Welcome back, Pam. I’m going to take refuge here on my blog, as we are currently undergoing some serious home renovations. No room has been left untouched. It has been going on since November, and is part of the reason I haven’t updated on here in so long. My head has been taken up with it all and it has been incredibly stressful. I know home renovations are stressful for most people, but for me, they have kind of felt like a violation. Let me explain.

Our house. Just kidding – it’s Tangwick Watermill on Shetland.

My home is my sanctuary. With OCD, I need a place I can relax, where I know exactly what happens. The control aspect of my OCD means I don’t like people coming in to my home and messing about with my systems. They might not wash their hands when I would like. They might use my personal possessions without consent. They may make a mess or put things where they shouldn’t go. They may not do things to my standard (not hard, or unlikely).

Please don’t let me give you the impression that I keep an immaculate home. Far from it. My OCD can mean I put off tidying and cleaning tasks, waiting for the perfect opportunity or method to do things right. So, my house is often messy and not as clean as I would like. But it’s my mess and my dirt, that’s the difference. Having opened my home to renovation works, I’ve opened a Pandora’s box for my anxieties.

I have felt ‘I just want to go home!’ so many times over the last few months, despite living at home during most of the works. We only had to move out briefly while the bathroom and kitchen weren’t functional, but that was only for a very short time in the scheme of the project (a few weeks at most) and thankfully my wonderful in-laws accommodated us. I’m now at home, but it doesn’t feel like home. I remember saying to my husband before Christmas, ‘I don’t feel comfortable in my own home, it doesn’t feel like it’s mine’. With all the changes, comings and goings, I wasn’t connected to my space at all. And that is dangerous for my anxiety levels. Which means trouble for my OCD.

My hands have been cracked and bleeding. My obsessive and upsetting thoughts have been on the increase. And my medication taking had been erratic. Something had to change, as after Christmas I began to feel the warning signs of a depressive episode and I really didn’t want to go back there. So, I have made concerted efforts to remember my medication, and I’ve started trying to employ some self-care techniques.

Top of my list of self-care techniques has been to employ a modicum of routine to proceedings. Home renovations mean unexpected and unforeseen occurrences and delays. Nothing goes to plan, which for someone who is a dedicated planner by nature, is a bit of an issue. I’ve had to try to remind myself daily that I can only control what is within my means, and instead of worrying about what’s not, I should deal with what is. So, my list-making and planning has a renewed focus and I’ve started to employ short morning and nighttime routines to try to keep slight order in the house (and in my head).  Bullet Journalling has helped enormously. I make sure I get dressed first thing when I get up instead of going downstairs in my pjs. I empty the dishwasher so it can be stacked on an ongoing basis during the day. I try to employ a ‘one-minute’ rule, whereby if a job will take me less than a minute then I make myself do it right away. (Actually, hardly anything takes me just a minute given my OCD, but as near as I can get it!). I try to do a load of washing. I do my work whilst The Munchkin is at nursery or napping. And I try to leave the kitchen in an orderly fashion before heading to bed.

All of this is pretty standard for most people, but because my OCD makes me over think everything, something as simple as going in the kitchen used to be an effort for me. I would worry a lot about contamination and would have to force myself to do tasks like the dishwasher and bins. My mission since the renovations have started and I’ve actually got a kitchen I care about, is to keep it in a state where I want to use it. Simple things like making sure I keep on top of cleaning worktops, wiping handles and clearing the sink area mean I can use my kitchen and feel happy in it. This is massive for me and something you probably wouldn’t have thought of, or possibly understand, if you don’t have OCD.

During the height of the disruption, when we didn’t have a kitchen, I fully appreciated how a cup of tea and watching something I like on TV truly helps me relax. Loose-leaf breakfast tea and the new series of Father Brown has certainly helped me in this respect. As we know, I love a ‘cosy’ detective show, and Father Brown, Death in Paradise, and my trusty Monk, have all been keeping me going this last month. They make me feel safe and cocooned, if that makes any sense at all, and I adore them for it. Nothing beats a lovely cuppa, some chocolate, and a light-hearted murder mystery. Throw a different decade in to the mix, and I’m in my element. Fashion was better in the 20s/30s/40s/50s, and everyone used a teapot with proper cups & saucers. CIVILISED, I tell you! Even with all the murder.

Proper tea

When our kitchen fitter wished us well for Christmas and hoped we would be over the majority of the disruption by then, I said as long as I could make a cup of tea and sit down in front of the TV I would be ok. That was basically true, though the difficulties of the works had already taken their toll and we didn’t have the most restful festive period. I didn’t even watch Elf or Die Hard the whole way through – where had I gone, what had been done with me? This would never do. Which has made me resolve Christmas 2018 will be THE year for Christmas at home, and how I want it to be. And it will be a whole year in the planning and execution. I cannot wait! Christmas is my favourite time, and I am going to spin its prep out over the whole year by planning food, trying recipes, watching Christmas films, and thinking of gifts, decorations, fun activities for The Munchkin, organisation…all my loves! In a way, this will be therapeutic for me too, as I’ll be channeling the festive spirit all year (WIN)! If you are similarly Christmas-inclined, maybe I’ll do some blog posts on it? And I’ll give you this tidbit for free – Movies 24 (you know the very cheesy made-for-TV film channel? No? What are you doing here?) does Christmas in July. July! Genius. Tune in for cheesy Christmas films six months early – I know I will.

The other thing which I have been doing as a bit of self-care is to start reading again. I hadn’t completed a book since 2016 and it was really starting to irk me. So, I started reading a Christmas-set, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. And what’s more, I finished it. Christmas miracles will never cease. It was great, and it reignited my love of reading. I’ve set up my 2018 Book Challenge to read 8 books, and I’m on book number 2 now (Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, if you’re interested). I know 8 books isn’t a lot to the majority of people, but it will be a real achievement for me to get there – I am a very, very, very slow reader (which my husband never fails to remind me). If you are a bookworm, I’d love some recommendations – I like light-hearted detective stories (don’t know if I mentioned that already?), Nordic noir (it’s hygge), and travel writers in the vein of Bill Bryson and Tim Moore. Hit me up with your recs.

The elephant in my self-care room is exercise. I haven’t moved much since May (read: at all). This would never do, hence trying my first spin class! Wow, my legs hurt for about a week after that. But it’s encouraged me to get moving again, so I will go back to that and also try some yoga. And maybe even attempt a run(walk – where my Jeffers at?!). I struggle to find time for it though, life is busy with mumming, and house stuff, and work. But I know I need to get going again, and my plan is to try to fit some movement in around all the other stuff. Wish me luck (and throw your motivational tips this way).

How have you all been since we last caught up? Is 2018 being good to you? What are your self-care solutions? Will you be watching Christmas films at the height of summer? Can you recommend a new cosy detective for me? Looking forward to hearing from you all as always! Let’s try to catch up more often this year!

Bliss. (This is actually a gin-based cocktail at my friend, Cat’s, wedding – bliss, and genius).

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