OCD: What Have You Assigned Meaning To?

OCD: What Have You Assigned Meaning To?

Captive

Good Morning Peaches!

I hope you are well, my friends, but if you are not, maybe something in my Friday’s anxiety post will help.

Today’s topic: Assigning meaning.

*Note- What I am discussing in today’s post is going to sound extremely strange to those of you without OCD. It is important to know that though these people are suffering in their minds, they are still intelligent, highly functioning members of society. Your boss, your best friend, the neighbor you wave to daily may very well have OCD and you don’t even know. A person with OCD is aware that what they are experiencing is not normal and want desperately to be better. A silver lining is that your friend with OCD has had to work extremely hard to find out what thoughts and feelings are worth following. They would be a good one to ask if you are looking for advice. 🙂

What Have You Assigned Meaning To?

What does it mean to assign meaning?

We assign meaning when we give ourselves a personalized significance to something. It’s not the meaning. It’s our meaning.

The inclination to assign meaning to things is something that everyone has, not just the person with OCD. But while someone without an anxiety disorder will not be distraught by the meaning they have assigned, the person with OCD will become highly anxious, fearful, and obsessed.

The nature of OCD is to try to bring order in a very disordered way. If you have OCD, you know that numbers play a huge role in the disorder. Our brain brings certain numbers to mind and those become part of our compulsions (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Let’s say that you have assigned meaning to the number seven. You have done so because at some point your brain has given you a signal to pay attention to the number seven. In the person with OCD, these signals are so strong that they are extremely difficult to ignore. Because of these feelings of urgency, they think there must be significance to this number so it becomes a part of there compulsions.

I will detour for a minute to discuss compulsions for those that don’t know what they are.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. All of us, OCD or not, have random weird thoughts. But there is a fear response that arrises in the person with OCD that causes them to obsess about whatever it is. Because the fear response is so strong, the person begins to act out compulsions to get relief from the anxiety that they are experiencing due to the highly disturbing thoughts.

Here is an example of how this is played out. Someone hears of the terrible tragedy that someone has run over their child. It is the normal response to imagine this happening to ourselves. But where someone without OCD is deeply saddened by the news, they are able to carry on with their daily lives as they did before. But for the person with OCD, they are not only deeply saddened but their brain sends all these warnings signals (fear response) to the point that they feel they need to protect themselves from this happening to them. They now have intense anxiety when getting into the car to back out of the driveway or parking space. They check behind the car seven times. Getting in the car, closing the door, opening the door, getting out, checking for children, repeating seven times. When they have completed their “ritual”, there is a brief feeling of relief. But it doesn’t last long and the urge to act out the compulsions only grows stronger each time they complete a ritual.

So back to assigning meaning.

These posts are not therapy. These posts are to hopefully make you aware of what is happening to you and that you are not alone. You are not crazy even though it definitely seems like it. And that there is help!

First, you must become aware of your obsessions and compulsions. What are you obsessing about? What numbers is your brain bringing significance to? Many times it is blatantly obvious what your obsessions and compulsions are. But other times it not. I will tell my experience to help those of you that are unaware that what you are experiencing is OCD because it is all mental. Yes, this will all sound insane but lucky for all of you I am not humiliated by anything anymore. 🙂 From a young age, after hearing about the book of Revelation (not reading, hearing), I became obsessed with the end of the world. When I was around eight years old, I had a dream that I was in my bedroom looking out the window. I saw the moon even though it was daytime and was overcome with fear that the apocalypse was going to occur shortly. When I woke up I was distraught (fear response). From then on my brain sought out evidence that the end of the world would occur around something to do with the moon. The nature of OCD is to find evidence that there is significance to your obsessions. Everywhere I looked after having the dream, I saw the end of the world coming. On the news, in the Bible, in my community, everywhere. You can read more about why this is in my post The Searchlight of OCD. Because the nature of OCD, is to convince you that your thoughts and feelings are true, I believed that the end was near from the time I was eight years old, until I was in my thirties.

No one, not even me, new I had OCD. Why? Because my compulsions were all mental. Because I wasn’t washing my hands five times or locking my doors ten times no one noticed. But I did have compulsions. Because my apocalypse obsession began with hearing about the book of Revelation, the numbers that I assigned meaning to were the numbers given significance in the Bible. Seven, twelve, forty. My brain’s way of keeping check on my obsessions was to do everything in sevens. I was constantly counting in my brain in sevens, doing things on times that either was seven or added up to be seven. If I was doing something important, I made sure it was on the seventh of the month or the seventh day of the week or at least the numbers of the date would add to be seven. Twelve and forty had different meanings. If there were forty days between moons or anything that I deemed significant for that matter, I was filled with anxiety and worried that the end was near. Same thing with twelve. You can bet I was a nervous wreck leading up to 2012. Haha! It’s all obviously ridiculous but it was very real to me at the time and I know so many of you are experiencing the same kind of thing and need to know that it is ridiculous. You are longing for someone to show you proof that it is ridiculous.

Friend, there is proof everywhere that your obsessions are ridiculous. But your brain is programmed to find proof otherwise. Understanding this is crucial.

I also share my OCD experiences with you so that you can see in black and white what happens. You see how my obsessions and compulsions stemmed from some truth. There is a book in the Bible that is about an apocalypse. The numbers seven, twelve, and forty are in fact significant numbers in the Bible. There are verses about the moon and stars being signs from God. But the truth stops there. My OCD brain added a bunch of NON-truths to this and then found evidence to support them! But even though I assigned a meaning to all of these things, none of them were the meanings.  Nothing good will happen because it is 7:00. Nothing bad will happen because it is the 6th of the month. It doesn’t at all matter how many days are between full moons, or constellations, or eclipses. Do you now see what OCD does? It spins the truth in your mind and then seeks out evidence to make it true to you.

I hope this may have opened your eyes to what is going on. If you identify with any of the above, here are some action steps to take.

  • Make an appointment with a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders.
  • In the meantime, make a list of your obsessions and then try to identify your compulsions. They are the things that you are driven to do when the fear response arrises.
  • Try your best to take your thoughts and feelings captive. Do not be so quick to believe them. Try to remember where they came from and try hard to sort out what is truth and what is not. This is HARD work. You will likely not be able to do it alone but you can do what you can until you receive professional help.

I know a lot of shame comes with OCD so let me just give you some encouragement. You friend, are learning to do something that many never will! You are learning to not be driven by your thoughts and feelings. This is such an IMPORTANT lesson that unfortunately many don’t learn because they don’t have to. Believe it or not, all of this will help you on this crazy journey called life.

Blessings,
Angela

 

 

Free Fitness: A Chasing After The Wind

Free Fitness: A Chasing After The Wind

Ecc 12

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,  for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?  To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Good morning!

In today’s Free Fitness post, we are remembering what matters in the grand scheme of things. Ecclesiastes is a great place to camp out when you need to reel it all back in.

Today we are asking ourselves what we are spending time on, what we are focusing on, and what we are giving value to.

What is your reason for trying to be fit? Be completely honest. For most of the years that I “toiled” away on the treadmill, hopped around my living room in front of the TV, and worried about every bit of food that passed my lips (healthy or not), health wasn’t a motivator for any of it. I wanted to be thin and beautiful, I wanted to feel in control, I wanted to “live my best life”. Take it from someone who knows this road all too well, trying to “living your best life” is a bunch of crap.

Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes to the same thing that Solomon saw. It’s all a chasing after the wind. Not one of us is going to escape aging. Not one of us is going to escape death. Not one.

So at the end of your life, what will have mattered? That you made sure your diet was completely free of preservatives and low in calories? That you ran thousands of miles to nowhere? That you hit that number on the scale? That you fit into a size 2 or 6 or 12 or 16?

Meaningless!

What matters at the end of the day?

To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.

Ask yourself? Is your life just gathering and storing? If so, stop. It is meaningless.

If you are still asking yourself, “What in the world does this have to do with fitness?”, here is the bottom line: Have you prayed today? Have you opened your Bible today? Do you have any plans to do so? Does your heart have a desire to please the Lord? If not, this whole fitness thing may help you for a few good weeks, months, or years, but it will in fact, like everything else, end up as a meaningless chasing after the wind.

Blessings,
Angela

 

PPD/PPA/PPOCD: New Baby? Terrified?

PPD/PPA/PPOCD: New Baby? Terrified?

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Good morning Peaches!

Today I want to bring more attention to postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD. When I was newly pregnant, I read about postpartum depression and my doctor even talked to me about it but I didn’t give it much thought after that. I thought surely it wouldn’t happen to me and if it did, I would just be a little more weepy than usual in the weeks after my baby arrived. Little did I know, I would be struck with PPD and it would be WAY worse than just being tearful. It wouldn’t occur in the weeks following the birth of my baby but much later and it would happen TWICE in two totally different ways! PPD/PPA/PPODC is difficult as it is but not knowing what is actually going on makes it a thousand times worse. This is why I blog. 🙂

Here are some facts about postpartum depression, anxiety, and OCD that would have helped me to know before I knew. Hopefully, this finds you at just the right time.

You Are More Likely To Experience PPD/PPA/PPOCD If You Have Struggled With Anxiety or Depression in the Past

When I was pregnant with Ryan, I didn’t think that I had gone through bouts of anxiety or depression before. This was silly because I struggled with eating disorders for years. Of course, there was depression and anxiety at the base of all that! Have you experienced bouts of depression and anxiety in the past? Have you struggled with eating disorders? Does alcoholism run in your family? If you answer yes to any of these, be on the lookout for symptoms post pregnancy.

PPD/PPA/PPOCD Does Not Always Strike Right After Having Your Baby

THIS would have been great for me to know beforehand. Because I seemed more than fine weeks even months after giving birth, I had no idea that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety when it struck! It can hit anytime in the first YEAR after giving birth. I had postpartum anxiety after both of my pregnancies. Both times I was fine until my babies were around seven months.

It’s NOT Just Being Extra Weepy.

I didn’t know what was happening because I wasn’t just sad… I was utterly terrified! I was overcome with feelings of sadness (depression), feelings of terror (anxiety), and for me, the thoughts and feelings centered around very specific thoughts (OCD). These feelings were intense and overwhelming and didn’t go away.

The Thoughts and Feelings Do Not Have To Center Around Your Baby

You would think that if you have gone through PPD once, you would be better prepared for it the second time around right? Wrong! Not when it comes at you in a totally new way! After Ryan was born, I was convinced that I was dying. I was having all of these crazy symptoms but when I went to the doctor nothing was wrong. Now I know that the symptoms were all from anxiety even though they were very real at the time. Anxiety causes real headaches, real knots in your neck and back, real stomach issues, real exhaustion. Anxiety attacks often times mimic heart attacks symptoms so of course, I thought something was wrong with me. But the only thing wrong with me was that I was experiencing postpartum anxiety.

After I had my daughter, my thoughts were not about myself, they were about my son who was four years old at the time. I was obsessed with terrible thoughts that something awful was going to happen to him. I kept thinking if this was postpartum anxiety, why was I not worried about me dying again or at least worried about the actual baby I just had! The answer is that you don’t get to pick. Obviously if you did you would pick not to suffer at all.

Oh! I almost forgot. It doesn’t always happen after the first baby either. It could strike in the second, third, or fourth even though the other pregnancies were perfectly fine!

It Is Very Important NOT To Isolate

Ugh. Isolating has always been my downfall. 😦 When you’re feeling crazy, the last thing you want to do is be crazy in front of others. It never failed, conversations always ended up in tears even if the discussion wasn’t anything deep. Then of course, when people see your tears they want to help… but, bless em, they can’t. The season of postpartum anxiety is a jumbled mess of tears, terror, and embarrassment. But take heart! It is just a season. This too shall pass. It will. But isolating will only make it worse and prolong it. When we are left alone with our thoughts, they gain more and more significance. Even though it may be embarrassing, I have found that the best thing to do is just be honest about what is going on. But even though it’s difficult to get out or even just be honest with your spouse, you must. The more you isolate, the more you lose touch with reality.

Your thoughts and feelings are not reality.

Seek Help

I know I tell you all to seek help a lot in this blog. It’s because it’s so important! If God wanted us to do things alone why would He give us doctors, medicine, therapists, hospitals, technology, and ALL the things that He has so graciously gifted us with! Don’t white knuckle it. I did not know what I was experiencing after my first pregnancy. Although the thoughts and feelings did ease up a bit in the years between my son and my daughter, they never went away completely because I never got help. I had given so much significance to the thoughts that I couldn’t let them go. Then when I had my daughter, the anxiety was way worse! I am so glad that I finally did seek therapy and you need to as well if you are going through this. You need to learn to sort your thoughts. and question the significance. If need be, you need medication to quiet your mind and bring you back into reality. There is nothing wrong with this. When our loved one is sick, we are thankful for doctors and medicine. When you are sick, be thankful for doctors and medicine.

I hope this helps some of you moms out there! If you are dealing with this, remember you are a great mom, you are not alone in your struggle, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Blessings!
Angela