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I am doing this at the risk of people who may criticize or question me, because at least some part of me knows: If I don’t, something worse will happen to me, and soon.
If a friend or family member needed me for something – anything – I always said yes. Until my mental health said no, for me.
It was easily the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done in the name of natural mental health remedies. But I’d do it all over again.
Forget pedicures and bubble baths.
If you keep telling people you’re not good enough, they’ll eventually believe you.
Because if you don’t take care of you first, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
I find a measure of compassion for her that I’ve never been able to apply to myself.
It’s totally okay, and necessary, to push pause sometimes.
CN: This article contains descriptions of intrusive thoughts involving self-harm and CSA.
How many times have you heard someone refer to themselves as “being OCD” while they straightened up a picture hanging on a wall or adjusting the TV volume to an even number?
The public perception of obsessive compulsive disorder doesn’t line up with how it manifests in everyone. In fact, when I posted on one of my social networks about having trouble writing an essay about my OCD, a friend suggested I do some cleaning to “get in the mood.”
I wish my OCD manifested like that. At least then I might be a bit productive.
In all seriousness, there’s a side to this disorder that isn’t discussed enough because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for those of us who struggle because we’re afraid of being judged, and it’s upsetting and disturbing to hear that a friend or family member is experiencing it. Hell, I’m uncomfortable writing about it right now.
Intrusive thoughts. There, I said it. Most of us have had them at some point. Maybe you’re driving down the highway and an image of your car veering into the guardrail and spinning out flashes into your mind. It’s brief and disturbing, but you shake it off, perhaps literally, giving your head a quick shake at the strangeness of it. Then, you move on.
For some of us, however, moving on is harder. I have what’s known as Pure Obsessional OCD — or “Pure O” — a little-known subset of the disorder. Little-known enough that it isn’t listed on the Mayo Clinic website. I don’t really have tics or visible compulsive behavior.
You’ll never see me cleaning the toilet with an old toothbrush or washing my hands 52 times a day; all the fun happens in my active little brain.
According to the OCD Center of Los Angeles, for people with Pure O, “obsessions often manifest as intrusive, unwanted thoughts, impulses or “mental images” of committing an act they consider to be harmful, violent, immoral, sexually inappropriate, or sacrilegious. For individuals with Pure Obsessional OCD, these thoughts can be frightening and torturous precisely because they are so antithetical to their values and beliefs.”
I suffered silently with this disorder for years without realizing it could be OCD. At times, it feels like a silent horror movie is being played out in my head, one that I am a part of but have no control over. In that movie, I lose control of the knife I’m using to cut grapes and stab myself or my children in the eye. Or I lose control of my body while looking in the mirror and suddenly smash my forehead into it, shattering the glass and shredding my face with the shards. Pleasant, right? It gets worse — since giving birth to my children, I have experienced images that horrify me even more, images that make me want to throw up even discussing or writing about them.
I’m writing about them here, though, because if I can help one person out there going through the same thing right now, it will be worth it.
Images of molesting my children have haunted me for years. Until I was diagnosed with OCD in December of 2016, I secretly worried that I was a pedophile waiting to be unleashed. I went through long, horrifying periods of time when I hated myself, when I thought I was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. I was a ticking time bomb, and I spent hours imagining scenarios where the unspeakable happened, and I killed myself out of sheer anguish or turned myself into the police.
It’s interesting — while I’ve only had these images involving children since having kids of my own (my stepdaughter didn’t trigger these types of thoughts), I’ve had other obsessional thoughts throughout my life. Some of them related to losing my parents which, as an only child, I just attributed to a general fear of abandonment. Looking back, though, I understand how obsessive my thoughts were. I would spend hours late at night imagining scenarios, getting so worked up that I was sobbing into my pillow. Before that, it was images of harming my pets. In hindsight, I’ve realized this has been happening for years.
One of the most challenging elements of Pure O is how isolating it can be. I spent years holding these thoughts and images inside me, for fear of alienating my friends and family, of losing them because they thought I was an awful person.
Then, once I had been diagnosed and started to open up about my OCD, the reactions I got from friends and family made me want to clam up all over again. Not because my friends were horrified at me, but because they were horrified for me after hearing the types of images that often manifest in my brain. I understand the reaction; it must be disturbing to know someone you love is suffering so much internally.
Thankfully, I actually have a friend with the same diagnosis. I’ve known him for 12 years, known the whole time that he had OCD, but never spoke to him about it. When I was diagnosed, however, I reached out to him. The more we talked, the more we realized we were suffering in the same ways. It’s been invaluable to me, having someone I could confide in who wouldn’t be disturbed by the images I was sharing.
These days, I take medication to help reduce the frequency of those horrible flashes, to dull the edges of them. I don’t love being on meds, but it’s worth it if they help me gain some perspective and peace. The weight these thoughts placed on me and my life was a heavy one. I try not to dwell on them very much, and those pills I take every night help with that. Holding those images in my mind, ruminating over them and feeling ashamed of them, only serves to give them power. By shining a light on them, I hope to prove to myself that I am not my monkey brain. It’s hard, though.
Image via tumblr.com.
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Modern women are busier than ever before; it’s not unusual for a busy, working mother to have to juggle a multitude of vital roles such as domestic goddess, kiddie wrangler, peacekeeper, chef, sock finder and husband wrangler – all before she hits her desk for a full day’s work at 9am.
And so burn-out can be swift; as women, we spend so much time looking after everyone else, we can so easily neglect our own self-care and well-being. When was the last time you took a mental-health day or “wellness day” for yourself?
Brisbane wellness advocate and hatha yoga instructor Heather Sartain, 55, (pictured) who’s just opened unisex boutique spa sanctuary, One Wybelenna, says as chief carers of the family, as is usually the case, women must regularly take time out for themselves. Heather’s interest in health and well-being extends back to her training as a registered nurse.
One Wybelenna, based at Brookfield in Brisbane’s inner-west, offers the most extensive selection of Ayurveda Aromatherapy products in Queensland. Set amid landscaped gardens, it’s an urban oasis just 12km from the CBD.
“It is so important to take care of ourselves so that we will have the energy and resources to care for others,” Heather says. “This self-care takes different forms for individual personalities and body types. Maybe it’s a gentle yoga class to help to clear the mind for some, while others would prefer to run, or play tennis with a group of friends, read a book or walk in nature.
“Whatever is your ‘timeout’ activity of choice, it is important to do something for yourself, no matter how small, each day. We must also eat healthy, wholesome foods to nourish our bodies. Eat live food; lots of plant foods and fresh foods, not dead, packaged and preservative laden foods.
“We must breathe, mindfully, deeply and frequently, not just the short shallow breaths that become so much a part of a busy life. And we must sleep well. Our bodies need rest to restore and rebalance. At One Wybelenna, we offer the perfect environment and treatments to assist our guests to relax and rejuvenate complementing their lifestyle choices.”
Heather, who practises yoga and meditation daily, says beauty treatments are also a great way for women (and men) to gain calm and zen in today’s crazy busy world.
“At One Wybelenna, our rituals incorporate the maintenance treatments in a serene environment, making the whole experience a sensory journey,” Heather says. “Massage should be acknowledged as being very important to our general well-being rather than an indulgence. The sense of touch is vital to life and helps reduce the levels of stress that build up physically and emotionally.”
Her favourite treatment is a 90 minute Custom Facial, which begins with a skin assessment and includes a back and neck massage. She also highly recommends a Subtle Energies Ayurveda Aromatherapy package of Blissful Marma Massage combined with the Mukha Chikitsa facial or the Germaine de Capuccini Crystal and Pearl Elixir. “Both of these rituals combine bodywork with facials and induce the deepest sense of wellbeing and rejuvenation,” Heather says.
And blokes aren’t forgotten – they can also treat themselves to the Amor for Men Facial. This treatment starts with a back, shoulder and neck massage and includes a 24-step Shiatsu Zen facial massage and detoxifying mask. One Wybelenna’s professional therapists also use Germaine de Capuccini skin care products.
The spa is open for bookings Tuesday-Saturday. Visit www.onewybelenna.com.
Are you stressed out trying to be the perfect worker, wife, mother and housekeeper? These roles are at once conflicting and impossibly hard to juggle: welcome to the “superwoman syndrome.”
The poor superwoman wannabe will think nothing of sacrificing her own self-care in a bid to perform all these tasks perfectly, completely stressing herself out in the process. Well, I say to hell with that ladies! It’s time to shake off the superwoman myth and outsource, where possible. Repeat after me: outsourcing is the answer!
If you’ve got street smarts and/or are a well-educated businesswoman, you will have most likely learnt to delegate in the corporate world; the same principle applies in your private life.
My high-flying CEO best friend of 20 years recently hired a housekeeper out of sheer necessity; she’s often too busy wheeling and dealing to make a healthy family dinner/dust/clean toilets. And why should she feel guilty about this?
Another good friend hired a nanny when she had her second baby; she needs important back-up to care for her toddler while her fly-in-fly-out husband is away each month for three weeks at a time.
So, instead of rushing through life in a semi-depressed state due to your impossible burdens; hire help if and when you have the means. This might even just be something as simple as outsourcing the bathroom cleaning once a month, as I have done with great relish, to save you both the time and the energy you can otherwise devote to running your business and/or playing in the park with your children or – God forbid – a yoga class, or an hour or two to yourself.
Instead of this impossible, unwinnable “I need to do it all” superwoman syndrome, you’re effectively making an important choice about your top priorities.
And it’s often a hard lesson to learn: you can’t be the perfect wife/mother/worker and housekeeper all at once, nor should you even try to do so.
Learning to say no to tasks you hate, resent and just plain don’t have time for is a good life skill. So, ladies – take off the Superwoman costume and keep it simple: pay more attention to your own well-being and less time on trying to please everyone else.
What do you think… Have you ever sought hired help and/or fallen prey to the superwoman syndrome?
Images via girlsjustwannahavefunds.com, vaishalipatelpsychotherapy.com