Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Worrying about worry

I'm afraid of feeling anxious.  So, what do I do?  I worry about it, which creates anxiety.  This makes absolutely no sense, but logic doesn't seem to matter when it comes to OCD.

I also worry that those things that tend to help with my OCD might become compulsions, which creates more anxiety (quite the cycle!).  

For instance, my counselor suggested keeping a light routine as a way to help with the OCD.  This is in place of a massive daily to do list that just wasn't helpful.  A natural daily routine has emerged.  Instead of being grateful for this relaxed routine, I worry that if something messes it up, that I might get really upset, because maybe following this routine has become a compulsion.  But even when the routine does get switched around, I don't freak out, so in reality, this is a non-issue.

Another example is focusing on one task at a time instead of flitting from task to task.  I had so many (overwhelming!) things going on at once that at times my brain got to the point of threatening to shut down.  Necessary tasks (like doing the finances or dealing with medical bills) kept getting pushed to the side because I didn't feel like doing them right then.  This feeling came after I had already started, so I ended up with lots of unfinished projects.  I figured out that if I just pick a task and stick with it, then my brain doesn't have nearly the same chance of becoming overwhelmed.  So, now that I've learned that, when I start a task and get interrupted (which happens FREQUENTLY since I stay home with three young kiddos), I'm afraid that this will trigger the OCD somehow.  Again, it never really happens, so this is another non-issue.

This overactive brain of mine can sometimes think itself right in to a headache.  Thankfully that doesn't happen often, but it does happen.  Why can't I just enjoy the moment?  I'm so blessed.  I have a wonderful husband who is very loving and understanding, three beautiful (healthy!) kids, and I am in good physical health.  I work very part-time and get to spend the remainder of my time making a home and taking care of the kids, which is EXACTLY what I want to do.  But the OCD/anxiety is usually right there, just waiting for my brain to jump at the chance to obsess.  Granted, there have been many points in my life where the OCD has been very manageable, and I've been able to live a relatively "normal" (whatever that means) life.  But there have been other times where the OCD has been so intrusive that I've had great difficulty even functioning with day to day activities.  Thankfully, the debilitating times have been greatly outweighed by the "normal" times.  Praise God for that!

My new friend Kaitlin from A Journey with God and OCD has a great post on mindfulness that I found very insightful.  Focusing on the moment I'm in and what I'm doing right then will take the power out of those intrusive thoughts about the future - What if I'm doing something that will make my OCD worse?  When that thought comes, I'm going to instead just focus on whatever I'm doing at that moment.  A lot of my compulsions are internal (although I've had my share of overt compulsions, too: washing hands, turning lights on and off, checking for intruders, etc.).  But the majority of my compulsions stay inside my brain.  I just keep thinking about the intrusive thoughts and trying to figure them out.  Which is where, I believe, mindfulness comes in.

This is actually ERP (Exposure Response Prevention), which is the most effective way to change an OCD brain.  Expose yourself to what you are afraid of, and then prevent your natural compulsive response.  I'll expose myself to the intrusive thought, and then I'll practice mindfulness and prevent the response to continue thinking about it.

Refocusing through mindfulness.