Pure OCD – when thoughts are pathological


Mental illness is a tricky beast.  It’s difficult to recognise when you’re in the midst of it.  I’m now more aware of when I’m feeling down.  I then take steps to get outside in the sun, force myself to do some exercise, or just be kind to myself.  But realising you’re in the midst of obsessive thoughts going nowhere is harder for me, because at the time it feels like a realistic and important issue.  I guess more mindfulness will help with this.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about these obsessive loops I get into.  It’s a bit like suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, except I don’t have the compulsions.  And then I discovered this is actually a thing.

Primarily obsessional obsessive compulsive disorder is a form of OCD where fewer observable and repetitive compulsive behaviour takes place.  However neutralisation of the disturbing thoughts still takes place using cognitive means.  The sufferer copes with the disturbing thoughts by mentally avoiding the issue, or by excessively ruminating on the “problem”.

The “problem” usually takes the form of a disturbing or intrusive thought or question, an inappropriate mental image or frightening impulse.  The thoughts “typically center on a fear that you may do something totally uncharacteristic of yourself” and usually centers on what you perceive as the most terrible action you could take.

Examples of obsessive thoughts I’ve had in the past:

  • Did I insult (bad) or upset (even worse!!)  XYZ when I made that comment (Apparently this was something I have in common with my Grandmother as she used to worry about this as well!)
  • Did I embarrass myself in front of people when I did ABC
  • If I don’t do XYZ (Donate to charity, help someone, etc) God will punish me/something bad will happen

Other examples of this form of OCD that fortunately I don’t suffer from (From Wikipedia article)

  • Responsibility: with an excessive concern over whether you’ve harmed someone
  • Sexuality: including recurrent doubt over one’s sexual orientation (also called HOCD or “homosexual OCD”).
  • Violence: involving a fear of violently harming oneself or loved ones or persistent worry that one is a pedophile and might harm a child.
  • Religiosity: manifesting as intrusive thoughts or impulses revolving around blasphemous and sacrilegious themes.
  • Health: including consistent fears of having or contracting a disease (different from hypochondriasis) through seemingly impossible means
  • Relationship obsessions (ROCD): Fearing that you don’t really love your partner, or they are not the right person for you.

The main reason I wanted to share this is because many people suffer from this form of OCD without realising it and don’t reach out for help.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (with professional assistance) is very effective, and so is certain anti-depressants.   The sad part of this illness is that it’s invisible – there isn’t any repetitive/compulsive behaviour to indicate there’s a problem.

If you feel you may suffer from something like this, find someone trusted to talk to, rather than bottling it up!


Morning Blues

Here’s a passage/random stream of thoughts/poem from April 2016, from when I was feeling the worst and started getting help for depression.  I don’t feel as bad about mornings nowadays, or if I do I’m a lot more kind to myself. 

Don’t worry, I’m feeling great at the moment!   I wanted to share this in case anyone else is struggling from difficult mornings, or battling with depression.  My heart and thoughts are with you.

I can’t get up in the morning.

Each morning brings a huge battle of will between my brain and body.
My soul feels crushed between the sheets.
The day ahead looms like a dark pit before me.
As minutes turn into an hour – a precious hour of oblivion where I don’t need to think…

I suddenly awake through some internal clock and groan when I see the time.

I force my limbs to move and kick my butt out of bed.
The morning stuck in bed is the worst time of my day.
The bed always feels like it will swallow me whole
envelope me in its sickly warm embrace.

I think about all the work I’ll need to do that day
meetings and training
friendly greetings with a fake smile
standups I force myself to participate in.
Questions will wash over me with its demands, stress and requirements and never ending interruptions that will distract me at every opportunity.

I don’t start any work as I know I will be interrupted,
and as I am interrupted I breathe a sigh of relief  –
that I do not have to start work just yet
a legit task has appeared before me.

I feel like a fake every time I open my mouth.
Words spill out to fill the space and cover my uncertainty.
I wish I could disappear.
I wish I could just stop and do nothing for days.
But I know if I do my joints will start aching, and then I’ll need to stretch, and I’ll need to make supper and clean clothes and feed the cats….

As I start moving through the day my joints feel looser and less painful, and at the same time my day seems more bearable and life not as insurmountable as it was.

I manage a few genuine smiles.
The antidepressants kick in perhaps.
Or maybe just the caffeine.

At the end of the day I feel happier but still scorn the time wasted that day –
being endlessly busy yet getting nothing done.
At home I escape into the internet,
reading article after article in an attempt to actually do something.

Hours pass and I haven’t done anything.

I don’t remember what I’ve read – it’s not important.

I drop into bed exhausted, wishing I had done so earlier,
and dreading the morning darkness one more time.

When enough is enough

If you’ve never heard of the hedonistic treadmill, it’s a concept that’s very useful to learn.
As you get used to the luxuries in your life – your sweet townhouse, your car, your stable 9-5 job – you tend to start seeing that as the norm and looking for something better.  Your expectations and desires rise with your income, and your happiness settles back to normal fairly quickly.  Net satisfaction gain = zero.

The treadmill has driven us throughout history to improve our lives and our environment.  Without this drive we would never have grown our own crops, or tamed and bred animals.  But this drive is still present in perfect, modern day – in the rich countries that we live in, causing us to want more.

I suspect this is what has driven me in my career.  When I was a QA I was striving to become a developer.  When I was a developer I was looking to improve my salary and autonomy, and that lead me back to QA (ironically, it paid more at the time!).
It drove me to seek a manager-level role, which I handled OK but perhaps didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would – especially once I had solved the “easy” problems.

I think it’s time for me to say “Enough is enough!”  If I have enough to pay all my bills, save towards an early retirement, and help out with any family emergencies, why can’t I just be satisfied with a comfortable job, doing pleasant work with a fun team?

I had this thought while reading this blog post – the charmed life of a thankful investor:

Rationalizing increasingly risky investments for the prospect of incremental luxuries seems completely unnecessary because you are thankful for the simple things in life that truly make you happy and cost very little.

This can apply to your job as well – if you’re happy and you’re earning enough (After all, earning more than a certain amount won’t make you happier) – why take career and job risks just to earn a bit more.  You’re risking a team that you don’t enjoy being in, a company that doesn’t gel very well with you, or a sudden restructure and being the first on the chopping board.  You’ll earn a bit more, but is it worth it?

Why does earning more money not make us happier?  Maybe because once you have enough to meet your needs, more money can’t buy happiness.  At around US$75k more money doesn’t make you happier day to day.  Getting 10% increases at that point may make you rate your life achievement more, but it doesn’t help with happiness.

Explanation in this Time article here (Google “Study: Money Buys Happiness When Income Is $75,000” if it doesn’t show)

 Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had.  …
Having money clearly takes the sting out of adversities. …
At $75,000, that effect disappears

So here’s to finding a cozy job that pays well and treats you nicely!
And to the hedonistic treadmill never starting up to ruin it all for you!

Cutting down on fancy pants living

I’m going to be running an experiment for the month of October (actually starting this week).  I’d like to cut out the daily coffees and almost daily snacks and muffins I’ve been buying.  I also want to cut out or down on eating out.  I’m spending about $450 every month on this, and it doesn’t seem like a great use of that money!

Over 5 years that can add up to $27k with interest/invested in the stock market.
I know you need to live a little, but honestly – over the last few months, those coffees have been a ritual instead of an enjoyment.  And the weekly muffin is scoffed down without much thought – going directly to the hips and stomach – while reading the terrible NZ Herald newspaper.

In comparison, I’ve had two blissful afternoons in the last two weeks.  The first afternoon I cycled around the harbour – always a beautiful route.  I gazed at the scenery, enjoyed the sunshine and exercise, and felt pretty free to do whatever I wanted.

The second afternoon I spent walking around Onehunga.  I did a bit of shopping (shouldn’t do this so much!), had a packed lunch in Jellico Park, and spent a good hour sitting in the park just thinking and planning and coming up with ideas.  I walked past a Cash Converters and spent some time trying out their second hand guitars.  I then went home and played on my cello for an hour.

Both times I didn’t need to spend money, unfortunately I did.  And that money spent didn’t add a whole bunch to the experience.

The point is, there’s a lot of different things I could be doing that’s not paying for coffee and sugary treats.  I want to break this cycle and see what it’s like to not have this automatic urge to buy coffee all the time.  At the end of the month I’ll see if it’s worth paying for it – and perhaps I will reset that particular hedonistic treadmill.  I’ll try report in on this experience over the next few weeks!


2017 Goals

Reviewing my 2016 Goals (which was actually more like end of 2016 and half of 2017)


1) Setup a regular exercise regime

I’ve started running on a semi-regular basis.  More importantly I’m biking to the train and into work on my awesome little cruiser bike.  It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it is consistent!

2) Get off anti-depressants successfully – I’ve started and waiting for the withdrawal effects to wear off.

I went back on it for a while, and now am off it again.  Just taking 2.5mg for the brain zaps until brain chemistry comes right.  Using meditation, CBT and exercise to help me through withdrawal.

3) Get up at 9AM on the weekends (See – setting up more realistic goals, I’m learning!!)

Yup, I’m pretty much getting up at 9 or 8 if I’m doing something.  I’m also getting out of beds earlier during the week – either 5:30 and doing a morning reading, or 6 and heading straight into work.  Means I get home a bit earlier as well.

4) Install a Chrome extension to remind me every x minutes, to check if I’m reading something worthy of my time.  I’m sure there’s something like that out there.  If not I’ll develop one 😛  I hate clickbait with a passion, but somehow always find myself on those stupid “X ways you know why bla bla bla blergh” articles.

I installed something to remove clickbait, but not to remind me every x minutes.

5) Setup regular meditation – 15 minutes daily.

I got Headspace, which works quite well.


2017 Goals

  1. Learn to play the Cello – practice every day for 20 minutes!
  2. Meditate every day for 10 minutes
  3. RUn saturday mornings
  4. Get through my Steam games backlog without buying more games!

2016 goals and review

2014 goals review

Gee, look at that!  I missed a year… how did that happen? Oh yes, I changed companies and career, I guess that made me pretty busy 🙂

1. Spend less time reading news, blogs, forum posts.

Yeah, not so much.  I’m a bit more aware of the time wastage, but I still do it.  I wasted like a weekend on some really dumb Youtube comedy star that turned out to be a psycopath.  I won’t say who, I really don’t want them to get more views.

2. Consider a career in QA – apply for a few jobs, read a few books, see how it goes.

Yup, did it.  Best decision ever!

3. Get up earlier on the weekends, at least 7AM.

Nope, nope, nope.  On average I now sleep until 10 on the weekend…  I blame it on the depression >.>  (I suspect I’m just lazy and my bed is too warm and comfortable)

4. Read more non-fiction and fiction books, 1 fiction a month and 1 non-fiction every 2 weeks.

Am reading a bit more library books, could read more.


2016 goals review

1) Setup a regular exercise regime

2) Get off anti-depressants successfully – I’ve started and waiting for the withdrawal effects to wear off.

3) Get up at 9AM on the weekends (See – setting up more realistic goals, I’m learning!!)

4) Install a Chrome extension to remind me every x minutes, to check if I’m reading something worthy of my time.  I’m sure there’s something like that out there.  If not I’ll develop one 😛  I hate clickbait with a passion, but somehow always find myself on those stupid “X ways you know why bla bla bla blergh” articles.

5) Setup regular meditation – 15 minutes daily.

I only have around a quarter of a year to get this going, wish me luck!


The Path to Wealth – the road less travelled

As readers can tell from my last post, I have accumulated a bit of knowledge over the years on how to invest in the stock market.  Most of this has just been reading some key financial blogs rather than consuming massive financial textbooks.  One of my favourite blogs, JLCollinsSnh, has an excellent series on Stock Investment, and I am excited to also share that he has just released his book on the topic,
The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life
by JL Collins.

I received a free preview copy in exchange for a fair review, which I was quite happy with since I was keen to dig into the content as soon as possible.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also didn’t have time to finish it completely in time for the release. Like most people I have other things going on – holidays, work, other hobbies – that are competing for my time.  That’s why I enjoy taking in financial knowledge in small bite-sized blog pieces;  I enjoy reading about it more  and remember it better by doing so. Fortunately The Simple Path to Wealth is perfect for this method of consumption – being both enjoyable to read and well paced.  A good few breakfasts were spent devouring cereal and a chapter in the morning.

I started off thinking I’d just read a chapter or two to start – I ended up reading 10 and forgetting about lunch.  That’s pretty impressive for a book on money – usually I’m asleep by chapter 2 or finding an excuse to put it down.  JL Collins is very experienced in delivering difficult content in easy to assimilate pieces, and I really noticed this in his chapter on bonds.  He divided the chapter into stages to explain bonds, explaining to only read as far as you thought you needed and then move on.  It was a brilliant idea to actually get me to read about the most boring subject on Earth, and also allowing the reader to not stress too much about how “difficult” the content would be.

Another brilliant chapter included a comparison between Martial Arts and stock picking.  When Mr Collins was learning Martial Arts, he was given a warning – if he was ever tempted to use kicking techniques in a street fight, he needed to ask himself – “Am I Bruce Lee”?  If the answer was “No”, then he should keep his feet on the ground… because it’s always harder and riskier than it looks.  Stock or fund manager picking is exactly the same – ask yourself “Am I Warren Buffet?”.  If you are not, you will come off second best.

The Simple Path to Wealth contains tried and tested wisdom; forged in the fires of several market crashes, a recession and hyper-inflation.  Jim has lived through these, as well as a retrenchment and some “F*** you” moments with his boss, and lived to tell the tale. I really enjoy his writing style, and the serious financial content is lined with gems of his own stories in between.  This makes it a very enjoyable read and you won’t find more down to earth, sensible, advice very often.

I really appreciate how The Simple Path to Wealth is devoid of any horror stories or scaremongering.  In the age of “The Stock Market is doomed!” type stories, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear that it’s happened before, it’ll happen again, and don’t worry – you’ll be just fine if you stick with the ride.

This is advice that I heard years ago from my Dad as I started out on my own financial journey, and it certainly shines through that it’s his love for his daughter that has driven his blog and stock market investing series.  I’m just glad that he’s shared this insight with the rest of the Internet and now offline readers as well.  Here’s hoping that many, many more people will now hear his message, and gain many years of simple stock investment and a prosperous path to wealth!