What OCD looks like…the invisible monster

I began to really struggle with OCD about 3 years ago. I didn’t realize that it was OCD right away. Because of my severe anxiety I started obsessing over things. The way things looked, how I placed things, ruminating over small details for long periods of time. In the beginning, I just did things a certain way because it made me feel less anxious. So it seemed like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I do something that made me feel safe enough to leave the house? Eventually, the more rituals I did, the more rituals I added in. Now for most things I do, there is a very specific way I do them. From showering, to getting dressed, to leaving the house, to counting my breaths, to checking for cars coming on the street numerous times. The more I do these “compulsions”, the more they consume me.

Not doing the compulsions can bring about varying feelings of extreme anxiety. Thoughts that the worst possible thing will happen to me. The type of OCD I deal with is health related OCD. It is the fear that something horrible might happen to me. I read on an OCD recovery blog that OCD attacks what we value most. Since I value my health so highly, this makes sense to me. Sometimes I wonder where these intrusive fearful thoughts come from (aside from Trauma), and I realize that OCD is sneaky and will go after the very thing that means the most to you. My well-being is something that I take great pride in. I have devoted a lot of energy to being my healthiest self over the past 4 years. Yes I have made mistakes, yes I have messed up. But that’s also how I’ve learned. So when I feel one of my biggest values being threatened by these scary thoughts, it only makes sense that I would try to do anything to make the thoughts go away. The funny (or not so funny) part is, that the further you try and the harder you try to make the thoughts go away, the more persistent they become. It is actually by acknowledging the thought and seeing it for what it truly is – just a thought – that it actually dissipates. By welcoming the anxiety and accepting it, allowing it to be, it holds less power. Sometimes I literally tell Myself “this is anxiety”. Or “this is a thought, and thoughts aren’t facts”. These little phrases help me observe what is going on with compassion and acceptance, rather than getting so caught up with the thoughts and entering what I call the OCD whirlpool. If I stay on the edge of the whirlpool it is much easier to avoid getting sucked in. Sometimes I do get sucked right into the middle, and it is much more difficult to get out. But I CAN STILL GET OUT. That’s the most important part to remember. I do have a choice – and so do you.

One of the worst parts about dealing with OCD is the shame. It’s something I try and hide from most people, with the exception of very close family. I think I’ve only told one friend. It’s a scary thing to tell people, I worry they might think I’m crazy, or broken, or incapable. I’m worried people will judge me. I still feel the shame. I worry people can see me doing these weird compulsions, or rituals. I’m sure people notice, and probably wonder what I am doing. Maybe they have just accepted that I’m a weird person. Which wouldn’t be the worst thing. Or maybe they are too scared to ask me. Maybe they don’t even notice at all. Whatever people think, the fear is that OCD makes me strange and unlovable. Makes me abnormal in some way. So everyday, I have to choose between the shame of someone seeing the rituals I am doing, or the intense anxiety and frustration/panic/confusion of not doing them. It can feel debilitating at times.

Luckily, I am working with an OCD specialist and together we have come up with exposures for me to do. Exposures are when you deliberately don’t perform your compulsive rituals. I didn’t start with the hardest one, but I have done some pretty difficult exposures. Gradually, as I gain success in my exposure therapy, my confidence grows. The idea is that I have to repeat the same exposure enough times for my brain to become comfortable with the discomfort or anxiety. So eventually my anxiety goes down, and it goes away much quicker than by actually doing the compulsive behaviours. My confidence is building, and it’s been very sticky here and there. I’ve been through some very rough patches, but they made me stronger.

When we are thrown off balance – as is inevitable in life, we learn to strengthen our core.   The stronger our core becomes the less we can get thrown off so easily. And the next time we get uncentered we know how to come back to homeostasis much quicker.

Trauma and “mental illness” is not an easy thing to talk about. Or write about. I just want people out there to really know that. Writing this post was hard. And scary. Know and appreciate that when someone opens up to you about their struggle – this is bravery. This is their healing. So consider it an honour to be a part of another human being’s healing. I’m not talking about people dump-truck piling their negativity on you. That is called having no boundaries. Vulnerabilty and bravery have boundaries. Be deliberate in your vulnerability. Be vulnerable with the right people, for the right reasons. And always remember that you are doing things in exactly the right time, at the right pace, for you.

 

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

 

 

A mid-day Daydream

I accept my flaws and see them as what makes me human. My setbacks become my growth, so should I choose it. I choose my own healing. I reclaim my body as my own. She always has been. My soul is forever mine – to tend with love and kindness. My heart is strong as I hold her with love with love and compassion. She is supported and she is Free.

Free from the chains that once bound me.

Free from the pain I clung to.

Free from the things I had the courage to acknowledge and feel.

Free from the repetitive trauma-wheel.

Scared as I feel new energy opening up within my body. Excited and hopeful as I feel space being freed. Old wounds being sealed and healed. Unblocking pathways for energy to FLOW. Stuck things washing away with the tides of the ocean waves inside me. Calmer shores are cleared. Pink, peachy, smooth, gold-dusted sparkly sands sink ever so slightly beneath my feet. Just damp enough to feel hydrated. Just cool enough to soothe the warm soles of my feet on a hot summer day. As I walk along the ocean’s shore amidst the sunset. Pink, purple, lavender-blue hues line the skies. All the colours meld seamlessly together, and yet they all have their own space. They are all distinguishable, lovable, here. Time floats on. I continue breathing. In, out, with the tide.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

Denying another person’s reality is a form of abuse

One of the most hurtful things a person can do is to deny another person’s feelings or pretend that they don’t exist or matter. This hurts us to the core of our being because at some point in our lives, many of us weren’t believed or were made to feel like our feelings weren’t important. The more your feelings are denied or be-littled, the more afraid you feel to share them. Afraid of the reaction from another and afraid of being blamed for “starting an argument”. Afraid of being made out to be “wrong” or “bad” in some way. This is shame. Shaming someone’s very real emotional experience is detrimental to our feeling of safety and well-being.

I want to tell Myself and all of you something.

YOUR FEELINGS ARE REAL AND THEY MATTER.

YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOT WRONG.

YOU ARE ENTITLED TO YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE.

YOU DESERVE TO BE HEARD AND LISTENED TO WITH OPENNESS AND CURIOSITY AND LOVE.

Isn’t this what we all crave after all? To be really seen and heard for our truth? To be understood at a deeper level? Sometimes I feel like I have to “prove” or justify my feelings – which then spills out into other areas of my life. Feeling like I continuously have to prove my worth affects how I love, how I work, how I lead and how I connect. This is not to say that I shouldn’t try. Effort is different from trying to prove your enoughness. Let me say that again. Effort is different from trying to prove your enoughness. If you are doing something because you genuinely want to support another person or work towards your goals this is effort. It won’t always be easy and you will still have to push yourself at times. But this effort is very different from doing things out of fear that you will not otherwise be accepted.

Try to remember this: when someone puts you down or shames you, it is not about you. It is a reflection of themselves and their own unresolved issues. It is their insecurities, their hidden feelings of anger or resentment sliding through. And it can be nasty. If someone diminishes your feelings, it is because they are uncomfortable with their own. You can’t be witness and hold safe space for someone else’s feelings unless you are able to do the same for yourself. Feel your feelings people…or they will get the best of you and spin out onto others. Stuffed hurt feelings create more hurt feelings. You can’t release your feelings until you have felt them. So don’t keep them captive. Don’t pretend your feelings don’t exist. That’s like pretending you don’t exist. Express your feelings in healthy ways – don’t let them run you on the sidelines.

Take a moment to think of how and when you may have dismissed someone else’s feelings. I know I have done it, and it’s a hard thing to admit. Most of us have done it at some point – or at many points. Stop the cycle of hurt and start listening to others with openness and with consideration.

Much Love,

Raina Aurora

 

 

Put on your princess dress!

Tuesday inspiration:

pagan-kids

When I see little girls in their sparkly, Disney themed princess dresses I get all excited. There’s something so magical and real about wearing your sparkly princess dress out in public. These little girls don’t care what anyone else is thinking about them. They just pick out their favourite glittery dress and get ready to embody their own princess self. They sparkle wherever they go and light up the world around them!

So put on your own version of your princess dress today. Throw on something that makes you smile a little bit bigger, walk a little bit taller and appreciate every step you take. Because YOU ARE LIFE…and that IS amazing! You are worth celebrating! Choose something that makes you feel like a damn Queen! Because you ARE!

24432219279_1c2e432bb1_k

 

Depression feels like

depression-looks-likeDepression feels like a dark grey space surrounding every part of your being. It feels like you are severely deprived of joy and the idea of things that would usually bring you joy don’t seem like options. You feel like a mute among the sea of stimulus around you. You feel tired. You feel like everything is too much and yet nothing is enough to make you feel. You feel like a zombie walking around in the fog. Everything seems dimly light and in shadows. You struggle to find a life raft into the sun.

For me, depression isn’t something I usually talk about. I think I make myself so busy so that I don’t even have time to feel the depression. I am afraid that if I slow down for a minute, I might just sink into the sand and be unable to squirm my way out again. Until I tire myself right out and then I sink anyways. So everyday I put on the mask, the cloak of glitter, make myself the person I’m “supposed” to be. Sometimes she is bright and shiny, she is a people-pleaser and seeks validation from the outside world. If I push myself to keep going, maybe I can outrun the immense sadness that longs to be felt inside. Maybe I can keep those tears at bay for one more day.

But this is not the only part of me. And that is true for most of us. We are made up of many sides, many moving parts and pieces. I also have this tenacious strength – the strength that gets me out of bed in the morning, the strength that gets to me where I need to be, the strength that keeps me going towards my dreams. But I think I need to allow myself to be sad more. Sometimes I don’t even know what I am sad about…but it feels good to cry. Crying usually releases some of the tension, the depression locked away. It soothes the pain and opens a crack of sunlight into my soul again. I can build on that sunlight.

Circus Balancing Act

How do we find soul-time in the midst of organized chaos? Even when things are going well in our lives, it can feel like everything is happening at once, a thousand doors are opening at the same time and we are trying to walk through all of them. You are only one person though, one human being. Sometimes I forget that. It is not possible for us to do everything at once, but we have become excellent jugglers. Skilled in the art of mastering several tasks whilst trying to stay afloat emotionally/physically/mentally/soulfully.

This is no easy feat and we will fumble our way through. Trial and error are a sure thing. But if we are listening to our bodies while keeping our dreams at heart we will surely succeed. But how can we avoid that feeling of burnout or loss of meaning along the way? If we become burnt out, how can we come back to ourselves with ease? The thing is, we know a lot more about ourselves than we are willing to admit. We know when we are pushing ourselves too much, we know when we need to rest, we know when we are in need of time and space. We know our tendencies when burnout is looming near. We know how we react when we feel too stretched.

So how can we avoid feeling like a big old burnout bear that lumbers along and just wants to hibernate all winter? We have to become skilled at compartmentalizing. This is NOT easy to do and don’t worry – we are human so it is only natural that we will slip up sometimes. So…what in the hell does compartmentalizing actually mean? Are our brains like trains with different compartments for all our thoughts and focuses? Not necessarily.  But the more we can train ourselves to be in the present, to breathe deeply, the more we can enjoy life around us and within us. If you are at work, focus on being at work. If you are at home, enjoy the pleasures of home. If you are on a walk, focus on your feet on the ground or your hands swinging back and forth. Be where you are. Orient yourself and find some element of comfort in your surroundings. Let go of the need to jump ten steps ahead and learn to be ok with the now. TRUST that things will sort out. I don’t mean being complacent in your actions, but I DO mean taking only the necessary action for right now. There isn’t much gain in worrying about the 10 things you have to do before you get there. But you CAN make your very next move to get you one step closer to your dream.

Sidenote: get clear on your dream. What exactly are you looking for? How and what do you want to feel when you get there? Write down a list of feelings that you want to feel. If your dream doesn’t support how you want to feel, then what the heck is the point anyway? We are all really just working towards feeling a certain way. We all want to feel “good”. Society propagates good feelings along with material success, so we strive for that. But when that material doesn’t deliver said promised feelings, what then? This is why it is so imperative that we get so so super clear on how we want to feel. Design your dreams to support those feelings.

OK, so now that you have your dream and feelings kinda sorta figured out (they may evolve along the way), what is the next step you need to take? When will you take it? Schedule it in. And then schedule some soul-time nearby. Make sure you balance the outward ventures with your inward reflection and processing. We need time to digest what is happening in our lives, just like we need time to digest our food. It is no wonder that when we feel stressed it affects our digestive system. It is all connected. It is all in sync. Did you know that our stress hormones can actually become addictive to us? We get used to being in a state of being busy and being on the go that we learn to operate like that. It actually takes our higher self to recognize the pattern and make a shift. Slow down, do less, let go. It’s really scary to not feel ‘in control’, and when we’re busy trying to control everything we don’t have as much chance to feel. By accepting uncertainty in life (and you can assume the best instead of speculating the worst), we realize we don’t have as much to do. We can just enjoy being. Being alive, being in the moment, being a part of the world around us. We don’t become a product of the world – we are instead able to observe it from a place of ease and flow.

Get off the merry-go-round because it does not leave you feeling very merry. It just continues to go round and round until you feel sick and dizzy. Sometimes we get busy, crazy busy even. That’s ok…you can handle it if you play your cards to the tune of your needs. Take breaks, go for walks, put your feet on the grass, drink water, eat well, sleep consistently, wind down before bed, limit your use of technology, take time to journal, to talk to people who support you, cuddle your pet, stretch, take baths, shake it out, feel your body, get a massage. Do things that help your body and mind go from buzzing to a smooth grounded rhythm.

Uniquely Untitled

unicorn-day-e1523293823642I have taken a hiatus from blogging for the past little bit because I have been occupied with other endeavours (such as preparing to start my own business, planning a wedding, looking for a new therapist, selling our condo and enjoying the summer), whew! It’s alot. Feels like a whirlwind some days, but a good one. However, my soul-time needs nurturing so I figure it’s time to get back on the horsey as they say!

I have had so many ideas floating around on what to write about. They all seemed like great ideas but for some reason I just couldn’t grab hold of the motivation long enough to actually write about them. Some ideas seem too vague, or too cliché, or just been done before. So I’m starting this post with absolutely no idea of what I’m going to write about.

I think we all get scared of getting caught in the “predictability” trap. We are living this paradoxical life of wanting to be uniquely special and different, yet still on trend and fitting in with the rest of your social circle or whichever societal standards you have set for yourself. You want to stand out, but blend in. It’s a weird thing. Also, just because something has been done before doesn’t mean you can’t do it too. You may not be the first to try something but, you won’t be the last and your experience of whatever it is you try is entirely unique to you. Wether it be a fashion trend, something you create or design, or a ritual you practice. What makes it special is your own experience of it. Your learning from it. The fact that you tried something you haven’t tried before makes it special. Copying someone or something isn’t a bad thing – that’s where inspiration comes from. That’s what inspiration is. It’s the replication of something that evokes a certain feeling in you – and your version of creating that. The vision you create will never look exactly like someone else’s – so don’t even sweat it. Plus, in my opinion, it’s totally flattering to have someone be inspired by you! It’s the best kind of compliment.

I guess I’m off on a tangent now, but what I’m feeling is that we worry too much about doing something that no one has ever done before – trying to blow everyone’s socks off with these grandiose creations and our attempts at “perfection”. But perfection squanders our uniqueness, that special soul light that shines from within. You are perfectly imperfect. That’s what makes you lovable. And…always remember that to someone else looking at you…you are perfect. Just like when you gaze upon someone else they may seem perfect to you, or they may seem to have the “perfect” life. But whatever you see in them that you idolize, it is highly probable that you have those same qualities within yourself. You just can’t seem them yet.

If you look back five years, or even a year – you probably fantasized about having some of the things you currently have in your life today. And you’ve been slowly prodding along, making those visions a reality for yourself. You have! Just think about some of the things you have now in your life that you once wished you would have, but at the time they seemed like a faraway dream. Now they are a reality. That’s the funny thing about life – is that things happen for you when you keep at it. Keep at the vision. The vision may not actualize in the exact form you thought it would. But it happens in the best way for you. Be willing to allow for those modifications to your dream. Be open to the possibilities that are presented to you. Stay in touch with your soul along the way. You have what you once wished you would have, right now. Take that in. Note 3 things that you once wished for that have become your living joy.

Do you wonder why you don’t feel the way you thought you would when you achieved these things? Do you wonder why you still don’t feel completely at ease or in bliss 24/7? I think we place way too much value upon obtaining certain things in our lives – as in “when I get this, I’ll be happy” or “if I could just do this, everything would be great” or “this would solve all my problems”. We are expecting perfect from things in our lives that will never give us perfection because perfection doesn’t exist. What you will feel is different – not perfect, but different. You may feel more at ease, more security, more love. Notice these different feelings and be aware of them. But with new comes new things to be anxious about also! Once you reach one goal or obtain one thing, simultaneously another door or possibility enters your life. You are presented with new problems while new solutions become available to you.

You will never “be happy when”. Stop chasing happiness outside and find it inside. Search for things that elevate your life, your mindset, your emotions. Take stock of what grounds you, what holds you and what keeps your fire burning bright. You are a miracle just being you. You appreciating you is a miracle on another level. Gratitude always allows for peace and more abundance!

9989906920e3c55c3c812c7cfb975dc2