here I am. 27 years old and despite the fact that I’ve been forced to be an early riser for most of my life, I still do not think that I would ever get used to the aggressive sound of my alarm going off at 7 am.

Am I just lazy? Honestly, I do not think so. And I hate when people tell me things such as “Rise and shine” – or even worse, in my country, they would usually say “the sun is hitting your tummy” and with the kind of intonation that will make you feel like you are the laziest person on earth.

For some reason, nobody would ever tease someone for getting up too early in the morning or for going to bed at 8 pm. Please do not get me wrong, I really do not mean that we should start bullying early birds, I am just saying that society should really be more accepting towards night owls.

Because at the end of the day, can a night owl become an early bird or the other way around?

Well, the internet is full of articles about how to become an early riser or how to change your sleeping habits but honestly, I do not think it is something that one can do. Over time, our bodies may change and there are many people who find themselves turning into early birds as they age. But my experience is that forcing yourself to become a morning person will not work.

And well, I may sound like a guy who has tried way too hard and failed and who just wants to find excuses for not wanting to integrate into a society that considers “eveningness” as a flaw and “morningness” as a virtue. But I think there is an explanation for my behavior: Chronotypes

What Is A Chronotype?

Every person has a master biological clock ticking away inside of their brain, and dozens of smaller biological clocks throughout his or her body.
But, unlike a normal clock, not every person’s biological clock keeps the same time or even at the same pace. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I’m not a morning person”, well there’s a reason for that. Some people are meant to be more productive in the morning than at night, and vice versa.


Source: Michael Breus, The Power Of When

Michael Breus’s research breaks chronotypes into four categories and describes them with the names of animals:

  • Wolf
  • Bear
  • Lion
  • Dolphin

Now, what do these categories mean? That’s something I would like to explore in today’s article.

What is my Chronotype? Take the quiz here! (The Power Of When)

Wolf

This chronotype often has trouble waking up in the morning. Wolves tend to be most active in the early evening hours.

And as you might have guessed: I am a wolf. So, I will talk about this chronotype in a little bit more detail. Not because I think it is more common or more important than the other ones but I just love sharing my personal experience (hope you’ll apologize me for that.)

Being a wolf feels like having constant jet lag. I usually set multiple alarms and when they go off, I will feel like being struck by lightning. My aunt too is a wolf and she once told me that she felt like “fighting for her life” every single morning. And well, I know this may sound overly dramatic but I completely agree with her. Some people say that if I were more “motivated”, I would be able to get up more easily but believe me, that just does not help. Like when I am on holidays, I am excited to explore new places and visit all the sights but this doesn’t mean that I am able to get out of bed before 10 am.

And getting up early is just the beginning. Because then, there are the morning meetings – “’cause we all know that people are more energetic in the morning”, so let’s just schedule a meeting for 9 am. Or back at school, it was the same story with the exams – our teachers used to tell us that our brains were “more active” in the morning hours so it would be best to take all the exams at 7 am. 7 AM!!!!!! At 7 am, I usually feel like a truck ran over me.

Anyways. Over the years, I have managed to get to know myself and I have learnt that the best time for me to work on an important project is at late afternoon/early evening or at night. And I have also learnt to accept myself (I am suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and from GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), so the combination of these 2 disorders made me believe that I was a lazy person who will never be able to have a normal life and that I will get fired over my early morning sleepiness.)

Am I alone with the problems that I have just described? Of course I am not!
About 15-20 percent of the population fall into the wolf chronotype category.

Bear

Over 50% of the population falls into this category. Bears’ internal clocks track the rise and fall of the sun and they are most active and alert in the middle of the morning but often struggle with the mid-afternoon slump.

And as this is the most common chronotype, it’s no surprise that bears are likely to do best working traditional hours. I am proud to be a wolf and I think one should never want to change oneself but….secretly I have always envied bears – well, except for the part about the mid-afternoon slump ’cause that’s something that I do not have.

Lion

We could say that lions are the opposite of wolves. They may easily wake up before dawn and are at their best up until noon. Lions usually fall asleep by 9 pm or 10 pm. About 15 to 20 % of the population fall into this chronotype category.

And well….one of my best friends is a lion which means we often end up “fighting” over our schedule while being on holidays. She normally tells me that if we get up early, we will have more time to see things (and well, there’s another fantastic Hungarian proverb that’s one of her favorites “who wakes up early, will find gold – it has pretty much the same meaning as “the early bird gets the worm”) – and I obviously do not agree with this statement ’cause if we wake up early, we will need to go to sleep early, so at the end of the day we spend the same amount of time awake.

How do we manage to enjoy our time together despite our different sleeping patterns? Well, we obviously need to compromise and what we normally do is “becoming bears” – ’cause that’s exactly in the middle.

Dolphin

I just love this cute dolphin picture I’ve found on Pexels. Dolphins are just so adorable but wait, where was I? Yes, I was speaking about chronotypes.

Dolphins have trouble following any sleep schedule but they normally have a peak productivity window from 10 am to 2 pm. They are light sleepers, who are often diagnosed with insomnia. About 10% of the population are dolphins.

Conclusion

Today’s post was a little bit different from the ones I normally publish but I personally think that there’s a strong correlation between mental health and chronotypes. And that’s the reason why I wanted to raise awareness of this topic. Every one of us is different in some way and that’s what makes the world a beautiful place. I do not think we should “categorize” people but it’s important to be aware of the fact that there are different chronotypes and that we should stop criticizing those who do not have the same sleeping habits as we do. The good news is that society is becoming more and more open and there are a lot of workplaces that started to provide more flexibility.

Further Reading

May Interest You (From Mark Wester)

Share Your Thoughts

As you know, there is one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories – reading yours. What’s your chronotype? And how does it impact your daily life? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section!

Love ❤

Mark

Tales Of The Jewish Quarter – Hidden Happiness

Yesterday, I was walking the narrow streets of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter – a place that has recently become well-known for its vibrant nightlife and its ruin bars full of life – but for me, this neighborhood will always mean more than a party district as I still remember the days before it was transformed into one of Europe’s largest open space bars.

And the story that I am telling you today took place many years ago, in my early teens – one of the happiest periods of my life. Times when I did not use to worry about money and career or about what I wanted to do with my life. However, just like any other teenager, I had other kinds of problems and one day, I felt hopeless as the guy I had a crush on did not love me back.

I have changed a lot since that day but one thing that has not changed and I think it never will is that I love going for long walks when I feel sad or melancholic. So that’s exactly what I decided to do on that summer day:

Me walking in the Jewish Quarter – picture taken by my friend who was studying photography and had to introduce one of her friends through photography as part of a school project.

Just walking the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, cry and daydream about a life that I thought I would never have. And while wandering the streets, buried deep in my thoughts, I ran into a Jewish lady. She was a friend of my family and she immediately asked me what was wrong. We sat down on a bench and as I knew she would never judge me for who I was and that she would understand the way I was feeling so I decided to tell her everything. That I was in love and that I felt totally hopeless.

She was patiently listening to my story and she answered me by telling the most inspiring tale that I’d ever heard (a Jewish folktale):

Hidden Happiness

When Elochim (God) created universe, he wanted all of us to be happy and not to have any struggles or misery in our lives. So, He created a perfect world without any sadness or problems. But living a life free of suffering did not make people happy as they were not able to appreciate what they had.

What was meant to be a world of constant happiness and satisfaction turned out to be a meaningless place full of boredom and lethargy.

Elochim saw the world he had created and felt sad for the people living in it. So he decided to make happiness more difficult to find. A treasure that people have to look for and can only have for a limited amount of time.

Because daylight is much brighter after a long, dark night. Spring is more colorful after a grey winter. And happiness is much greater after times of misery.

Paradoxically, having more suffering in this world made people happier as they could enjoy more the things they had and feel more grateful for the gifts of Elochim.

Photo – Fabiolla Loureiro (I do not personally own this picture)

This story made me cry (again, ’cause I tend to cry a lot – even when I am happy) and made me think about the fact that despite all the terrible things this old lady had survived, she was still more grateful for everything she had than many of us had ever been. And it helped me realize that happiness does not exist on its own – we would never be able to fully experience all the wonderful feelings if we were never feeling sad or hopeless.

I could say that she is no longer with us but I believe in Heaven. And I am sure she’s become an angel who is keeping an eye on me. And she gave me something that I will always be able to hold on to. A beautiful tale that I have not been able to find in any books or on Google and that will always accompany me on my long walks – in the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter.

What If I Don’t Really Have OCD?

In most cases, being diagnosed with a disorder is definitely not a pleasant experience. But my story is different. The day I found out I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was the start of a new chapter in my life and I will always remember it as a rather happy, joyful day.

Please, please, please – do not stop reading my post thinking that I am a freaking lunatic who has completely lost his mind. Because at the end of the day, I have just told you that being diagnosed with a mental disorder had been a great thing for me – and well, I can totally understand if you find this statement alarming but!

Just to make it clear: I am not happy for having OCD and I really do not think anyone could possibly be happy for having it ’cause believe me, it’s not fun at all. However, after spending years worrying about irrational and disturbing things, it was a huge relief for me to find out that I had OCD because learning about this disorder finally helped me understand why I was having weird thoughts and why I was feeling the way I was.

But I guess you can imagine that getting my diagnosis was not the end of the story. My OCD was preparing for an ultimate attack. A new question so creative that only OCD could invent. Or we could say: a new obsession to rule them all.

What If I Do Not Really Have OCD?

Nowadays, I do not have any doubts about the fact that I have OCD. But I wasn’t always so sure about it. It took some time for me to convince myself that I really had it and to stop ruminating over the questions my OCD was asking me. I am sharing my story with you because I really hope it will help those who are struggling with the same problem.

I have had disturbing, intrusive thoughts ever since my teenage years. Back in the days, I did not use to know why I was having them so I guess you can imagine how I was feeling. Many people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning addiction but unfortunately, it is so much more than that. It can make you question even the most fundamental things in your life and make you scared of things that are, in most of the cases, completely irrational.

The list of different obsessions that OCD sufferers can have is endless. Some of us are afraid of contamination, others have a terrible fear of harming others. But one thing that can easily “give OCD away” is the “what if?” questions. Hmm.. what do they look like? Let’s see a few examples:

And well, as I mentioned earlier, it would be next to impossible to give you a complete list of all the “what if” questions that OCD can come up with, but in today’s article we will be exploring one in particular:

What if I do not have OCD?

Being diagnosed with OCD helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything starts to make sense. You finally realize that you are not the monster you thought you were and that having intrusive thoughts is something that happens to a lot of other people.

This realization will make you feel so much happier. Before finding out that I had OCD, I used to think I was insane, creepy and downright dangerous. After being diagnosed, I started to understand myself and see the whole world from a different perspective.

Being aware of the fact that I had OCD made me feel so much calmer and that’s when a new problem started to arise. I started to feel that I wasn’t worried enough about the things that I was supposed to be worried about.

I mean, how come I am no longer scared to death by the thought of accidentally poisoning someone? Or how come I am so irresponsible that I am not even hiding the knives anymore? (Was scared of losing control and harming someone I love…)

These are the thoughts that would soon lead me to the ultimate question: what if I do not even have OCD?

The fact that I started to be less anxious about the things that used to give me sleepless nights, made me question my diagnosis. I knew my psychologist was competent enough but everyone makes mistakes so I thought she might have misdiagnosed me.

And obsessions usually come with compulsions – because you just have to do something about your fears, don’t you? In my case, the most logical step (and the worst thing one could do) was simple enough: let’s just start worrying more about everything.

When I felt that I wasn’t worried enough about jumping off a bridge (one of my worst nightmares) or if I was not optimally anxious about not having locked the door, I would just force myself to worry more about these things. It was like a kind of mental ritual. A ritual that I performed in order to make sure that I had OCD.

I am a visual person, so I have decided to create a little flowchart to show you the way things happened.

So as you can see, instead of fighting against my OCD, I was actually fighting for it! Because at the end of the day, I thought that not having OCD was a scarier thing than having it.

And well, let’s not forget about reassurance seeking. Another thing that I did was buying tons of psychology books and spending hours on Google reading about OCD and checking if I have all the symptoms. Now, if I try to look at the bright side of things, I can at least say that I was learning a lot about psychology during that period.

How Did I stop Obsessing Over This Thought?

  1. The first step for me was realizing that the fear of not having OCD was an actual sign of having OCD.
    It took some time to absorb this, but once I managed to do it, everything became so much easier!
    Do I Have OCD?
  2. Personifying my OCD
    Another thing that helped me a lot was imagining that my OCD was an actual person. An annoying creature who loves harassing me with crazy thoughts and bombarding me with creepy questions.
    The Face Of The Devil – Personifying Your OCD
  3. Watching out for “what ifs”
    Now, talking about personifying your OCD – one of the major red flags is when your inner voice is asking you questions starting with “what if”. OCD simply adores this type of questions and the best thing you can do is trying not to give an answer to them. ‘Cause even if you manage to answer one, there will always be a next one…it’s like a never ending story.
    OCD – A Living Hell Of Uncertainty
  4. The Last Obstacle
    Finally, thinking about the “what if I do not have OCD” as if it was a kind of last obstacle also helped me stop ruminating over this whole question. I knew that if I managed to acknowledge the fact that I had OCD, things would soon change for the better.

Important: Seek Professional Help!
I am not a certified therapist and my blog is just a place where I share my thoughts and experiences with you in the hope that you will find them helpful. However, I do not want to encourage you to self-diagnose or to try treating your OCD on your own because without the guidance of a professional therapist, it can be downright harmful.

Further Reading

Your Story

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

Love,

Mark

11 Awesome Hungarian Words That Will Change The Way You Look At The World

“As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being.”
Tomas Garrigue Masaryk

There is a unique and exciting culture behind every single language of the universe. And learning a foreign language opens up doors to new worlds full of opportunities – and well, surprises.

I am not sure if you have ever had the same impression but when I speak a different language, I will often feel like a different person. What is the reason behind this? I guess it is simply the fact that every language has it’s own logic, it’s own expressions and it’s own words that are not always directly translatable to other languages.

As many of you may already know (or have noticed), English is not my mother tongue. I was born in Budapest, the capital of Hungary – and well, I come from an extremely multicultural background (that’s why I speak multiple languages) but my native language is Hungarian.

And as I have mainly been talking about my OCD for the last few months (well, I guess that’s why I started this blog), I thought it was time to write about something else – just to make my blog a little bit more “diverse”. So, I was like “why not sharing a few fun facts about Hungarian language with my readers”.

Hungarian is not as widely spoken as English and I guess it’s probably a language that most of you will never start learning. BUT – it does have a huge vocabulary of words that describe different feelings and emotions. Some of these words are untranslatable to English, others are just pretty interesting and can help you look at things from a different perspective.

So, let’s take a look at the list….

1. Elvágyódás = The Desire To Get Away From Where You Currently Are

Do you sometimes have the desire to get away from where you are?

There are moments when you just want to escape from your current reality and you just want to be somewhere else. And by saying that, I do not necessarily mean travelling. Elvágyódás is more like a melancholic longing for another place or time that is far away from your reality.

2. Hiányérzet = The Feeling That Something Is Missing

Now this is a feeling that I am pretty sure all of us have had. Just think about the last time you were packing your luggage for your next trip and you suddenly had the feeling that something was missing. Something that you couldn’t name because you just did not know what it was but you just felt that it was missing.

Or another example is when you watch a movie and you feel that something was just missing from it. Like when the movie itself is not bad but you just have the impression that it’s not…complete. Or the same applies to relationships, when you like your partner but you feel that something you cannot name is missing from your relationship.

3. Egészség = Health (lit. “Wholenessness”)

As you can see “egészség” is a word that is easily translatable to English.

Why is it still on this list? Because of the logic behind the word itself – if we wanted to do a word-by-word translation of it, it would literary mean “wholeness” (“egész” = “whole” , “ség” = “ness”). And I think this makes a lot of sense – like if you think about it, when you are not healthy, you will not feel like a “whole person”.

4. Kétségbeesés = Despair (lit. “Fallen into doubt”)

Doubt is a terrible feeling that can easily turn your life into a living nightmare. So, no wonder why the Hungarian word for despair is “kétségbeesés” which literary means a situation in which you have fallen into doubt. I particularly like this word because I think it is very descriptive and when I hear it, I will always imagine a person fallen into a dark pond that’s full of doubt and despair.

5. Káröröm = Happiness Obtained From The Misery Of Others

Source: Marija Tiurina

Have you ever felt secretly happy for witnessing or learning about the troubles, failures or misery of others?
Well, it is definitely not a noble feeling but apparently a lots of Hungarians felt the same, so we created our own word to describe it: káröröm (lit. damage-joy).

And my nation did not only come up with a word that describes this feeling but we also have a proverb that says “The greatest joy is “damage-joy” – meaning the greatest happiness is when you see others (usually your enemies) suffering. It is nice, is it not?

Interesting fact: this word also exists in German and it could be translated as “Schadenfreude”.

6. Borúlátó = Pessimist (lit. A person who always thinks that the sky is cloudy)

I personally love rainy weather – I just enjoy reading a good novel while listening to the sounds of raindrops on my window. So, I have never been able to fully understand why many people associate a cloudy sky with pessimism. However, in Hungarian there’s a word for “pessimist” that literary means a person who always thinks (lit. sees) that the sky is full of clouds.

7. Nebáncsvirág = A Person Who’s Extremely Easily Offended (lit. Hurt-Me-Not-Flower)

My personal opinion is that this is not a very nice word – like some of us are more easily offended than others and I think it’s a perfectly normal thing as everyone has their own personality. But in my native language, we actually have a word to describe to describe a person who gets offended very easily – and it is nebáncsvirág, which literary means “hurt-me-not-flower”.

8. Önfeledt = Carefree (lit. Self-Forgotten)

When you feel carefree and happy, you will not care about what other people think. You just forget about yourself – and that’s the feeling that the Hungarian word “önfeledt” describes: those moments when all you do is having fun without worrying too much about what others think about you.

9. Odaadás = Devotion (lit. Giving All Of Yourself To Someone Else)

Odaadás (the closest translation of this word is “devotion”) describes the loyalty to someone, the feeling when you would give all of yourself to another person without getting anything in return. Or it can also mean extreme dedication to your work (when you work with devotion).

10. Kiborulni = Freaking Out/ Losing It (lit. Spilling Out)

Accidentally spilling your drink on your clothes can totally ruin your night out on the town. So, no wonder why the Hungarian word for “freaking out” literary means “spilling (out)” – I mean, let’s admit, I too would freak out if I spilled wine on my favorite pair of jeans. But I guess this is most probably not the origin of the word but it has more to do with the feeling that you have when you just have to let your emotions out (spill them).

11. Pihentagyú = A Person Who Has A Very Lame Sense Of Humor (lit. Someone With A “Well-Rested Brain”)

Do you know anyone with a weird sense of humor? Do you have a friend who just loves sending you terrible puns at midnight and who never seems to get tired of it?

Well, I can give you the right word for such people: pihentagyú – which basically means a person with a relaxed, “well-rested” brain. And no offense really, because I am proud to tell you that I am one of those people who often get called “pihentagyú” (I have a very particular sense of humor).

Share Your Thoughts!

Languages are just simply fascinating as they help you expand your mind and see things from a different perspective. I really hope you have found this post interesting – even though it’s a little bit different from the ones I normally publish.

And please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. Is there any expression on this list that you particularly liked – and if yes, why? And if you speak any other language than English, please share a few exciting facts about your (native/second) language in the comment section! 🙂

Further Reading

Hugs ❤

Mark

Laziness Does Not Exist – 10 Reasons Why We Procrastinate

Why do we put things off so much? I have been thinking a lot about this question lately as a few weeks ago, I was supposed to start working on a project that I did not particularly like so what did I do? Obviously, I just kept putting it off till the last minute – and that last minute was yesterday.

And I guess you can all imagine what my yesterday looked like – running all over the place, panicking about the final deadline and spending the entire day on the edge of a nervous breakdown. So yes, it was absolutely horrible and I never want to have a day like that again.

But well, who is the one to blame for this? I guess it is me. I should have started working on my project a long time ago but instead of doing it, I just kept procrastinating. And now I am asking myself why I did that.

Some people may call me lazy but my personal opinion is that laziness does not exist. Or well, not the way most people imagine it. Of course we all have that colleague who never gets things done on time or that friend who never cleans his flat but instead, he spends his whole weekend watching Netflix. But can we actually call these people lazy? I do not think we can because we do not know why they behave the way they do.

Like, let’s just take me as an example – I am the definition of a workaholic. Now, I really do not want to bore you talking about my career and about the different projects I am currently working on but what I can tell you is that I have always been very motivated to do my job (working in Learning & Development).

Even if you are the worker of the year, there will always be tasks that you just do not feel comfortable doing or periods when you are not at your best. But what are the reasons why we procrastinate working on certain tasks but are happy to do others? This is the question that I am trying to answer in today’s article.

Reasons Behind Procrastination

1. Perfectionism

Did it ever happen to you that you were just unable to start working on a task because you felt that you would not be able to do it perfectly enough? Or that you were convinced that the final outcome of your work would be a huge disappointment to everyone and it would not meet your high standards?

Well, I guess you are not alone with this feeling as one of the main reasons behind procrastination is perfectionism. At the first glance, this may sound pretty paradoxical as in a perfect world, we should get things done on time, shouldn’t we?

But then, let’s not forget about our friend: Anxiety. There is a strong correlation between perfectionism and anxiety. Just think about it – if you are a perfectionist, it is very likely that you will set high standards for yourself and meeting those can be extremely overwhelming and stressful.

This is what usually happens in my case – when I receive a new and exciting task, I will usually start “daydreaming” about it. I just love imagining how amazing the final result will be and I have a tendency to spend a lot of time fantasizing about it. But when I actually start working on it, I will realize that it may not be as amazing as I would imagine – I mean, it potentially could, but I work in a corporate environment with pretty tight deadlines – so I will end up being disappointed and anxious, feeling like a complete failure and when I reach this point, I will just start….well….procrastinating.

Now, how to handle your perfectionism?

Yes, I said “how to handle your perfectionism” and not “how to stop being a perfectionist”. Because my personal opinion is that one cannot just stop being a perfectionist from one day to another. However, there are a few things that could help you create more realistic goals and expectations

  • If you are doing a task for someone else – like at work or for a client – the best thing you can do is asking them what their expectations are right at the beginning. Everyone has their own standard and there are situations where something you may consider downright terrible is actually perfect for the person who has requested you to do it.
  • Setting more realistic goals for yourself – now you may want to write the greatest novel ever written in just a few weeks but ask yourself: would this be realistic? Probably not. But it does not mean that you should give up on your dreams only that you should make your objectives a little bit more realistic.

2. Fear Of Failure

There is a strong link between perfectionism and fear of failure but in my experience, these two things are not exactly the same. So, that’s why I thought I should mention about the fear of failure as an independent reason behind procrastination.

As a perfectionist, you may set very high standards for yourself and you may be anxious about meeting them but in my opinion, the fear of failure is something more extreme.

I guess many of you know the feeling when you just keep putting things off because you are convinced that the final outcome of your work would be a complete disaster. Or when you keep postponing an important meeting because you think the participants would find you unprofessional.

Or talking about our private lives – there are times when you really want to go on a date with your crush but you are just scared of the whole situation. Like, what if he thinks you are a weirdo? Or what if he won’t like you at all?

Now, what can you do about this feeling? The answer to this question is pretty complex as I think it also depends on your personality and on your mental health conditions.

As most of you know, I am suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and this greatly impacts the way I handle the fear of failure. In my case, something that really helps me is trying to make a difference between my “real thoughts” and my “OCD thoughts”. I have published a few posts about how I do it:

And well, if you have managed to get rid of your OCD thoughts – or if you do not even have OCD, two more things that could help you handle these situation are:

Looking at the worst-case scenario

Now, you are afraid of failure – just like most of us – but what would that failure exactly mean? What is the worst thing that could happen? Would it really be that horrible?

Something that my Mum has taught me and that has always helped me a lot was the “So what?” question. She told me that whenever I am worried about something, I should just ask myself – “So what?” (like, what happens if my worst nightmare comes true). And I am normally able to give a pretty scary answer to the first “so what” question but then, I will just ask myself the same question again and my answer to the second question will be much comforting.

An example:

– I do not want to start working on this presentation because I know it will be a complete failure and my manager will not like it.
– So what?
– He will be disappointed at me.
– So what?
– He will give me a negative feedback.
– So what?
– It will make me feel uncomfortable.
– So what?


Obviously, if you have OCD, there is one thing that you have to bear in mind before starting to use my “So what” questioning style:

OCD can be a real nuisance and some of the potential answers that come to your mind could actually be the answers that your OCD is suggesting you. So as I mentioned above, it is important to learn how to make a difference between “real thoughts” and “irrational ones”. (For example, my boss giving me a negative feedback is a realistic scenario but getting fired over an average looking presentation is definitely not – even though my OCD may try to make me believe that it is)

Having a plan B

In some cases, the “fear of failure” is an irrational feeling but there are situations where it’s better to be prepared for a negative outcome. So, it’s always a nice thing to have a plan B.

3. Distractions

It’s a new day, the sun is shining and you are feeling super motivated. You feel excited about getting things done and you cannot wait putting your presentation together or writing your book or cleaning your house (or whatever else, just replace it with your own example 🙂

So you start working on your project but suddenly you get a call. Just a short one but it’s perfectly enough to interrupt your work. Then an email comes in – a co-worker is asking you to urgently check something. A few minutes later, you get an invite for a short conference call. And it goes on and on. People keep interrupting your train of thoughts and you get to a point where you just decide to give up working on your project and well, put it off until tomorrow.

Minimizing Distractions

Well, how to minimize distractions? The reason why it is difficult to give a very specific answer to this question is that it really depends on your job. I am an office worker and what I normally do to minimize distractions is putting myself on “do not disturb” in our phone system, switching off my email notifications and having my “personal opening hours” – so the time slots when people are free to contact me.

But as I said, it really depends on your work environment. Like, I have been working in Learning and Development for the last few years and I have the authority to manage my own calendar but a couple years back, I was working at a call center and that was a lot less flexible (guess you can imagine, when you are there to pick up the calls, you’re definitely not allowed to put yourself on “do not disturb” )

4. Being Overwhelmed

Sometimes there are just too many things going on. A lot of requests at work, issues in the family, friends needing help. And such situations can make you feel overwhelmed and you often may not even know where your head is – so no wonder you start procrastinating.

I am not sure if any of you ever had the same feeling but when I am overwhelmed, I will not only put things off because I simply do not have time to do them but also because of this terrible feeling of hopelessness that I get. Like, there are moments in life when you just do not see the light at the end of the tunnel – you know you could complete a few of your tasks but there are so many of them that you do not even see the point to get started.

Learn how to say “no”

The reason why I often end up having a crazy amount of things to do is because I usually find it difficult to say “no”. Well, you can imagine that it’s not the actual word that is hard for me to pronounce but I am just the type of person who normally says “yes” to everything. Why am I doing that? That’s a long story and it will be a topic for another post.

Do you also find it difficult to say “no”? Please check out my post about this topic:

Fear Of Saying “No” – OCD & Assertive Communication

5. A Vague Deadline

When you do not have a concrete deadline for completing a task, you’re much more likely to put it off. Like, there are so many other things that are way more urgent so why would you start working on something that you do not even have a deadline for?

Not sure if you have the same impression but I think that in comparison to the problems listed above, this one is pretty simple to solve as you can create your own deadline.

6. Vague Objectives

Do you want to lose weight? Or want to learn a new language?

It can be challenging to achieve our objectives but you can make it easier by setting specific goals for yourself. The reason why this can be helpful is because it just gives you a long-term vision and a short-term motivation.

Let’s say you want to learn French. That’s a really great goal (and well, also a beautiful language) but is it specific enough? Well, I do not think so. What could we do to make it more specific – and much more motivating?

Make it SMART!

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?

What does “SMART” mean?

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-64.png

Now, how could we apply this in practice?

So again, let’s say you want to learn French.
First of all, how could you make this goal specific? By specifying the level of fluency you would like to have. Let’s say, you would like to reach the B2 level.
How to make it measurable? Well, that is a little bit more difficult, but you can measure your knowledge by actually taking a B2 language exam.
Is this attainable? In order to decide that, we will also need to give ourselves a deadline. So how can we make this timely? Well, I guess it depends on your native language but as for my experience, 1 year should be perfectly sufficient to learn French at a B2 level.
And is this goal relevant to you? That’s an easy question to answer – of course it is!

This was only a short summary about SMART goal setting. If you want to read more about this topic, please check my post:

OCD 2020 – Make Your New Year Resolutions SMART!

7. Lack Of Supportive Feedback

We all need feedback. And not only for improving ourselves and for learning from the feedback that people give us but also for staying motivated.

But what happens when we do not receive any supportive feedback? Well, I can only talk about myself – when I do not get any feedback, I will feel pretty demotivated.

Is there anything I can do about it? Absolutely! One thing that we need to understand is that the lack of positive feedback does not necessarily mean that your work is not appreciated – it can simply mean that others just did not have time or forgot to give you a feedback. So, why not ask for it?

8. Having A Too Complex Task

Did you ever have to work on a task that was so complicated that you just did not know how to even get started with it?

I guess it has happened to many of us. And this may be another reason behind procrastination. When you do not fully understand the project you need to work on, you will just want to put it off and to just “wait & hope”.

But what could you do instead?

Again, I can only share my personal experience with you but what normally helps me is breaking everything down to smaller steps as this will help me see what I can and what I cannot do. Seeing that there are a lot of things I can complete will keep me motivated and there is always someone who can help me with the ones that I am not able to deal with on my own (in the worst case, it is Google).

9. “Unenjoyable” Tasks

Now, we should not ignore one of the most obvious reasons behind procrastination: unenjoyable tasks.

Let’s admit – there are a lot of tasks that we have to do on a daily-basis and that we do not enjoy. For example, I hate cleaning. I obviously have to clean my home sometimes but it is really something that I just keep putting off until the last possible moment.

And it is the same with our jobs. Even if you have the most exciting job in the whole universe, you will always have tasks that you just do not feel like doing.

How could we make any boring task more enjoyable? I have found a pretty interesting article that answers this question:

9 ways to make (almost) any task fun

10. Fatigue

There are times when you just feel so tired. Your alarm goes off at 6 in the morning and you know you should get up but you are just unable to. An important deadline is approaching and you know you should work on your project but you just too tired to do so.

There are a lot of reasons behind fatigue – depression, physical health conditions, lifestyle factors or in my case, anxiety. So, I do not think I could possibly give you one single piece of advice that would solve this problem but I think this article gives a pretty good summary about the different causes of fatigue as well as treatment options.

Healthline.com – Fatigue

Further Reading

Note: All the amazing photos are from Pexels 🙂

Your Experiences

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my stories: reading yours. Do you often put things off? If yes, why and how do you overcome your procrastination habit?

Mark

Trypophobia? – Afraid Of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Most people I know adore chocolate chip cookies and some of my friends are simply addicted to them. So, I guess it may come as a surprise if I tell you that I have never tasted them and I am not even planning to do so.

I can totally imagine that they taste good – the majority of people has told me so. And I perfectly know that a chocolate chip cookie would never go on a dangerous rampage exterminating me and my loved ones but it does not change the fact that I am terribly scared of it.

At this point, you may think I am joking. Because I know this sounds completely ridiculous – I mean, how could anyone be terrified of a delicious cookie? It simply does not make sense.

But honestly, most phobias do not make sense, do they? Like, there are a lot of people who are afraid of spiders but I just find them incredibly cute. Okay, I know some of them are dangerous but the majority of spiders (at least in Central Europe) are totally harmless. But telling this to someone who has arachnophobia (fear of spiders) will not help them overcome their phobia as many of our fears are irrational.

For example, I too am pretty sure that the vast majority of chocolate chip cookies do not pose any major threat to humanity, but I still do not feel comfortable looking at them.

How Did This Whole Thing Start?

Honestly, I do not know when this whole thing started. I guess I have always been scared of chocolate chip cookies – the first memory that I have about this weird phobia is when my cousin was chasing me with a huge plate of cookies. He thought it was fun and I do not blame him for that because this happened many years ago and he was just a little kid at that time, so he thought I’d been joking as he didn’t know how many different fears humans could have.

What Impact Does This Fear Have On My Life?

Now, I have never really tried to overcome my extreme (and unusual) fear of chocolate chip cookies as it has never had any major impact on my every day life. Sometimes I go to McDonalds and they do sell chocolate chip cookies, but I will always try not to look at their sweet selection. Sometimes, my friends serve chocolate chip cookies at their parties, but I will usually tell them to hide the cookies from me because I obviously do not feel comfortable being around them.

And once, I met a girl at the airport (I was travelling to Macedonia with my best friend) who had a chocolate-cookie-looking purse and that was obviously a great shock to me (and honestly, I still cannot understand why anyone would want to have a purse with such a horrifying thing on it) and we had to spend a few hours waiting for our plane while watching her playing with her diabolic purse. So, I guess you can imagine that I couldn’t really enjoy my time at the airport but I survived and the chocolate chip cookie did not harm me, so we can say it was a kind of exposure therapy.

Trypophobia – The Reason Behind My Fear Of Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I have mentioned, my fear of chocolate chip cookies never really had a huge impact on my life so I haven’t been particularly worried about it but recently, I started reading more about the topic (just out of curiosity) and I have arrived to the conclusion that this probably has something to do with Trypophobia.

What Is Trypophobia?

Trypophobia is a fear or disgust of closely-packed holes. People who have it feel queasy when looking at surfaces that have small holes gathered close together. For example, the head of a lotus seed pod or the body of a strawberry could trigger discomfort in someone with this phobia.

Reading the definition of trypophobia made me realize that I probably have it – as I am not only afraid of chocolate chip cookies but I also feel pretty uncomfortable when looking at other surfaces that have small holes on them. Strawberries are still fine (I just love them) but the head of a lotus seed pod does look pretty disturbing to me – and I guess I am not alone with this feeling.

Phobias Are Not Funny!

Okay. I have managed to write an article that may sound funny but do not get me wrong – having a phobia is a serious thing. Being afraid of chocolate chip cookies or of closely-packed holes in general, will probably not have a huge impact on our life, but there are many other phobias that will. In my case, a reason for major concern is my fear of dogs as it can often get out of control and it definitely makes my life significantly more difficult. It is a fear that I have been trying to overcome for a long time – and I actually know the reason why I have it – I was attacked by a dog when I was 5 years old. If you have a phobia that gives you serious distress, the best piece of advice I can give you is to seek professional help.

Your Stories

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. Do you have any unusual phobias? Please share them in the comment section!

Further Reading

HELP! – My Best Friend Has OCD (A Guest Post By Amber, Intro by Mark Wester)

Does any of your friends have OCD?

I guess the answer to this question is likely to be yes, as this mental disorder is far more common than many of us think. I have been living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for most of my life and I can tell you that spending time with me may not always be simple – it is not always obvious when someone has OCD but as it is a terrifying mental illness that can make one’s life significantly more difficult, there are a few signs and symptoms that I guess those who are close to you will be able to notice.

Since I started this blog, I have been sharing my stories and been writing about my feelings but there is one thing that I haven’t really been able to write about:

What is it like to be around someone who has OCD?

Now, why could I not write about this topic? I think the answer to this question is pretty obvious – I am suffering from OCD so I perfectly know what it feels like to have it but I do not know what it feels like for other people to be around me and to be exposed to my compulsions (or to my intrusive thoughts in case I feel comfortable talking about and as you might have already noticed, I usually do feel comfortable sharing them!).

But I have always thought it would be nice to publish an article that tells the story from a different point of view. And who would be better at sharing her experiences than my best friend, Amber? (That’s just her pen name).

So, as Amber loves writing, I decided to ask her to share her thoughts about what it feels like to be around someone who has OCD – and well, that someone happens to be me! Now, that was a long intro…so here is her story! 🙂 Enjoy!

HELP! – My Best Friend Has OCD

It was a long time ago when my friend, Mark and I first shared our OCD stories with each other. I remember telling him about the terrifying thought of unintentionally hurting one of my family members. I myself do not suffer from OCD but many years ago, I also had intrusive thoughts and had been afraid of harming one of my loved ones. I had also been afraid of telling or yelling offensive and hurtful words to my mom. This was obviously less intense than “a real OCD symptom” and it did not cause a lot of distress to me, neither did it prevent me from doing what I had been doing at the time this happened. Also, I was going through an emotionally unstable period of my life at that time so this might have also been one of the reasons why I had this “mental disorder” (if we can even call it like that, as after all it is not usual to have such thoughts.) Fortunately, I have managed to get rid of these scary thoughts.

Well, this was my short intro and now let’s talk about what it feels like to be around someone who is suffering from OCD.

Luckily, one does not have unwanted thoughts all the time, so, normally, being around somebody who is diagnosed with OCD does not feel very different from being around someone who does not suffer from this mental disorder. However, there are a few signs that you can easily recognize. And to better describe what I experience while spending time with my friend, I will share a few of his “OCD stories” with you.

The Boarding Pass Story

What if we all loose our boarding passes and the airport stuff will not accept mobile boarding cards or even if they accept it, what if the batteries of our phones die?

Normally, people print a single copy of their boarding pass. Now, you could guess that this is not what my friend does. I went on holidays with Mark and with a few other friends a couple of years ago and when we got to the airport and met each other in front of the check-in desk, we would all receive two extra copies of our boarding passes for both the inbound and the outbound flight (just to be safe, like, what if we all lose our passes, right?). Some of us did not like this waste of paper (at the end of the day, it is bad for the environment) but it was a funny situation.

Tardiness

I guess tardiness is one of the potential consequences of Mark’s OCD. When I meet my friend, I will often get the “I am terribly sorry, I will be late” – message and I’ll just laugh at it because I know this was going to happen. And you can imagine that it is not only about 5 or 10 minutes. I usually have a backup plan for these situations (going for a walk or shopping) so it doesn’t really cause any problem for me. When we arrange a meetup with other friends, we sometimes tell Mark to get there (at least) 15 minutes before the meeting actually starts, so he has a chance to pop up on time. Obviously (and luckily) it is not always OCD to blame.

Crossing The Bridge

Chainbridge – Source: panaromatours.com

As many of you may already know, walking across a bridge is not one of Mark’s favorite hobbies because of his fear of jumping off it. So, many years ago, when we were walking across one of the most beautiful bridges of Budapest, we needed to move quite quickly – guess you understand why. I am not entirely sure if I had already been aware of Mark’s OCD at that time but I do remember that he was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to be on the other side of the river as soon as possible. I felt a bit frustrated because at that time I did not really understand how somebody can experience such a weird feeling. I was also trying to tell him not to panic “I am here, I can help”. Well, obviously, this did not really help.

Anxiety In Crowded Places

Now, this is a thing that I can totally relate to. I think I am not the only one who prefers quiet, peaceful places with not too many people. Some years ago, we spend a nice day (on holidays 🙂 ) at the beach in Romania. We were hungry so we went to buy lunch to a local fast food restaurant. In the middle of the season, you can easily imagine what that was like: long queue, a lot of people with a lots of questions, some of them pushy or some of them moving very slowly, so basically: everything that is not a synonym of comfort. On the top of this, some of us were asking Mark for help (translating food names from Romanian to Hungarian, as we did not understand everything). And then, all of a sudden, he became speechless and apologized telling us that he just had a panic attack and couldn’t stand with us in the queue so we just needed to look for another restaurant. We were very sorry for him and kept asking him if he was feeling fine. And luckily, he could quickly overcome this feeling.

I guess, reading this you may think that it sounds more like panic disorder rather than OCD, but Mark later told me that it’s the obsessive thought of fainting that would normally lead him to actual panic attacks.

How To Help?

Mark does not usually show any clearly visible signs of OCD – and I think most of the people do not – so this is why we should be particularly careful with a person who has this mental disorder as it is not always easy to realize when something is not alright. We should also learn what helps the person and what does not and we will only be able to do this if we talk to our friend about their problems. I am sure there are a lot of websites that share professional advice for people who would like to know how to deal with someone who’s suffering from OCD so I will only mention a few tips that I think are helpful.

Accepting

I think it is very important to understand that OCD is a serious mental disorder and we may not always be able understand why some intrusive thoughts that are fully unrealistic for us, are extremely distressing for our friend.

Humor

Do not get me wrong – I do take OCD very seriously but in my opinion, some of the “what if..” questions are pretty funny and I think laughing can really help reduce distress and anxiety.

“What if I forget to breathe?”, “What if I will rob a bank?” , “What if I forget to speak?”

Now, let’s imagine what kind of face our grandma would make if she was asked these questions? Or imagine yourself buying a black face mask and a gun or just entering the bank and shout at people? What would that look like?

Note: Laughing has always helped Mark to keep his OCD under control, but I know this may not be the case for everyone. So, before you start using humor to help your friend cope with their OCD, it’s better to ask them how they feel about it.

Junk Mail/ Filter Not Working

Last, but not least, here is an advice from my side – for those who are suffering from OCD. I know it is not that easy but imagining that your intrusive thoughts are just junk mails that your mailbox hasn’t managed to put in the spam folder and that you just need to delete. (As I do not have OCD, I am not sure if this will work for all of you but Mark said this worked for him!)

Final Thoughts – From Mark

It is not easy to live with OCD. But our friends, family and all the people who are here to support us, make our life so much more enjoyable. So, I think it’s time to say a big thank you to all those who themselves, do not have OCD but do everything to help those who’re suffering from it.

Further Reading

Your Stories

As you know, there’s one thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

Love ❤

Amber & Mark

In Search Of Salvation – Compulsive Googling

Have you ever spent hours on Google searching the symptoms of an imaginary illness? Have you just wasted your whole weekend googling and trying to figure out whether you are a bad person? Did you stay up until long past midnight last night because you had to do an online research about the first signs of paranoid schizophrenia?

Well, if you have similar experiences, you may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Googling Disorder – now, that’s a completely made up term and I hope none of my readers will find offensive If I use it. I have been suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for most of my life and I think that the expression “Obsessive Compulsive Googling Disorder” perfectly describes one of my creepiest OCD symptoms: the excessive reassurance seeking.

Seeking Reassurance

Excessive reassurance seeking is a compulsive act done in hopes of reducing anxiety associated with an obsession. We can seek reassurance in various different ways such as talking to a friend or reading about the topic we are worried about. Honestly, I think it would be next to impossible to give you a full list of reassurance seeking habits (not even trying to) that OCD sufferers can develop but I guess you will not be surprised if I tell you that Googling is one of them. Google is one of the best places for finding information and that’s exactly why it can often become dangerous – but before talking too much about Google itself, let’s just see why people with OCD need to seek reassurance.

Why Do People With OCD Need To Seek Reassurance?

One of the main features of OCD is doubt. You are never sure if you have locked the door – and that’s why you just have to go back and check it. You think you love your boyfriend, but what if you do not? You most probably do not want to commit suicide, but what if you lose control and you end up doing it?

Living with OCD feels like having two brains. There’s a rational part of you that perfectly knows that your thoughts are not true but then, there’s the other part which keeps questioning even the most fundamental things in your life. So, at the end of the day your whole life is haunted by a terrible feeling of uncertainty. And yeah, I know you may say that nobody likes uncertainty and I agree with that. However, when you have OCD, it is more than just not liking it – you will have this constant feeling of doubt even if there’s no particular reason for you to have it and you often get the feeling that your whole life is going out of control and you just have to do something about it. And this is why you need to start seeking reassurance – and let’s be honest, what is the quickest way of doing it?

Of course, it’s Google.

Obsessive Compulsive Googling

It would be difficult to imagine a world without Google, would it not? Google makes our lives easier by giving us answers to every possible question. But unfortunately, it is not always our friend – and if you have OCD, Google can often be downright dangerous.

So what does it feel like when you’re getting lost in the labyrinth of Google searching for salvation that you will never find? Let’s take a look at a few personal stories to find out (The stories are real, but I wanted to keep them anonymous so I have changed a couple of details, such as the names.)

“Google Stories”

Google Search #1 – Do I Have HIV?

Jamie has been worried about catching HIV. He spends a few hours a day Googling the symptoms of HIV infection and the possible routes of transmission.

“A few months ago, I had sex with a guy (I really do not want to go into more details), we barely knew each other and I haven’t met him ever since. I am usually not into sex dates so I guess that’s why I started getting worried about this particular encounter. Catching HIV has always been one of my biggest fears and after meeting this guy, this fear got even worse. So I just really had to do something about it and the first thing that came into my mind was Google – I just wanted to make sure that I couldn’t possibly get infected with the virus and I started spending hours trying to find out how likely it is to catch it. Then, I also had to look for more information about the symptoms. And I can tell you that this whole Googling habit has gone out of control. Most of the results on Google are pretty reassuring but none of them can guarantee that I am not HIV positive. “

Google Search #2 – Will There Be A War?

Angela is scared of World War 3. She would never go anywhere without her smartphone because she just needs to check the news every few hours.

” I think most of us are afraid of war but in my case I really feel this whole thing went out of control. I feel a war could break out at any moment and I always need to know what is going on in the world. I know this may sound silly but I do not only do this because I just want to make sure that I do not miss anything or because I want to seek reassurance but I also have a kind of superstitious belief: I believe that if I do not check the latest news or articles about the current political situation, something terrible will happen. Lately, I haven’t been sleeping enough – I stay up late every night Googling. I know what I am doing is not healthy but I just cannot stop. Not sure if I will ever be able to.”

Google Search #3 – Am I Too Lucky?

Rachel has an amazing career – together with a nice salary. And she constantly feels guilty for that. She thinks she doesn’t deserve it.

“I feel guilty for having a better life than most of the people I know. I think I do not deserve it and I am afraid that one day I will lose everything that I have. One thing that usually makes me calmer is comparing my financial situation to other people’s finances. I spend a few hours a day googling what the average salary in my region is and how much money others earn. I always hope to find answers that reassure me that I do not earn significantly more than other people and when I manage to prove myself, that I am not way too lucky, I will feel better. On the other hand, when I find posts from people who are living in worse conditions, I will usually feel guilty and afraid that on day, God may punish me for not being graceful enough for all the things that I have in life. This whole thing is a never ending cycle.”

Google Search #4 – Do I Have Melanoma?

Now, this is my personal story. During my high school years, I used to be addicted to tanning. So, I would go to our local tanning salon a few times a week. At that time, I wasn’t particularly worried about the consequences – I just wanted to be as tanned as possible. But then a few years ago, I came across an article about the dangers of indoor tanning and for me, that meant the beginning of a new obsession. I would spend a few hours a day googling the symptoms of melanoma and I would read every single article that I could find about the subject: statistics, fatality rates, prevalence, symptoms, causes, risk factors – everything you can imagine. I couldn’t even get enough sleep because I would always prefer staying up and doing my “melanoma research”. How did the whole thing end? I realized that my obsessive googling was really going out of control and I decided to see a dermatologist and get my suspicious moles removed.”

How To Stop Compulsive Googling?

It is not an easy thing to stop Googling everything – especially if you’ve been doing it for years. Google and other search engines are all over the places, you may need to use them to complete your job or find the nearest supermarket. So I do not think any of us could exclude it from our lives but we could definitely change the way we are using it.

1. No Amount Of Reassurance Is Enough

Let’s say you spend a few hours on Google trying to find out whether you’re a bad person for having aggressive thoughts. Do you really think hours of research will convince you that you’re not? Of course, it won’t. The main issue with reassurance seeking is that sometimes no amount of reassurance is enough – which means that spending entire days googling your biggest fears and finding the most reassuring answers will not be enough for you to get rid of your anxiety and to convince yourself that everything is alright. And I think realizing this is one of the first steps that you have to take in order to overcome your “Googling obsession”.

2. The Internet Is A Scary Place

I think I do not say anything new by telling you that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. People can write whatever they want to and there’s a lot of misleading, incorrect content out there. So if you really think there’s something you should be worried about, the best thing you can do is seeking professional help (just make sure it will not lead to a new reassurance seeking habit).

3. Go For A Walk / Go Out With Your Friends

When you feel that you just cannot stop Googling, another thing that will help is going out for a walk – without your phone if possible. Or going out with your friends – it’s not a nice thing to check your phone while you’re talking to them so hopefully that will help you spend a few hours without doing your “online research”.

4. Set Yourself A Time Limit

I will be honest with you – getting rid of compulsions is not an easy thing so I do not think it’s realistic to expect that somebody who has spent a few hours a day on Google for the last couple of years, will be able to change their habits immediately. But as a first step, you can set yourself a time limit – let’s say you can only spend 20 minutes a day on Google instead of the usual one hour (just as an example).

Google Is Amazing, But We Should Use It The Right Way

I have always loved Google: it helped me prepare for my exams, learn languages and find a lot of amazing things. But it is just like any other things in life – you should never overuse it and you should use it in the right way.

Further Reading

Your Story

As you know, there is one thing that I enjoy more than sharing my story: reading yours. So, please share your personal experiences in the comment section.

Love ❤

Mark

The Face Of The Devil – Personifying Your OCD

What if I lose control and kill someone? What if I hit a pedestrian while driving? What If I start screaming or blurting out obscenities? What if I confess a crime that I did not even commit?

Reading this, you may think that I went totally crazy. But these are not my thoughts – or well, it depends on the way you look at it, because I am the one who thinks about them but not because I want to or because I like any of these ideas. I am having them because of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

A lot of people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning obsession or that it is only about being extremely organized. But believe me, it is much more than that. And it’s much scarier. However, today’s post is not about telling you what OCD is or what it is not.

If you want to read more about this subject, please check out any of these posts:
5 common misconceptions about OCD
6 types of OCD
Do I have OCD?

This time, I would like to talk about a topic that I have always found extremely interesting: Personifying OCD.

Personifying OCD is a commonly recommended technique for OCD sufferers. I have read that children were often encouraged to name their OCD as a concrete way to drive home the fact that they were separate from it.

Well, I was diagnosed with OCD in my late teens, so I cannot really tell you about my childhood experiences but one thing that I know for sure is that personifying OCD can be helpful to adult sufferers too.

How Can You Personify Your OCD?

I am not a certified therapist but I will tell you about the things that worked for me hoping that this will help some of you.

1. You Are Not Your Thoughts

I think the first and the most important thing is understanding that you are not your thoughts. A lot of us experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts – it’s hard to estimate the exact number of people who have them, but believe me, you’re definitely not alone. (I have found an article saying that there were about 6 million people in the US alone who were suffering from these disturbing thoughts.)

Now, how do you know that some of your thoughts are just not “real”? OCD sufferers often believe that they keep having certain disturbing thoughts because they unconsciously want to do the things that come into their minds. I think many of you have already had the same feeling – like, you really think that you do not actually want to set your home on fire, but what if you actually have a deep, unconscious wish for acting on your thoughts?

And we have just mentioned about one of the warning signs: What if?

If OCD was an actual person – and we’re about to personify it – I’m sure his (my OCD is a guy) favorite question would be “what if”. He just loves asking that. And when I hear him asking it, I will immediately know that there’s something wrong about my thoughts.

Another thing that helped me a lot was a question that my therapist asked me during our first meeting. It was many years ago but I will never forget that moment. I was telling her about the disturbing thoughts that I had about harming someone I loved and about my fears that I had about being a bad person who unconsciously wanted to act on his thoughts. And I was expecting her to tell me that I was insane or something like that but instead, she asked me:

Do you actually enjoy having these thoughts? Would it make you happy if you stopped having them?

I was like, yes of course, that is what I am here for. And then she told me that if I really wanted to act on these thoughts, I would enjoy having them.

And thinking about this question and realizing that I absolutely did not enjoy having these thoughts were the first steps that I took for personifying my OCD.

2. Think About Your OCD’s Personality

You are not your thoughts. And you do not even know why you are having some of your thoughts. So, now it is time to get to know the person who’s responsible for this whole thing

And well, we know it’s not a real person. It is OCD. But OCD is almost like a person.

He (yeah, I said my OCD) is:

  • Extremely attention-seeking
  • Irrational
  • Coward (He is afraid of everything)
  • Insane – and not in a good way
  • Creative – well, DEFINITELY NOT IN A GOOD WAY
  • A stalker

And I guess he wants to be my boyfriend. Like he’s the kind of guys you can never run away from.

3. Name Your OCD

Now that we know more about the annoying personality that our little OCD monster has, it is time to give it a name. My OCD did not use to have a name but then I read the story of Catherine Benfield and her OCD, called Olivia. And I thought that naming your OCD is a hilariously good idea.

My only issue is that I have never been able to find an appropriate name for my OCD, so I just started calling it “Little Demon (Démonka in my native language)”, because let’s admit – he is a real demon.

4. Imagine What Your OCD Would Look Like

Again, the story of Catherine and Olivia was an inspiration to me. As Catherine did not only name her OCD “Olivia” but she also decided to draw her.

And I have done the same. I have always thought that my OCD was a monster. A demon. The Devil himself. The biggest liar who has ever existed. A satanic creature that likes whispering scary stuff into your ears and at the same time would like to pretend that he’s your Saviour.

So, this is what I imagine my OCD to look like: (Sorry, I am not particularly good at drawing but I just wanted to share this with you)

Reading my blog, you have probably noticed that I love dark things. And probably that’s why I couldn’t really think of my “OCD” in a cute, funny way as it’s not “me” 🙂

5. Final Thoughts – Never Forget That You Are Not Your OCD

OCD is like having two brains. You know that some of your obsessions and compulsions do not make sense but you just cannot stop having them as there’s something in the background that wouldn’t let you do that. It is not like having more personalities – it feels more like spending your life with an annoying creature who just loves whispering scary stuff into your ears.

We obviously know OCD is not a person, but thinking about it as if it was one actually helps a lot.

Further Reading

Your Thoughts

As you know, there’s one more thing that I love than writing my stories: reading yours! Have you ever personified your OCD? Does he or she have a name?

Love ❤

Mark (and “Little Demon” alias Démonka who was obviously helping me write this article….)