Obsessed with Roundabouts

To someone with OCD, being obsessed is normal. The same as it’s difficult to explain what OCD feels like to someone without the condition, it’s just as hard to explain normal to someone with the condition.

So, to roundabouts. You approach a roundabout and clearly on the sign it shows the road you want as the third exit, right turn. You get into the right lane, proceed round while indicating onto the roundabout, then indicate left as you exit. Simple.

But then you hear a loud honk and a car has appeared next to you. The same car that was next to you entering the roundabout. They decided the left lane was needed for the right turn which included them indicating onto the roundabout. Which you should never need to do if a roundabout is taken correctly.

You may think, it’s a one off, they went in the wrong lane. But, it’s not. A roundabout near where I live has this problem all the time. This is one of my obsessions.

The reason people view as a straight over varies from, it looks like a straight over to, everybody goes in the other lane so I do it to. And my favourite, what does it matter.

What does it matter? I’ll just drive over the roundabout next time. Or better still, I’ll go to a restaurant and sit at a random table and eat the food they order, as what does it matter. You achieve the same thing. I was hungry, I’m not now.

This may seem extreme but OCD likes things in certain ways. If a sign shows do not enter, but you enter, my brain goes into the arhhhhh mode.

This mode cannot be controlled but can be hidden which is how I deal with it. Don’t get me wrong I say choice words on the roundabout, but that incident continues in the OCD head for hours or days or if you use the roundabout everyday, forever.

If you add a car that honks even though you were correct and they were clearly wrong, this creates another obsessive thought.

The roundabout is a great example of OCD in everyday life. A simple thing you put at the back of your mind or forget about is another persons compulsion or obsession. So be mindful of others. Admit mistakes and forgive us OCD sufferers when we can’t drop a subject.


Dark Path Stasis

A journey of discovery sounds amazing. You hear about people travelling the world before settling down. They always say “I didn’t know who I was until I visited…”.

Who am I? I honestly have no idea. It often feels I am looking out from these eyes that aren’t mine. Living in a body that is alien to me. Thinking thoughts like I’m watching them on TV.

You often see shows with characters who are “on a dark path”. But what if you were always on a dark path. Your thoughts, feelings, imagination and actions automatically cause you to feel depressed.

Self medication is very appealing so you quit the temptation completely. The dark path doesn’t suddenly have lamps. You don’t feel you have achieved something even after 14 years.

You don’t feel part of life, more an outsider. Someone who views humans in their natural habitat but never completely assimilated.

You learn how you are meant to act and standard responses. Not because you don’t feel empathy but because you don’t understand. Like a puppy who has not been socialised who doesn’t know how the react around dogs.

You feel broken. Even with a supportive loving family. The world human world isn’t designed for people with mental health problems like OCD, Autism and Aspergers or depression and anxiety.

Work places are told to help people with mental health disorders, but how can they help when you are on your dark path with no signs to lead the way.

How can you say to a business, “I’m ok as long as I don’t need to speak to people or interact in anyway at the moment”.

How do you say, “I like my job, but nothing this business does makes sense to me”. It’s not a criticism, only a fact. But that would be taken a completely different way.

If I could paint, sculpt or be creative all day without needing to adjust to the human world around me, I predict my dark path would be a lot brighter.

The world is not made for people like me. It’s made for the normality, not the so called dysfunctional.

Well, back to reality. Face on, fake confidence ready, false smile. “Yes” and ” I understand ” response prepared. Ready to be completely shattered by the end of the day.

The Healthcare Experiment

The National Health Service. The most efficient health service in the world. Not a phrase you hear very often. Normally the headlines say ‘doctor errors’ or ‘ long waits’ or even ‘NHS wasting money’.

But over the years the NHS has grown from a basic service that focussed on minor problems to a nationally recognise healthcare system, free to all at the point of care. No matter your age, work status, back ground or health problem.

Healthcare in the United Kingdom achieves something all services want to deliver, equality and diversity. From its workers to the patients.

So why do politicians like to say ‘it’s the crown of the country’ while saying ‘it’s to inefficient and costly’? Why do politicians even get involved with the institution when the experts already work in the sector?

Many years ago while contradicting various statements they made, politicians decided that the American system made more sense. More specifically the idea that competition drives change and improvement. And they decided that the money in healthcare must be split between the people holding the money, and the organisation delivering the service who would be paid by the other organisation who would choose not only the organisation delivering the service, but are they doing the job properly.

This idea or concept or whatever it was called, oh yeah: world class commissioning. And so every area or Primary Care Trust as they were known, got to visit America to learn from them.

So, a few issues soon presented themselves. Firstly, America of all places to get advice about a healthcare system. Keeping in mind that the system is not equal for all in the states. In fact, it is separated between the have and have nots. Oh, you need surgery, are you insured. Your not, 80,000 please. You don’t have it, go home and die.

Secondly, we now have commissioners who hold the money and decide where it gets invested and for what reasons. The commissioners cost money and decide what cost saving is required of the provider.

Thirdly, healthcare is also overseen by the Department of Health, Care Quality Commission, NHS Digital, NHS England and it goes on. We have more people watching healthcare than providing it.

So why was this put in place? The reason given was to improve health services. The real reason was cost saving and off loading of responsibility. For example, if something goes wrong in a hospital, it’s their fault. Not the government or the commissioner. A new contract to cover the service goes else where. Which will include cost savings, reorganisation and lots of back slapping saying ‘good job’.

Meanwhile within the NHS, the staff are keeping things going with good will, poor conditions and constant belittling from news papers and news outlets.

The NHS has been in crisis for over 6 years now. I think it’s fair to say the experiment has failed and maybe, maybe, it’s time to let the NHS do what they do best.

Save money by removing commissioning and move to a holistic NHS approach across the country. Invest the saved money back into services. Let the CQC and NHS England do the job of keeping an eye on the services and research where money should be spent.

Let a consortium of professionals run the NHS from GP, Hospital, Mental Health, Community and Social Care. These people can ensure funding is spent properly and invest accordingly depending of evidence, not political or financial gain.

Currently the NHS is relying on good will and dedication by the people who bleed white and blue. Before long if we are not careful a do not resuscitate order will be put in place and we, the ones who care about the NHS will be arguing to save it’s life.

I leave you with this. If you can save a life save it, if you can help a living creature help it and most of all, if you can afford to buy a Costa coffee everyday you can afford to pay more tax to help the people who one day may save your life.

So why do politicians play about with the NHS and contradict themselves? The same reason people will follow rock stars or actors around like lost puppies. “They be famous, I could be too”.


The Dog Particle

Some search for the tiniest of particles which may lead them on a journey over decades. Some adventure to dangerous places like in Netflix Dark Tourist. Others spend their days researching the details of a forgotten time.

Should we all have these ambitions or is any drive enough. Is the search of pleasure and contentment what is really about?

If your life starts and ends with a love of sun worshipping or rock climbing, who are we to judge.

But what if you don’t know what you want or how to feel about your life?

I recently lost a pet, should I say family member. This cat lived with me, sorry, my cat let me live in his house with my wife. I didn’t realise until he wasn’t there how much my mental health relied on him.

This got me thinking about our relationships with animals. Humans and animals have relied on each other for centuries. As food, allies and companions.

You would see paintings of explorers with there faithful dog by their side. Police with their four legged partner. Farmers with Shep, controlling the flock.

The farmers cat keeping down the rat population. But is this just a work relationship?

So when these people with the drive of discovery get home, do they need a dog to work for them. No.

But, what if it’s because of this relationship they are able to relax, concentrate and even let go from time to time. Our pets are more important then most give them credit. Would half of the discoveries made have even have happened without a way to switch off or unwind. And how many of those were due to animals being there for us at home.

Without my family friend I do feel life is a struggle. What discoveries or freedoms am I missing out on because he is no longer in my life. All I can be sure of is, they are not pets but family members, supportive friends, mental health support. Even if they don’t work for you, they help you every day, in their own little way.

Please support dogs for the blind, helper dogs, hospital dogs, reading dogs and mental health dogs whenever you can.

Please remember, cats don’t care, they put up with us, we have food. We are here for then. They are bastards, but we love them and them us in their own way.

The Quality Cascade

5 GCSE’s or equivalent qualification. PhD in astrophysics or equivalent experience. Team player with proven track record. Written reference from Sir Winston Churchill and at least 4 if his children.Is it me or are job specifications getting sillier by the day? I once applied for a job as AD of Business Development. I have 4 years experience as a change manager, a diploma in change management and worked in the relevant sector for over 15 years. I didn’t even get an interview because they wanted someone masters.I have moved on from this since but how does a person having a masters help in any topic.My mental health means I see things differently to others and have the ability to turn complexity into visual understanding. This in turn means I can explain and simplify for others. Is it because I have GCSEs or a diploma? No.If you take a job like coding or cyber security, I don’t want a university educated, theoretical computer science specialist. I would rather have people who are on the autistic spectrum. They analyse faster than others, see things others don’t and enjoy doing it. Will they have a degree or would they have built up years of practice on there home PC while hacking Curry’s PC World.Some Dyslexics have trouble writing or spelling, but are fantastic at seeing patterns or understanding visual elements of subjects. Their brains can work like a logic machine. But they would not even get to interview due to not having an English qualification.If organisations want the best, we need to start basing our need on those people. There is a shortage of cyber professionals, if we follow current ways of finding them. But organisations could find talented people by changing there recruitment procedure. Start workshops, adapt work environments for autistic staff, be flexible and most of all, don’t base everyone on an academic standard. Only around 15% of those on the higher end of the autistic spectrum have employment.How many more geniuses are stacking shelves who have excellent cyber skills, coding skills.And as for always putting team player in all job specs, do they really need to be to stop cyber attacks or code some new software. Food for thought. Check out a company called CyberSpace in Holland. They are doing great work with kids.

The I’m Fine Cipher

Harsh truth or gentle reminder. Small talk or deep meaningful conversation. Words have become humans main form of communicating the minor to the most important messages.

But words are not as powerful as we would like to believe. During a deep depression some feel a good talk and words of advice can snap a person back to reality. A good story of struggle with a happy ending will soon have person back to themselves.

Humans are not the only animal that suffers from mental health problems. Apes, bears, cats, dogs and even lemurs have been seen to have the mental struggles we like to think are unique to us. The lemur does not go and have a good conversion with another lemur who provides words of advice.

So if words are not the key to helping a fellow animal what is? I’m going to use our cousins to answer this. Apes will try and get the depressed individual to join their normal activities. This could be grooming or finding delicious bugs. The key is support. Not words or advice just simple, ‘hay, I’m here’.

The most powerful phrase in my opinion is ‘I’m fine’. This will turn anyone away from pressing an issue or prying any further. Fine is also the go to word for when you want to say the opposite of what you mean without saying what you mean. Fellow humans say I’m fine and the human knows this means your not fine but takes that as your fine despite knowing fine often means the opposite. Unless it’s a parking fine, this is always a parking fine. Do not think the fine is dismissing you, you need to pay it.

The truth is our actions, reactions and body language tell us more about how someone is doing than words. Staring for to long into nothing. Avoiding social situations. Avoiding eye contact.

Being able to find away in to a persons walls to help them is not always words. But more often than not, it’s just being there. To hug, to chill. Or to groom and hunt for delicious bugs. The key is time, looking for warning signs and being willing to see beyond the power of ‘ I’m fine’.

The Manic Dynamic

As with most, you have ups and downs. Moods that are good and moods that are, not so good. But at what point in this long spectrum does being not so good become depressed. And at what point does feeling good become manic.

My manic moods are easy to spot. Constant hyperactivity. Everything is a game and if it’s not it will be. A biscuit in a tin can be entertainment and laughter for hours. A squirrel in the park is the best thing ever and an excuse for acting like one. Walking like a penguin, because I can walk like penguin. Or chasing my wife acting like a monkey. Endless euphoria.

But with this manic episode comes the moment of realisation that I have been in an episode. By now I have already realised the euphoria is ending. Soon I will be normal again, if I’m lucky.

When I’m not lucky, my mood continues to go down beyond feeling a little down to the depths of depressed. Not that I recognise this at the time. My thoughts slow and become obsessive and paranoid. The world turns to being against me and darkness my new friend.

But sure enough, this also fades and I’m back to normal, hopefully. You get the idea. The recognition of either extreme is not accepted by me until after it ends.

At least each time you come out the other end. Sometimes as a monkey and sometimes as a paranoid obsessive. They are both me just to the extreme of the mood spectrum.

The Thoughts Vortex

The scene is set! You go up the stairs to the bedroom, your fortress of solitude. Brush your teeth, remove your contacts, check you don’t need to urinate. You lay down on the comfy bed, close your eyes then…

CD Player, I had one when I was younger. I have to go to that meeting tomorrow. What did she mean by I have missed some deadlines. I need to do more exercise. Am I getting fat. I hope my friend will be ok. I wonder how Kiefer Sutherland will survive this one. Can’t wait for Games of Thrones. Need to get the garden finished. Squirrel! I love dogs. I should listen to more music. Why do I need to attend that meeting. I didn’t realise I had missed many deadlines, we are very busy. Can’t wait to get out on my bike. I love chocolate. Its a minor surgery. I want to watch the next episode. Should I watch the whole series again. The pond needs to be bigger. Pheasant!

I focussed on going to bed but in truth these thought vortex can happen anytime. The worst part is it does not mean you are distracted. This can occur while in meetings, doing exercise or having a discussion. Its like trying to concentrate with constant noise around you or trying to speak in a loud night club.

While once a week may not produce any adverse affects, two or three times a day becomes wearing. You begin to show signs of fatigue and a general feeling of blur! Effect is moving and small things cause irritation. You become that snappy person that normally you would pretend to hold a handbag to your chest about a say “ohhhhh”.

Once, it became so bad while I was in a noisy supermarket, I held my head as I felt anger and frustration build up inside me. The extra noise around me was adding to the vortex, neither could be stopped. It would only have taken a tiny push to make me blow up.

Thankfully, getting to the blow up stage and moving beyond has only happened once in my life. I remember shouting “shut up” as I hit the floor with my fists before collapsing in a teary heap. The person who caused me to go over the edge hadn’t shut up, hence the finale of fist smashing. Better that than aggression towards a person. The worst part, is the constant head vortex didn’t stop, only the extra external irritation stopped. It took 3 hours before I got up off my kitchen floor. By then I was so tired I went to bed.

There are ways of coping but not controlling. There are ways of reducing the anger but not curing. When the vortex really whips up, concentration is the key. I’m not talking about forcing yourself you focus on something. I mean something you natural focus on. Games on the console, painting, spin classes, iPad games. Anything that naturally keeps your mind focussed without having to put any effort in. Or, as with me, multiple things. I’ll paint, may go for a cycle or play games on my iPad.

One more tip, explain the problem to people close by. They can always help when you need time away from others. I always have issues with particularly loud noises. My number one hated noise, hand dryers. Wet hands on my jeans every time. If I wanted the loud sound of a hover that’s gone wrong stuck in my ears, I would buy the album off iTunes. I’m sure that album exists, 101 special effects to annoy the whole family.

The Positive Reaction Circuit

Wouldn’t it be nice if the positivity guru could actually heal everyone with depression just by performing their normal routine. But for individuals with depression, it’s not so simple. Words could inspire someone with bipolar, speaking from experience, but once the manic state has passed the positivity slips away.

Let me set the scene to explain the how my mind works. Inspirational words do the job, they inspire me. Once in my brain my imagination runs wild. As time passes so does the enthusiasm. Within a blink of an eye, focus is lost and inspiration is gone.

But the positivity is not the problem, the performance by the guru is not the problem. I am. My brain. My lack of the correct synapses firing at the correct time and a lack of serotonin flowing from the dark corridors of my brain. At some point, you look internally for the problems. I can be angry at these “change your life” coaches but actually for most people, they help.

If only the circuits in the brain could be wired correctly. The negatives to the positives, the sad to the happy. The rage to the calm. The obsession to the mindfulness. As an electrician wires a house, a surgeon could wire the brain. But that’s what antidepressants and mood stabilisers are for. They help the brain to work in a manner that is within the normal parameters.

So I recognise the positives in my life, but holding on to that sensation is the problem. And obsessing over the negative doesn’t help. Imagine being on a race circuit. You are in the lead for 1 lap, but behind for 9. You win the race and feel amazing, until the thoughts of being behind for most of the race slip in. Over analysis and negative thoughts take over the positivity.

If I could bottle the feeling of being positive and take it once a day, I would. But until that remedy exists, I just try not to obsess over the fact I can’t always react to positivity the way others do. I recognise the problem is mine and that others suffer in the same way, but it can still make you feel alone and “special”, but not in a good way.

Today my circuits maybe broken, but sometimes it’s only a loose wire that connects periodically, making me feel positively normal.

The Logic Cataclysm

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I like to use its full name from time to time to help me see it for what it is. I have an obsession, a compulsion that becomes uncontrollable. Hence the disorder part.

So I could understand it better I have tried to slow down the beginning of an obsessive episode. For me, the thought starts from something that I see as illogical. In this scenario lets use a process that is meant to make organisation restructures fair.

“Hello all”, a voice says from the depths of the HR cave. “We are restructuring the organisation to make it fit for purpose”. This for me was the start of an illogical process that will become an obsession.

The reason it was instantly illogical was I knew nothing about it as a mid level manager. Nor did the Assistant Director who is my line manage. Nor did any of the other managers or Assistant Directors. This means it was decided behind closed doors with a couple of people who have no idea what anyone does.

This is when I try and get answers to help my logic train get back on its logical tracks. “Is this to make it fit for purpose, or cost cutting”, I said calmly once I had a one to one with a director involved in the structure. Respect to the director when they answered “Its about saving money”.

Oh dear. My derailed logic train was now heading for a full blown crash. Other questions begin to form so I ask them. “How is cutting resources going to help you save money over the next few years, where is your strategy and what are you going to invest in to get there?”.

I must admit by this point my questions tend to extend to questions in questions. But this is due to the driver of my logic train trying to hold on for dear life. The answer to these questions will decide if there will be catastrophic multi pileup of logic trains or a last minute flick back on the logic tracks.

“This was decided by the board”. Oh hell, brace for impact, process failing, illogical sensors are firing. Questions begin to overlap, a feeling of dread builds as my mind begins to repeat the same process again and again. Like a malfunctioning robot, I repeat the process but get the same outcome each time.

My brain cannot process illogical things. If a straight line is the fastest route but we are going to go the long way, not to enjoy the view but just because I’ve decided its better, my mind briefly stops for milliseconds while it works out the logic.

But where logic does not exist, I am doomed, for a time at least, to obsess over the same thing. Control has a lot to do with it. I don’t have a voice to change the illogical nature of the thing that is happening. I may as well not be saying anything at all. But this leads to the obsession finding ways out through temper, sharp responses and tiredness.

Everything in nature makes sense to me from bacteria to the stars we see from earth. Yet making a decision based on a lack of knowledge,  lack on insight or forethought, perplexes me. All of us make silly decisions but wouldn’t you stop a train crash if you could, or stand by and watch it happen? This is the problem with my head. I can’t turn it off, or get over it, or distract myself.

The options I have are cycling, this helps. Painting, this helps. Or not being in the situations that cause my brain to have obsessive fuelled failures. I may as well stand up and repeat “cannot compute, cannot compute”.

So, off to distract myself. Oh and just so you know. My train drivers are fine they have great healthcare under the NHS. More to do with the amazing staff keeping it together, nothing to do with the conservative government gradually destroying it!