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My experiences of therapy

I have tried various kinds of therapy for my mental health over many years, some though the NHS and some I have found for myself.  These are my experiences of the therapies I have tried.

Cogitative Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

‘CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle’, (www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/). 

It aims to break down problems into smaller more manageable parts.  You are shown how to change negative patterns to improve the way you feel.  Unlike other talking therapies it focuses on current problems rather than issues from your past.  It is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression; hence I have had it for my OCD, which is a type of anxiety disorder.  

However it was not that well explained to me when I had it and seemed based on the idea that I could just stop and walk away from my OCD rituals, which if I could do that I would not be needing therapy in the first place.  The NHS website says each session should last thirty to sixty minuets, but after my initial session most of them did not last that long.  I was encouraged to take a lot of my therapy sessions by phone, which seemed to not be a very effective form of therapy for me. 

CBT does not address winder problems such as other mental health issues that could be impacting on your anxiety or depression.  I have since found out that CBT is often ineffective for people with autism, such as me, as it does not address the autistic side of things.  All CBT seemed to do for me was to get rid of one OCD ritual for it to be replaced with another.  I can see how this might help if you have a dangerous ritual, but otherwise seems a bit unhelpful.  I can see CBT might work for some who have not got more complex issues, but it was not for me.  However this seems to be the only therapy a lot of people can ever access on the NHS as if it is a panacea that will cure all mental health issues. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on being present in the moment without judging anything. ‘A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts. You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear’, (http://franticworld.com/what-is-mindfulness/)

Mindfulness is about noticing what your body and mind are telling you, and then being able to react more calmly to things.  One exercise is a mindful body scan where you focus your attention slowly through the body one part at a time.  Tensing up and relaxing muscles as you go so you notice the difference between the two states.

Mindfulness can help problems such as anxiety, depression and stress.  Some mindfulness exercises are often used as part of other therapies and workshops.  I have found some of the exercises helpful as part of laughter yoga and drama therapy.  I find focusing on my breathing sometimes helps me to clear my mind and relax.  However I feel that the word mindfulness has been corrupted as a marketing term to sell stuff from colouring books to health food snacks, and I refuse to buy anything labelled as such.  

Counseling

Counseling encourages you to talk about your feelings and emotions with a trained therapist.  They can help you clarify issues, explore your options, develop strategies and increase self-awareness.  I had counseling at university and later through my GP surgery.  I found it slightly helpful at university as she gave me some strategies I could use, but the other counseling I had achieved nothing other than me talking about my issues and going round in circles.    

Anger Management

Anger management aims to help you understand why you are angry and find a healthier way to express yourself.  CBT is often used in anger management to help deal with negative thought patterns.

I had some anger management as a teenager, whilst the relaxation part helped a little bit; I feel I was not mature enough yet to put the techniques into practise properly.  I was also depressed off and on at the time which may have not helped me to make the most of it. 

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists treat a group of clients at the same time.  Some uses CBT or mindfulness.  Group therapy tends to be focused on one particular issue such as addiction meetings, a shared illness or mental health condition or a traumatic experience you may have in common.  Some groups use skills training as therapy such as art, drama or music.  Group therapy has several advantages such as knowing you are not alone with the shared experiences and feelings, sharing ideas and information and hope when you see others recovering.

I had some group therapy in my early teens which used activities and discussions to help us.  Whilst I feel I did benefit slightly from it, I feel that it was hard to make the most of it due to some of the group not really wanting to be there.  I also feel that some of the group could have been a bad influence on me had I been more vulnerable, trying to persuade me during the breaks to take up smoking for example.

Laughter Yoga

Laughter yoga is a group therapy based on the idea that laughter is healthy, both for the mind and body.  Exercises are done to create laughter, starting with forced laughter; it usually turns into real laughter.  It uses chanting, clapping and games to encourage a sense of playfulness.  It often uses elements of drama therapy and visualisation techniques.  Yogic breathing is done in-between laughter exercises, relaxing the mind and body.  At the end of each session laughter meditation is done using some elements of mindfulness. 

I first encountered laughter yoga about three years ago and then last summer I started attending a new weekly session run by a friend of mine in the town where I live.  It helps me to relax and de-stress.  It is not hard work and I find it great fun.  I can understand it might not be for everyone, you need to be fairly comfortable with letting yourself go in front of others, (my drama background maybe helpful in this).  However I highly recommend giving it a try as it is my favourite form of therapy I have tried.

Drama Therapy

Theatre techniques are used to help personal growth and mental well-being.  Drama therapy is often used in schools, prisons, hospitals and in work places to promote team building and healthy working relationships.  It involves role play, voice work, movement and storytelling.  It can help people explore personal and social issues.  It helps some people learn to express themselves better.  As part of my drama studies over many years I have done a few workshops using drama as therapy to explore various topics. I think workshops have great potential to help a lot of people, but it has to not be forced on people as some could be very uncomfortable with it and not everyone is able to do things like this in front of a group.  

Self Help Books and Online

Often I have found that self-help is more effective.  I have read a few books on autism and mental health and used various online message boards and chat rooms.  Also I have watched some documentaries on TV about my issues.  I have often learnt more about how to help myself from these things than any professional therapy I have had because I can pick and choose what elements to read and watch and do it in my own time.  I also feel less pressure to recover or learn a technique in a set time period.  Plus the ideas are not restricted to the NHS guidelines which often appear very strict and limiting.

Hobbies can also be a kind of therapy, for me writing is like that.  Writing my thoughts down is helpful, so I keep a daily diary.  Writing this blog often feels as satisfying as therapy.  Sharing my issues, anxieties and feelings often helps me.  A lot of people seem to find art therapeutic.   

I have found therapy is a very personal experience and what works for one person, maybe less effective for another, even with same diagnosis.  It is worth trying different therapies or even retrying one at different stages of your life.  What may have not helped as a teenager, maybe more effective when you are more mature and not forced into it by your parents.  Do not just rely on what a doctor can refer you for, but do your own research into what is on offer in your local area outside of official medical channels.  There are other kinds of therapy that I know less about that maybe worth looking into.  Sometimes people need a combination of therapy and medication which is perfectly valid, it does not mean therapy has failed if you also need medication.  Therapy also requires will power and wanting to learn from it, being ready to get well, forcing it will not work.

OCD 1, Me 0

This post is about my OCD and some random things that came to me about it.  I have been writing down thoughts I have had about it for the last few months.  This started after I wrote the following as a status on Facebook.

I will not brush my hair

I will not brush my hair

I will not brush, oh dam

OCD 1

Me 0

This got me thinking about my OCD and how it affects me.  It sometimes feels like the OCD and me are fighting and I often loose, although I have a small victory every so often, which helps me to feel somewhat better.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not just about being a neat freak and really well organised, although in some cases that can be part of it, but to a degree that is less helpful than it sounds.  In my case it is my own mind nagging me, sometimes almost all day.  Stress and anxiety can make my OCD flare up worse.  At times I get cross and frustrated with myself due to the OCD, making me even more stressed and the OCD even worse.

I have wasted hours of my life redoing things that were perfectly OK already.  Sometimes things just do not feel ‘right’ despite being told they are fine and even being  able to see for myself they are fine, they can still feel wrong.  At times I redo something over and over to the point it is like I am stuck in a loop and have to force myself out of it.

One way I have found that can help me to not get stuck in a loop in the first place is singing, although this only works with certain OCD rituals and not on a really stressed out bad day.  I sing to myself to distract me from the OCD thoughts or to make me feel less stressed.  It can help me to get through a task such as dressing or getting ready to go out.  Some people assume I am singing because I am really happy, which is often not the case.  Sure I do sing to myself when happy sometimes and when a song is stuck in my head, but I often use singing to block out the nagging in my own mind.

One of my worst rituals is my bed time routine.  On a bad day it can make bed time seem kind of scary for me, as I know it will take me far too long that day to get to sleep.  If I only have to do my rituals once before bed I call that a win.  However once asleep I generally do not have trouble staying asleep and sleep very well.

When I am in the middle of certain rituals and someone interrupts me it can mean I have to start again from scratch depending on the exact nature of the interruption and the stage I am at with the routine.  This can get very tedious if I am interrupted a lot.

I once saw a documentary on TV about OCD, one sufferer sick of people telling him to ‘just stop’ when it came to his rituals said it is like telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off.  This is a very good analogy, if it was that simple to just stop, why would we still be doing it?  I do not want to be brushing my hair over and over to get it neat, to the point it gets greasy quicker than it should or checking the front door is locked three times before going to bed, but some days my compulsions are just too strong.

People who say to me ‘I can be a bit OCD at times to’ can get rather annoying when they are referring to the fact they like routine or are just a tidy person.  Most people have ways of doing certain things they prefer, but when I spent all morning getting dressed and ready to go out because I had to do certain things over and over again then it can sound a bit like a kick in the teeth.

OCD is a diagnosable clinical condition that can come with therapy and in some cases medication. However some people seem to think of OCD as a term for just being fussy or pedantic and make jokes to that effect.  OCD memes on social media also often make light of the condition and can help spread misconceptions about it.  For example ‘I have COD, it’s like OCD but the letters are in alphabetical order, as they should be’, which just totally misunderstands what OCD even is.

Then there are those who think that I can just go and get therapy for my OCD and it will go away.  Mental health therapy is not always that simple, and OCD therapy, at least on the NHS is very rigid and in my case hardly made a difference long term.  The only thing they seem to offer for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is supposed to help reduce ritualistic behaviour by helping you to confront your obsessions and resist the urge to carry out compulsions, learning instead to tolerate the anxiety till it is no longer such a dominant voice in your mind.  However I was only allowed twelve sessions of CBT in total, and they kept trying to make them over the phone or online and not in person.  Also I have since been told that CBT for autistic people is often pretty ineffective, but the NHS seem to not like to treat both at the same time even though they are co-dependent conditions in my case, I guess funding works one name condition at a time even if you have conditions that can be hard to separate from each other and tell which is which at times.

All the nagging in my mind, the rituals and redoing things over and over can be mentally draining at times.  By the end of some days I feel very tired from having had my own brain have a go at me all day, however going to bed will then be a whole other set of rituals that will mean I sometimes take ages to finally get into bed.  Meaning that I am often still tired the next day and some days never seem to feel fully awake.  This is one of several reasons I do not feel able to work a full time job and come off benefits right now.

OCD is often a lonely and confusing condition when other people do not understand what you are going through, even when they try to understand, people often seem to not really get what it is like to live with.  I now use mental health chat rooms and sometimes find other people who have OCD which can be interesting and helpful, making it slightly less isolating for me.  I wish that I could have had places like this when younger.

I count myself somewhat lucky in that I do not have the extreme version of OCD where people think loved ones will die or get hurt if they do not do their rituals correctly and can have nasty visions of things happening to people they care about.  I gather this type of OCD is much rarer and often occurs in people who also paranoid.  However this does not mean my type of OCD is easy to live with and it is still a real condition with real problems attached to it.

Image result for ocd memes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faux pas and other social issues

FAUX-PAS-760x400

I often seem to say the wrong thing or too much.  Put my foot in it you might say.  Sometimes everyone does this, but I find myself doing this rather a lot.  Part of the reason could be my autism, but I am not always able to tell what is due to my autism and what is a mistake most people could make.

I am told I can be very blunt, meaning I simply say what I think without social niceties.  I do not see why I should not say things as they are; it seems pointless to pretend otherwise to me.  Although obviously even I can tell certain situations require subtlety.  I can often tell when others are using social niceties and most of the time I do not mind, but sometimes I would prefer a straight answer.  I think people can mistake my bluntness for deliberate rudeness which can be annoying.  I tend to get this from people who know me less well.

I am also told I talk way too much at times.  There are times I could of stopped talking about an issue a few sentences back and may have gotten away with not saying the wrong thing if I had stopped talking about it sooner.  However I can struggle to tell if I am over discussing a topic sometimes.  I may also bore people with my long rambles on an issue they are not so interested in.  I have this urge to get all my thoughts out on a topic to someone at times.  I feel like I may burst if I do not say it.  Part of it could be I over think a lot of things to the point my mind feels full and I simply have to unload.  A bit like some of my blog posts I suppose.  I do find writing about a topic helpful.

I find certain social situations harder than others to know what or how much I should say.  I find situations I have experienced less often harder.  Practise has helped me get better in a lot of situations.  I think I am getting better at chatting in pubs, cafes and at family dinners, although not always exactly getting it right.  I find certain people easier to chat with as I know what I can get away with saying with them.  Family members and friends I see more regularly are easier on the whole, but people I see less often and new folk can be harder.  I often end up being way too blunt for them or talking so much they get annoyed or walk away.

Social media is often easier for me.  I enjoy chatting online, but sarcastic comments can be lost on me, although I get the very obvious ones.  Without facial expression or voice tone sarcasm can be tricky for anyone.  I also find some people who do not know me can be offended by my comments.  Bluntness strikes again!  I try to make my comments not appear rude, but now and then some people just take them the wrong way.  In these situations I often stop responding to them as it is not worth an argument.  Although I have occasionally purposefully been rude back to show them that their comments are wrong or unhelpful or just me getting annoyed, then I step away from it.  I have found that turning off comment notifications can be helpful.

I try to remember to think before I speak in certain situations.  However I find this tricky when I get onto certain topics I am very passionate about or in a heated debate.  I guess that this could be common for a lot of people though when things get heated people say things in the moment.

Another thing that has been pointed out to me is that my voice can get monotonous, although I like to think my background in drama has helped make it less so over the years.  I certainly think my speech was less varied as a child, which must have become tedious to listen to after a while for some people.  I can become monotonous again now when rambling, but having been made aware I do this I often try to not allow it to happen too much.  In drama classes we learnt about inflection and emphasizing certain words which was useful for me.  I feel drama has a lot skills high functioning autistics could find helpful and taking a few classes would be beneficial for a lot of autistic people.

What I find annoying is when people stereotype how they think I will be in social situations.  Firstly I actually enjoy socialising which surprises some people who think autistics all enjoy being left alone on their own all the time.  Sure I need alone time, everyone does, but too much alone time makes me feel lonely.  Plus my OCD and other anxieties can get worse if I spend too long alone with my own thoughts.  Secondly I do go to pubs and drink alcohol.  (OK I spent nine months last year t-total, but that was not me avoiding alcohol for autistic reasons, that was a whole other thing you can read about in a previous post should you wish.)  I am not a heavy drinker and can go for weeks at a time not drinking, but I have been drunk before more than once and may well be drunk again.  There is often an assumption that autistics cannot stand booze and find pubs too noisy, which although often true, is not always the case.  I have heard that autistic people have no sense of humour.  Wrong!  I do take a lot of things more seriously than some people, maybe too seriously at times, but I certainly enjoy a laugh.  Not only do I like many sit-coms, comedy films and stand –up comedians, I can enjoy laughing in a social setting with friends.  I can see the funny side of drunken mishaps and can laugh when friends recount amusing stories.  As for the autistic people are introvert and quite thing and do not talk unless directly spoken to or even are totally mute, well this could not be further from the truth in my case.  As I wrote earlier I am more likely to over talk and say too much.  Also I will talk to people who have not directly spoken specifically to me, but more generally to everyone in a room.

Autism is not an excuse to be deliberately rude to someone and it is not an excuse to take over a conversation and have the most say about an issue, but it can mean someone may not know they are doing this.  Sometimes it helps if other people around them give them some understanding and do not just assume they are being rude.  It can help if people point out what they are doing, although with tact and quietly not in front of everyone, if an appropriate moment comes up to do so

 

Lyrical

When I am struggling with emotions and feelings writing helps me sometimes.  I find writing lyrics can be helpful, especially when confused or heartbroken or sad.  It can help me to get my anger or sadness out in a safe way.   It helps me to explore my feelings towards someone or something.  I cannot go and yell at the guy in person in a lot of cases, so this helps.

I enjoy writing in various song styles and genres.  A lot of the time my songs end up coming out in ‘Goth emo’ style, but not always.  I am a huge The Rasmus fan, which is what a lot of my songs end up being a bit like, but some also turn out more like Train or other things.  I wish I could write music and put the tunes down on paper, although I do not actually think the tunes I have in my head are very good most of the time anyway.  Someone else can write the tunes one day if they wish.

I write lyrics for myself about very personal things, they are not written to be taken seriously as hit songs; they are just to help me.  I thought I would share a few of my songs though just to help explain myself a bit better to people and also I love to share what I have been writing whatever type of thing it is.

A lot of my songs are about love and relationships, like most songs seem to be.  These next ones are about my last long term relationship ending.

Silence of the Ghost

You don’t have a master plan

If you wake up tomorrow

You think you’ve won the game

You don’t see a future

You’re living day to day

 

I need something solid

That I can build upon

But you have no foundation

You’re crumbling to the ground

‘Cause you’re afraid of life

 

(Chorus)

So now you’ve gone and ghosted me

And just left me with memories

What am I supposed to do?

I have no way to get through to you

 

You don’t even know

What you’ve left behind

Do you know how much you hurt me?

Do you even care?

Or are you lost inside your mind?

 

(Bridge)

You’re a ghost and you haunt me

Bet you think you set me free

But you’re a ghost and you haunt me

(Chorus)

That’s what scares me most

It’s the silence of the ghost

It’s the silence of the ghost

 

Dreams/ Reality

There’s a difference between dreams and reality

But you don’t see

See the bigger picture

See the picture of me

Standing right before you

But you don’t see

 

I’m not what you need

You need someone who is ripped at the seams

Someone who has no dreams

But baby that’s not me

I want to have a life

Maybe be someone’s wife

 

There’s a difference between dreams and reality

This is something I’m learning

But I refuse to give up on my dreams

So I’m giving up on you

Then maybe I will see a new reality

 

Thief

You said all the things that I wanted to here

That I’m loved and you’ll keep me near

Was it truth, was it lies?

Was it part of your plan?

As you committed your crime

 

(Chorus)

You became a thief of the night

You stole my life

My heart, my soul are in your possession now

When you walked away

You took everything I need

I am no longer me

 

I can’t ask for them back

Since you went on the run

I can’t ask for the truth

You’re in hiding now

Since you committed your crime

(Chorus)

(Bridge)

 

I would say let the punishment fit the crime

But I think you’re already broken inside

Just like you did to me

Now I’m broken too

Since you committed your crime

(Chorus)

 

This next song is about when you are finally starting to move on from a painful break up.  It is much more hard rock than the other and the words in capitals are supposed to be almost shouted.

Break Down

I came back today

Back from time away

But it weren’t no holiday

It was a mental break

DOWN!

 

Although I never left my own bed

I wasn’t there inside my head

I was going out my mind

Thoughts were dragging me

DOWN!

 

I have no one to blame

I drive myself insane

Living inside the pain

The pain that come from having known

YOU!

 

Today I finally felt OK

I woke up and got out of bed

Decided to get out of my head

Now I’m living just for me

FUCK YOU!

 

This song has parts about several men I have met along the way, but is mostly about one specific person.

 

Over You

You told me you needed someone

But after you had your fun

You said you’re too broken inside

To take any-more

Well I’ve been broken since the day I was born

I’m totally twisted and torn

But that don’t mean I want to be alone

So don’t you dare use that excuse

 

Why can’t you just tell me the truth?

(Chorus)

 

I know I’m supposed to hate you

But you know I don’t

If I did it would make it easier

For me to move on

But I’m not ready to be over you

Not over you quite yet

 

I think I knew from the start

But I’m slightly insane

So I played along with your game

Hoping to make it real

 

It still hit me like a hammer when you left

I should have seen it coming

But it’s hard when you want it so bad

Now I feel like the guilty one

But that really should be you

(Chorus)

 

There’s a deep emotion I get when I think of you

I both hate it and love it

But I’m not ready to be over you

Not over you quite yet

(Chorus)

 

This song has nothing to do with love and is about my mental health, partly my OCD.

 

My Darkest Sin

There’s a darkness surrounds me

It comes from within

I try to fight it

But I have to give in

So I end up committing my darkest sin

 

(Chorus)

Sin, sin, sin, what do I win

When I commit my darkest sin

I win silence from the voices inside my head

I win back the silence of the night

The silence of the night

 

There’s a confusion surrounds me

I don’t know what is right

I try to be part of this world

But it’s always a battle

Against my own sin

 

(Chorus)

(Bridge)

I am only human

I will often fail

I can’t live up to what is always expected from me

 

There’s a darkness surrounds me

It’s dragging me down

(chorus)

 

This song was written when I was feeling very low and lonely.

The Lie

You gotta’ try, try, try everyday

Even though you want to die, die, die in so many ways

You got to pretend that you are OK

Don’t let them see your vulnerability

Or they’ll take advantage one of these days

 

(Chorus)

I feel numb, numb, numb, nothing inside

There’s a void inside where the love should be

I try to fill it, but it feels an impossibility

I can’t seem to find what I need

I come close, but it’s not meant to be

 

You gotta’ lie, lie, lie everyday

That you don’t wanna cry, cry, cry is so many ways

You make out you cope on your own

There’s no way they’d understand at all

 

(Chorus) 

(Bridge)

You ask yourself why, why, why it happened again

You gave it your all, but it wasn’t enough

Still you must try, try, try

 

(Chorus)

 

If others can fake it so can you

But for how long can this go on?

 

 

This last song is about trying to fit in and being true to myself.

Being Me

I have tried everyday

I have tried to be regular, normal

Gave it my best, gave it my all

But eventually I had to fall

They all rejected me

 

(Chorus)

I can’t be something I’m not

So I’m going to give it a shot

At being who I truly am

Without no massive plan

I am being me

 

I have finally found

What I want to be

But I think I left it too late

I’m way past the starting gate

They just locked all the doors to my youth

 

(Chorus)

 

I refuse to give in

I will finally win

I will find a way

To make tomorrow my day

I don’t care what they say

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some things I hate

I Hate…

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OCD, on certain days it really controls me and seems to take over. My worst traits at the moment are often to do with my hair having to be perfectly neat and my bedtime routine. On days when I am really struggling with my OCD I can be afraid to go to bed. OCD nags at me and gets exhausting at times. I am glad not all days are as bad as others.

Being autistic at a confusing level. Being Asperger or high functioning level means that I am more than aware I am autistic, but still seem to have very little control over it, so I just know I mess up a lot. Being aware of my faults, but unable to do much about them is very frustrating.

When I clearly have said something wrong and upset someone, but am not quite sure what I said that was wrong. Knowing me I spoke my mind too freely, said too much or I have been told I can come across as somewhat self centred, but I never mean to. Then if you ask someone what you did wrong not knowing sometimes makes you appear even more self centred.

My anxiety issues with people I care about. I worry too much if they are happy or content when with me and sometimes ask if they are OK too many times, till they get annoyed with me. When alone I can annoy myself by worrying if they miss me as much as I miss them or is it a relief for them to have a break from me? I am often unsure of the right balance between giving someone space and showing I care.

My mind in one of its frequent over thinking states when I am alone. I end up getting emotional or anxious, over dramatising things in my head. I can work myself up into a sad or angry state.

How tired I feel a lot of the time. Day time naps no longer seem to help as much as they used to. Often I feel drained or lethargic. Is it my OCD and anxiety that cause it?

People who say things like ‘you’ve done so well considering’ or ‘you’re so brave’ or give you that look as if to say ‘ah bless the special needs person’. I know they mean well, but it is patronising. How do they know that actually for me I am having a bad day and on a good day I can actually pass them by unnoticed and do not come across as special needs at all.

How messed up my posture is from my hip issue. Years of limping and using walking aids such as crutches have left me with shoulder, neck and back problems. They can really hurt at times. My spine now has a slight curve and I am often rounded at the shoulders. On bad days it can cause me to walk somewhat wrong and give me pain in my feet. I hate knowing that as I age this might get worse and I could be one of those bent over old people you see that can hardly stand upright. I do exercises most days that were given to me by physiotherapy, they do not take long and do help somewhat with the pain, but they will never cure it and are tedious to do when I am not in the right mood.

People who say getting a job is easy if I really wanted one. They do not know how hard I tried to get paying work. They should try it with autism, mental health issues, benefit money issues and living in a small seaside town.

Depression days that are so crippling now and then I can not even dress and leave my flat. These are the days when my mental health issues win. I let people down, spend too much time alone and then end up annoyed with myself. I am too low to fully function and my OCD too bad to dress fully.

I am not saying things are always this bad, but during bad phases these are the things that get me down. I think writing them down and sharing them with others helps me feel less anxious about them somewhat.

OCD and how it is not funny if you really have it

OCD, I know I have talked about this before in other posts, but it recently became clear that I need to discuss it again and this time from another angle.

Yet another post about OCD on Facebook came up the other week.  ‘These three targets all look the same to people without OCD, click the link to find out how OCD you are’, or something along those lines.  I have OCD and the targets still looked all the same to me.  I commented on my friends post that this was the case and that I thought posts along these lines stereotype and trivialise my condition.  Another friend accused me of trying to start an argument when it was only a game.

I have seen too many posts along these lines about OCD being a perfectionist neat freak thing that can be judged by silly games.  I see memes and jokes posted around social media quite often that are starting to make it seem like OCD is some kind of joke condition.

OCD is now used as a phrase to describe neatness or fussiness. People often say ‘oh I am a little bit OCD’ but, as Connor Heapy wrote in the Independent newspaper ‘Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating condition characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental acts. Although OCD is often associated with cleanliness and orderliness, it can manifest in a variety of ways. Some spend hours each day worrying about whether they have committed a paedophilic act while others are plagued by the thought that they may have caught HIV from their toothbrush, towel or phone’.  For me during a bad phase OCD can be a disability, stopping me from living my life a fully as I would like.

It is exhausting both mental and physically.  I get up and down over and over to get comfy sometimes and fiddle with my clothing or cushions or hair till I feel things are ‘just right’.  I have to listen to my own head nag me all day on my worst days.  I have had full on arguments with family members over OCD issues, and even argued with myself and the world around me at times.  I have been known to yell at inanimate objects at times.  It just spills out and I cannot help it.  You can learn to manage OCD up to a point, but it never fully goes away.  There is no full rest-bite from it.

For me OCD is about a feeling.  Getting things ‘just right’ does not always mean things have to be perfectly symmetrical or straight, sometimes I do not mind mess, but in my flat it is an organised mess.  My OCD also gets mixed up with my autism, so it is complicated.  OCD is not as simplistic as a lot of these social media posts make out.  My own head is full of mess so I like to be able to order and control the mess outside my head.

I never post jokes, memes or silly games on disabilities online and I ask other people to do the same.  Please respect my right not to have my disability made into a joke.  I can be a fun person and enjoy a laugh, but not at the expense of those already suffering.

downloadGawd, well I cannot tell any difference and I have OCD.

i-have-cdo  A very common meme I keep seeing

Social skills are just that, a skill

‘A social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization. For socialization, Interpersonal skills are essential to relate one another.’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_skills).

You may not think that socialising requires a set of skills, but it does. Some people are better at these skills than others. I found learning these skills difficult and still struggle with them at times. I am getting better at socialising, but still have things to learn.

After a while a lot of people tire of me. I know I can be hard work to spend a lot of time with. In fact I find myself hard work to spend a lot of time with, hence I do not like to be alone for too long. The trouble is I also find socialising hard work sometimes so things do not always go smoothly. On a bad day when I am tired or something has annoyed me I can get worse at dealing with people.

I try to join in conversations with others, but sometimes seem to bore people. My recent autism diagnosis report says I sometimes miss social cues from others and my conversation can lack flexibility. So I guess it can seem like I am giving a lecture which has to be tedious for those listening. To make matters worse the report also says my speech can lack variation in pitch at times which could make me sound like a robot stating facts. If I had not studied drama I dread to think how even more dull my speech could sound. (I think my drama training has helped me understand others a bit better, especially when it comes to reading emotions.)

I can go into excessive detail at times and do not always realise others have lost interest according to my autism report. Since reading my report I have noticed sometimes when people are trying to move conversation on and I am trying to allow conversation to flow more, but it is not always easy for me. When I am passionate about a topic I tend to get carried away. However I realise not everyone is interested in the same things as me to the same degree.

I seem to struggle when people do not sure my point of view. I know others will have different opinions on things and I am fine with this in theory, but sometimes in discussions I find myself not excepting that people may think differently about something from me. I am told I can come across as dictatorial at times, but I honestly do respect other people’s opinions. I am trying to work on coming across better.

cf4fa83670592037a4daeebdf19cd33b--social-skills-social-workI need to take note of this!

I am argumentative which obviously is not a good thing. I do not always think I am right and do not think I know it all. I am often wrong about things, but have been told I can come across as a know it all sometimes. This is not how I feel about myself and do not like this description of me. I need to let others speak more, interrupt less and at times bite my tongue. Sometimes saying nothing can be better than saying something that upsets people. Knowing when to express my opinions is tricky. Sometimes it feels as if people would prefer me to act brain-dead and follow the heard so to speak, regardless of my own thoughts. Maybe I do not express myself well and my points come across wrong. I have been accused of being overly negative and selfish quite a few times, which I really try not to be and hope to change to this opinion some people have of me. Although lately I am starting to think it does not matter what some people think of me as it will not actually affect my life long-term anyway.

'How do you think I ended up alone on the top of a mountain?'

I often find large social gatherings hard work. They are often fun, but require a lot of effort as there is usually a wide range of people to negotiate. I have often been known to end up saying the wrong thing to someone and only realising ages later or someone points it out to me.

If you could take a class on social skills for adults I would. Adults are expected to have picked up social skills as a child, and although I did to some extent, clearly I still have a lot to learn.

My Experiences of the NHS Mental Health Service

 

I would like to share my experiences of the NHS mental health services.  I have found it a patchy service at best, with very little flexibility.  I am not saying that you should not seek help with mental health issues, there are some positives in the mental health system, but it is far from an ideal service and needs a lot of changes to make it work better for more people.

My first experience of therapy for mental health came aged eleven or twelve when I was referred by my GP after my mum asked.  I think she had to ask more than once.  I was diagnosed with OCD by the psychologist.  I had talking therapy once a week, often with my mum.  I got a new psychologist later who put me on medication for my OCD.  I am still on that medication.  I think it used to help, but no longer think it does anything for my OCD.  No doctor willing to properly review it.  One doctor did agree it probably did nothing for me now as I would have become immune to it and put me on a much lower dose as you can’t simply come off it. I know it is one of the hardest medications to come off and the side effects of not taking it for three days once when I ran out at university were awful.  I do not know if the medication has any side-affects as I have been on it so long I am no longer sure what is me and what is the medication.  It could be one of the reasons I am tired so much and would love to be able to try life without it, but right now that does not seem possible.

I started group therapy once a week for a couple of terms.  I am not sure if it was helpful or not, but I liked going as it got me out of school for the morning.  The trouble was I did not fit in with the others very well and some of them could have been a bad influence.  Some of the girls tried to talk me into smoking with them during the break, not that I ever did.

Autism, more specifically Asperger’s syndrome were raised as something I may have.  I can’t remember if it was my mum who brought it up or if my psychologist mentioned it first, but I remember it being discussed.  However I never was sent for testing, which I do not understand as I clearly had major issues and think it would have helped a lot to have a formal diagnosis.

At the age of thirteen I left my first secondary school as I was being bullied very badly and the school was not really addressing it properly, nor were they helping me with my mental and physical issues which were clearly getting worse.  I ended up spending a term in a new education program for children struggling with school run by the childrens mental health services.  It was just a classroom in the mental health services building and not really a school, but it was better than nothing.  Then I ended up in a special needs school, supposedly for those with physical disabilities, but I think my hip was just an excuse and really it was the fact that no other school would have me and the education authority did not know where else to put me.  I think my report from my previous school may have put other schools off.  I admit I had become very difficult to teach by this point, having become very angry a lot of the time and not really being able to handle it.

I had anger management therapy for a few sessions with a mental health nurse.  This was based around mindfulness.  It helped me a little bit, but mindfulness only works if you can feel the anger coming before it is too late, which often I cannot.  The trouble is I tend to go from fine to angry in about a nano second, which gives me no time to put the mindfulness in place.

When I turned sixteen I left the children’s mental health service and that seemed to be that.  I was not transferred to adult services.  Some years later I asked my GP for support with my mental health and I was offered counselling through my surgery.  It was not very helpful as I did not get many sessions and I do not think the guy really understood my problems.  A few years later at university I had some counselling that was more helpful to me.  I think it helped that she was used to working with students so it was more tailored to my situation at the time.  She taught me about mind maps, which helped with my coursework to make it seem less daunting and stressful.

Since then I have gone to my GP for support with my mental health and been told about the anxiety and depression service.  I have tried this service twice, once for depression and once for my OCD.  As a self referral service I found it hard to get an appointment.  Last time I had to ring them three times before they answered the phone and they totally ignored my emails.  For depression this is not helpful, a depressed person is not very likely to keep trying once they fail to get through.  Once you do get an appointment you are told you get twelve sessions mostly over the phone.  I found phone therapy very unhelpful as it meant I could sit at home and wallow in my depression or lie about how much of the homework I had actually done.  I found the phone calls quite uncomfortable and would just say what I thought he wanted to hear to get it over with as quickly as possible.   When it came to therapy for my OCD I found it pretty much useless.  The only kind of therapy they seem to offer is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  At first the program seemed to be helping a bit, but I soon realised it only got rid of one OCD trait to replace it with another.  The therapy never looked at the causes of my OCD behaviour, just the individual symptoms.  Despite specifically asking to have only face to face appointments, I was soon given only phone calls, which were not very affective.  The next stage was to sign me up with an online program that only therapists could add you to.  Some of the exercises on the program required that you logged in daily to the site.  I did tell my therapist that I was in the process of moving and had no internet in my new flat, but despite this she kept on at me to use the program.  Some of the exercises were simply impossible to do in the local library where I often access the internet.  In the end I gave up as even the exercises I could do seemed to not be helping.  I have since been told that CBT will not help me anyway as I am autistic and it hardly ever works for people on the spectrum, so that was a waste of time.  No other service is offered for OCD on the NHS in my area according to my GP.

Last year I was finally diagnosed as High Functioning Autistic or Asperger’s after my mental health assessment flagged it up as something to get tested for.  I was about thirteen when it first came up as a possible diagnosis and it took till I was thirty-one to be tested!

I find it hard to get a GP or anyone else in the health service to take my mental health problems seriously.  I have never self-harmed or been suicidal which maybe one reason I get so little support, despite finding my anxiety and OCD crippling some days.  I have never had a psychologist as an adult.  I did get some support from one GP after I cried in an appointment and asked to sign on as too sick to work.  She got me a mental health assessment, the first and only one I have had as an adult.  This did help as it led to some positive changes in my life.  However I think it helped that I had changed surgeries not long before this as my previous surgery had always seemed to dismiss my mental health problems.

I think mental health services need to be more flexible to meet a patients needs.  People end up costing the NHS more if they are left till they are so ill they need hospitalizing or longer term care.  CBT and mindfulness therapy is proven to work well for a lot of people, but it is not going to suite everyone, yet they seem to be the only things the NHS offer.  Even if it does help, you get so few sessions that as soon as you make a tiny bit of progress the therapy runs out and you go back to square one.  I think the NHS would save money if they invested in better mental health services, as some physical symptoms can be brought on by mental health issues being left untreated.

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Alcohol is not for everyone

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I have given up drinking alcohol. Since mid December last year I decided that alcohol and me do not suite each other. Some of my friends have questioned this abstinence and do not really understand why I have done this. So I have written down my reasons for no longer drinking and hope it helps others to understand that alcohol is not for everyone.

Before I start I would just like to say this is not an anti-alcohol rant, I have nothing against people having a drink and do not mind if people have a drink in front of me.

  • Health

Alcohol is a poison, ‘Your body can only process one unit of alcohol an hour. Drink a lot in a short space of time and the amount of alcohol in the blood can stop the body from working properly’, (www.drinkaware.co.uk). Not only can alcohol effect your liver, it can affect your stomach and digestive system, your kidneys and in fact most of your body systems.

Alcohol also has a big effect on mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, at first it may help to relax you and make you less anxious, but after a while it can make things worse. I certainly felt a low mode sometimes if I had a heavy night of drinking. Drinking can become a vicious circle, drinking to reduce your depression and anxiety, but actually making it worse long-term.

I already have both physical and mental health problems, so I decided it was not worth the risks to make them worse. I can get quite depressed and anxious without the help of alcohol and last time I was very drunk I felt even more low than normal the next day.

  • To stay in control of my emotions better

As an autistic person I sometimes struggle to control my emotions. When I am not feeling at my best I can get very upset or angry easily. When I was drinking I noticed that it often just amplified the mood I was already in rather than relaxed me. So if I was feeling depressed or anxious it just made that feeling worse. ‘Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate your mood’ (www.drinkawear.co.uk) so it was bound to make me feel worse since I am naturally a rather anxious person. Also I have noticed that some people become more angry when they are drinking and more sensitive to things they would normally dismiss as not important, which is not a good way to keep healthy relationships with friends and family.

  • Weight

According to an article in Elle magazine ‘When Alcohol is in your system, it’s harder for your body to burn fat that’s already there’ (www.elle.com). It slows down the rate at which fat is broken-down. Not only that, but drink itself full of calories and sugar. For example cider (what I used to drink most) has 216 calories on average in just one pint. A 175ml glass of wine has 159 calories. A pint of beer has 182 calories on average. In other words alcohol is not a diet drink and can help you gain weight. ‘People eat about 30 percent more food when they consume alcohol’ (www.elle.com) which is something I can relate to. After a night out drinking I always feel hungry, and often end up getting some kind of greasy burger to take home. The large queues at the late opening fast food joints show that this is true for many people. I already enjoy my food a lot and do not need any help to eat more.

  • To Save Money

If you have any taste buds and drink not just to get out of your mind, but actually enjoy the drink itself, you will not be able to drink the cheapest alcohol on the market, such as that shockingly cheap cider you see in stupidly large bottles in most convenience stores. I tried that stuff once and I decided that I might as well just be drinking paint stripper it was so disgusting.

  • Have a good time without anyway

I still go out and have fun with friends without alcohol. I go to a pub quiz most weeks and enjoy it despite sticking to coffee and fruit juice. In fact I think I might be better at the quiz with a clearer mind and no alcohol to make me unfocused. On a night out with friends I sometimes feel a natural buzz from the atmosphere around me and don’t need drink to feel like I am having a good time.

  • Hangovers suck

To state the obvious hangovers suck. When I was younger I used to hardly get hungover, just a dry mouth and a bit of a headache, but the older I got the worse the hangovers got. Being autistic I cope very badly with feeling unwell, I am overly sensitive to even a small amount of pain and I panic when I feel sick. Hungover me was not pleasant for other people to be around. I decided to try and avoid having to feel that way as much as possible. To those who start coming up with hangover cures the NHS website tells us ‘there are no cures for a hangover’ (www.nhs.uk/livewell).

  • To stay safe

After a night out I have to get home again, often alone, I would like to do this with all my faculties intact so I can look after myself better. I would rather not have to go home alone late at night, but sometimes it cannot be avoided, at least when sober I am less likely to end up in difficulty. Alcohol dulls the senses and slows down reaction times, which when walking home can be a dangerous thing.

  • Less chance of making an idiot of myself when sober

When you are the only sober person on a night out, you can see how much alcohol is affecting people. They do things they would normally not, sometimes embarrassing, stupid things. People tend to flirt more when drunk and this can lead to some awkward situations, and sometimes not very safe situations. People often become less careful about what they say out loud and this can lead to saying some hurtful or embarrassing things. Also when drunk people are more clumsy. I know that I used to trip up over my own feet more and found stairs and curbs of pavements tricker. It can be embarrassing and very annoying to spill your drink all over yourself.

  • Supporting my boyfriend who is trying hard to stay off drink

‘Substance abuse in general (that is the abuse of alcohol or the use of street drugs) is a significant problem for people living with schizophrenia, with over half of all people with schizophrenia having co-morbid drug or alcohol abuse issues’ (www.livingwwithscitzophreniauk.org). My boyfriend has schizophrenia and has had alcohol issues for most of his adult life, but is now trying very hard to beat his alcohol dependency. He simply cannot have just one or two drinks; once he starts he ends up having more and more until he is unable to function properly. He so badly wants to live his life without alcohol and has managed to not have a drink for well over three months now. I admire him for this as it is very hard to give up any addiction, let alone when you have a mind that races all day long and will not shut up. So for obvious reasons we cannot go to the pub together and I would rather not have a drink in front of him. I hope by not drinking I am showing him it is possible to live life happily without alcohol.

I am not saying I will never drink again, I might well do, but right now I just do not want to.

OCD, Anxiety and Me

OCD and anxiety have affected me for as long as I can remember.  They are both linked and when anxious my OCD can get worse, and then my OCD makes me feel even more anxious, it is a vicious circle.

How OCD affects me

OCD wears me out both physically and mentally.  It is exhausting having to redo the same things over and over till my brain tells me it is done to a satisfactory result.  It affects my bed time routine, often making the time I actually get into bed and fall asleep very late.  I can be ready for bed at a more reasonable time, but then I have to recheck things, sometimes making it as far as getting into bed, but then having to get out again.  I can sometimes lie in bed and then notice I have not tided something away and then have to get up again to deal with it, despite the fact I know it could have waited untill the morning.

OCD can make me late for things by slowing me down.  Having to redo things and double check stuff before I can leave the house means I have to factor in more time to get ready for things or I can be late.  Also it often means I over sleep in the morning due to my awful bed time routine keeping me up late.

If I do not get the chance to do something till my brain tells me it is done satisfactorily I can feel uncomfortable.  It will play on my mind that I did not complete my routine, sometimes rushing what I am supposed to be fully focusing on to get back to it.

I am aware that sometimes my OCD can make me come across as odd.  My OCD is not as bad in public as it used to be, but it can flare up more when stressed.  When I go to the toilet I know I can sometimes take longer than normal and do a perfectionist routine which has led to others giving me curious looks.

I have fallen out with people and argued due to my OCD before.  I realise it must be almost as frustrating for others close to me to deal with as it is for me.  When I lived with my parents I used to argue with them about things around the house that would ‘bother’ me.  They would leave something where it did not normally go or rearrange things and I could freak out, getting angry with them over it.  The trouble was I did not do this all the time and it could be hard to predict what would trigger me, making it tricky for people around me.  I used to argue with my parents and my brother quite often over OCD things.  (Since leaving home this has got a lot better as when I visit it is no longer my living space so I do not feel such a need to control it).

How anxiety affects me

Anxiety often makes me over think about things.  If something does not go very well I may replay the incident in my mind and worry about what went wrong.  Sometimes I only worry about it weeks after it happened, or months or some events still play on my mind from time to time years later.

I like to be in control and often over plan things in great detail.  I imagine what will happen and picture the future event like a film in my mind.  If it does not go to plan I can get upset and get very anxious, although often I can take smaller changes to plan, but the bigger things throw me.  Not only do I plan big events in my mind, but everyday events are sometimes planned out in advance, what I will do that day and in what order.

During major change and stressful events I often feel very anxious.  For example after signing the lease for my first flat on my own I felt very on edge most of the two weeks before the actual move.  I felt physically unwell with stomach ache, which I often seem to get when I am nervous.  I was more easily upset either crying or getting angry at those around me over silly little things.  I had visions in my mind of things going wrong and felt like my world could come crashing down on me at any moment.  I was unable to function totally alone and had to rely on those around me such as my parents and support staff to get me through this period.  Part of me was excited to be moving into my own place and I knew that I would cope with my families help, but I still felt very anxious.

Like OCD, anxiety is mentally draining, I feel tired a lot of the time even if I have not done much physically that day.  My mind never seems to stop thinking and it sometimes feels as if it is racing to get all the thoughts out.  On my worst days this can give me a headache, but mostly it just makes me feel tired.

I find silence hard to deal with as I can then hear my own negative thoughts too much.  I find distraction helpful, doing something that requires a lot of concentration such as crafting, or writing.  I also find background noise helps from the radio or TV, although I do prefer a decent programme that can take my mind away from my thoughts, any noise is better than total silence.  Although I do like silence when trying to go to sleep last thing at night.

In the past I have suffered with depression, which I am sure is brought on by my anxiety.  I end up over thinking everything and feeling so negative that I think there is no point to trying anymore.  Depression is the most tiring thing of all, I end up way over sleeping, not dressing, hardly moving except to the bathroom and maybe to sit in front of the TV watching rubbish this that requires very little brain power.  My anxiety when at its worst is like a spiral dragging me down, feeding on itself with negative thoughts.

Things that help me

Being organised and tidy with my things helps me feel in control.  Having my things in a set place where they live helps me.  Also sorting and rearranging is something I enjoy.

Cleaning also helps me feel a sense of control and it is satisfying seeing something look better than it did before.

Writing lists or mind mapping can help me to organise my thoughts somewhat and not feel so overwhelmed when I have a lot to do.  For example when I at university I found mind mapping helpful when the work load got heavier in my second year as it showed me how each little task led towards getting the bigger goal done.

Having certain loved ones around and friends helps to not only distract me, but sometimes helps me see the positive things in my life and feel better about myself.

Benefits

OCD and anxiety are things I would much rather be without, but they do have a few benefits.  I am more organised due to my OCD, having the things I need to hand more often than I might otherwise.  I plan things out more thoroughly which can be helpful at times.  It helps me to be tidy both in my living space, and in my personal appearance.  The fact that cleaning is something I find satisfying helps keep me hygienic.  I sometimes get things done faster and better thanks to my anxiety as it can play on mind that something needs doing, and I will do it quicker, but I am also anxious of doing a good job, so I am extra careful.

Please understand that I am not always so anxious or OCD and some days are better than others for me.  I have learnt to deal with some situations a lot better now, especially in public.  I am still trying hard to deal with my anxiety and OCD issues and find that I win the battle with my mind more often than I used to.  I think that my life is more stable at the moment which is helping a lot.  Also maturity has helped me; I understand myself better now and know more often when my OCD or anxiety is taking over, so can try to take steps to prevent it going too far.  When something stressful or upsetting is going on in my life I can fail to stop my anxiety, but it always seems to pass in the end.  I hope this blog post does not make others feel worried about doing or saying the right things in front of me.  I understand that other people have issues and that sometimes I just have to learn to deal with them.

How OCD and anxiety affects sufferers varies a great deal.  However I hope this blog post gives some insight into what it can be like to live with these issues.just-my-mind