Back in 2010-2011, life wasn't great. A simultaneous three-pronged attack of negative occurrences left me with OCD as I tried to control everything else that I possibly could.
Thank God, in 2013 a wonderful therapist helped me to regain a huge amount of control over my OCD practices, intrusive thoughts and the frustration that the mental health issue causes. I am not 100% there yet, but life got a lot better with knowledge. My writing was my solace then and it remains so.
My Pen Name Reads Through My Inbox
There would have been a time that a rejection of a piece of writing or less than positive feedback would have been taken as a rejection or criticism of me and not simply the words on a page but my brain has been retrained via cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) not to ride the gamut of emotions.
My therapist suggested that my pen name take on any negativity. It's not a real person and the people firing the harmful words or praise are communicating with my pen name so I don't have to do cartwheels of joy or weep into my coffee on my brain's whim. I am detached from the noise. The happier I am, the more secure I am, the quieter the OCD and the better the flow of the writing, fingers crossed.
I am grateful for kindness, and I am philosophical about negativity. It took a sledgehammer (metaphorical) from my therapist to convince me that I didn't have to try to be perfect—a huge concern for OCDers—and that good enough was good enough. Sometimes people are naturally prone to negativity and so voice or write horrible feedback. My words were as valuable as theirs or more so, mine were thought out. That said, I check whether criticisms are founded, I'm not a walking ego!
Writing and Turning Down the Volume of OCD
There are many days when I look at the work sitting on my laptop screen and I am stunned that the words got there. I wonder how it happened. It feels miraculous. Not only because I may have started with a blank page but because it means that OCD's volume was turned right down. I got off the mental issue merry-go-round.
Part of living with OCD is challenging what it tells you and I have to encourage myself to go with the proverbial flow but intrusive thoughts can kill creativity. Did I wash my hands between task A and task B? Do I need to pay that bill soon? Where is the latest bank statement? I didn't say that out loud, or did I? My "I want to be ahead of the game not just in it" brain may or may not give me the right answer which can set off a mental wander. "C'est la vie" sounds easy but it takes practice.
Acceptance rather than resistance, a smile not a frown and sheer bleeping-mindedness have got me through days and workloads.
Writing Deadlines Aren't Emergencies
Recently I found that the pressure I was placing on myself was hindering me so if I sense that I am adding tension to my life I have to stop, take several deep breaths and remind myself that a fulfilling and peaceful life does not depend on whether something is written or published by a certain time. I set my work deadlines so how lucky am I to have that freedom?
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I was told that I needed to purposefully enjoy life, take time to seek out the pleasure in things and to keep my body and my brain healthy by eating, exercising and sleeping well. I consciously note the sweetness of a strawberry, the smile of a child. Aim to be in the moment and not running into the future.
No 2:00 a.m. finishes for me. That furs up my brain and invites OCD interference on the thought line. I count my blessings and ensure that I remember OCD threatens the quality of my life, not my life itself.
OCD: Apology Not Required
I love my inquiring, interested, engaged mind. It adores finding out new things, seeing new viewpoints and learning so I don’t want to feel that I should be ashamed or apologetic ever again. I did that for long enough. My fear of being hailed as a weak madwoman delayed me getting the professional help that I needed to thrive and not just survive each day.
Thanks for reading this and if you have any questions, please comment below. I've walked a fair way down the walk ... and I'm writing more than ever. Totally grateful.
Mental Health Education Is Vital For Everyone
There is undoubtedly, lamentably a stigma attached to mental health conditions that you just don't get with a broken leg.
Here are a few responses to OCD and anxiety that I’ve heard or had said to me:
- “If you are going mad, I’m leaving you.”
- “Writers are meant to be weird so they won’t notice that you have a problem.”
- “Depression is selfish.”
- “Get over it.”
- "This OCD thing is boring. Take some happy pills."
- "You're faking it."
- "Attention seeking?"
- “I’m too busy to listen to your problems.”
- “Buck up.”
- "We all have problems, suck it up."
- "You think you have it tough, I had to go through..." (It's not a competition!)
- "Man up."
I ran a poll on my old blog once to see how people perceived mental health problems and I received a 100% response that they are an illness and not a weakness. In an ideal world, we could dispense with the wearying stigma because 100% people know what they should be saying and doing. Interesting, huh?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Joanne Hayle