OCD? – Don’t expect a tidy room!

Anyone who has OCD, or knows anyone who has OCD, will know that it isn’t a simple condition that can be explained in a sentence; yet so many TV shows try to do just that. The best known show is probably Channel 4’s ‘Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners’, that sees a couple of people with OCD cleaning the home of someone who hoards items. The property tends to be full to the brim with personal possessions, several years worth of dust, thick cobwebs which are strong enough to be used as nets, rodent droppings, dead rodents, living rodents, critter infestations and unusable bathrooms and kitchens. The people that live in these houses are clearly struggling and need support, but I don’t think humiliating them is the correct way to help them. So, the people with OCD go in and express their disgust, the home owner expresses their ambivalence, they disagree, the people with OCD announce they have to leave, the home owner wants them out, they talk and then get on with cleaning the house – tada, magic!

There are probably 2 different forms of OCD shown in this programme; cleaning and hoarding. However, that has somehow translated to ‘everyone with OCD loves cleaning’, which simply isn’t true. (I’ll just add here that some who do have OCD in a cleaning form, wouldn’t be able to even contemplate stepping inside a property like that, let alone touching anything!)

OCD can be, and often is, a disabling condition and it has many different presentations. Some will require things to be spotlessly clean, some will repeatedly check things, some people will be unable to leave the house, some people will struggle with intrusive thoughts and some people will have a mixture of forms. There are many, many other types and this page explains them well – Types of OCD

At the age of 3 my parents began to notice that I was a little quirky in the way I did things, but as time went on it became apparent that it was more than the ‘normal’ child quirkiness. At the age of 7 we witnessed an accident whilst on holiday, I won’t go into it because it feels wrong to do so, but a man died, a family were left heartbroken and my dad, along with another holiday maker were involved in the events that immediately followed that single moment of error. My brain was already wired slightly differently, which was very apparent at school and when I was around my friends, but this incident caused that to intensify tenfold. The world terrified me and everything became a potential danger; I had to protect the people I love from the horrors that hid around every corner. I didn’t want to spend any time apart from my mum and dad, if I was always with them then nothing bad would happen. If I could make sure my little sister was safe, if I could make sure appliances were off, doors were locked, the heater wasn’t leaking gas, the things in the fridge weren’t over their use by dates and make sure I did everything my OCD told me to do in order to erase the horrible thoughts that attacked my mind then it’d be okay.

Being an anxious child meant that school could be quite tricky at the best of times, I enjoyed learning but the socialising part of it was often quite problematic and I just wanted to be with my family. I would become very upset very quickly and I was very aware that my way of doing things was different to others and whilst I learnt to hide the majority of my OCD behaviours, sometimes it wasn’t possible to hide it. I’m going to write about a few experiences I had in a different blog post as I want to tackle those slightly differently.

My OCD has taken on various forms over my life, but they’ve always been heavily based around responsibility and fear; being responsible for something bad happening, for allowing harm to happen, for allowing unsafe situations, for not realising that I have a responsibility, because it’d be my fault if anything awful happened. OCD forces thoughts and images into your mind, and for a long time I thought that this meant I was an evil person, who else would think such horrible things? People tell you not to think about things that upset you, so I tried not to think about any of it, but the more I tried to push it all away, the more forceful the thoughts became. They terrified me. If I’d thought it then it might happen, so compulsive behaviours would come into play, but they had to be done in a very particular way, without interruption or questioning or else it’d need to begin all over again. When I learnt what the term premonition means, I was so frightened that I might be having them and I was seeing what was to come; I thought that maybe the only way of stopping them from happening was if I was no longer around to think them. As an adult, this is all very scary, but as a child it’s so confusingly frightening; the world is full of monsters but perhaps you are just another kind of monster.

Whilst the thoughts around being evil and needing to disappear to prevent bad things from happening aren’t anywhere near as powerful as they once were, they are still very much there, sometimes more than others. People tell me that I’m intelligent, I know that by touching the edge of a counter isn’t going to be able to stop something awful happening, that checking a switch something to a pattern of 4, or 4 x 4, or 4 x 4 x 4, or 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 isn’t going to make it anymore safer than doing it once, that if a tag is pointing outwards rather than inwards it isn’t going to mean someone is safe, that I don’t have special powers that mean my thoughts or behaviours can make or prevent something from happening… The thing is, most of the time I know that they are right, but all of the time I know that they might not be right. I know that my pillow being faced a particular way isn’t going to ensure safety because it doesn’t make sense that it would, but what if it might? What if?

My therapist once told me that she had been at a training course on OCD and the tutor had given them all a sheet of paper and a pen. He then asked them to write the name of someone they loved onto that sheet of paper, followed by ‘has been in a car accident’. A couple of people did it without a second thought, but the majority of people in that room said that they weren’t going to take part. The tutor pushed them for a bit but they still refused and so he asked them why they weren’t willing to join in, their responses were things like, ‘because it isn’t worth the risk’ or ‘I’m not willing to tempt fate’ etc. He told them that every time they ask people to ignore their OCD, they are asking them to tempt fate, take a risk and feel that anxiety of doing, or not doing, something which they truly believe can prevent something awful occurring.

Knowing something and being able to see the rational angle doesn’t mean you don’t question it or fear the what ifs, buts or maybes. I DO understand why people tell me that what I think is irrational, but I also know that when it comes down to it, the fear of something awful occurring because I haven’t undone or balanced out a thought is overwhelming; I’d be responsible. OCD isn’t about liking things to be neat, it isn’t about liking things to be clean and it isn’t about being a ‘little bit OCD’ because you use hand sanitizer before you eat a sandwich. It isn’t going on an entertainment show to clean someone’s house, it isn’t about enjoyment, it isn’t a little quirk or a desirable personality trait. OCD shuts down your life, closes many doors of opportunities, terrorises your mind, invades your dreams and takes hours of your time. It’s about intense fear, constant doubt, broken and bleeding skin from washing your hands, responsibility and guilt, obsessions and compulsions that rule your day to day life; it’s a hell that no one would desire. You can be obsessive, you can be a neat freak, you can be organised, you can be particular, you can be hygienic and you can be a clean freak without having OCD. I like things that are tidy, but my OCD can often mean things are quite cluttered, clean but cluttered. I like things to be done, but sometimes knowing that something is going to take me several hours longer than the average person to complete means I put it off, it builds up, I feel even more dread and it’s a cycle. OCD isn’t rational and it isn’t ever going to make sense because it is very topsy turvy and what bothers one will not bother another, even with one person things can differ dramatically.

Animals are so important to me, but many people will say ‘but you’ve got OCD?!’ when they find out I have had animals since I was tiny. I have a dog and he enjoys eating things I’d rather he didn’t, rolling in cow pat, sheep poop, fox poop, horse poop, well any kind of poop really, he likes the odd munch on horse poop, he likes to find muddy areas and ensure he brings enough mud and moss back from a walk to keep me busy for several hours. He needs the odd shower, he needs his poop picking up, he needs to be fed, he needs to be loved and he sits with me when I eat, he sleeps with me on or in my bed, he likes to sit on me or lie on me if he’s chilly and he spends a lot of time shoving his beard in my face. Some things I find very hard to deal with and I do sometimes panic and have to call on someone for help. I accept that I probably shower him when other people might have left him, but I also understand that dogs aren’t supposed to be showered too much and I don’t want to cause problems with his skin so I keep it in check. I know that some things people might think are okay, may not be okay with me – but then I also know that many things that don’t bother me, do bother others! I’m not as relaxed with other peoples animals, but I’m still happy to be around them and I’m not bothered about them sitting on me or licking me – as long as I can get clean!! However, touching a door handle can cause major issues and have me freaking out for ages after the event! It isn’t rational. I can eat in some places, I can’t in others. I can be okay with something one day, but I might not be okay with in another, or in a different situation, setting or time of day.

I know my OCD doesn’t make sense, I think most people would say the same, but in the moment it does make sense and the level of danger, risk, fear and threat is always very real. There’s an awful lot that I haven’t included in this because I have learnt that people don’t understand and whilst I know that people speaking up and education are the things that will make a difference; what I have written here is enough. It’s mostly lighter things, the things I’m less embarrassed about, the things I know are quite ‘normal’ and widespread amongst people with OCD.

The media puts out this message that OCD is a quirk, it’s a helpful tool, it’s great to have OCD because you will have a tidy house, that it’s really a blessing and is quite enjoyable – and the media is so wrong. It is none of those things. It is not the same as any of those things. ‘A little bit OCD’ doesn’t exist, OCD is an illness that destroys peoples lives – ‘a little bit OCD’ is having some slight obsessive and/or compulsive traits. OCD is fear, ‘a little bit OCD’ is liking things to be a certain way because they look nice. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health, please don’t contribute to that by minimising a massively complex illness that tortures so many into a slight quirk or desirable personality trait. Maybe with less judgement, brushing things under the carpet, silly comments and more understanding, a willingness to accept that OCD isn’t a funny thing to joke about; more people will feel able to speak their truth, the average and the not so average, rather than feeling the need to tell only part of their truth, the nicer and easier part of their truth, ensuring the rest remains hidden.

www.ocduk.org

(Image author unknown – willing to add credit.)

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OCD? – Don’t expect a tidy room!

A dog is for life; unless it isn’t…

RufusSmile Rufus!Rufus7 Rufus6

This is Rufus and he’s our miniature schnauzer; he has saved my life many times over and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love him. If he is unwell, I will look after him and reassure him and when we had to sleep in the living room as he’d been sick on my bed in the early hours, I slept on the floor and he slept on the sofa. If he needs to go to the toilet, we will go out for a walk, regardless of the time or the weather. If he wants to play, we’ll play and when one of his favourite toys broke, I replaced it several times over. When he wants to snuggle, we snuggle. I want to just add in here that he doesn’t have total control, nor is he spoilt; he knows right from wrong and whilst he can sometimes choose to know right from wrong but ignore right from wrong, his behaviour is corrected! I’m not the worlds best dog owner and Rufus isn’t the worlds best behaved dog; but I do the best I can, as does he and he is loved – he seems pretty happy with that.

On twitter this afternoon I came across a link to a daily fail article, usually I’d have ignored it like a spam email, but it caught my eye as it had been linked to the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA. The article I am referring to can be found here. If you suffer from high blood pressure and are an animal lover, I’d approach with caution!

Shona Sibary, who writes for the daily fail, has spent the last 4 years taking dogs into her home and then getting rid of them. We all know that the Dogs Trust believes that ‘A dog is for life’ and I think the majority of animal lovers would agree with that, or at least I would hope they do! It would seem that Shona sits in the minority, unfortunately.

In February 2011, Shona took in Juno from a dogs home in London but in April 2012 she’d ‘had enough’ and after ‘much soul searching’, she made the ‘heart breaking’ decision to rehome her and placed an advert online for a new owner. When her 3 year old daughter sobbed and clung to her asking, ‘why can’t we keep her mummy? She wants to stay with us, I know she does.’ Shona said that she almost changed her mind, but that when they drove away, Juno looking back at them, she ‘felt nothing but relief’. She picked her ‘hysterical daughter’ off the gravel and told her that they’d look at pictures of puppies, having admitted that she’d already had her ‘eye on another puppy.’

In September 2011, Shona found Albus, an 8 week old pup that was advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback. She states that he was from a council estate and she was slightly suspicious as the ‘tattooed owners’ wanted £350 for him, when the usual cost is £700 – £900. She drove along the M25 with the pup ‘attacking the gear stick’ and wondered if she’d made the right decision. I have to ask why a puppy of that age was loose in the car? A pup that doesn’t know you, with no one else in the car? I’m guessing that no one else was in the car, because surely they’d have stopped him from ‘attacking the gear stick.’ It’s a risk I wouldn’t be willing to take. Shona writes about an experience in which Albus ‘took instant and aggressive action’ towards a neighbours westie. ‘The westie just about survived, after I’d forked out hundreds of pounds to pay his veterinary bill.’

When Juno was rehomed, she said, ‘I knew Albus had to go too – but not until I’d found myself another puppy’, which is when she came across Pippa. Pippa, a little sausage dog, had come from Lithuania and her owner had said that she ‘couldn’t cope with the dog.’ ‘Obviously, once I had Pippa, I had to get rid of Albus as quickly as possible, not least because he might actually eat my adorable new charge.’ I find this woman’s attitude really difficult to comprehend because to me, it is just wrong. However, not only does she seem to be totally irresponsible as an owner, uncaring, immature and keen to cause her animals great distress, it would appear that she is also not concerned about other people either. As she ‘quickly found him a new home’ which included 5 children and 2 cats, they were ‘overjoyed to be getting a free dog’ and ‘didn’t anticipate any problems’ , Shona was ‘so relieved to be rid of him’ that she thought ‘Who am I to disabuse them?’ I wonder if she told that family the reasons why she was getting rid of him, including the incident with the other dog?

Pippa, the sausage dog, then became a problem, so in July 2013 they got an 8 week old Labrador x collie named Cookie. However, Cookie didn’t stop the problems with Pippa, it just made them worse as they ‘would disappear for hours, rampaging across fields and worrying local sheep.’ After killing a breeding ram, a farmer threatened to shoot them and Shona adds, ‘Frankly, I was tempted to hand him the gun.’ A year ago Pippa, who was then 3 years old, was rehomed. She thought that getting a puppy might help Cookie, even though that clearly hadn’t worked out with Juno, Albus, Pippa or Cookie; but hey, why learn a lesson when you can carry on screwing up? So, along came Clover and 3 months ago Cookie went to a different home… How long will it be before Clover is ditched too?

She, somewhat proudly, states that ‘While they’re with me, they have a perfect life. I trawl pet shops choosing comfy baskets and colourful collars. I have debates with my children lasting days over what name we should give the new addition to the family.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the dogs had comfy beds and colourful collars but those things are so far from a ‘perfect life’ for a dog, and I find it very sad that she believes they are. She thinks that she may have a ‘condition’, ‘maybe I’m like this because I was never allowed a puppy as a child’… So, instead, she’s decided that her children will grow up with various puppies, but will then have to go through multiple rounds of processing the grief of losing their dog? What is that teaching them? That you can have something but give it up when you’re bored? Not to stick with things? Not to think about your decisions because you can just change your mind? Not to ever commit to anything and to avoid responsibility? She goes on to say, ‘I admit there must be something mentally wrong with me. Why else would I keep buying dogs only to wave goodbye to them a year or so later?’ Well, because you’re a douche? Behaving in a stupid manner, or doing something idiotic doesn’t equate to having something ‘mentally’ wrong. I am SO fed up with mental ill health being chucked around and tossed into categories that it just does not belong in. This isn’t a mental illness, there isn’t anything mentally wrong, she is just one of those humans who shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog. Unless ‘mentally’ in this context is a synonym for stupid, disrespectful, irresponsible and unthoughtful? She talks about Juno scaling the fence and escaping, Albus showing aggression towards other dogs, Pippa and Cookie disappearing for hours, killing pheasants, ducks, doves, a breeding ram, sheep and a heavily pregnant sheep that was carrying 2 lambs; what measures were put in place to prevent these things? She chicken wired the fence, but what about putting in a taller fence? What about a fence with a top that has a slight tilt or overhang? If Albus was showing aggression towards dogs, was he wearing a lead and harness? Was he muzzled when he was around other dogs? Why did they go near the westie if the risk was there? Pippa and Cookie kept escaping, again, changes to the fencing or garden area? I’d be interested to know what steps, if any, were taken before the decision to get rid came along, maybe it was a case of get rid and not bother to try to change things? I mean, that’s easier, right?

She finishes her piece with, ‘What’s worse is that I dread to think of the kind of message all this has sent out to my long- suffering children. Just the other day, Dolly said to me: ‘If I’m naughty, Mummy, will you re-home me, too?’ This is so, so horrifically sad. If I am lucky enough to be blessed with a child, if I heard those words as a direct result of my attitude and actions, it would break my heart. I am not doubting she loves her children, I don’t know enough about her to make any assumptions, and I wouldn’t anyway, but I really hope that Clover stays with them until she crosses to rainbow bridge. I hope they don’t get another puppy, I hope Clover is loved and wanted, I hope that Shona is able to see that she cannot continue to treat animals like a throw away item that can be upgraded or replaced when it’s going wrong, or it’s gotten boring. When we welcome a dog into our lives, we accept responsibility for that animal; to provide the food, care, love, shelter, security, medical treatment and all the other little things that are needed. If you can’t commit to a dog for life, I’d suggest you get a soft cuddly toy, because it’s unfair to screw a dog over because you’re a selfish human.

 

HOWEVER..!!

I then came across an article written by Shona for the daily fail back in January 2012 which is very different to the article that is written above, but includes some of the same images… Odd, right? This article is about rescue centres and the attitude of the staff.

In this article Shone states that she ‘found a rescue centre in the South of England, advertising 6 Rhodesian ridgeback x boxer puppies’ and ‘they were 12 weeks old – young enough to adapt to our family and still impressionable enough to train and fit into our way of life.’ When she called the rescue she was told that due to there being children under 8 in the household, they wouldn’t rehome a puppy with them as per their policy. ‘I called back the next day pretending to be someone else with 3 children over the age of 8. And no toddler.’ She then goes on to discuss the process that followed, visiting the rescue to build a bond with the dog, whom they named Albus; ‘several expensive train journeys for all of us, and of course, on each occasion, I had to find childcare for the toddler who didn’t exist.’ During a visit to Albus, they ‘fell in love with another stray in the rescue centre’ a husky pointer cross named Juno. ‘At the age of 1, she was still deemed to be a ‘puppy’ and we were still ‘officially not allowed to have her – but having lied once, we were on a roll so we decided to take both dogs.’ She writes about a home visit which she had to remove ‘all evidence of the toddler from the house’ and that during the ‘lengthy process’ the dogs home had requested letters from the landlord and veterinarian and ‘they even insisted that we pay for a whole term of puppy training classes – and show them the receipt – before they would consider releasing Juno and Albus to us.’

A line which struck me as quite funny was, ‘Their stance throughout the entire process was one of distrust.’ Ironic? She writes, ‘In fact, I can’t imagine our lives without them, which is a shame, because they still don’t legally belong to us’ and goes on to say, ‘if the rescue centre finds out we have broken any terms of our contract (ie that we have a two-year-old), they have the right, with police force, to remove Juno and Albus from our care.’ Most rehoming centres will have some form of a contract that is signed when a dog is adopted, the information within that contract will differ between rescues, but those rules are in place for a reason. Shona writes, ‘If for any reason we are unable to continue to look after the dogs, we are not allowed to give them away to family or friends — they have to go back to the rescue centre,’ and ‘Juno and Albus are micro-chipped back to the dogs’ home, so if they do ever find a gap in a fence and decide to run off, the dogs’ home will always know.’ Now, I’m sure there are positive and negative points for both of those rules and I can see both the pros and the cons, but when you’re dealing with such a mixture of people I’m guessing you have to have the basics set as a foundation to build upon. She’s rather indignant at the fact that she was required to go through this process, and then that they ‘still needed to pay £120 per dog for the grilling we’d been subjected to,’ but that ‘Albus and Juno couldn’t be more loved.’

Let’s just compare the stories for a moment…

January 2012 – Juno was one when they adopted her from a dogs home in London – seen whilst visiting Albus at the same place and so decided to adopt both. (June.)

August 2015 – Juno was 12 weeks old and came from a dogs home in London. (Feb 2011.)

January 2012 – Albus was 12 weeks old, a Rhodesian x boxer who they adopted along with Juno from a dogs home in London. They saw Albus first, but the two went home at the same time. (June.)

August 2015 – Albus was 8 weeks old, advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback for £350 from a tattooed couple on a council estate in London.

January 2012 – Every family member had to visit the dogs home and bond with the Juno and Albus. Many different phases and rules that needed to be completed and kept to for them to have the dogs.

August 2015 – Juno was from a dogs home in February 2011 and Albus was from a council estate. She drove to get him, was suspicious, but took him anyway and drove home.

So, we have Juno who was 12 weeks old and a year old. Albus who was 8 weeks old and 12 weeks old. Juno who came along in February 2011 and in June. Albus who came along in September 2011 and June. Juno who came from a dogs home on his own and Juno who was adopted with Albus. Albus who came from a council estate and Albus who came from the same dogs home as Juno at the same time. Not forgetting that Juno came first and 7 months later Albus joined them in the hope that it’d prevent Juno from straying and also the story of adopting Albus and seeing Juno during a visit and adopting both at the same time, from the same dogs home. Albus who is a Rhodesian x boxer but was also advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback and she had doubts about that. She talks of how loved the dogs are and how she can’t imagine life without them in January of 2012 and yet by April 2012 she’d had enough of them. She speaks of paying for their vaccinations and microchips, but if they were rescued isn’t that usually included in the adoption fee? When she wrote her article in January 2012 was everything fine? Did they do that much in 4 months that she got rid of them? If they were homed from a dogs home then she shouldn’t have advertised them online, the article from January 2012 is, in part, about her annoyance over the rules given by the dogs home. Rules that included rehoming..? When asked, in 2015, where her dogs are she states that she is ‘ashamed to say I have no idea.’

She moaned about the way the dogs home conducted themselves, but the reason they have to be rigorous is because of these type of situations. What is real and what is made up? Is Shona a wannabe Katie Hopkins? Is she trying to cause upset and stir up trouble? Will she say anything to get the publicity? If you want an article to be read then you have to be slightly controversial, right? Yes, to some degree, but this isn’t controversial because it’s not true, at least, a lot of it isn’t true! These are two totally contradicting articles, written by the same woman, with inconsistencies that cannot just be explained away with a simple – I forgot about that bit! Either you got both dogs at the same time, or you got them separately. It was either a dogs home or a tattooed couple. It was either £120 per dog, or £350 for Albus. None of it makes sense. Oh, also add in here that the ages she gives for when the dogs were gotten and when they were given away don’t add up either, nor do the periods of time which she states they have been with her and nor do the amounts of money she has given with one article stating it was £120 per dog and another stating that she’d spent over £1000 on the dogs over the last 4 years. (Yes, one may have been more expensive, but it still doesn’t make sense as Albus cost £150 AND £350 in each article.)

If you are someone who has a dog and thinks ‘I’ll probably get rid of her too’ when looking at the future, or planning to rehome your dog whilst planning the new puppy coming home; just don’t. A dog is an animal and whilst many people throw the ‘it’s just an animal’ line out there, they are so much more than ‘just’ an animal. They deserve to be treated with love, care, kindness and loyalty, because that’s what they give us, along with so much more. If you can’t give a dog that, then you don’t deserve to have one as a part of your life, period. Humans seem to think they have the right to do whatever they want and I think that’s one of the main things that the world is in such a state; newsflash, they don’t!

 

10 canine commandments    Dog never

Dogeyes    DogLove

Dogsdospeak    Animals are for

Dogswhole    DogWholelife

 

live like unless

 

A dog is for life; unless it isn’t…