Activities · Chronic Illness · Mental Health · Stress Management

Gratitude Lists

Living with chronic illness it can be difficult at times to see the positives in your life. What with the endless mental and physical symptoms attached to your condition/s, in some cases the inability to work, be financially stable, have your own property and maintain relationships – life can be very difficult.

The last month has been a trying time for me with my conditions (which you can read about here) and I took a dip both mentally and physically. However the thing that has kept me going is the thing that always keeps me going – taking the time to appreciate what I do have in my life.

Gratitude lists are a great tool in realising that even in your most difficult times, there are still things in your life to be grateful for. No matter how small.

There are many ways you can create gratitude lists, it is just dependant on how much time you would like to dedicate to it. Some people may find writing one thing down each night that they have been grateful for that day helpful, whilst others may like to make a list in one go once a month. Alternatively you may find it useful to do one in times when you need a pick me up. The point is it should provide you comfort in your most difficult times and a go to resource to remind you why your life is good.

Photo by Miesha Maiden on

So what should you add to your gratitude list? This is a list which is unique to you so whilst you may have some generalised items you can have personal items specific to you too.

E.g. My generalised gratitude list includes:

  • Family
  • Access to food/drink
  • Roof over my head
  • The sun
  • The trees
  • Colours
  • Books and the ability to read
  • Warm bobble hats
  • Hot water bottles

E.g. My personal gratitude list includes:

  • My strength
  • Anyone who has helped me on my journey
  • My determination
  • My achievements big and small
  • My ability to keep going even when I want to give up

If you want to write daily gratitude lists, try and write about things that have happened to you that day which made you smile.

E.g. Wednesday gratitude list

  • Had a shower
  • Finished a chapter of my book
  • Had someone pay me a compliment
  • The weather

Another take is to give yourself themes to work around. From picking a season of the year (autumn) to a holiday you enjoy (Christmas), or even breaking down a gratitude you have already said and listing why you are grateful for it. You could even give yourself the alphabet challenge and list one thing beginning with each letter of the alphabet (if you can!)

E.g. My alphabet of gratitude includes:

  • A is for Air
  • B is for Blogging
  • C is for Countryside
  • D is for Dublin etc. etc.

Remember you can make it as serious or as fun as you want.

There you have it if there is one thing you do to make yourself feel better – make a gratitude list. There is no doubt life with chronic illness is hard, but remember to hold on to the little things in life; they are what will get you through.

So what are you grateful for?

Chronic Illness · Mental Health · Symptoms

Getting Better – Fantasy vs Reality – Health Update

Today’s blog post is a little bit different to normal as I am going to share with you what has happened to me over the last few weeks. I haven’t blogged for about two weeks which has been extremely difficult as blogging has given me a focus of late – a sense of feeling ‘normal’ again whatever normal means these days.

You may or may not know I have five chronic conditions all of which affect me in different ways and on different levels. I don’t say this much but sometimes having multiple illnesses is just plain hard what with having symptoms every single day and having to accept it. The point is though after many (and I mean many) years of denial I had started to accept them as being part of my life.

So why am I talking about this? Well recently I was placed on medication in relation to one of my conditions. This was the first time I had been offered any sort of medication for any of my conditions and was feeling positive about it. I was told the initial settling in phase may give me side effects, to which I accepted because I am so used to being ill what’s a bit more illness. But I got through the initial side effects even when at times I thought I wouldn’t because I had so much faith things would improve and it did. A few of my symptoms whilst they didn’t disappear seemed to be better and that was when I made the mistake of believing I was getting better.

Feeling small improvements in myself started making me overlook any issues with symptoms I had. Instead I was trying to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad, things were getting easier completely dismissing the fact that I have five conditions and this medication was only for the one – that and the fact it was only designed to help with a fraction of the symptoms associated with this one condition anyway.

Photo by Markus Winkler on

My desire to be cured made me push on and set myself targets that were way above my ability. But that wasn’t really the problem, the problem was around two weeks ago I started feeling really ill again and any improvements I saw seemed to be disappearing again. It was then I had a horrific evening and collapsed ending up with a visit from the paramedics. Recovery has been slow and it has taken a lot longer than expected, my body just seems its in a ‘meh’ state and finds functioning too much to deal with. To top it off my collapse may mean now I can’t stay on my medication and keep those small improvements it has made.

I don’t know why I collapsed and I am still awaiting test results, but part of me wonders if I pushed myself too much all in my quest to be cured. It’s sad because I have been unwell for so many years and yet here I am still waiting for that magic pill that is going to make it better. Waiting for that fairy tale ending where suddenly everything is going to fall into place and I can live a ‘normal’ life. But this isn’t a fairy tale this is reality and this is chronic illness.

I wont lie to you having my body fail me yet again did affect my confidence. I had so many plans in terms of things I wanted to blog about and get involved with and having my body back to a unfunctional state made me want to stop. I just felt like I had come so far and I was back at square one again. But I guess that same statement is why I am typing right now because I have come so far. Physically things are not great right now, but mentally I am getting back to a good place.

Whilst this might not mean much to others this blog is important to me and I am going to strive to continue so watch this space….

Films · Halloween

Halloween Films – My Top Picks

Living with chronic illness it can be hard finding activities you can enjoy that are low energy, so with Halloween around the corner now is the perfect time (chronic illness or not) to emerge yourself in the world of film.

The genre of horror has such an array of different categories it really can be for anybody. From slasher to psychological and comedy to monster, the choices really are endless. So with this in mind I have selected my top films to watch this Halloween if you dare….

FYI – Please note all these films should only be watched if age appropriate – always check the certificate.

  • Kids Halloween Film The Witches

Let’s start gently with a good children’s Halloween pick (also ideal if you are not a big horror fan) and my top recommendation The Witches. You already know this is a great pick as it is based on the great children’s book of the same name by Roald Dahl. Although there is a new version for 2020 I still believe the 1990 version starring Anjelica Houston as the Grand High Witch is brilliant.

Runner up – Casper

  • Comedy Horror Shaun of the Dead

Runner up – Scary Movie

  • Splatter Horror Saw

People have very mixed views on the franchise that is Saw and the mastermind behind it Jigsaw, but for me Saw was one of the best horror franchises I have ever seen. As with a lot of films I found the very first film the best which centres around two men being chained up in a room and not knowing how they got there. The twists and turns are highly entertaining and the plot twist at the end was something I never saw coming. Not forgetting of course the array of games that are played throughout the film and the gore they produce.

Runner up – Hostel

  • Slasher Horror – Halloween

Runner up – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

  • Supernatural HorrorIT

There are so many worthy supernatural horrors out there, but one of the most memorable is Stephen King’s IT because lets face it what’s scarier than a creepy looking clown? Pennywise (the clown) is actually a shape shifting monster who forces the characters to face their scariest fears. The film is actually split into two parts (so you need to watch the second film to get the whole of the story) as the children from the first film come back as adults and try to defeat the clown once and for all.

Runners up – Sinister and the Blair Witch Project (I couldn’t resist picking two!)

Photo by cottonbro on

  • Monster HorrorThe Babadook

Runner up – A Quiet Place

  • Psychological HorrorEscape Room

Now not everyone would call this a traditional horror as this film is about six people taking part in a mysterious escape room experience which quickly becomes more real than they were expecting. Watching the players go from room to room you feel yourself go along for the journey on the different challenges they face.

Runner up – The Belko Experiment

Other strong recommendations on my little list of horrors include:

  • Mama
  • Scream
  • Wicker Man

So here you have it my top film list for Halloween this year – what are yours?

Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · Mental Health · PCOS · UTCD

Family, Friends and Chronic Illness

You think I would be used to it by now the subtle eye rolls, the exchanged looks of ‘here we go again’ and the deep sighs of ‘what is wrong now’ falling out of people’s lips. The sad thing is I am used to it, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. I don’t expect anything less from strangers, people who don’t know me or my life, to look and make such gestures confused at what it is that is wrong with me exactly. I look ‘normal’ after all. Is it annoying? Yes, but does it surprise me? Not anymore sadly it is part and parcel of living with invisible chronic illnesses. It’s the people who do know me that react like that which are the real stingers; my family and friends.

How do you describe chronic illness to someone who doesn’t have one? You can give it a good go if needed, but ultimately its just words if you don’t experience it yourself. Throw in multiple chronic illnesses and it gets even more complicated as people start to suspect you may be some kind of hypochondriac as why it is always you that has to have everything wrong. I didn’t choose to get ill, yet I am and if not having to deal with my own emotions regarding my situation wasn’t enough I have to deal with everyone else’s too.

As much as I have struggled with the changes in my life over the years, it has been difficult for other people in my life too. Gone are the days of the workaholic professional in a well-paid job who back in my university days could be out for hours on end and not bat an eyelid. Now I am doing well if I manage to leave my house once every few days for a bit of fresh air. I have seen the changes in my life and in me as a person, so why wouldn’t anyone else notice it too?

One of the hardest things about being chronically ill – symptoms aside – is the disappointment I feel in other people around me. They don’t show it on purpose to make me feel bad, in fact I am not sure they realise they are even showing it at all, but I can feel it. The disappointment I am not the same person anymore that my life isn’t going in the direction it once was. I had such big goals in life and now my biggest achievement is having a shower every few days. I have learnt through my understanding of chronic illness that my goals now are just as important as my goals were before, but it doesn’t mean they seem important to others. They are out working, doing housework, raising babies and here I am congratulating myself over the fact I have washed my hair.

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The truth is I feel at times I have to press the mute button on how I feel about my chronic illnesses to pacify others. Because whilst they support me physically I feel I have to support them emotionally when it comes to my illnesses more so than myself. I pretend I am ok that the mind-numbing fatigue in my body is not too bad, that the dizziness in my head will pass and the thumping headache will subside. Why you ask would I do that? Because if fighting the symptoms of chronic illness daily has taught me anything it is I so much stronger than anyone could imagine.

Seeing the sadness of others about my situation and at times their annoyance can stir up a mixture of emotions inside of me. Sometimes it is anger that they cant be more understanding, other times embarrassment that at the age of 32 I am still living the way I am and am so dependant on others, and on occasions hurt because I feel if the people who know me best don’t understand me then how can I get others who don’t know me at all to.

My feelings aside it has never really dawned on me however how it must be loving someone who has chronic illness. Loving someone and watching them live life with so many limitations. Whether that be your daughter, son, mother, father, brother, sister, friend or spouse, the person or people on the other side of the coin are suffering too. They don’t have a quick fix to make everything better so all they can do is be there, watch and support. They might not get it right sometimes, but do any of us? Because in the same way chronic illness patients may filter what they say to protect their loved ones, their loved ones probably do the same back.

Chronic illness doesn’t just affect me, sure I am living with the symptoms and the limitations, but it affects my friends and family too. It robs us all. It is natural whichever side of the illness you lay on to experience a cauldron of emotions in relation to the situation; it doesn’t make anyone bad people. We are all dealing with the beast that is chronic illness one way or another, so it is about becoming more understanding to each other’s needs.

Photo by Dennis Magati on

Talk and listen, be honest and be considerate. Don’t take it to heart if sometimes you hear things don’t want to hear because sometimes you may say things too that are hard for others to digest. Even though talking is important so is having fun together and making time for each other that isn’t just about chronic illness. You are not your illness so it’s important at times to remind others of that too.

Remember you are not problem, your family and friends are not the problem. Chronic illness is the problem and with your loved ones by your side you can face it together and become stronger than ever before.

PLEASE NOTE – If talking to your loved ones is too hard and not an option then the use of support groups are fundamental and a great tool in hearing about other people in the same boat. This includes family, friends and carers as well as sufferers themselves. Don’t suffer alone – there are more people out there then you realise.

Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · Mental Health · Stress Management · UTCD

Action Plan for Seasonal Changes

Depending on your specific condition seasonal changes can make a huge difference to chronic illness both physically and mentally. Some people may even experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression that is essentially affected by the seasons of the year. Before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and UCTD I was told I had SAD because I struggle predominately more in the autumn/winter months. I know now the reason for this was because the colder months made my conditions worse and therefore my mood lower. Although I do not have SAD as such I have found that some of the techniques I used in preparation of the colder darker months can help with chronic illness.

Preparation is key so in terms of my own experiences I am quite late as I normally feel the impact October onwards, so I would aim to start getting ready September time, but here we are mid October and I am only just beginning never mind!

Please note if you do suffer with SAD specifically then contact your doctor for more advice and information.

My first step on my action plan is to organise my winter drawer. Quite simply I select a drawer (or 2!) in my cupboard and a section in my wardrobe and fill it with my essential winter items. Items include jumpers, socks, tights, ear muffs, thermal tops and my most favourite item a bobble hat. Bigger items may include onesies, dressing gown, slipper boots, (although I wear these all year round), and hot water bottles. By having the items ready I don’t have to worry about finding them when the seasons hit and it is easier to throw things on without any debating when I am feeling not so great.

My winter drawer containing thermal vests, tights, socks, ear muffs and bobble hat

My second step is to organise myself. I do this by putting together some type of diary of course this would be helpful all year round, but I do find in the colder months my ability to stick to things wanes significantly as my symptoms affect me more. You can do this to record dates of importance, but to also plan things coming up to manage your energy levels more effectively. You can do this with a regular diary, an electronic version, or even a large wallchart/calendar. This year I have opted for an online calendar in order to plan any blogging bits I want to do which will not only help me manage my energy, but hopefully keep me motivated.

Photo by Bich Tran on

My third step is to brighten up my living space. Whilst there are many amazing things to enjoy about the autumn/winter months they can be quite dark, cold and often wet months, (in the UK anyway!), so I find it important to inject colour into my life in other ways. I do this by bringing out my colourful accessories and furnishings and things that remind me of warmer climates. Cue the orange and yellow cushions and the beach pictures!

My fourth step is to plan how I am going to get more natural light. Being chronically ill it can be difficult to get out the house at the best of times, but especially when it cold and wet. Whilst at this stage my plan is to have a short walk every few days to soak up the light the reality is that may become difficult. Other ways of dealing with this is for me to reposition my spot in the living room so I am sat next to windows, make sure my curtains are thinner to get more light in my room and to set up my sunrise/sunset alarm clock to help me with getting to sleep and waking up.

UPDATE – My sunrise clock is not working even after changing the bulb arghhh!

My fifth step is to look at the positives of the seasons. As I already mentioned the autumn/winter months have a multitude of amazing things about them, so it is important to remember it is not the seasons themselves that are the problem – it is the lack of light and warmth. The colours of autumn are beautiful and there are many things to look forward to regardless of how much energy I want to contribute to them. Events such as Halloween, Bonfire Night and my most favourite time of year Christmas – even though my body may be struggling they are great things to focus my mind on. If the winter is a real problem it may be an idea to start doing little bits for Christmas now, so it doesn’t become too overwhelming nearer the time.

Photo by on

So here you have it my 5 step action plan for the seasonal changes. Other things to consider are freezing meals, taking up a new indoor hobby, light therapy boxes (make sure to always do your research), eliminating stress as much as possible and the usual suspects in monitoring your diet and exercise pattern.

Remember the more you prepare now, the less pressure you will put on yourself later!

Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · PCOS · UTCD · Work

Techniques to Use at Work

Following on from my previous blog post on Work and Chronic Illness – if you missed it you can find it here – today I am going to talk about the different techniques you can use at work if indeed you have to.

During my time at work I tried to come up with a few techniques to combat some of my symptoms which if you are in position where work is your only option you may (or may not!) find useful. Remember this will be determined by the type of work you do and the type of condition you have, so you may need to make your own adjustments based on your actual job role and health.

  • Muscle pain – If you suffer with muscle pain try to do some mindful stretching to stretch out achy muscles – depending on your work environment you may find you need to nip out to the toilet so it doesn’t look like you are auditioning for a fitness DVD
  • If you are sat down at work make sure you take up the opportunity to undertake a workstation assessment. This will help to provide you with the right type of chair, foot rest, technology and work space for your individual needs
  • To combat fatigue and headaches make sure you drink plenty of water and have regular snacks. This will also help keep your blood sugar steady if you suffer with dizziness
  • Go to bed the same time every night to let your body get into a routine
  • Make sure you take your full entitled break – In society nowadays we are expected to work like machines due to staff shortages and tighter deadlines and as a result feel railroaded into taking shorter breaks or in some cases missing breaks altogether. Under no circumstances allow yourself to do this as you will only pay for it later. Take your full break, get out in the fresh air and away from your work environment, eat and drink to refuel and try to switch your brain off in that short space of time
  • Make sure you take all medications and aids with you to work and set reminders for any medications you need to take throughout the day
  • If you are working in an office environment and are light sensitive then adjust the brightness on the computer screen and use coloured screen paper when reading documents
Photo by Pedro Figueras on
  • Practise deep breathing in stressful situations
  • Pace your activities if possible by changing between physical and mental tasks. If you have spoken to your manager about your condition/s then you could explain the importance of pacing to them so depending on your job role they could alter your tasks.
  • Develop a strong work life balance by not letting work become your life otherwise your home life will be the area affected
  • When you leave work each day switch your work brain off and shove it in a drawer – easier said than done right! The reality is though there is no point worrying about things you have/haven’t done when at home because you can’t do anything about it until your back at work – you’re wasting valuable energy. Wasted energy that will only impact your home life which is really not what you need
  • Speak up when things are getting tough – do not suffer in silence
  • Realise that if things are getting too much having time away from work isn’t a weakness. If you need to be signed off regardless of how long that is for it is probably the best thing for you at that time. Chronic illness is hard work and working with one is even harder so give yourself a break and hold up on the guilt.
  • Consider a career change – It sounds so easy when people say it, but not everybody is able to just give up their current job and take a chance on something completely different, but if you are struggling in your current role it doesn’t hurt to brainstorm what you would like to do instead and investigate your options. – I will be looking at doing a piece on career changes in the future so keep your eyes peeled.

The reality is working with chronic illness is difficult and there is no quick fix that will take the difficulty away, but I hope you find my suggestions helpful. The most important thing is to look after yourself and know you can only do your best, and that is all that really counts.

Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · Mental Health · PCOS · Symptoms · Tourette Syndrome · UTCD

Symptom of the Week – Overview

So for anyone who reads my blog regularly or dip in from time to time you will know I have been doing a symptom of the week segment for some time now. In fact I have just counted and it has been 17 weeks!

I thought I would give a round-up of the symptoms covered and which conditions they fall into. PLEASE NOTE not all people experience all symptoms and some people may find they are not relevant to their conditions at all. Remember we are all different and therefore experience different things. To view any of the symptoms click on the links below.

Symptoms associated with all my conditions: Although they are predominately associated with Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UTCD), they also help with my other conditions of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Tourette Syndrome and Mental Health too.

Symptoms associated specifically with PCOS:

Symptoms associated specifically with Tourette Syndrome:

Symptoms associated specifically with Mental Health:

I myself still have other symptoms which I haven’t covered above including light/noise sensitivity and ulcers among many others- if people would find this helpful please let me know and I would be happy to create those pages too.

Equally if there are symptoms I haven’t mentioned which you would like me to add just let me know either in the comments section or on social media. x

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome · Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · UTCD

I’m not Lazy, I’m Fatigued

Without a shadow of a doubt one of the worst symptoms of chronic illness is fatigue. Fatigue is an almost indescribable feeling that only people who experience it can truly understand. A lot of people will describe fatigue as being tired, but it is way more than that. It is a feeling of exhaustion that affects you both physically and mentally, a feeling that almost zaps the life out of you and alters your ability to complete simple everyday tasks.

Fatigue is heavily linked with tiredness, so a lot of people who don’t have illness will often describe their tiredness as fatigue. Whilst you can’t dispute they are experiencing fatigue it is more than likely what they are really experiencing is tiredness.

With that said because people link fatigue with tiredness, in the same way they think they are experiencing fatigue when they are not, healthy people will assume that the fatigue felt by chronic illness sufferers is like their own – tiredness. Therefore their ability to sympathise becomes difficult because they are able to carry on when they are tired – so why cant you?

Maybe you are putting it on, maybe you are weaker, or maybe you are just downright lazy they think. Better still maybe (and this is the chronic illness favourite) it is just all in your head.

The truth is I am, you are, we are all battling every day. Fatigue is more than being tired; it drains you, consumes you and steals your life. Obviously I want to live like people around me and be able to go out, do housework and even cook my own food, why would I want to watch my life pass me if I didn’t need to, who would choose a life of constant battle when they could be loving life.

A life of fatigue is like having a strict schoolmaster ruling over you, dictating everything you do. You cant control it, if today is the day it wants to strike then you don’t get much of a say. It even punishes you on the times you do manage to do something ‘normal’ by rearing its ferocious head for days on end after. It causes so much aggro, yet this is still only one of the symptoms of chronic illness, this is only part of the whole picture.

Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on

There is no apparent cure for fatigue, but like with most symptoms of chronic illness there are ways to try and manage it, and of course there is no one solution that fits all. Nevertheless my top tips for fatigue are as follows:

  • Establish a bedtime routine and practise good sleep hygiene – You have probably heard of sleep hygiene before, but probably the oddest thing about fatigue is the fact that whilst you are exhausted, sleep can be quite difficult. Therefore try using ear plugs or eye masks if you find noise and light a disturbance, try getting up at the same time everyday regardless of your lack of sleep to get your body into a rhythm, avoid big meals too near to your bedtime so it doesn’t lay heavy on your stomach, make your bedroom a relaxing sleep area by decorating it in relaxing tones, using dark curtains, moving your clock so you don’t clock watch and assess the temperature of the room to suit your needs.
  • Introduce relaxation periods – Make sure everyday includes a segment that is just yours to truly relax. This doesn’t mean having to go to a spa and have a pamper session (we should be so lucky), but by taking time to step out from the stressors of the day. The best way of doing this is through mindfulness and meditation focusing on your breathing and shutting out external thoughts. Check out my article on how to manage stress levels at home to get some ideas here.
  • Learn to pace – The most important thing EVER! For those who don’t know pacing is a technique that teaches you how to manage your energy levels without burnout. It consists of rest periods throughout the day and is a technique used to balance activity periods (which can be emotional, mental or physical) alongside relaxation ones. There is no doubt pacing is hard and takes a lot of practise. For specific help with pacing check out my pacing article here.
  • Stop listening to others – It is extremely hard not to let other people’s opinions get to you but you need to try. The reality is people cant truly understand what it is like to be you because they aren’t you, in the same way you cant understand what it is like to be them. Replace listening to other people’s negative opinions and start listening to your own body and what it needs.

In conclusion, fatigue is a tricky beast to tame and is one of the most difficult symptoms of chronic illness. It is not just a case of feeling tired; it is much more than that. Whilst there are techniques you can use to manage your exhaustion, there is currently no cure. So remember you are not weak, putting it on or lazy – you are fatigued (the real kind).

Anxiety · Chronic Illness · Mental Health · OCD · Symptoms · Tourette Syndrome

Symptom of the Week – Obsessions and Compulsions

This week is not so much symptom of the week, but condition of the week as OCD is a condition in itself.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder which many people have as a stand alone condition or alongside other conditions e.g. Tourette Syndrome. In a nutshell OCD is when a person lives in a vicious cycle of getting obsessive thoughts which cause anxiety that leads them to perform compulsive behaviour for short term relief.

For example a person may have obsessive thoughts about contamination which cause them anxiety so they compulsively and repetitively wash and clean to take away those intrusive thoughts. Another example is having obsessive thoughts that make you believe your actions may leave yourself or other people at risk causing you anxiety, so this leads to compulsive behaviour in the form of checking to make sure things are turned off and/or doors are locked.

My experience

For me OCD is a result of two things: my anxiety issues and my Tourette’s. In terms of anxiety I find being an anxious person I worry about a lot of things from worrying about germs to how my actions may affect someone else. Through the years I have built many compulsive behaviours to combat my obsessive thoughts. However this side of my OCD has improved in recent times and whilst I still do compulsive behaviours from time to time, (disinfecting anything in sight or getting out of bed repetitively to check things are turned off), the majority of my OCD now sits with my Tourette’s. My ticking goes hand in hand with my checking of lists and I tic whilst I check and need to tic if I don’t check – I can’t win!

Photo by CDC on

My top tips for Obsessions and Compulsions – as always please check with your doctor/specialist before trying any new tips/ideas.

  • Refocus your mind – I know this is really hard when you are in the mist of a obsessive/compulsion cycle, but try to engage your mind on something else. Be it an activity or a happy memory try to distract yourself and move away from your obsessive thoughts.
  • Ask your doctor about CBT – CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a psychological therapy which focuses on the here and now. It teaches you how your thoughts have an impact on not only your emotions, but your behaviours too. Many GP surgeries now provide CBT or can inform you of courses in your area.
  • Speak to a counsellor – If you believe your OCD stems from a particular reason you may find a series of counselling sessions may help. Getting to the root of your problems may help not only your OCD, but your mental health in general. You can access counselling in a variety of different ways nowadays including face to face, telephone and video calling.
  • Get in touch with support groups – Joining a support group or accessing online information will help you to feel that you are not alone. Dealing with obsessive, intrusive thoughts can make you feel very lonely so seeing and hearing about other people’s experiences can help. Charities such as OCD-UK, Rethink and Mind are a great starting tool. To here about my own experiences you can read my article on my anxiety episode with germs here .
  • Build up your self-esteem and trust yourself – I find with my OCD a lot of the time I am looking for reassurance from others because I don’t trust my own instincts and therefore my own self. Realising you are capable of things and you can trust yourself as much as anyone else if not more will aid in your quest to combating your obsessions and compulsions.

Tourette’s related OCD

If you find your OCD is significantly related to your tics then you may find seeking help for your Tourette’s is more appropriate. You can find out more information on tics in my last post here . You can also find details of charities that may be able to help you further.

Chronic Illness · Symptoms · Tourette Syndrome

Symptom of the Week – Tics

So this week is dedicated to my fellow tickers of the Tourette’s variety. According to the NHS website tics are involuntary sounds or movements. Tics can be sudden and difficult to control and usually start in childhood. For some people tics may disappear in adulthood however a significant number of people may find tics continue into adulthood with them.

Examples of physical tics can include: jumping, grimacing, eye rolling, jerking and blinking amongst other things. Whereas examples of vocal tics can include: whistling, coughing, animal sounds, grunting and tongue clicking. However there are an abundance of different tics depending on the individual.

For anyone learning about Tourette’s and tics for the first time it is important to know that not all people with tics swear! In fact people who experience swearing also known as Coprolalia are less common than people who don’t.

My experience

I am what I would call a motor ticker meaning my tics are physical and in my movements rather than verbal. I was diagnosed when I was about 18 which tends to be quite late after spending years being told I was epileptic. I am able to control my tics in public which I know some people are unable to do, but I suffer for this when at home as I have to release the build-up once I am back. This obviously causes havoc with my ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia as my muscles stiffen up when I tic.

My tics have evolved over the years although my current bundle include pacing whilst kicking out legs and arms, facial grimacing and holding my arms and hands stiff.

My top tips for tics – as always please check with your doctor/specialist before trying any new tips/ideas.

  • Manage stress levels – Stress and anxiety can make you need to tic worse. Try to identify any stressful triggers in your life and look at ways to overcome them. You can read my previous articles on modern day stress here and managing stress at home here for more tips.
  • Get good restful sleep – As with stress tiredness can elevate your ticking. Practice good sleep hygiene and make sure you get enough sleep and rest each night. For more information on good sleep hygiene you can read my article I’m not Lazy, I’m Fatigued here.
  • Find engaging activities – I have to admit I do struggle with this particular point because I find I need to tic in intense happiness as well as intense stress. However they do say focusing your mind on an activity can help your tics to subside. Consider activities such as puzzle books, craftwork and reading.
  • Find support through charities – A great tool to feel connected to others with tics and know you are not alone is to look on the websites of Tourette’s charities such as Tourettes Action based in the UK and The Tourette Organisation of America. These websites hold an array of information including information on symptoms, information for professionals and support groups. They can also give you more information on behavioural therapies that you may find of use.
  • Consider a medical card/bracelet – If your tics are severe you may want to consider carrying a medical card or wearing a medical bracelet. That way if you are in certain situations were your tics arise you can show the card/bracelet to others to show them they are a result of Tourette’s.
  • Embrace your tics – Whilst you can find ways to hide your tics and in some scenarios you may find this beneficial, I also think it is important to embrace them too. Tics don’t define you, but they are a part of you and you should never feel ashamed of who you are. Educate others by talking about your tics because the more people understand the real world of Tourette’s the more comfortable you will feel.

Next week’s symptom: OCD