Peer Worker Blog
Have you ever driven past a home in your neighbourhood and thought “look at all that stuff, how can they live like that!” If you have, you’re not alone. For many of us, the unsightly dwelling can leave a feeling dismay at the level of disorganisation. However, the person in that home could be your child’s school principle, the counsellor your friend has been to see or the gentle man who you pass in the street. Each person behind the clutter has an amazing story to tell – a story that would make your eyes water after the first few sentences. You see, hoarding isn’t about the stuff that sits in the yard, or blocks the hallway and doors. It’s a result of a person’s life experience, usually baked in suffering and grief.
Hoarding has become media fodder for many to consume. What we fail to see is the shame the person behind the clutter feels. As a society, we feel free, almost obligated, to comment on that which doesn’t conform or what we don’t understand. With the comment comes great judgement. For those of us who have commented on the neighbours dwelling and asked “how can they live like that!” have we said the same for the neighbour who is so deep in depression and sorrow that they cannot leave the house. You see, these neighbours aren’t that different – both suffer mental illnesses. What can be vastly different is our reactions. We can feel compassion for the sadness of those who suffer depression, yet disgust for those living in clutter. Our reactions matter!
Are you looking to broaden your understanding of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? You may be facing the challenges of recovery, or be looking to improve your own knowledge in order to help a loved one with their own recovery.
We already have some useful fact sheets available on our resources pages, but you may also want to check out the following links for more information and guidance:
The International OCD Foundation has an excellent fact sheet on all things OCD. The organization is based in the US and so some of the statistics relate to American studies only. However, for an overview of the major issues relating to OCD and recovery it is a great resource.
You can check it out here: http://www.ocfoundation.org/uploadedFiles/WhatYouNeed_09.pdf
Please note – this fact sheet also includes information about medication. Any questions you may have about medication should be first discussed with your GP or a qualified psychiatrist.
The team over at the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria (ADAVIC) also have an excellent fact sheet full of information on OCD.
You can access their resources here: http://www.adavic.org.au/PG-fact-sheets-obsessive-compulsive-disorder.aspx
Please note – ADAVIC is based in Victoria, Australia. The specific support groups and treatment centres recommended by ADAVIC are not available in South Australia. To find a support group in SA, contact us directly on 1800 809 304 or email us at email@example.com
Our peer workers are always finding new resources from right around the world to help with managing recovery. One great place to find useful resources for tracking your recovery progress is:
They have stacks of therapy worksheets and CBT tools which you can download and use to track your recovery.
They have worksheets for tracking your daily mood, personal wellness, social anxiety, panic attacks and eating. They even have worksheets for crisis management, and for establishing and tracking your goals.
So if you’re looking to do some planning with your future wellness, record your success with a particular challenge or simply just keep track your daily mood, there’s loads of useful material.
Check it out!
The words pressure and stress are often used interchangeably, but do they actually mean the same thing?
When I think of pressure, I think of working under a set of demands that are stimulating and designed to stretch my abilities. Having this pressure on me to succeed is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s that feeling that I need to rise to the challenge and push myself further that often helps me achieve my goals, and I couldn’t do that with out some degree of pressure.
So how does this differ from the experience of stress?
Sometimes, when we’re under a lot of pressure, the demands that are placed on us by our situation can exceed our ability to cope effectively. When we reach this point, when we start to feel overstretched or strained by the demands placed upon us, that’s when we begin to drift into the realm of stress.
When trying to manage the challenge of recovery from anxiety, OCD or an eating disorder, being able to recognise the difference between pressure and stress can be a key skill to master.
So next time you’re facing a demanding set of circumstances, take a moment to reflect on what it is you’re facing and ask yourself: is this pressure or is this stress? Can I cope with the demands placed on me, and will those demands help me perform at my best, or do I need to ask for help or take a step back?
It’s good to set expectations for yourself. When we have a goal to work towards, the pressure association with achieving that goal can help us stay on track and fulfill our potential – this is a good thing! But if the demands we are placing on ourselves are exceeding our ability to cope, then stress and even anxiety can soon start to dictate our mood.
That’s when we need to learn to assert ourselves, and say ‘no!’
ABC Radio National have produced a fascinating radio documentary piece looking at the experience of eating disorder recovery and looking at a new treatment approach from Hawaii.
You can download the this current affairs documentary in full at the following address:
A fascinating look at the world of eating disorders and eating disorder recovery, produced by emerging South Australian filmmakers from MAPs Film School.
Check it out here:
Body Image Movement
So what is The Body Image Movement?
Well, in their own words, it’s a movement to ‘recognize and value real beauty from the inside out.’ The Body Image Movement aims to harness and ‘facilitate positive body image activism, including encouraging women to be more accepting of who they are, to talk a positive body language’ (about themselves and others) with a priority on health before beauty.
Sound like something you might be interested in hearing more about? Well you can find out more at their website, or by visiting their Facebook page.
And let’s get behind the movement for positive body image in Australia.
Managing a panic attack is daunting for anyone – even those of us with years of experience and recovery practice under our belts. But throughout my own recovery from panic disorder I have returned again and again to one particular technique that has always offered great power and flexibility – helping me continue to live life to the fullest even when the challenge of anxiety has loomed large.
I first discovered the technique of ‘facing and floating’ whilst reading the world famous books of Dr Claire Weekes. Weekes was a pioneer in the treatment of panic disorder and agoraphobia, and the cognitive and behavioural techniques she developed throughout her career were so radically successful that she was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their development.
Her approach to managing panic was to instruct her patients to face towards their panic instead of shrinking from it, and to learn to relax and let the anxiety wash over them until it had run out of steam. For those facing panic attacks for the first time, this approach can seem a little counter-intuitive. But I promise you, it works!
To get your head around the specifics of the ‘face and float’ technique start by thinking about how a person swims versus how a person floats. To swim you have to have all your limbs coordinated and then you have to learn to breath and paddle in time with the water. This is fine when the water is calm, but when the waters are choppy it’s much harder to swim with confidence and keep your head above the waves.
Now floating on the other hand – well you don’t really have to learn how to float! Even a block of wood can float successfully on a choppy sea. All you need to do to float successfully is relax and not get in your own way. You just lie there and let the water take you.
So lets apply this analogy to panic: When panic strikes, do you furrow your brow and desperately try to paddle against your fears, or do you relax and trust your own body’s ability to float? Next time panic is upon you, why not try doing nothing and letting time pass. Don’t try to fight the panic, don’t grit your teeth and try to ‘tough it out’ – just do nothing. Let the panic come to you. Look at it for what it is – a shift of brain chemicals and a shot of adrenalin. It cannot hurt you! Acknowledge that it’s there and then float on through. Get on with the ordinary things you need to do without worrying about the anxiety for a while.
Dr Claire Weekes often described floating as ‘Masterly Inactivity’, that is:
to stop holding tensely onto yourself, trying to control your fear, trying ‘to do something about it’ while subjecting yourself to constant self-analysis.
When I first heard of this technique, I thought that it sounded like a pretty hard thing to attempt. I mean the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling anxious is embrace your anxiety and invite it in… On the contrary, you want to get rid of it as fast as you can. But it’s this fear of panic, and determination to avoid it at all costs that pushes a panic sufferer to start feeling more and more anxious.
As Dr Weekes explains it,
The average person, tense with battling, has an innate aversion to …letting go. He vaguely thinks that were he to do this, he would lose control over the last vestige of his will power and his house of cards would tumble.
But believe me when I tell you, this will never happen!
In reality, learning to face and float through panic is a key stepping stone to learning to let go of the ‘fear of fear’ – and for a panic disorder sufferer it is most often the fear of fear that causes the most distress.
These days the technique has been recognized as being so successful that it now forms a major component of what psychologists and psychiatrists refer to as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
If you want to build a life without panic, you can always start by learning to accept that your panic is here to stay (for a little while at least). Maybe at the moment it still has the power to frighten you, but it certainly can’t hurt you. So stop struggling and battling against it – let it be and simply float.
Many of Dr Claire Weekes books on anxiety are still in print, and you can order them through your local bookshop, or check out her website at www.claireweekes.com.au
Are you looking for extra support managing your eating disorder? Here’s a new way for technology to lend a helping hand.
Recovery Record is an android and iphone application which provides support with meals, mood charting etc. You can find information on their webpage which we’ve provided a link for below: