Hope (Living on a prayer)

I was recently asked to take part in a Blog-Hop project with some other bloggers who also aim to raise awareness of the realities of life with OCD.

The title we were given was ‘HOPE’.  Here is my little contribution.

 

 

What does hope mean to me?  Good question and one I’ve never really considered before.

An initial thought that springs to mind is that it’s a bit like prayer, but without all the associated religious mumbo jumbo /baggage /connections /horseshit (delete as applicable).

An example of this thought process for me would be when a disaster or tragedy hits the news.

You get the usual well natured god botherers stating how they are going to ‘pray for the victims’, as if only they can bring relief through the act of talking to an imaginary sky fairy.

Us less worthy ‘souls’ are left to do something virtually the same but without the blessing of an old story book or priest … HOPE.

‘I hope the people affected recover’ or ‘I hope that doesn’t happen again’.  Does this mean any less because it has no biblical endorsement? … No, didn’t think so.

The REAL heroes here are obviously not the hopers or the prayers, but the good folk actually DOING something physical to help, be it on the ground in person or by fundraising.

 

Anyway, mini-rant over and back to the word HOPE. 

I hope a LOT of things.

Some of these are just that … hopes.  The type of hope I could easily replace with pray if I was so inclined!

I hope my family enjoy good health and luck, I hope I win the lottery; I hope my football team win on Saturday.

I could pray for these or hope for these or both; won’t make much difference either way.

Luck, chance and, if you believe it, destiny will take care of these things and me talking to myself, the clouds, a statue or any random imaginary being will make absolutely no difference whatsoever.

 

Then there are some REAL hopes.  Hopes that I CAN influence.

I hope I can be healthy, I hope I’m good at my job, I hope people think I’m nice, I hope my friends and family are happy, I hope OCD is understood better in the future, I hope I can recover from this horrible illness that’s ruined my life.

Praying for these will have absolutely zero effect … how can it?  It’s just talk with nothing to back it up.

With REAL HOPE comes real action and real inspiration.

I HOPE I CAN BE HEALTHY – I can’t stop illness or disease coming to my door, but I can best prepare myself to fight it off by living a clean, healthy and active lifestyle.

I HOPE I’M GOOD AT MY JOB – Preparation, study and dedication will set most of us down the right path with this one.

I HOPE PEOPLE THINK I’M NICE – Even the most hardened and cynical of us surely want to be liked, or at least respected.  You tend to get what you serve with this one I guess, for better or for worse.

I HOPE MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE HAPPY – More down to them than us, but our behaviour and influence can certainly bear some fruit in the welfare of those we care for.

I HOPE OCD IS BETTER UNDERSTOOD IN THE FUTURE – IT WILL BE!!  There are a lot of dedicated and good people; professionals, sufferers and carers out there pushing the awareness message home on a daily basis.  I hope in my own little way I can add myself to the bottom of that list.

I HOPE I CAN RECOVER FROM THIS HORRIBLE ILLNESS THAT’S RUINING MY LIFE – I HOPE WE ALL CAN! 

It’s not going to come to us though.  We cannot simply ‘pray’ to get better; hope requires so much more than that.

It requires us giving all we can, learning all we can, being prepared to take the rough with the smooth, dealing with the inevitable knock backs, chasing the best treatments, acknowledging that the system isn’t perfect but that it’s what we currently have and that we have to work with it and try to improve it.

It requires us to accept that we may need to be selfish and think about ourselves first sometimes, even if this feels somewhat alien and uncomfortable.

 

Life is real. 

It can be changed and improved by positive actions and thoughts … or you can live life on a wing and a prayer.

 

 

 

Out, damned spot!

Yesterday I saw something.

Something red.

A spot of red liquid.

Actually a splash of red/pink soap that had dropped onto the plastic skirting board between the sinks in the gents toilets at work.

 

This got me thinking…and as you can see, ultimately got me writing.

What would I have seen 4 years ago?

If I had looked at the same thing 4 years ago would it have looked any different?

The answer of course is no.  It would have looked the same.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder not a vision problem.

 

A more testing question would be “would it have FELT any different?”

Felt different??  How can looking at a nondescript splash of soap ‘feel’ different?

The key with this ‘feeling’ is what happens directly upon looking at this red spot.

What does the mind do with this new information it comes into contact with?

 

For the non-OCD blighted brain, “not a lot” would probably be the answer.

Maybe “who made this mess?” possibly “oh, I’d better tidy this up” or “bugger, our dispenser is leaking”, but in all probability nothing – or at least nothing after that initial recognition and thought.

Certainly not any lingering fears that may still be tormenting minutes, hours or even days later!

 

So how does it feel to me?

Well yesterday it felt bemusing, and caused me to do some reflecting.

Reflecting on how this would have made me feel 4 years ago when gripped in OCD’s spiteful, twisting grasp, compared to the smirk it had put on my face now.

 

What had actually changed?

The soap?  No, that was still just soap for cleaning hands; nothing more, nothing less.

The venue?  No, it was still the staff toilet at work; no cleaner, no dirtier.

My eyesight?  Well I need specs for reading now, but I don’t think my eyes were ever bad enough to mistake the whole scenario and write the stories in my mind that would have unfolded.

 

What has actually changed?

ME!  My head, the chemicals in my brain and the way my mind responds to certain triggers.

Yesterday my eyes saw some red soap.  My brain processed this; said “Haha that’s funny, I used to cower in fear of that” and then moved on to some other thought such as “are my flies undone?” or “can I manage to throw this paper towel in the bin without missing?”

 

What I didn’t do – Initially process the vision as that of some spilt soap, then throw doubt and suspicion on to that accurate assessment with a series of irrational intrusive thoughts which cast a whole range of make believe possible scenarios of what it was, how it got there and how it would affect my life going forward.

This sudden reverse biblical style skill of turning soap into blood and weaving a story of how this (now OBVIOUSLY contaminated) blood had jumped up onto the sink and taps and therefore on to my hands and thus, despite sustained repetitive vigorous hand washing, on to a tea bag or chip and into my mouth, before miraculously entering my bloodstream, giving me HIV and prematurely ending my life and those of my family that I had clumsily contaminated in some strange toothbrush related incident….you get the picture?

This wouldn’t be some side story to dip into when bored either; this would be the main act dominating centre stage, only interrupted by the need to occasionally focus on your job or some other welcome distraction.

Once this horror story had backed off a little in its intensity, I down scaled it slightly.  Maybe from a Code Red to Code Amber.

Now my hands were clean ‘enough’.  But the floor and hence my shoes were not.  This was on the skirting board – shoe level. 

These would need inspecting and isolating from home, maybe by leaving outside or in my van for as long as I deemed it ‘necessary’.  Obviously I would need to wash my hands A LOT after shoe removal, well ‘enough’ anyway.

And what about the toilet door handle?  If someone had bled it would be on their hands surely?  A well-practiced system of hand washing/ hands-free door use would need implementing.  Probably safer to just use another toilet all together, can’t be TOO careful …can we????

 

Ah, I can always play my trump card.  I’ll ‘clear it’ with someone else, someone NORMAL.

If I carefully mention “oh, I see the soaps leaking” maybe a colleague will inadvertently confirm this thesis and relieve my pain.  To ask outright would obviously blow my ‘cover’ – not cool with our mental health stigma still ridiculously in place.

Take a photo to show a loved one ‘in the know’ later?  Never thought of that one personally, but some sufferers do apparently.

My preferred tactic to drop my anxiety levels was often to slyly swing the conversation around with my long suffering wife to “oh, I think our soap dispenser is broken, either that or there was blood on the floor (little laugh to make it sound unimportant) …DO YOU THINK IT WAS??!!”

Unfortunately/fortunately she wised up to this pretty quickly and ruined that little outlet of relief.

OCD just loves a willing/unknowing accomplice!

 

Finally I may have talked myself into starting to believe this is some harmless substance after all. 

Best to make sure though, eh?  How to do that?  Take as many opportunities to inspect, stare at, check and convince myself as possible.

Feigning some stomach upset should give me ample excuse for frequent ‘comfort breaks’ throughout the day, each one lowering the specific anxiety but simultaneously fuelling the OCD beast inside.

OCD feeds off reassurance and rituals; the more you feed it, the more it craves and needs.

 

4 years, 1 spot of soap, 2 eyes, 1 mind.  BIG DIFFERENCE.

 

RECOVERY, well worth the fight.

 

 Image