Creativity & Mental Health – 5 Artists Who Lived With Mental Illness

“We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched”

Lord Byron

It would be difficult to imagine a world without art. Just think about what our life would be like if we did not have all the beautiful buildings in our cities, if we could not enjoy our favorite songs or if we could not spend time reading books or visiting art galleries. It would be a sad world, would it not?

I have been addicted to art ever since I was a small child and I have always enjoyed spending hours looking at paintings or exploring the art nouveau architecture of my city. Looking at masterpieces will always make me think of the amazing people who were able to create them. Art makes our lives much more enjoyable but at the end of the day, a painting is more than just a pretty image: its the artists’ tool to express themselves and it is a window to their soul. Looking at a painting will help you see the world through the artist’s eyes and I think that is one of the coolest things in the universe. And obviously, it’s pretty much the same thing with any other form of art, just think about literature – a good novel will always help you escape your reality and will take you to someone else’s magical world.

I often hear people saying that most artists are mentally ill. But are artists more susceptible to mental health issues? It is difficult to give an answer to this question even though this subject has been studied by psychologists and other researchers for centuries. There are numerous studies stating that there may be a link between mental health issues and creativity. According to Shelley Carson, a lecturer at Harvard University, the most typical symptoms commonly found among artists are substance abuse, depression, bipolar disorder and suicide. She writes in a chapter of The Shared Vulnerability Model of Creativity and Psychopathology: In general, research indicates that creative people in arts-related professions endorse higher rates of positive schizotypy than non-arts professionals.” (Source)

Now, I am not a psychology researcher so I can not tell you whether Shelley Carson’s statement is right or wrong. There are researchers who say there’s surely a link between creativity and mental health disorders while others say there is not. If you ask my personal opinion, I would say there might be. But today’s article is not about trying to find out what the truth is or trying to convince you that my opinion is right.

Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is to accept other human beings the way they are and to raise awareness of mental health disorders (as many of you may know, I’ve been suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for most of my life, so it’s an important thing for me!). So in this post, I will talk about great artists who have made the world a much more beautiful place by creating their masterpieces and whose art might have been inspired by their mental illnesses.

1. Edvard Munch – Depression, Alcoholism & Anxiety Disorders

“I was walking along the road with two of my friends. Then the sun set. The sky suddenly turned into blood, and I felt something akin to a touch of melancholy. I stood still, leaned against the railing, dead tired. Above the blue black fjord and the city hung clouds of dripping, rippling blood. My friends went on and again I stood, frightened with an open wound in my breast. A great scream pierced through nature.”

Edvard Munch – (1863 – 1944)

This was Edvard Munch’s description of the despair behind his most famous painting, The Scream. And I guess most of my readers know this painting as it is one of the world’s most iconic images. And well yes, that is also the profile picture on my blog so I do not think my little secret will surprise any of you: Edvard Munch is my favorite painter. An artist that I have always admired and I could always relate to.

Edvard Munch – The Angel Of Death

The Norwegian artist once wrote that sickness, madness, and death were the black angels that guarded his crib – his childhood was overshadowed by illness, the early loss of his mother and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in his family. He suffered from depression and from anxiety disorder – well, that is an umbrella term, but I have not been able to find out what exact anxiety disorder he had, probably because a lot less was known about psychology in his time (or it was more difficult to get a diagnosis) but based on his quotes that I have read, I think he might have had panic disorder.

Munch went through many tragedies in his life and he suffered from severe mental health problems. The story of his life is heartbreaking but at the same time, I have always found it extremely inspiring. He is an artist who could beautifully express his feelings through his paintings and who used his dark experiences to create something magical.

Further reading
The long scream of Edvard Munch (Medium.com)

Vincent Van Gogh – Bipolar Disorder, Depression & Substance Abuse

“I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head…At times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Vincent van Gogh – Starry Sky

Who does not know Vincent van Gogh? His sunflowers and starry nights. Or the story about his ear. The Dutch painter was plagued by psychiatric illnesses throughout his life. Evidence suggests that he had manic depression (currently known as bipolar disorder), a chronic mental illness that affects many creative people. (Source)

Furthermore, there are theories suggesting that his preference for certain colors – such as his famous yellow – was also influenced by some medical condition. But this is a question that we will probably never be able to answer as the artist did not get a proper diagnosis during his tragically short life – he committed suicide at the age of 37.

Why did he cut his ear? He cut off his left ear after having a fight with his friend, Paul Gauguin, a fellow painter with whom he had been working for a while in Arles. It was an act of unconsciousness as later he could not recall anything about the event.

Vincent vsn Gogh – Sunflowers

And one more thing about this topic that I feel I just have to tell you. I find it extremely tragic that the “ear story” is the first thing that a lot of people will think of when they hear van Gogh’s name. I know I may sound hypocritical as I have just shared this story but we have to bear in mind that my blog is about mental health issues so I think it’s safe place to talk about such topics. However, I really think that Vincent van Gogh should be remembered for the fabulous landscapes he had painted and for his beautiful colors that can make everyone of us happy. He never received recognition in his lifetime and he committed suicide at a young age because he thought he’d been a complete failure. I do believe there’s life after death and I hope that somewhere, this amazing artist knows how much the world adores his work.

Further reading:
– Creativity and Chronic Disease – Vincent van Gogh (Paul Wolf)

Paul Gauguin – Depression, Anxiety Disorder & Substance Abuse

“Civilization is what makes you sick.”

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903)

Civilization is what makes you sick – I just love this quote from Paul Gauguin and while I have always been a “big city boy”, I can totally relate to him. The French artist tried to run away from himself and try to find peace at the other side of the world, but he had to realize that his problems would follow him everywhere. And I think this is something that a lot of us have experienced. But in Gauguin’s case, his “escape” to Tahiti resulted in amazing works of art.

Paul Gauguin – Parau api

For Gauguin, painting was a way of coping with his anxiety attacks and depression. And his art did not only help him deal with his mental problems but enjoying them helps all of us escape from our daily reality and see the world through different lenses. I have always loved the exotic atmosphere of his colorful paintings – there’s just something magical about them.

Paul Gauguin – Mahana no atua (Day of the God)

Paul Gauguin went through a lot of suffering and he spent the last of his days in prison for political activism (he took the side of the islanders against the French colonialists). Weakened by excessive drinking, improper nourishment, and an overdose of morphine to treat the syphilis, Gauguin died of a heart attack at 54 years old.

Further reading:
The Narcissist Who Painted Himself As A Yellow Christ (I do not particularly agree with this article but I do think reading about different points of view is important, that’s why I’m sharing it πŸ™‚ )

Richard Dadd – Paranoid Schizophrenia

“Go and tell the great God Osiris that I have done the deed which is to set him free.”

Richard Dadd (1817 – 1886)

Note: Reading about Richard Dadd’s life can be an OCD trigger.

Richard Dadd’s first psychotic episode came whilst on a boat on the river Nile, where he thrashed around wildly and believed himself to have been taken mentally hostage by the ancient Egyptian God Osiris. Upon returning home to England, he began to believe that his father was the Devil, resulting him stabbing his parent to death, feeling to France and attempting to kill a tourist. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital (the famous “Bedlam”) where he created many of his famous masterpieces.

Looking at Richard Dadd’s paintings, it’s hard to believe that the artist actually painted them while spending over 20 years at a mental hospital. Paul Gauguin tried to escape from his problems and moved to another continent, while Richard Dadd did not have such an option – so instead, he escaped to a fantastic world of fairies.

Further reading:
Richard Dadd: madness and beauty (The Telegraph)

Louis Wain – Schizophrenia

“Intelligence in the cat is underrated.”

Louis Wain (1860 – 1939)

I have always loved cats – I think they are absolutely amazing so I guess it does not come as a surprise that I love Louis Wain’s cat paintings.

Louis Wain – Ginger Cat

The artist married at a young age, but his wife was struck down by a fatal illness. Peter, the black-and-white cat that the couple got as a wedding gift would usually sit on the ill wife’s bed and Louis would sketch and caricature the cat to amuse his love. – I have always found this story beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

After his wife’s death, Louis Wain found himself experiencing the growing symptoms of schizophrenia and used his art as a way of expression (just like the other artists in this list.) So that is how his beautiful cat paintings came into life. For me, the most amazing thing about Louis Wain’s art is that despite the fact that he painted millions of cats, every single work of art he created has it’s own atmosphere and even it’s particular style.

Further reading:
Louis Wain’s Schizophrenic Cats (Schizlife.com)

People who have made the world more beautiful

The stories of these artists may be sad, but their artwork has brought joy to many of us over the years. It is not easy to live with a mental disorder but art is a great way of coping with your problems. And it’s not only about dealing with your own issues but also helping others. The artists in this list would have never thought that one day, their paintings will help millions of people and that they will be an inspiration to all of us.

Your thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts in the comment section πŸ™‚

Further Reading

When Your Brain Is Drained – OCD & Mental Exhaustion

Have you ever felt emotionally drained or had the impression that your problems are impossible to overcome? Have you ever had the feeling that you do not care about anything anymore and you’re just way too tired to do things that you used to enjoy?

Well, I guess most of us have had similar feelings as mental exhaustion can happen to anyone who experiences long-term stress – just think about the way you feel after a long, stressful workday. And apart from stress, there are many other reasons behind mental fatigue but in today’s post I will only talk about the one that has always had the greatest impact on my life: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Now, if you google OCD, you will see that mental exhaustion is not mentioned on the list of OCD symptoms. And I guess we cannot even say that this feeling (or state of mind or I do not even know how to call it) is an actual sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, it’s definitely something that most OCD sufferers experience from time to time.

But before starting to talk about OCD and how it can totally drain your brain, let’s take a look at the signs of mental exhaustion.

Signs Of Mental Exhaustion

Mental fatigue has a wide range of symptoms which may include:

  • Apathy (feeling of not caring)
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Impatience and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating / inability to focus
  • Decline in productivity
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach (I honestly did not know this could be a sign of mental exhaustion but now it all makes sense!)
  • Poor performance
  • Social isolation

Well yeah – with mental fatigue, a lot of things can happen to you and most of them are far from being pleasant. I have always been a very social person but sometimes I feel that I just do not have the energy to talk to other people. And I have always enjoyed writing but it’s pretty difficult to put a great article together when your brain is completely drained. If you have ever been mentally exhausted I think you know the feeling when all you want to do is laying down on your bed and watching Netflix. Even though you know you have a lot of work and an insane amount of tasks to complete, you are just not motivated enough to do them. Anyways, I am not here to complain, I just wanted to give a more personal insight to what mental exhaustion can feel like.

As you might have noticed, I did not publish too many posts in the last couple of weeks and one of the main reasons behind this was my totally drained brain. Now, do not get me wrong. I really do not want to blame it all on my OCD because this time it’s mainly because I am pretty much “over-committed”. You know, I have always found it difficult to say “no” when other people ask for my help so….here I am. Drowning in the ocean of tasks. Anyways, let’s get back to the topic and see how OCD can lead to mental fatigue.

OCD – Your Annoying Friend

Spending time alone is something that all of us needs. Now if you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this is a privilege you can rarely enjoy as your friend, OCD is always there with you. I guess if OCD was an actual person, he would be the most annoying human being you have ever met. Sometimes I wish OCD was only like a crazy ex-boyfriend or something because then, I would be able to get a restraining order and this whole thing would be over but obviously life is not as simple as that.

Just imagine how tiring it could be to spend your days with the most annoying person you can think of and I guess you can kind of see how exhausting living with OCD can be. And if not – let me just share my story with you. Do not think of a very special story – it’s just a day with OCD.

Just Another Day With OCD

That terrible alarm wakes me up. I am not a morning person, I have never been one and I will probably never be one. But I have a job so I have no other choice. I open my eyes and I am kind of fighting for my life. Every morning is like that. The first thing I do is checking my hair. I just have to make sure that I haven’t gone completely bald – that’s one of my biggest fears and I have already started losing hair. And this makes me feel anxious. I just feel that I am ugly and that I look much older than I actually am and I can not stop touching my receding hairline because I feel that I have to do it. It’s a kind of compulsion that my OCD forces me to do. And obviously, it is not the most useful compulsion as it makes my hair fall out even more.

I usually spend about ten minutes checking my hair and then I start to put myself together. Taking a shower. Getting dressed. Making a coffee. And drinking my coffee. Speaking about coffee: it’s another “morning danger”. Not the drink itself or the caffeine in it but the gas stove. What if I forget to turn it off? And what if it will explode? So I obviously need to check a few times that I really turned the stove off. By few times I mean at least 3 times…or 5 times. Depends on my mood.

I am preparing to leave for work but it’s not as simple. First of all, I just need to make sure that I have really locked the door. Exactly 10 times. It used to be 3 but I felt it wasn’t enough so I have raised it to 10. Much better, is it not?

Going to work is not easy either. There are a lot of things on the way that one can be concerned about. Afraid of. Obsessed with. What if I lose my mind of 2 seconds and attack a random person in the street? What if I just want to get naked or do something crazy? What if I want to throw myself under the tube train? All of the usual what if questions that my friend OCD loves asking me. I try to ignore them but it’s not that easy. There are too many what if questions. And some of them can feel very convincing.

Such as throwing myself under the tube train. Sometimes I really feel that I want to do it. And not because I want to but…because I do not even know. I know that I do not want to commit suicide but I just feel that weird urge to do it. It’s the same feeling what I’ll get when I walk over a bridge or when I am on the top of a high building.

Anyways. I get to the office and it’s a place full of opportunities. Opportunities for growth but also opportunities for new and extreme fears and obsessions. What if I insult someone? I do not want to but what if I do? What if I make a mistake and they will fire me? Of course that just should not happen so better to be safe than sorry. Let me check my sent emails a few times a day. Just to make sure there are no grammar mistakes in them and that I didn’t say anything crazy to anyone. Let me ask some people for feedback. You know. Making sure I am good at the things I am doing.

And then there’s that constant fear of fainting. I do not know why I am afraid of fainting and I have never fainted in my whole life but…I am still afraid of it. It’s just so scary when you lose control. One thing that helps me calm down is checking my hair. But again, that’s like a vicious cycle. I do not want my hair to fall out but it’s me who is making it fall out so well…that’s totally insane.

Well, finished at work. Having a couple drinks with my friends. Everything would be perfect if I could just stop thinking about my life for a second. But my OCD would never leave me alone. Most of the people I know are in happy relationships and here I am. 27 years old and have been single for most of my life. And no savings either. I feel guilty for having wasted my life and I feel guilty for not having enjoyed my life enough. Again…like a cycle of insanity. I usually spend all my money on useless stuff and then I feel guilty for having absolutely no money. And the same thing happens again, sitting at the bar, drinking with people I love but just..constantly thinking about all the crazy stuff I’ve been doing for most of my life.

And yeah..I guess it’s been pretty tiring to read this so you can totally imagine how tired my brain is by the time I get home. And I try to fall asleep but I can not. I just keep thinking about all the things I could be worried about and all the stuff I can feel guilty for. The only things that can calm me down are a book, a bottle of wine and crazy TV shows. It’s 3 am and I can finally fall asleep..pretty late I know and that’s probably one of the reasons why I always find it extremely challenging to get up in the morning. Anyways, good night!

How To Fight Mental Exhaustion?

Okay. I do not want to sound hypocritical because I have just finished writing an article about how “dead my brain was”. So I obviously cannot say that I am an expert when it comes to overcome mental exhaustion, however there are a few things that actually helped me.

1. Exercise
– Exercising does help a lot! And there are so many things that you can do. Everyone has their favorite forms of exercise – for example I love hiking, running or just walking in a city. And since the summer is here, I have been trying to spend as much time walking around the city and going for long hikes as possible

2. Reading a good book
– Sometimes it’s good to escape reality. And reading a book is a perfect way to do that! πŸ™‚

3. Do not spend too much time on your phone
– We often do not realize how much time we spend on our phones and it’s definitely not good. I have been feeling so much better since I started cutting down on my phone usage.

4. Get more sleep
– That surely helps and that’s something I will need to be working on. We all know that we feel much better after a good long night sleep but well….it is not always so easy to go to bed early.

5. Art
– Another thing that helps me a lot to deal with my mental exhaustion is art. Painting, drawing, writing – or just enjoying what other people have already created and going to a gallery.

5. Seek professional help
– I am just a guy who likes sharing his OCD experiences with the world but I am not a professional therapist. So if you feel that your mental exhaustion or your OCD is out of control, the best thing you can do is seeing a professional.

Due to the pandemic situation, a lot of things have gone online – including therapy. I have recently come across this website that I think may help some of my readers πŸ™‚ ( It helps people struggling with different mental illnesses find a therapist.)
https://www.consumersadvocate.org/online-therapy

Further Reading

Your Experiences

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. Please share your OCD stories/ opinions in the comment section! πŸ™‚

Obsessive Comparison: OCD & Social Media

#love #beautiful #happy #like4like #fashion #foodporn #travelling

Some of the most popular hashtags and I think they perfectly show what social media is like and what challenges it has for all of us. For people who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (just like I do), for those who have other mental disorders – and even for those who do not have any mental health issues.

I grew up on social media and I think I will never be able to completely stop using it. I know it is not always the best place for me as it can sometimes be a place full of hate and superficiality but on the other hand, there are times when social media can be a real blessing as it can help you connect with your loved ones and at the end of the day, I think social media is a part of our modern life and it is not something that we can simply ignore.

And that is why I have decided to write a post about the negative side of social media and about how it can impact the mental health of someone who is suffering from OCD. For me it’s just the perfect time to talk about it because I have been spending a crazy long time on Facebook ever since the lockdown began and for the last few weeks I have been analyzing myself and I’ve been trying to find what are the biggest mistakes someone with OCD can make while using social media. So just keep reading if you want to see the conclusions I have arrived to! πŸ™‚

Comparing Yourself To Your Friends Or Acquiantances

Your Instagram feed is full of glamorous and apparently happy and successful people who post pictures of their honeymoon or their latest business trip while you are sitting at home and having a cup of coffee (or in my case a glass of wine), wearing an ugly pair of trousers and your favorite old sweater. And you just keep wondering about what you have done wrong and you can not stop thinking that you are a loser.

I guess comparing ourselves to others is something that most of us do. So please do not think it is a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD starts when this “comparing habit” becomes an obsession. Something that you just cannot stop thinking about or cannot stop doing. And well, we have to admit that when it comes to comparisons, social media is just the perfect tool that allows you to compare yourself to others. It’s available 24/7 and you can spend hours checking your never-ending newsfeed and looking at your friends’ pictures while asking yourself why you could not be as successful as they are, as beautiful as they are…or as rich as they are.

And please do not get me wrong. The feeling that I have just written about is not envy. It is not like..you want all those people on your Instagram to be completely miserable. It’s closer to self-loathing. You just hate yourself for being lazy and for not being able to make your dreams come true or for not exercising enough so that you would get the perfect body you have always dreamed of.

But There’s One Thing We Often Forget About

People on social media usually show their best face. Now, just think about yourself. When you post a new picture, you will normally pick one where you think you look nice or at least acceptable. And most of us prefer sharing positive experiences such as going on holidays or having a nice dinner with our friends.

And at the end of the day, you never know the background. You will never know how many hours that perfectly looking person spent on taking that amazing picture in front of the Notre-Dame and you will never know how they felt at that moment. I can just talk about myself: I look completely miserable in most of my pictures because I just hate smiling so if you look at my Facebook, you will surely think that this guy is totally desperate but I am not. It is just my style.

And apart from the fact that the people on your social media feed are not as perfect as they look to be…..

Why do you care?

I mean..let’s suppose you’re less successful than many other people you know but why should anyone care about comparisons?

When you have OCD, it can be extremely difficult to stop thinking about your obsessions. And that’s why it’s better for you to try to stop comparing yourself to others as soon as you notice you’re doing it. I know, it’s easier said than done but we all know what a vicious circle OCD is.

First of all, everything depends on the way you look at things. Nobody is perfect so there are things you are better at and things that you are not too good at and that’s perfectly normal. No human being is better or worse than another one. We are all at the same level, we are just different and telling yourself that you are a failure just does not make sense. And it will especially not make sense when your opinion is based on social media.

Furthermore, would you be happier if you were much more successful than others? Honestly, I do not think so. Or well, I guess it depends on person but now I’m talking about my experiences – as someone who has OCD – and what I have noticed is that when I am happier than others, I will often feel guilty for being happy while other people are suffering so my final conclusion is really that comparisons just do not make sense. The only person you need to compare yourself to is you! All of us have achieved great things in our lives and we should not forget about that. Just think about who you were a few years ago and who you are now: I think in most of the cases, people will grow stronger as the time passes.

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others?

Now, I hope that the points I made above will help some of you. What I usually do is just telling myself that I’m a much better person than I was back in the past and that instead of comparing myself to others I need to compare myself to who I was in the past. And if this does not work and your comparing obsession “goes out of control”, I think the best thing you can do is taking a break from social media. What I have noticed is that Instagram has a particularly bad effect on my mental health and I have stopped using it completely.

Do not get me wrong, I really do not want to create a negative publicity – I am just being honest. For me, Instagram is the social media platform that will always make me feel bad. It’s not just about comparing myself to others because that’s something that I try not to do but….the whole “atmosphere”, the superficiality and the meaninglessness. But I guess all of us are different and everyone can find a social media platform that works for them! πŸ™‚ So if you have any favorites, please share them in the comment section together with your thoughts/ social media experiences!

Further Reading

Where Is Mark?

My first post after almost a month. And first of all, I would like to thank all of my readers who were missing me and in some cases, messaged me asking if everything had been alright. It’s such an amazing feeling to see that there are people out there who care about where you are and what you are doing ❀

And I am glad to tell you, that everything is alright. And I think I owe you an apology. It’s not a nice thing to disappear for so long and I am not even trying to find excuses. Especially that nothing special has happened in my life – so I guess this will probably be one of the most boring articles that I have ever written but I think I just have to write about my last 3 weeks before I post any other article. So why did I disappear?

A Lot Of Work

Yes, I have a lot of work to do at the moment and I think I am extremely lucky. One of my biggest fears is losing my job and thanks for God, it has not happened. On the contrary – I have been literary drowning in work and I am not complaining about that. But after finishing my shift, I just feel that I have no more energy or motivation to do anything. Especially that I have to study a lot in order to fulfill some of the new requirements, such as speaking German. But fortunately, things are now getting back to normal and I really hope I will have much more time to work on my blog ❀

P.S: One extremely positive thing about having a lot of work is that I do not have too much time to worry about others things. I am not sure if this has ever happened to you but I really have the impression that keeping myself busy helps me a lot in fighting my OCD.

Writer’s Block

Yeah…the famous writer’s block. And honestly, I do not think that I have run out of topics to write about but sometimes I get the feeling that I am just not good enough. Not sure if it has to do anything to do with my OCD, but I may have to. In the last few weeks, whenever I started writing a post, I would just get the feeling that it was not good enough or it was way too depressing and I finally decided not to publish it. When I heard about writer’s block, I did not think it would ever happen to me but it finally did and it’s a strange feeling. Like…..lack of self-confidence and lack of inspiration or the combination of the two. Anyways, thanks for God, I think this feeling is finally over and I cannot wait to publish a few new posts.

Spending A Lot More Time With Family And Friends

If you have been reading my blog for some time, I am sure you have noticed that I am a very social person and this whole lockdown made me even more social if we can say that. For the last few months, I have had to work from home which is a pretty challenging thing for me as I just love being around people, going for a coffee break, having some chat and going for a few drinks after work.

Now these are things that I have not been able to do for the last 3 months and that’s why I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to my friends on the phone or lately, going for long walks. And well, a week ago, my country (Hungary) eased the restrictions and last week I was finally able to go out with some of my friends which was a truly amazing thing.

This whole crisis has taught me to appreciate a lot more the things that I have and I really hope I will not go back to “my normal self” who takes a lot of things for granted.

Break-Up

I started dating someone back in January. And a few weeks ago, we broke up. It was a pretty short relationship but I’m a very emotional person and it was obviously not an easy thing to go through.

I Promise Myself

Writing a few words about how I spent my last few weeks made me realize how much I love writing so I promise myself that I will never stop doing it for so long.

How Have You Been?

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please tell me about how you’ve been lately in the comment section! πŸ™‚

Blessings & Thank you very much for reading ❀

Mark

Coping with OCD at work

Has it ever happened to you that you just had to check your sent emails to make sure you had not written anything stupid to anyone?

Well, I guess many of us might have had similar worries but it does not mean that all of us are a “little bit OCD“. Simply because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – as you can see it in its name – is a mental disorder. So, it is something that you either have or you do not.

But what does having OCD feel like? Well, it’s pretty complicated to explain and I have been sharing my personal experiences ever since I started this blog. And in today’s article, I will talk about how OCD can impact your life at work.

First of all, I have to admit that I am in a pretty lucky position because many of my co-workers know that I have OCD and I can tell you that all of them have been extremely understanding. So, I have not really faced any kind of discrimination. Like, there are people who tell me things such as:

“Oh, I would have never thought you had OCD..you just look perfectly normal”

And I know this could be pretty offensive, but I think the reason why people say such things is that they do not exactly know what OCD is and not because they want to hurt you. So, I really do not blame them for that. Like…before my OCD diagnosis, I did not use to know what OCD was either.

Anyways…back to the topic.

What does it feel like to “work with OCD”?

I would like to share my own experiences with you – as someone who has been suffering from OCD for the last decade. Now, obviously we are all different so I really do not want to give you the impression that everyone who has OCD faces the same problems as I do but I have done a little bit of research on the internet and I’ve seen that there are quite a few people out there whose thoughts, feelings, worries and compulsions are pretty similar to mine.

Compulsive checking – better feel safe than sorry

Well, I guess it’s perfectly normal to double-check your PowerPoint presentation before sending it over to your manager. But OCD sufferers can take this “checking habit” to a whole new level. Like, when I send an email, I will just need to check it a few times to make sure that there are not grammar mistakes in it. And not only because I am a perfectionist but simply because my OCD forces me to do that.

Like, what if there’s a horrible grammar mistake in my mail and the people receiving it will think that I am not professional enough? Or that I am uneducated and that I am not good enough for this job?

And it’s not only about the grammar in my emails or presentations but also about many other mistakes I could have possible made.

For example, when I was working for an airline I was terribly afraid of booking the wrong flight for our customers. Like what if they wanted to travel to London, UK and I booked it for London, Canada instead? So, I would obviously need to check the booking a few times just to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid.

In the most extreme cases, I could even end up listening to my own call recordings. Just to make sure I haven’t said anything incorrect or stupid. Now, I know it’s pretty crazy..and may even be a little bit hilarious. And don’t get me wrong. I know that the things I do are not rational but that’s what OCD is like.

Reassurance seeking – am I good enough?

OCD is like a little monster that sites on your shoulder and whispers terrifying things into your ears. Like a negative inner voice that never wants to leave you alone. And one of the worrying things that this voice loves telling you is that you are not good enough. Now, of course you could tell yourself that it’s not true: you have a lot of experience, you are doing a great job and so on.

But one of the main features of OCD is doubt. So, even if you know that you are doing a perfect job. How could you be so sure? What if your OCD voice is right and you are a complete failure?

Now, this is when you just need to start seeking reassurance. In my case, this reassurance seeking means constantly asking for feedback. At the moment, I am in a pretty luck position – I do not want to go into details about my current job but I get a lot of feedback from the people I work together with (It’s part of the process). And receiving feedback is the favorite part of my job because it just helps me calm down and helps me convince myself that I am doing a good job. But sometimes, I have the feeling that the feedback I receive is not enough (believe me, rationally thinking, it is perfectly sufficient but try to explain this to my OCD). So, I will just start chasing people for even more.

Do they think I am a complete lunatic? Well, maybe..yes. I am that workoholic guy who is constantly worried about his performance. But do people judge me for doing this? Honestly, I do not think so.

Catastrophic Predictions – what if the world falls apart?

The reason why OCD people repeatedly check things or act on their compulsions is not because they like doing it but because they are worried a potential disaster.

In my case, this potential disaster is losing my job. Like what if I make a mistake and I will get fired? And what if I will never be able to find another job? What if I will be unemployed forever? What if I will end up in the streets?

And it goes on. If you have OCD, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is starting an conversation with your “inner OCD voice”. My piece of advice to all of my readers is trying not to answer your “what if” questions because it is like a loop. A never-ending story. Even if you give a perfect answer to one of those “what if” questions, another one will soon appear.

Intrusive thoughts – what If I go crazy and do something insane?

A lot of people think that OCD is a kind of cleaning disorder. Or that it’s only about repeated checking. But Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is much more complicated than that.

OCD sufferers have intrusive thoughts: unwanted thoughts, impulses or mental images that cause significant anxiety and stress. And these intrusive thoughts include a lot of things – honestly, I think it would be impossible to give you a full list of what these thoughts could possibly be but let me give you a few examples:

  • what if I push someone off the stairs?
  • what if I start shouting obscenities in the middle of a meeting?
  • what if I throw my computer out of the window?

As you see, some of these thoughts look pretty crazy. And that’s the reason why they are so distressing. In most of the cases, you know your thoughts are irrational and you know you do not want to act on them. But do not forget: OCD used to be called the “doubting disease” and for a good reason. Because there’s always that “what if”.

Difficulty Concentrating – Mental Exhaustion

After reading all this, are you even surprised mental exhaustion is on my list?

People with OCD spend a lot of time worrying about their thoughts or performing their compulsions and this can lead to mental exhaustion. Sometimes, it’s just difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks because you’re just worried about not having locked the door or about any other terrifying thought (see above.)

Now, the severity of OCD varies from person to person. It can be mild, moderate and severe. But as we talk about a disorder, it’s having a huge impact on the sufferers life regardless its severity.

Procrastination – Lazy or anxious?

For many people, procrastination is perceived as pure laziness but I do not agree with that. Procrastination does not mean that you do not want to do anything – you just avoid a certain task.

And the reason why you avoid that particular task may be that you’re anxious about it and you just feel that you wouldn’t be able to complete it the way it’s supposed to be completed. So basically, you’re afraid of failure. Now I think a lot of people have this feeling and it’s not something specific to OCD but I still wanted to include it in my list.

Saying “Yes” – to Everything

I think assertive communication is one of the most important skills to learn for those who are suffering from anxiety disorders. Why? Because many of us are afraid of “saying no”. And do not get me wrong – honestly, I do not think it’s something specific to those who have OCD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder but it’s a pretty common thing.

I have always found it extremely difficult to say “no”. So I tend to say “yes” to every single request I receive even if I know I do not necessarily have the time for it. What’s the reason behind this habit? I guess I am afraid of hurting others or I’m concerned that other people will think I am not helpful or friendly enough.

What helped me to manage my anxiety at work?

Your OCD experiences

As you know there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories. Please share your OCD stories/experiences and tips in the comment section!

Mark

Peace At The Bottom Of A Bottle – OCD & Alcohol

About 30% of people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) have had a substance use disorder at some point of their lives. This is nearly double the rate of the general population. And I am pretty sure most of us can guess what the most commonly used addictive substance is: yes, it’s alcohol!

So, in today’s article I will try to explore why a lot of OCD sufferers turn to alcohol and I will share some of my personal experiences as I have had alcohol problems ever since my late teens.

Why Does OCD Increase The Risk Of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol Abuse As A Response To OCD

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is “self-medicating”. And I can tell you this from my own experience. First of all, I need to tell you that I did not start to self-medicate with alcohol because I thought it would solve my issues or because I did not want to see a therapist. My OCD started in my teenage years and honestly, at that time I did not use to know what it was as I had not yet been diagnosed so I used to call it “my insanity”. Okay, I know – this doesn’t sound alright but I have been suffering from this disorder for over a decade so believe me, I would be the last person on earth to ever make fun of it or ever call someone with OCD “insane” but in my late teens I really believed that I was just going insane.

Anyways, going back to the alcohol topic. I will probably never forget the first time I got tipsy – and not because it was that horrible but on the contrary: it was an absolutely amazing feeling. It would just help me forget about my horrifying intrusive thoughts, about my crazy obsessions and about my anxiety. It just felt like…a way out if you see what I mean. Cause at the end of the day, what does OCD feel like? It’s like a maze..or like a vicious cycle that you just can not break. Never ending waves of terrifying thoughts that you just can not run away from. And many of these thoughts are so bizarre that you’re just afraid to talk about them and you may even be scared to seek professional help because “what if they think you’re insane and what if you’ll need to spend the rest of your life at a mental hospital?”

So there I was: a teenager who thought he was going crazy and who did not know that the best solution would be to see a therapist. But there was one thing I knew: that being tipsy was a great feeling. So what do you think I did?

Well, you guessed that right. I started drinking. At the beginning of my addiction, I did not drink everyday – I would only drink when I felt stressed or worried about something. But then it soon started to go out of control and I just descended into alcoholism. Soon, I ended up drinking every single day. And I am not talking about having a glass of wine in the evening. No, drinking everyday actually meant downing a bottle of wine every single day of the year.

At this point, you may ask if I am still having a bottle of wine a day and I am glad to tell you that the answer is no. But I would be lying if I told you that I managed to overcome my addiction. Sometimes it comes back. Not the way it used to, but I do not want to be hypocritical and say that it’s over. Especially nowadays because of this whole lockdown situation. But I am trying to keep it under control as much as I can and I am getting better and better at it – and I will share a few techniques that work for me at the end of this post! πŸ™‚

But first of all…let’s look at the second reason why alcohol abuse is more prevalent among OCD sufferers. And this reason is more like a theory that I’ve read about on the internet and in a few books so I’d rather…just present it as a question:

Does OCD And Alcohol Addiction Share A Common Cause?

Well yes, I am not sure whether there’s any actual proof that could support this theory but honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true as if you just think about OCD compulsions: people who’re suffering from this disorder usually have rituals (sometimes these are not even obvious as there are so-called “mental rituals”) that they just have to do.

Performing these rituals will just make them feel safe – and if you have OCD, you will probably know what I am talking about. It’s like when you just have to make sure that you’ve really locked the door or that you’ve really turned the gas stove off. Or sometimes the reason behind these rituals can be a kind of magical thinking. When you just need to blink exactly 3 times to protect your loved ones from a disaster.

So yes. I am really looking forward to finding more research data on this topic. But the logic behind this whole idea kind of made sense to me. Like I do not necessarily think that drinking is a compulsion – but having OCD can potentially make you more susceptible to addictions.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make OCD Worse?

Yes, it definitely does. Alcohol is a kind of sedative that affects the central nervous system. So drinking can actually reduce your stress and after a few glasses of wine, you will surely feel more relaxed and less worried but believe me, everything will get worse when you start sobering up. Not only because of having a hangover but because your fears will just seem to be more terrifying when you no longer feel the effects of alcohol.

How To Cut Down On Drinking?

Well, as you see I wrote “cut down” and not “stop drinking”. Why? Because I think it’s a better idea to do it “gradually”. I have already tried to suddenly stop drinking and in my case it was not really working as the withdrawal symptoms made my OCD much much worse. And when my OCD got worse, I would just start drinking again – and even more. Again, as I said earlier I am not an expert but what I worked for me was gradually cutting down on alcohol.

Things That Help Me (May Help You) Cut Down On Drinking

There are a lot of websites and book that share helpful tips to stop drinking. For instance, I have found this article pretty helpful 11 ways to curb your drinking (Harvard Medical School).

So I do not think that I could give you better pieces of advice than psychologists or university professors. That’s why instead of sharing general tips, I’d rather tell you about a few specific things that helped me cut down on drinking.

1. Tonic Water

Okay….I know…Do not freak out. I know it’s absolutely insane to tell people that tonic water can help them cut down on their alcohol consumption but for some reason, it did help me. I do not only like the way alcohol makes me feel but I also like the taste of it and enjoy the “process of drinking”. And maybe it’s just me, but I do think that tonic water tastes like alcohol. And you can drink it from a stylish glass with ice cubes. So it’s just a perfect alcohol replacement drink.

2. Keep yourself busy

Again, not sure if it’s just me but I do have the impression that when you’re bored, you’ll be much more likely to start drinking. So, why not going for a hike or visiting a museum (virtually, if your country is under lockdown – like mine)

3. Spending time on skincare

Reading this, you will think that I am crazy…or drunk (I am not). What does skincare have to do with alcohol addiction? In my case, spending time on skincare actually helps me forget about alcohol because I just feel much more relaxed after a peel. And also because I have always been a vain person (the dirty secrets of Mark…) and the idea of having beautiful skin keeps me motivated to cut down on alcohol.

4. Spending “alcohol money” on other things

Another thing that can keep me motivated to drink less is thinking about how much money I actually spend on alcohol and what other things I could spend that money on. Things such as traveling – which is my biggest addiction.

Your thoughts

As you know, there’s one thing that I enjoy more than writing my stories: reading yours. So please share your thoughts and your own tips to cut down on drinking in the comment section! πŸ™‚

Further Reading

How The Mainstream Media Sold Our Mental Health For Clicks

The world is on the verge of collapse. Thousands of deaths, collapsing economies and eternal lockdowns. Life will never be the same as it was before COVID19 and we will never go back to normal. Never ever.

Sounds like a paragraph from a dystopian novel. But it is not. These were just a few headlines from the mainstream media. And believe me, I really did not want to write about the media – I started my blog to help people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, especially from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – however, today I feel that I just can not keep silent any longer. Or I just do not want to keep silent any longer, I don’t know.

I really do not want to generalize and I do think that the majority of journalists are good people who just want to help us with the information they share, however, I think that what has been happening in the mainstream media for the last couple of weeks is simply disgusting. Yes, I know this might be a strong word but I do think it is disgusting. Or we could say it’s outrageous. Or irresponsible. Whichever you like more. Again, I would like to emphasize that I do appreciate the work most of the journalists are doing – but I would like to address this article to the ones who are spreading panic without even thinking about the effects it may have on other people.

So, as many of my readers know I have had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) for most of my life. And I perfectly know what it feels like to be paralyzed with fear and how dangerous it can be to spend your whole life worrying about literary everything. And this is exactly why I feel sad when I see that the mainstream media is fueling panic instead of providing helpful and reliable information to the people who would really need it.

And I know that the things I am going to say will not make me popular. I know that some people may call me totally irresponsible or they will say that blaming media is absolutely unfair. Or some will say that we should not bury our heads in the sand.

So where to start….At the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, I thought that the mainstream media was spreading fear because they wanted to act responsibly and they just wanted to make sure people were aware of the risk and taking care of themselves. Was I right? Honestly, no idea. I might have been naive. But what I know for sure is that since then, the media’s fear-mongering has totally gone out of control.

We all know that the situation is dire but most of the news websites and TV channels just refuse to help us. Instead of giving helpful information from reliable sources and presenting facts, they have decided to sacrifice our mental health for more views. The scarier the title, the better. The more shocking news you share, the better. Again, a few weeks ago this behavior was kind of understandable: people had to be informed about the risks so that they would take this whole thing seriously. But then, the world went on lockdown, there’re millions of people all around the world who are not allowed to leave their homes and many others who self-isolate on a voluntary basis. I do not know what it is like in your cities, but I can tell you that most of the people I know are terribly afraid of the virus and they do behave responsibly.

So, at this point, one would really expect the media to be…let’s say a little bit more encouraging. Maybe they could share more positive news about the people who have recovered from the disease or facts about the slowing pandemic. They could help people see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially that people have started spending much more time consuming media content since the lockdown began. Like if you have to stay at home for a long time, you will be much more likely to start watching TV or read the news.

But of course, positive news are not that valuable. Negative headlines do much better than positive ones. Guess that’s just human nature – most of us are more likely to check an article with a shocking headline. And views mean money. But how much money? Well, It really depends on platform I guess but one single click is definitely not worth a lot of money – it’s probably worth much less than a dollar.

Reading a fear-mongering article about a potential apocalypse may give you a sleepless night – and it will earn the media a few cents.

Now, let’s not live in denial. I do not want to say that they actually sell your mental health for a few cents because there’s truth in what they say. I do not believe in conspiracy theories especially that I do know people who have experienced the tragedy of this illness. But for some reason the mainstream media prefers fear-mongering over presenting facts or sharing a dialogue between experts. I am not a scientist so I really do not want to give examples, but what I have noticed is that if an expert from a prestigious university says that the death rate of COVID19 could be lower than we previously thought, the media will not spend too much time on reporting about it – they prefer sharing someone else’s shocking ideas: about scary symptoms, skyrocketing death rate and catastrophic predictions. Optimistic news soon disappear in your newsfeed and gloomy prophecies will start taking over.

And then, fear is not enough. There should be hate! We have to find a scapegoat – people we can blame for this whole crisis. And the mainstream media turns against its own creatures: people who do not panic enough. They are the new villains who’re depicted as monsters, enemies of our society who only care about themselves and who are a dangerous threat to all of us. They live in denial and they endanger other people with their irresponsible behavior. Now, I am not one of these people because believe me, I am in panic. But do I think we should be angry at those who are a little bit “more relaxed” or live in denial? I do not think they are the only ones to blame – they are this way because they do not trust the media anymore. Can we really say that they are bad people? At this point, I guess many of you want to stop reading this post but give me a few minutes to explain what I mean by giving an example.

As many of my readers may know, I am from a small Central European country: Hungary. And we have a folk tale that reminds me a lot to this situation.

The Story Of The Bunnies And The Wolf

Cute bunnies live in an idyllic village and one of them is a true pain in the neck. Let’s just call him Fearmongering Bunny. Why this name? Because he just loves telling other bunnies that the wolf was coming to eat them all. He enjoys this so much that he does it extremely often. Everyday. Fearmongering Bunny often goes to the nearby forest and runs back to the village, out of breath, telling the others that the evil wolf attacked him and that he (the wolf) is on his way to the village! At the beginning, his fellow bunnies used to believe him. They really did. But one day, they realized that Fearmongering Bunny was a liar and that the wolf had never actually reached the village. But soon, the wolf really comes to the village and Fearmongering Bunny wants to let everyone know about the danger. He starts running around shouting “the wolf is coming, the wolf is coming”. But nobody believes him anymore. Why would they? They can not trust a fearmongering liar. So they do not do anything, they do not try to run away. And the wolf kills them all.

Our world is just like the “bunny village”. A place where the mainstream media is Fearmongering Bunny and the real threat is that we do not know anymore what we can believe from all the things it is telling us. In 2009, they said that H1N1 would kill us all. Then the end of the world was scheduled for 2012. So are we really surprised that there are people who are skeptical? The wolf has arrived to our village, yet, we do not know how dangerous it is or what impact it will have. And you would expect the media to give up on fear-mongering and to present facts that are currently available. But do not expect too much from them, they haven’t given up on being Fearmongering Bunny. They keep shouting that wolf is here – and this wolf gets scarier and scarier every single day – but apart from that, do they have anything else to say?

Does The Mainstream Media Suffer From Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and one of the symptoms of it is “catastrophizing” – which means that I always imagine the worst case scenario. But I am aware of my condition, I always try to be optimistic and I try not to scare other people to death by sharing my catastrophic thoughts with them. Again, we should not bury our heads in the sand, but at the same time I think that spreading panic is simply irresponsible.

So, why do I say that media was suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Because they love writing about worst case scenarios! Countries that are having slowing infection rates or are easing restrictions are not interesting. Some say this whole thing will soon get better – that’s not interesting. What we need is a shocking deadline about having to spend the next decade on lockdown with millions dying of the virus. Do not get me wrong, we should not censor negative news but I do not think it’s the media’s responsibility to present conflicting opinions and facts. But what do they do instead? They just get the scariest possible outcome and write a terrifying article about it!

Taking absolutely no responsibility

And what I found the most outrageous is that the media takes absolutely no responsibility for the damage it’s done. There are more and more articles about people committing suicide over coronavirus worries. And what does the media say? That it was because of the lockdown or because of practicing self-isolation. Well, it surely played a role but they always miss to mention that one of the main reason people feel scared and hopeless is the way how the media is presenting the news. Did I sound like blaming them for other people’s death? I think I did. But I do think that we just can not ignore the role of the media when it comes to rising depression rates and suicides – their gloomy prophecies definitely make people feel hopeless. And it’s not only difficult for people with mental health issues – it’s difficult for all of us!

Making Money From Human Tragedies

Yes..another thing is making money from human tragedies. This is something that I find the most unforgivable. While it’s important to inform the world about the present situation, I do not think it’s an okay thing to earn money from clickbait articles about human tragedies.

All the people who died had their own dreams and had people who loved them. For the media they only mean an article that’s worth a few dollars but for someone they meant the whole world.

Will We Ever Go Back To Normal?

Many say that they do not even want the world to be the same as it was before COVID19. I am not one of those people. I want to go back to normal – and I hope everything will be the same. But one thing that I really hope is that the mainstream media will change. That they will learn from this experience and they will not go back to “normal”, but they will start being more responsible.

Further Reading

Am I a monster? – The Story Of My Harm OCD

Are you afraid of harming others?
Well, I guess most of us are and that’s absolutely normal. But if you’re suffering from Harm OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), this fear of harming others – especially your loved ones – means a totally different thing for you.

There are a lot of misconceptions about OCD – a lot of people still think that it is a kind of cleaning disorder or an extreme fear of germs. And while the fear of contamination can be one component of OCD, this is a much more complicated disorder. Or how I usually call it: much more creative.

In today’s post, I will talk about one of the darkest subsets of OCD: harm OCD. Honestly, it’s not the easiest topic to talk about. I have never really had any problems with expressing myself but when it comes to my harm OCD, it’s a different story. And this can be one of the reasons why many people think that harm OCD is far less common than other subsets of this disorder. Like it’s not easy to tell your friends that you just need to check if the door is locked 10 times before you leave your home, but imagine how difficult it is to tell them that you’re afraid of pushing them off a cliff.

What are the most common obsessions in OCD? Read: OCD in numbers

So, first of all: What is Harm OCD?

Harm OCD is a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder characterized by having aggressive, intrusive thoughts of violence towards others or yourself.

Am I A Monster? – My Story

Now, the definition I gave is from a book. And it pretty much describes what Harm OCD means, but it does not necessarily describe what it feels like. This is why I have decided to share my story.

Once upon a time, there was a prince…Well, I am not a prince and this is definitely not a fairy tale – even though fairy tales can be pretty scary. Just think about Snow White: your stepmother wants to kill you and when she actually succeeds to carry out her evil plan and to take your life, a handsome prince will come to save you and he will eventually end up kissing your dead body. Anyways, I do not want to over-analyse fairy tales so let’s talk about something far less exciting: my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

I do not actually remember when or how my OCD started – I guess it’s always been there and it just gradually got worse and worse. However, there’s one day that I will never forget: the day when my brain broke and my harm OCD went out of control.
It was a Friday evening. I was 17 years old – so more than 10 years ago when I was still young and innocent (I am not sure whether I was innocent though). So, my parents went to a party and I decided to stay at home and to watch a movie. And I obviously do not want to blame a movie for my harm OCD but I guess I made the worst possible choice: I started to watch Apocalypto. I guess it’s a pretty nice film but I just do not want to watch it ever again because it will always remind me to the terrifying thoughts it gave me that night. Why did it have such a terrible effect on me? Honestly, I do not know but seeing people being sacrificed for ancient Gods kind of fueled my OCD (at that time I did not use to know this thing was called OCD) and it would just give me a storm of intrusive thoughts. And one of them was particularly frightening:

What if one day, I will go crazy and I will kill someone?

Please, do not stop reading. I will soon explain to you the way I felt. So, at that time, I did not know that this random thought would literary turn my life into a living nightmare. And I did not know that it had anything to do with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. To be honest, I did not even use to know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was – you can imagine, I was a 17 years old teenager from a small, Central European country where OCD was not a well-known condition.

And as I did not know anything about intrusive thoughts or about OCD at that time, this terrifying thought was something very shocking to me. I just thought I was going crazy. Like honestly, what would you think? No sane person would ever be thinking about killing someone. And I did the worst possible thing that I could do: I just started a discussion with my inner OCD voice:

Me: I would never do such a thing. I am not a monster, am I?
My OCD: How do you know you are not a monster? What if you are evil? And if you’re not evil: what if you lose control for a few seconds and you act on these thoughts. You can never know, can you?

And this inner monologue would go on for a couple of hours. Yes, couple of hours: I am not exaggerating. One single intrusive thought was enough to make me suffer for hours and hours. When my parents got home, it would get even worse because I was terribly afraid of harming them. I just tried not to talk to them and not to be too close to them. And I was trying to fall asleep as soon as possible hoping that this whole thing would just go away in the morning. But unfortunately, it did not!

Monday morning, weekend over. Going to school helped but it did not solve the problem. I knew that being among a lot of other people could stop me from harming someone but again, my OCD wouldn’t leave me alone:

What if I push someone off the stairs or hit them with a chair? Or what if I start setting things on fire?

And these thoughts went on. For days. For weeks. For months. And I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only solution I could think of was going as far away from everyone as possible and drowning myself into alcohol. Alcohol would help me forget about my terrifying thoughts and it would cheer me up a little bit. Now, I know that alcohol is not a solution but at that time I saw no way out.

Want to read more about this topic? Check:
Peace At The Bottom Of A Bottle – OCD & Alcohol

And obviously, my family noticed that I started drinking and my friends could see that I was avoiding them. And I really wanted to tell everyone about the way I felt but I was scared. And this is one of the most difficult things about harm OCD. You’re just too scared to talk about it.

If I told someone about the way I felt, they would think I am crazy. They would be afraid of me and they would inform the police or even worse: I would end up at a mental hospital for the rest of my life. And I would lose everyone and everything I love.

But I have always been an extrovert. This is something that I will never be able to change. And I couldn’t carry on for too long. One day my Mum would ask me what was wrong. She asked me why I was literary running away from home and why I was drinking. And then, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I broke..And I told her.

I told her that I was terribly scared of harming her and that I was afraid of knives (because if you have harm OCD, you see knives as some terribly dangerous objects, because you can use them for a lot of violent purposes, right?). And I told her that I thought I was a psychopath. An evil monster.

And her reaction surprised me. It was not what I expected like: she was not scared and she did not want to run away or something. She just told me that people with bad intentions wouldn’t be scared to death over their thoughts and that she had also had intrusive thoughts like this but she never worried to much about them. (Now, years later, I know that there are a lot of people who have intrusive violent thoughts but at that time this was a new piece of information to me)

If I said this conversation was the end of all my suffering, I would lie. It was the beginning of my journey to overcome OCD. And at the beginning of the journey my Mum and we got it terribly wrong. I told my whole family about the way I felt and they were very understanding: so they started to help me and this help meant hiding all objects I was afraid of. No more knives, no more heavy objects. Obviously, this would give me a temporary relief but one can not constantly run away from one’s fears. This is something that I learnt later during my journey.

Seeing my family not thinking that I was a psychopath, I decided to talk to my best friends. And their reaction was also very positive and supportive. They do not have OCD, but they do suffer from other mental illnesses so they did not judge me for who I was. And we have been supporting each other ever since. Even after 10 years. πŸ™‚

So, they really wanted to help me and we went for a shopping weekend in Vienna – now, please do not say that I was a spoiled kid – and this little trip made me realize that there is a way out. It’s difficult not to think about your scary thoughts, but you can do it! And I think this is when my travel addiction started. Again, I know that running away from yourself is not the solution but keeping yourself busy and having fun does help a lot!

And when I came back, my aunt convinced me to see a therapist. Now that was terrifying. I was very scared to seek professional help because I thought that a therapist would think I was totally crazy and they would instantly send me to a mental hospital. Anyways, I finally decided to go.

And to my biggest surprise, my therapist did not think I was crazy. Obviously, she was not able to come up with a proper diagnosis right after our first consultation. But I could feel that she was not scared of me and she did not think I was totally insane. So after our first meeting, I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And as we went on with my therapy, she recommended me a lot of useful techniques to manage my anxiety and to keep my intrusive thoughts under control. She also told me that finding a part-time job might help. So that’s what I did: I started my first job at a call center and I was enjoying it a lot. I have always loved talking to people so it was kind of..perfect for me.

And…hm..Happy Ending? That would be a strong world. I do not want to sound hopeless (because I am not), but I do not think that I will ever be able to get rid of my OCD. It’s kind of ..chronic. Like diabetes. You can keep it under control and you can manage it – you may not even notice that you have it – but it will probably always be in the background.

What did I learn from this experience?

First of all: having harm OCD does not mean that you are a monster!

Those who want to do cruel things are not afraid of their violent thoughts. The fact that you would give everything to get rid of your aggressive, intrusive thoughts mean that you do not want to have them so you do not want to act on them.

Seek professional help

Therapists are professional people who are there to help you. And not to judge you. I know it is scary to tell a stranger about the way you feel but it really helps a lot! πŸ™‚

Alcohol is not a solution, it’s an additional problem

Now, my harm OCD is pretty much under control. But I still find it pretty difficult to give up on alcohol. So I just created an additional problem for myself while trying to get rid of my OCD.

Do not ask your family and friends “cooperate”!

Having a loving family and supporting friends is a fantastic thing. And they may even help you with your obsessions – because they love you and they are not professional therapists. Do not ask your partner to hide all the “dangerous objects” because it will not help you fight your OCD: it will only give you a temporary relief, but one day you will have to face your terrifying thoughts and postponing this, will not help! You can not live your whole life running away from your problems.

Further Reading

Your Story

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

Love

Mark

Locked Down – Finding Yourself

The world we once knew is gone. Many things that we used to take for granted are no longer there. Let’s hope we will soon go back to normal but nobody knows when exactly that could happen. So at the moment, the best we can do is enjoying our lives as much as we can.

It’s a perfect time for self reflection. Self reflection – and not overthinking. It is a difficult time for all of us and I really want to keep my blog a “safe place” for the next few weeks. It does not mean that we should bury our heads in the sand but there’s enough negativity everywhere else on the internet. So, instead of telling you about the bad things that happen all over the world, I would prefer telling you what I have learnt from this crisis and how it gave me more strength to fight my own demons.

Since the beginning of March, there have been several restrictions in my country (Hungary) and since last Saturday, we have officially gone into lockdown. Now, lockdown is a pretty scary word, especially because our restrictions are pretty relaxed in comparison to other European countries – lot of stores are still open and you can go hiking if you want to. And honestly, I do think that spending time in the nature is extremely important in this period – it helps you keep your physical and mental health. So, this weekend I decided to go for a long walk and to enjoy spring!

Where did I go?

Now, lockdown is lockdown. So I obviously did not go to the other side of the country – I just went for a walk on the riverbank. And I took a couple of photos (see one of them below). In the photo, you can see a small town called Visegrad and its castle on the top of the hill.

Interesting fact: this is the place where Vlad the Impaler (or more commonly known as Dracula) was held in captivity from 1463 to 1475. Now, I am not held in captivity and I can not call him one of my “ancestors” – our families are related but it’s not a big deal because most of Eastern European noble families are – but I still found walking on the riverbank pretty ironic, remembering that centuries ago, he was probably doing the same thing when they let him leave his prison cell.

Living in the moment

One of the things that I learnt these days is how important it is to live in the moment. We spend too much time on worrying about the future or blaming ourselves for every mistake we committed in the past – and while torturing ourselves with thoughts about our past and our future, we just simply forget to enjoy the moment.

The two main features of OCD are doubt and guilt. Doubt, accompanied by “what if” questions and worries about the future. And guilt over things you feel or things you did in the past.

And if you spend too much time obsessing over your “what if” questions, you will end up feeling guilty about wasting so much of your precious time on your worries (that’s what actually happened to me…). So it is like a vicious cycle that you can only break if you start living in the moment. It’s not easy but it’s a perfect time to start practicing!

You are stronger than you think!

People suffering from anxiety disorders tend to underestimate themselves. You may think that you would not be able to manage a difficult situation because you’re not strong enough. But why do you think you are not? Do you have any evidence or is it just what your negative inner voice is telling you?

Having a mental disorder is not a sign of weakness – it is something that you can learn from. And nowadays, I started seeing how many things I have learnt from having OCD. I really do not mean that OCD is something useful to have because it is clearly not. But during these days, I noticed that many of the techniques that I have learnt for keeping my OCD under control are helpful for a lot of people who do not actually have OCD but are scared to death because of the recent news. Am I better at managing my anxiety than most of the people? I would not say that, OCD is still OCD – but on the other hand, spending most of your life with terrifying intrusive thoughts gives you some experience at fighting it.

OCD is a liar

This is something that I have already known. But I thought the list would be incomplete without mentioning that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is telling you lies.

And with constant exposure to mainstream media & coronavirus news, it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the lies your OCD is telling you. Do not get me wrong, I do not say the media is lying – they may or may not, it’s something that I do not know – but one thing is sure: your OCD is definitely a liar.

You remember when you were scared of jumping off a bridge, beating up one of your loved ones, dying because of one of your nonexistent allergies or not loving your partner enough? Now, those were lies your OCD told you. And I do not think your OCD has changed over the last couple of weeks, so you should still watch out for the lies it is telling you. The challenge is now bigger than it has ever been: because the media will make it worse. So what could you do to make a difference between rational and irrational thoughts?

Now, obviously, the best way is seeing a therapist. And if you want to read more about the topic, please check out some of my previous posts with links to external resources:

Spending time alone is not always a bad thing

I used to be terribly afraid of spending time alone. It was one of my biggest fears because in my case, spending time alone would usually mean that I started thinking about my intrusive thoughts. More and more. And I would end up overthinking everything and being scared to death by my own intrusive thoughts.

So yes I have learnt that spending time alone is not always “dangerous”. But it does not mean that my personality has changed. I think humans are social creatures and I have always been an extrovert. So I just can not wait going out with people! πŸ™‚

How to spend time while social distancing?

Everyone is different so the examples I give may not work for all of you but I hope you will find a few useful ideas πŸ™‚

Learn a foreign language

Learning a foreign language takes some time – and it’s extremely fun. There are a lot of teachers who offer online classes and a lot of online resources.

As some of you may already know (How OCD frightened me into learning 7 languages?), I am addicted to learning languages and one of my favorite platforms for it is Interpals. It is an amazing online community where you can meet people who speak the languages you would like to learn and you can do “language exchange” with them. I first registered on Interpals 11 years ago (time is flying, is it not?) and it actually helped me find a lot of new friends – with most of them, I also met in person and still keep in touch even after so many years! πŸ™‚

Or if you prefer to language on your own, I think Drops is a pretty nice application for you! It’s a really fun way to learn a new language πŸ™‚

Since the first day of the lockdown, I have started learning Turkish and improving my German skills (I do speak German, but my grammar is definitely not the best).

Read a book

Reading has always been one of my biggest hobbies. A few weeks ago, I published a post about my favorite books – and I guess some of them are not the “most cheerful” but I just like “darker” books.

Escaping Reality: My 10 Favorite Books

And what I could still recommend to most of my readers is:

Agatha Christie novels – there are a lot of them, most of them are pretty short – so perfect for one evening. And they have a pretty nice atmosphere – I know this did not sound right as people actually get murdered in her books but for some reason her stories are not at all discomforting.

Exercise

Exercise is important for everyone. I enjoy running and walking but I guess it’s different for everyone.

Watch a movie!

I am simply addicted to watching movies! And it would be next to impossible to give you a list of my favorite movies – and even if I gave you one, it would probably not be the best for relaxation πŸ™‚ Guess my number one favorite is “The Shining” but I do not think it’s the best movie to watch at times of social distancing. But I do have a couple of favorite movies that I would recommend to you because they are pretty “relaxing”. You know, the kind of movies that you can really watch before going to sleep:

Coloring books

I have always loved drawing and you really do not have to be an artist to enjoy doing it. Coloring books are just perfect for spending time while social distancing.

Call your loved ones

Social distancing does not need to mean complete isolation. If you are suffering from a mental disorder, social media is definitely not a place of comfort (if you are not scared of the current situation, just check your Facebook feed and you will be scared to death!) but you can still call your friends/ family. I guess my phone bill will be record high this month πŸ™‚

And a lot more

How did you spend your last few days? Share some ideas in the comment section! πŸ™‚

Further Reading

Keep Calm & Take Care!

It’s been a pretty difficult period for all of us. Some of us are worried our health or our loved ones. Some of us are worried about money or our jobs. Some of us feel isolated because of the lockdown. But there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Keep calm and take care!

Love,

Mark