Monday, 25 July 2016

The Use Of The Term OCD

'OCD' seems very common these days. I knew I suffered from OCD in my early teen years and it wasn't until I got older that I started to hear more and more people openly mention having it too. But they'd talk about the crooked tile that annoyed them, or pens with the wrong coloured lids put on them, or or any little thing that wasn't quite aesthetically perfect. It surprised me how often I'd hear something like "my OCD is kicking in"... a seemingly trendy thing to say. I had always kept quiet about having OCD because it was so embarrassing to me. Yet a lot of people would say they have it and almost laugh about it with each other, because everyone else could relate. I felt like this overuse of the term invalidated my OCD and others' who were truly suffering from it. I don't believe a person is ill enough to be labelled as having a disorder for being annoyed that a tile is out of place. There is nothing wrong with wanting neatness. If, however, this person then fears that the house will fall down or burn unless the bathroom was renovated to fix that crooked tile then yes, that person would be obsessive compulsive.

I don't believe that a person who is actually suffering from true OCD would casually throw it out there to everyone as openly as people do these days. Because it is simply too embarrassing to have people know that you genuinely feel the need to enter and exit a room a certain way otherwise your family will die. That is an example of what I believe OCD is like: absolutely trivial things being believed to determine people's lives. It's horrible. And being caught is the worst. You have no good explanation as to why you did something weird. This is what I suffered from for at least 3 years. I tried to so hard to get this disorder as far away from me as possible. Only after a few years did it slowly start to diminish.


Something strange happened one night when I was 12. Actually, nothing happened that night. Well nothing physical. But something strange.

I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. I started worrying about the horrible feeling in my gut that was developing the longer I stayed awake. The only thing I could relate it to was what I had heard happens to people when something bad happens to someone closely related to them. It seems to be quite common when a person loses a family member or a close friend that when they later find out about it, they remember having an awful feeling at the actual time of it happening. I felt terrible, so sick and hurt. I thought that I'd wake up in the morning to some awful news that someone close to me had died. I turned my light on and looked at photos of my family, telling them I loved them and kissing the photos, hoping they were still alive. I tried to go back to sleep and still couldn't. I felt like my body was filled with bad thoughts. I felt the need to go and wash my hands. So off to the bathroom I went. It was as if I believed I could use the tap water to help wash away the horrible thoughts. Looking back now at that visit to the sink, it was from that moment on that I had OCD.

I remember the next morning very clearly. I had to play it cool. It was a school day, I was in year 7 at the time. I still felt horrible inside. I tried to work out what the hell happened and why I felt the way I did. No one called me first thing in the morning with any terrible news. Maybe I'd get a call like that later in the day? At school I wanted to tell my closest friends about how awful my night was. But when I thought about it I realised I might sound crazy. What if they asked me "Sorry, so what actually happened?" Would I just have to say to them "well.. nothing I guess. But I just felt like something bad happened and I'm still freaking out about it". That was embarrassing to me. I had nothing real to tell them. I had to keep that to myself.

These awful feelings continued. I lived with a constant worry that a close family member was going to die. I had an extreme fear of death and I couldn't handle it. I started doing weird things that I believed would fix these feelings. I'd make my hand move a certain way, I'd avoid stepping on a certain part of the floor, I'd try not to look at a particular thing in my vision and just look around it. I'd wash my hands A LOT. I would 'touch wood' a lot.

The thought of being caught doing any of the weird little things was so embarrassing. I'd always try to be subtle about it. A girl in high school caught me one day. She said to me "what was that?"... Busted. How was I going to explain this!? I decided to play dumb.
Me: What was what?
Girl: You just went like this *re-enacts my weird hand gesture thing* It was really weird
Me: Did I? *lightly laughs* Oh yeah that is weird. I have no idea why I did that
Me: *dies inside*

At the time, I hated that she caught me. Now, I'm so glad she did. It was probably the first time I ever felt truly encouraged to make it all stop. I couldn't keep putting up with that embarrassment and not being able to explain myself. People would definitely think I'm weird. And crazy. And in need of professional help.

I tried to become my own help because I didn't want to talk to anyone else about it. Nothing improved for a while. The fear of death grew stronger and the compulsive habits became more frequent. I lived in the horrible depths of OCD. My teen years were still ok; I enjoyed a lot of my adolescence. I remember my English teacher drawing a pie chart on the board with four sectors in it, each labeled Physical, Emotional, Spiritual and Social. I thought a lot about this pie chart and how it applied to our lives as individuals. I realised that I was happy with 3 out of 4 of those sectors. Spiritual was what I needed to work on. I believed a lot of silly untrue things and a had a lot of weird habits to try and numb those thoughts. Outside of the spiritual part of my head I felt that life was pretty good. Physically: I was healthy and relatively fit. Emotionally: I was generally pretty happy, very emotionally stable for a lot of my teen years. Socially: I was content in my circle of friends, they made high school a good experience. I do realise that Spiritual and Emotional might tie in together a lot of the time, both being mental aspects, but even though I felt really damaged spiritually I still felt very stable emotionally.

My efforts to try and overcome this phobia of death, as it was the foundation of the OCD, had no effect until about 3 years later. It slowly and gradually started to go away the more I would confront it, tackle it and try to be strong in fighting it. To do this I had to go against these beliefs of bad things potentially happening and avoid going ahead with my weird compulsive habits that would supposedly defuse them.

If you want to get inside the head of my obsessive compulsive young teenage self I will explain to you here what it was like. Know that it is still a little embarrassing for me to admit, but I'm glad I can open up about it now. I will also explain why I did that hand gesture when the girl in high school caught me. (And girl if you are reading this, thank you for noticing and pointing it out to me even if I didn't like it. It really helped kick off the start of this journey of self-healing).

So I would randomly have a thought about a close family member dying, very similar to the first night at the age of 12 when it all started. If I had had that thought while looking down at the ground ahead at say a particular paver in the path, that brick would be tainted and I could not walk on it when I approached it otherwise that thought I had might actually come true. Solution: don't step on it and no one will die. It gets crazier. But then there were things that weren't actually going to become something I could actively avoid like walking around a paver. What if I had one of those bad thoughts while looking at the sky? I then had to clear that path of vision somehow. My way of doing that was to use my hand, just wave it in front of my face to break that path of vision between my eyes and whatever it was that I was looking at when I had the thought. Oh God, I'm cringing so hard in admitting that one. If you're cringing too, or laughing at me or thinking I'm a freak, it's ok, I understand. But hey, that's us obsessive compulsive weirdos. So that is my answer to the girl's question that I never answered of what I was doing with my weird hand movement: clearing my path of vision so someone wouldn't die. You can see why I didn't admit it to her.

To get better, I wanted to be mentally healthy again, I had to face my fear and tackle it head on. I'd have an awful gut feeling while say looking at a paver in the pathway thinking that I need to avoid it to be safe, but actively choose to go and step on it even if that was what I was worried about. I needed to prove to myself that stepping on that paver wasn't going to kill anyone. And as I came to realise that these things I was doing wasn't causing bad things to happen, I was able to slowly fix my mind. It wasn't easy. It took YEARS. Facing a fear is a hard task. I applaud anyone that tackles theirs.

I believe I am no longer suffering from OCD. I can still recognise thoughts I used to have but they mean nothing to me now. I hope to meet people who have also suffered from OCD. I am curious to know where others are at with their disorder, whether they are still suffering deeply, or they are trying to overcome it or, like me, feel that they no longer suffer from it. I am also curious to know what strange thoughts they have and how they act on it. I will totally understand their weird little habits too no matter how different from mine.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Sydney's Nudist Beaches

Cobblers Beach - Located in Middle Head, it is probably one of the nicest of Sydney's nudist beaches. Drive down Middle Head road and then walk down Cobblers Beach Road (unsealed, no car access). If you're here on a weekend you might get a visit from a coffee boat where you can purchase from the water. 

The flora and fauna here are beautiful. There are water dragons around and this red flower below is not a native, imported from Africa apparently.

  • Little Congwong Beach - Actually not an official nudist beach. Located near La Perouse. I would recommend parking on Anzac Parade and walking down to Congwong Beach and then along the Little Congwong Beach trail to get there. If it's busy and there's no parking left you could try the golf course (if it's open) on Henry Head Lane, however it is quite difficult to find through the bush. This would have to be my favourite of Sydney's nudist beaches.

  • Obelisk Beach - Another nudist beach in Middle Head. This beach is beautiful but quite littered. Every time I swim here I find rubbish at my feet in the water and scattered along the sand.

  • Lady Bay Beach - A skinny beach down a cliff's edge in Sydney Harbour National Park, South Head. About a 5-10 min walk from Camp Cove (another beautiful beach, be sure to try the homemade coconut sorbet from the Camp Cove kiosk, it's amazing!)

They're all very secluded beaches and require a bit of a walk to get to. None of them have big waves, all very flat. The photo at the top of this post is from Birdie Beach up on the Central Coast.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Spit Bridge to Manly Scenic Walk

For anyone that likes the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk check out the Manly to Spit Bridge scenic walk. It's about 9km and you can visit up to 16 beaches along the way. It is more challenging than the Bondi coastal walk and has a more diverse path (paved, dirt, rock, sand, boardwalk etc.) The photo above is from my favourite part of the walk which: Sydney Harbour National Park, Dobroyd Head.

Beaches along the scenic walk:

  • Fishers Bay - a small, quiet and peaceful inlet. Personally, I think the walking tracks around Fishers Bay and Sandy Bay are nicer than the beaches themselves.

  • Sandy Bay - a dog's playground! Wide area of sand and shallow water, great to throw a ball around with your dog. There will probably be other dog owners there too.

  • Clontarf - One of my favourites along this walk. A convex beach with a netted off area, BBQs, playground, cafe, carpark and toilets. This is a great beach to go to if you have your own kayak or paddle board. The water is flat and it's a beautiful part of the harbour to paddle around. Drive past the carpark and you can get your car close to the water to offload boards. To continue on with the walk you need to walk on the sand towards Clontarf Point.

  • Unknown 1 - a gorgeous little hidden beach that I can't seem to find a name for on any map, so it'll be 'unknown 1' for now. There's a rock you have to jump down from to get there and it can be a little trick if it's wet and slippery but once you're there there's a chance you'll have the place to yourself. It's so beautiful. Definitely one of my favourites.

  • Unknown 2 - another little hidden spot. More rock and less sand than 'unknown 1'.
  • Castle Rock - I like this one for the journey to get down there. From the walking track there's a steep set of stairs where you have a stunning view of the beach and the harbour. There's a giant rock plonked on the sand at this beach.

  • Washaway Beach - apparently this beach is sometimes actually 'washed away'...? I'm yet to see that. This photo is of my shadow from 3 levels of cliff up from the sand.

  • Reef Beach - This one is lovely! It has a view across to Manly and lots of surrounding rocks on to climb and go exploring. I prefer walking on the rocks to get around to Forty Baskets than the walking track.

  • Unknown 3 - Close to Forty Baskets Beach, not a lot of sand, quite a lot of rocks, also fun to explore.
  • Forty Baskets Beach - named after 'a catch of forty baskets of fish sent to a contingent of Sudanese troops at the North Head Quarantine Station in 1885'. Has a netted off area.

  • Wellings Reserve - a thin strip of sand by Jillings Cove with a beautiful water feature at the end of it.

  • Fairlight Beach - half beach, half tidal pool, with views across Port Jackson.

  • Delwood Beach - like Fairlight, just without the pool.

  • Manly Cove - Where the ferries come in at Manly Wharf. Manly Sea Life Sanctuary is also here, with waterslides! Cross over the road once you get to the traffic lights to walk down the Corso and head to Manly beach to continue the walk.
  • Manly - Definitely one of my favourites in Sydney. It has everything really: surf lessons, volleyball nets, playgrounds, toilets, parking, plenty of cafes, shops, restaurants and bars. Manly Surf School is where I've done my surf lessons. I would highly recommend them, the instructors are awesome.

  • Shelly Beach - South of Manly. Cabbage Tree Bay is a great place to go snorkelling.

Some more photos I've taken on this walk:
There is a waterfall in Jilling Cove! The very lucky residents of North Harbour St, Balgowlah have this amazing natural feature in their backyards. To find this waterfall see the green star in the embedded map above.

Fact: there are Little Penguins in the Manly area. Breeding season is from July 1 to February 28. You can get fined for anchoring, fishing and having pets with you in the Little Penguin habitats around Manly.

Crater Cove at isn't accessible by foot but when you get to the lookout above it you can see some fantastic views. I find it interesting that Sydney Harbour National Park is made up of four parks that don't meet. From this lookout you can view all four (North Head, Dobroyd Head, Middle Head, and South Head)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My 2015 Project

My goal is to visit every beach in Sydney by the end of 2015.

I woke up on New Years Day and wanted to do something awesome, go somewhere I had never been before. I wanted to do it alone and I wanted it to involve a drive and a walk. I googled hidden beaches in Sydney and chose the closest one to where I live. Little Congwong Beach. While I was there I decided to turn it into a project for the year. I got the idea from a friend of mine, Jazz, who has spoken about visiting every suburb of Sydney that has a train station, also taking a year to complete by travelling around via train alighting at every stop to see all of Sydney.

I have written up a list of all the beaches I have found, there are 95 (although this could change as I discover more). I have been to 27 beaches so far this year.

I'll be writing up a little description of each as I go and post any photos if I have taken any.