Monthly Archives: March 2017

You Aren’t ‘A Bit OCD’ – Guest Blog

About 1 in 50 people in the UK suffers from OCD at some point in their lives, which equates to over 1 million people*. I am one of those people! I am in my early 30s and was diagnosed with depression first, then anxiety and then OCD. I have been battling with this horrendous illness for about 5 years or so and I can honestly say that I would give ANYTHING to not have it.

My OCD presents itself in a few major ways; hand washing (I can’t stop once I’ve started), fear of contamination (from anything, people, the floor, the car, a pen, literally anything), I have a fear of contamination from the toilet, I can’t handle raw meat or eggs or bins and I find it very difficult to go outside and face unexpected ‘dangers’

OCD is NOT organising pencils neatly or having to have things in a certain place or having a clean house. So when people say ‘I’m so OCD about how my desk looks’ I always want to turn round and correct them. The thing that separates the want or need to have something a certain way is the thought process behind it – it’s driven by anxiety – because OCD is an anxiety disorder.

The thought process is what holds me captive. Compulsive thoughts that if I don’t make sure that my hands are clean then I will contaminate everything I touch or even go near (yes, I seem to have taught myself that germs/dirt can jump!). Or compulsive thoughts that if someone touches me, shakes my hand, or if I pass by a bin or person then I’m dirty and need to change and wash (our washing pile has sometimes been HUGE!). Or even the thoughts of ‘what if’ someone or something has touched me or I have potentially touched something dirty, makes me freeze with fear. Fear is a very strong emotion. It can make a person run, jump, and freeze and can make a person extremely tired. Obviously, fear also can keep us safe – you know the whole flight and fight thing!

My daily struggle to get up, go to the toilet, wash my hands, shower, get dressed and sit on a chair and watch TV, or work in my study or go out on an errand makes me so tired I can’t move. My brain shuts down and I can’t function. I used to have mild panic attacks when I started being so ill that my very new husband at the time (last year) had to do EVERYTHING for me and with me, but these have subsided. I can still sometimes get myself in such a state that my chest tightens and my brain fogs up but I’ve managed to battle my way through that, but I have learnt I get tired very easily because my brain is constantly fighting against the OCD.

Where is God in all this? Honestly I sometimes have no idea and at this moment I’m sitting here thinking to myself ‘He is with me in this’ whilst also being really angry with Him. It’s OK to be angry with God, but why am I?

Well, simply because He hasn’t healed me and released me from this horrible illness. I’ve asked and asked, I’ve had other people pray for me, I have people praying for me now but He’s still not healed me. I am living with the knowledge that He could heal me if He wanted too but He hasn’t. I’m living with the possibility that I may never be rid of OCD. I believe in God and I believe in His grace and providence but I also struggle with that. His grace and patience with me has enabled me to start to control some of the compulsive thoughts I get and it has allowed me to regain some of my independence, however I still can’t make myself food or a drink and I still can’t go out without having to think through what I’m doing and who I may or may not see!

Like other mental illness’ OCD is life controlling and debilitating and also affects people very differently. If you suffer with this, you are NOT alone and if you know someone who struggles with OCD, ask them what you can do to help, they may not know but it will offer them a willing helping hand.

For more of my story see https://droppingthemask.wordpress.com/

*Royal College of Psychiatrists

 

Naomi is a 32 year old southerner living in the north west having moved from Leeds to get married in 2016. She founded Friday’s Child in Leeds after a calling from God to do so and now it’s nearly 4 years old and growing. Naomi now voluntarily manages the project and writes a blog (droppingthemask.wordpress.com). She have a passion for helping girls reach their full potential and love supporting them in their daily battles.Naomi love spending time with people, watching tv under a blanket and drinking tea (and gin!)

Guest Blog: A Mother’s Love – Mothering Sunday Special

She was a beautiful baby.  And so say all parents of their children!  But really, she was a beautiful baby.

To be honest it wasn’t a great start.  From the very first breath came problems with her health, and as one issue resolved or improved another seemed to take its place.  But these were physical problems, all thankfully treatable and eventually controlled to some degree, be it with time, or medication or both.

So as she grew it was perhaps understandable that she was a bit clingy, often reluctant to take part and always resistant to anything new.  She spent lots of time with other children, was taken along to places and put in situations where social skills could bloom; the constant prayer being that she would gain confidence and embrace life.  We tried ballet (dis-aaaa-ster!) and swimming (Mmmm…), theatre school (ok-ish) and trampoline (better!) and lots of activities based at the church we attended.

In some ways it appeared to work – she was lively and lovely and found her (singing) voice at an early age.  There she was on stage at school in the leading role of Mary and the ‘Littlest Angel’ singing her heart out, taking part in church productions, her small frame belying the huge and glorious voice that erupted from her often ineffective lungs when it came to simply breathing!

But then came the teenage years.  No, not drugs and alcohol and rock and roll.  Not staying out all hours.  Not shouting bitter words of recrimination at the restrictions of youth.  How I longed for those signs of teenage angst.  No, my beautiful baby was afflicted with an altogether darker, untameable malaise – depression.  A word does not even begin to encompass the width and depth and breadth of its meaning.

Watching your child fall into the abyss and not even want to climb out is soul destroying and unbearably painful.  Every time you think you avert one disaster, another potential tragedy lurks in the corner. You keep getting it wrong, you misread things, you make mistakes, you make errors of judgement. Oftentimes you feel an utter failure because she isn’t well and happy and ‘normal’.  Sometimes you cannot share it all with anyone else; the usual sources of comfort and support might not be possible for all manner of reasons – it can be very lonely.

But you never give up, you never relax, you never stop hoping, you never stop praying.  Because there is God.  God is there for you, even when you think he isn’t.  And God is there for her (or him), even when she (or he) doesn’t believe life is worth living.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out.  No easy answers and not always a happy ending.  But more often than not it does.  Maybe not always a fairytale ending – well, probably not ever a fairytale ending! -but slowly and surely the good days outnumber the bad and the bad days when they come, are a bit less bad.  She holds on to her faith.  She chooses life. You learn to breathe again – and more importantly, so does she.

She was a beautiful baby.  She is a beautiful young woman.

I thank God that I can write that last sentence in the present tense.  That she has come through the darkness of  those years and, together with her scars both inside and out, survived.  And not only survived, but blossomed and flourished and used her hard gained experience and wisdom to reach out to others so that they can access the kind of help that was not always available for her.  So that parents and friends and church leaders can access the kind of help that upholds and supports others like her.  Like me.

My beautiful baby is the founder of ThinkTwice.  She really was a beautiful baby.  She really is a beautiful young woman.  Thank you God.

Springtime Sadness

Blooming flowers, bunnies, Easter chocolate, lighter evenings and (hopefully) warmer temperatures – what’s not to love?

It’s seen as the time for new beginnings and fresh starts, winter is over and summer is coming!

And yet, for me, and many people like me, I find spring a real struggle.

There is a smell in the air which evokes a great sense of melancholy and, as I wrote here a few years back:

The sights and smells of spring awaken in so many memories. Some are lovely and precious, others are unimaginably painful. I don’t think I am alone in this. That the sun can hold as many bad memories, as good ones. The Spring, the start of the sunshine awakens these memories from the cold chill of winter.

The time which offers such hope and new life can make a struggle with mental health problems all the harder, unlike winter when everyone tends to hibernation, the spring encourages us to reach out and as  Harvard academic Dr John Sharp points out;

‘At the same time as most of us are rolling up our sleeves and sending more time outdoors, others struggle with trying to get into that kind of mode, and counter-intuitively, they feel worse.’

Furthermore, there is a pointed increase in suicide during the spring months, it is perhaps that the contrast between how the world presents and how people feel inside is even sharper. As everything is made new, the feeling of going through the same pain can be unbearable.

And so instead of expecting people to ‘cheer up’ in the sun, allow them to be themselves. Make sure to offer them a shoulder to cry on, even in the sun and if you’re worried they might be stuck in the darkest place, encourage them to see a doctor or counsellor.

Because as painful a time as spring can be, if it does nothing else, allow it to remind you that nothing stays the same and in the midst of crisis, remission can come.

International Women’s Day – Be Bold

It’s time to talk about women’s mental health.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in men.

But did you also know that suicide is the leading cause of death for women under the age of 35?

It’s the second most common cause of death in new mothers and pregnant women.

Women are more likely to suffer with depression and twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder.

The good news is, women are also more likely to seek support for their mental health issues.

But there is still work to be done so that women receive the help they need. There is still work to be done to see women and girls able to fulfil their potential regardless of their mental health.

We need to stop using “emotional” as an adjective. It’s not wrong to show emotions and it’s certainly not restricted to women. Being able to manage and show our emotions well is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Crying isn’t a ‘girl’ thing, it’s a physiological reaction to the life we lead and the things that touch us. Tears shouldn’t be objects of shame, but of life.

More needs to be done. We need mental health services fit for purpose and we need a church and a society which enables women and men to be the people God has called them to be.

So today, on International Women’s Day, let’s be bold  and speak up for women, for their lives and for their emotions so that we can see a society which supports and strengthens, rather than weakens and devalues women.

After the Scars #TakeCare

The first article I ever wrote for Threads back in 2012 was on the subject of scars. I had just finished my degree and I’d not self-harmed for a year, I was eating nearly normally, embarking on a research degree and trying to work out how to live in this new place of recovery, balancing mental illness and hope.

I was desperately trying to work out living between two realities – the knowledge of the darkness I’d inhabited – and the hope of a real life to lead.

The battle was over; but the scars remained.

It’s not something we think of, what happens after an eating disorder or self-harm have made their march through a life, the wreckage and legacy they leave behind, and yet it was the thing I was faced with most starkly in those first few years learning to live.

I used to hate the scars my body bore. They seemed to tell my story to all and sundry. They spoke of the worst years of my life, and I wanted to forge a new path.

I didn’t know how to move forward when my past was so glaringly obvious.

And this week, which marks both Eating Disorder Awareness Week and National Self-Harm Awareness Day, I’ve been thinking more and more about what happens when the worst is over and you’re left surveying the wreck.

Matt Bays writes:

“To find our redemption, we must be willing to visit the scene of the crime and, unimaginably, stay there for a while. It will take some time to survey the damage to sit in the ruins with God and acknowledge its full impact on our lives.”

It’s a daunting prospect; to survey the damage done sit with God in the midst of it, but as I’ve tried to do it this past year, I’ve seen something of God that I missed in the midst of self-harm.

My focus used to be, almost exclusively, on Jesus’ scars. They were proof to me that God cared; I hung my faith on the scars of Jesus because I needed to be understood at a time where I felt no-one understood.

The scars of Jesus tell a powerful story of redemption and hope – they tell us that our scars and our pasts need not define our futures – they don’t exclude us from the reach of the gospel.

Hope can be found in the wreckage.

And my hope is found in Jesus not coming just to empathise with our darkness – but to defeat it.

As he stood before His disciples, scarred palms open, He was showing them that He’d done the impossible and defeated death, for them and for everyone.

The Message translation of a verse from Isaiah 53 says this:

“He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.”

The power in these words sometimes gets lost, I think.

And as I’ve surveyed the damage, I’ve glimpsed something of Jesus who not only extended scar striped arms, but who also formed the stars.

In the mess and mire of self-harm, I’d missed God’s majesty and might.

God is greater than self-harm and eating disorders – and yet He meets us in their midst to bring comfort and show us something of the wholeness that waits humanity on the other side of heaven.

It’s God’s care for us that reaches from heaven into our hearts and comforts us in our distress.

And it’s God’s care that flows through us when we reach out to those around us who are hurting.

As Paul puts in his letter to the Corinthians:

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

 

This post first featured on www.threadsuk.com

 

Encouraging Self-Care – Guest Post #TakeCare

It’s no secret that our health care system is overrun, with some saying it has reached a crisis point. For those people relying on the NHS for support it can be full of waiting lists, brief assessments and a general lack of bed-side manner. However, there is hope. Friends and family can aid those who are suffering in taking care of themselves.

There is no better time than the present to engage in self-care. ThinkTwice have a campaign running from 27th Feb – 5th March so check out the hashtag #TakeCare for more ideas, resources and support. Remember, we’re all in this together – decreasing stigma, increasing awareness.

Self-care is so much more than getting your nails done. It’s about empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves. When it comes to supporting a friend/family member who is suffering from a mental illness there are loads of things you can do to support them in helping themselves.

The following is a list of different things you do can do/make/buy to support a friend to practice acts of self-care. Be smart about which ones you pick. Think of the person’s illness/ what they are experiencing and make sure it is appropriate for them. Use the #TakeCare to showcase your creations on social media!

‘One–a-day Jar’
Remembering one positive experience a day can help lift your spirits.
Raid your cupboards at home – or someone else’s! – and hunt out an old food or sweet jar. Try and find the biggest one you can. Empty the contents so it is a plain jar. Decorate the outside in whatever way you think your friend/family member would like. You could wrap twine around it, tie a bow out of ribbon or glue a photo of you and them onto it. Create a luggage-style tag and write the following instructions on it – ‘Write down one positive thing every day. Fold it over and place it in this jar. When you’re having a tough day, take one note out, read it and remember that positive experience.’ – To make it extra special you could even buy a nice pen and note paper to go with it.

Bake a (healthy) treat!
Having a healthy diet is important for everyone; it can lift your mood and help regulate your body. Have a search online for healthy snacks – granola bars etc – and get your bake on. By baking a friend/family member a selection of healthy treats can help them feel cared for in many ways. It shows you care by taking the time to bake rather than buy a gift. When they eat one, it is a healthier option rather than what they might have had instead which shows self-care to themselves. Even if they don’t eat them, don’t be offended – it still shows you care and they can always offer a visiting friend a treat!

Basket of daily goodies 

When you’re not well and experiencing a mental health illness it can be hard to simply do the daily tasks of looking after yourself. This can range from brushing your teeth to getting some exercise. Create a basket of goodies that can help with these tasks. Fill it with lush smelling shower gels, bubble bath, hair care products and even tooth paste. You could add to it by printing off a map of the local area and highlighting simple walks they could go on for some exercise – even offering to go with them.

These are just a few ideas so have a think of your friend/family member and see if you can think of anymore. Look out for additional ideas from Thinktwice and #TakeCare.

Supporting a friend/family member who suffers from a mental illness, short or long term, can be hard work so look after yourself too. Remember, there is hope and they will get better.

Liz Edge is a freelance youth worker based in Dorset. www.liz-edge.co.uk

#TakeCare – When It Feels Impossible

For the longest time, the idea of taking care of myself was an anathema to me.

I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do something nice for me – and I found it acutely painful when someone reached out with an act of care or words of comfort.

I just didn’t feel I deserved it.

I didn’t feel I deserved to be liked – and I certainly didn’t deserve the luxury of eating or taking care of myself.

The hatred I had towards myself and my body was unlike I’d ever experienced – it was visceral and violent. And the only way I could manage the intense feelings was by cutting myself or making myself sick.

Both the self-harm and eating disorder served the same function – to manage the unmanageable – to make the mysterious emotional pain, tangible.

I used to wonder, as I watched the scars heal, whether something inside me could be healing in tandem.

It was bundle of contradictions, even then.

I was consumed with shame – but the only way I knew how to deal with the shame was to hurt myself.

I believed God forgives sins – but I couldn’t count myself among the forgiven.

And then, still in the depths of self-destruction, I went to Bible College.

Before I went, I made a strange decision to be myself. I decided I wasn’t going to hide behind a facade – but be honest about who I was and how I was feeling. I fully expected to be hated and disliked. I’d convinced myself that those who loved me did so out of duty.

The problem was, people welcomed me, they became my closest friends.

It turned my worldview on its head.

And yet I still lived under my own tyranny.

Until eventually, I began to loosen my grip on my self-destruction and cereal eating.

With the support and encouragement of my friends, I began to take care of myself.

Small ways at first; making sure I got out in the fresh air once a day, eating more in small increments.

The small increments grew; I started to eat more healthily, exercise gently.

It took a long time to get anywhere near something which looks like recovery, the thoughts have remained, but life became a better option than death.

Quite simply, I let the community around me love me back to life.

As they cared for me; drying my tears and  encouraging my faltering steps, I began to take care of myself.

I glimpsed something of a God who cared more than I could imagine through the acts of care I received from my friends.

And so this week in particular, I want to encourage you, reading these words, to take care of those around you who are struggling.

And to those of you who are struggling – hold on – and let those who love you take care of you.

For more information on self harm and where to get help- check out http://www.selfharm.co.uk

UThis post first featured on //www.threadsuk.com