Shut My Brain Off, Please. Obsessing.

Not sure that I ever shared this but the therapist I was with at the end of last year diagnosed me with OCD.

I had never been referred to as OCD before so spoke about it a long while. My x was a clear OCD and son is S2. They have the kind of OCD that relates to unseen germs, repetitive habits or people touching their things etc. Theirs is pretty physical obviously when you know them a little while. I was surprised, but not shocked when we spoke about my ability to obsess over things not going the way I want them to. I obsess on the thoughts and feel the need to take action.

We covered all the basic steps of how to circumnavigate the debilitating repetitive ruminations and how to break the cycle. I have actively engaged in doing this. I consciously stop when I begin to ruminate and distract my mind. When I cannot distract my mind, I engage in physical activity. I amp up the activity to higher heart rates where all I can concentrate on is the activity if I’m really struggling. This has worked well (enough) most times.

But, my killer time is bed time. When I lie down to sleep and my mind begins unwinding, it always (and I do mean always) unwinds right to Tony. I started bedtime meditation to help with this, so that I have to listen to the guided meditation and put away the rumination. Again, this mostly helps. Last night was a killer.

As I normally do, when I am obsessing on something I start researching how I can help myself. I found a simple technique I’m going to try this week. Ask myself some questions.

The first step when I get so stuck in a loop I can’t stop ruminating has always been to acknowledge that I fixating on something negative. This part I have down pat. I have a series of answers lined up, such as:

Remember he doesn’t want you

You deserve better

He is a liar and a cheat and you don’t want that

Generally, on a good day, I can stop there. But on a bad day or night, there is another voice that’s says:

How did he get on with his life?

What is his marriage like now?

Is he happy? Or would he just lie some more?

What happened after their DDay?

What did he say about me?

As you can see, none of that is relevant and doesn’t require any answers. It’s none of my business and he’s not my concern.

So, when I get here, my new tactic is to use this technique which involves asking yourself a series of questions and then answering them. The technique is simple and quick, requiring only a minute or two of my time: (pulled from Psychology Today)

Wherever you are, ask yourself the following questions.

  • If I had to guess, what is the exact temperature now (inside or outside, depending where you are)?
  • What is my body temperature like now? Do I feel a little cold, a little warm, or perfectly comfortable?
  • If I don’t make any noise, can I identify every single sound that I hear?
  • Outside, what is in the sky? Are there clouds? How would I describe what I see in the sky?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how hungry am I?
  • If I could choose any dish right now to eat, I would choose….”

I’m sure, you got the idea. The value of this exercise is to distract my mind from any obsessive or upsetting thoughts and feelings I’m stuck in and to redirect my thinking to specific, tangible distraction-based questions by using my senses.

I can come up with my own questions.

The other method that I had researched a while back, but also don’t think I mentioned, is Mel Robbins “5 second rule.” This was so simple I actually didn’t try it for a while thinking it would never work but it does! I had initially read about this as related to how to put something into action, rather than stop action, but the theory works in reverse: (taken from MelRobbins.com)

What do you do?

Just start counting backwards to yourself: 5-4-3-2-1.

The counting will focus you on the goal or commitment and distract you from the worries, thoughts, and excuses in your mind.

As soon as you reach “1” – push yourself to move.

This is how you push yourself to do the hard stuff – the work that you don’t feel like doing, or you’re scared of doing, or you’re avoiding.

That’s it. 5 seconds is all it takes.

If you don’t act on an instinct within that 5 second window, that’s it. You’re not doing it.”

Rather than push myself to move (as above), stopping and counting down when I deep in rumination in order to refocus my thought is like an active recovery stage. It forces me to concentrate on the count and then move into a different thought.

I believe all the work I did with the therapist was good and showed me a lot of ways I can help myself while I can’t afford therapy. Putting these small changes into action isn’t difficult – the difficulty lies in repeating the techniques over and over and over until I’m no longer ruminating.

Frankly, sometimes I say to my mind “go ahead and obsess and lose sleep and get yourself upset because you’re too stubborn for me” I make myself crazy.

I have to think of some questions to ask myself that are simple, don’t require more hard thinking (like work thoughts) and would absolutely distract me.

Author: Madeline Harper

My journey through divorce and an emotional and sexual reawakening. Love, laughter, friendships, family and heartbreak included. And there is sex, lots of it, so close your eyes and turn the page if that's not for you! While I started this blog as an endeavor to journal my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to better understand myself, it has become an amazing platform from which I have met some of the most interesting and wonderful people in my life. My path is often crooked, but I hope you will share in the journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Shut My Brain Off, Please. Obsessing.”

  1. In one of the books that I keep reading/listening to over and over (because it’s a very good book), the “hero” of the book has been seeing a therapist to help him deal with the fact that, prior to this book, an assassin almost killed him, killed the woman he loved (but he was in denial that he loved her), but missed doing something to the person he was supposed to attack. There were a few other things that piled up on him that made him doubt his fitness to command.

    In one session, his therapist – who is good at pushing buttons – asked the “hero” this question: “How did it make you feel?” – but told him that while he could answer the question, don’t answer it and to ask the question in the second person mode and think only about the feelings themselves. He had “a moment” trying to follow those somewhat conflicting instructions but he got after it. Later, he was talking to his chief engineer; she had noticed he was a little distracted and when she asked him what was going on, he told her about this “How did it make you feel?” homework he was given; he was supposed to pick something in his past – anything – and ask this question.

    His engineer laughed and correctly guessed the reason for the question, a Zen thingy that is designed to interrupt one’s chain of thinking for the amount of time one is pondering their feelings while working hard not to answer the question itself.

    The “hero” is kinda OCD with a large dose of PTSD and a dash of depression; he obsesses over not making mistakes that would get his crew killed and he really obsesses over relationships; before his girlfriend was killed, he avoided engaging with her because, in his mind, he’s in command, she (his engineer) reported to him, and that, to him, was a problem that could cause catastrophic events.

    He was wrong, of course, but was eventually traumatized by her senseless death – but he blamed himself for it. In the book, his command team is always busting his ass about having his head so far up his ass that he’s looking out of his navel most of the time – and he does.

    It’s really a series of books but I mention this because while I’m fairly sure I don’t have OCD, PTSD, or clinical depression, I did the “How did it make you feel?” think and what do you know? It does break the chain of one’s thoughts and makes you focus on something other than whatever you might be thinking about… but it’s not that easy to do because you want to automatically answer the question you’ve asked yourself. I took me a few times doing it before I could “answer” the question without answering it, focusing on the feelings themselves, whether they were good or bad and that doesn’t really matter – but the shift of focus, breaking the chain of thinking, is what matters in this exercise.

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  2. I have tried this technique and it helps:
    “Proponents say the tapping helps you access your body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress. They claim that stimulating the meridian points through EFT tapping can reduce the stress or negative emotion you feel from your issue, ultimately restoring balance to your disrupted energy”
    https://www.healthline.com/health/eft-tapping

    Like

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