There’s something lucky about air tracing certain numbers over and over on the exact day they appear on the calendar. There’s something not cool about being seen on video at a town meeting you’re reporting on for a newspaper fingering your eyebrows as if their static gives you a cosmic high, an infinite orgasm. You’ve never been one to judge people unless they do something rude to you but in tenth grade at an arts camp you rub your hands up against a wall every time you have an encounter with the camp cook. He’s actually a nice man who let you play his guitar it’s just there’s something weird/gross about him you just can’t name. Actually, it’s not about him at all. It’s about me.
Around the same time in my youth that my bipolar symptoms were surfacing, I was privy to strange, obsessive thoughts that might have been obsessive compulsive disorder. I’ve never spoken to anyone about these thoughts until now on this blog. The OCD symptoms comes and goes with me and it’s never been completely disabling. But when I experience a periodic onset, I have trouble getting the thoughts to stop.
I don’t see the need to bring this up with my psychiatrist. I have learned cognitive behavioral techniques from many therapists that I also use to combat my obsessive brain. I also find meditation and yoga work well for me in calming my mind down in one of these states. It’s not about controlling my thoughts; it’s about letting them go. If I am in the middle of a repeticious cycle of pen twirling or air writing, I put the pen down and lean into meditation. I chant let it go while my eyes are closed over and over until the original compulsion passes. Once I open my eyes again, I am free of those thoughts. Sometimes I do this activity a few times over the course of a day.
In high school, I thought I had AIDS. I didn’t actually have the disease but my mind became obsessed that I would blurt out to someone “I have AIDS.” This became an endless obsession to protect my reputation at school that I would say the wrong thing to people. Public speaking became a nightmare. I dealt by turning inward and to my close circle of friends. It inhibited me from truly particpating in school activities because I was afraid of what my mind would blurt out. It’s almost an internal Tourrette’s.
Writing helps me sort out the truth between the thoughts in my head and what’s really happening, what I am experiencing. Keeping a journal of freewriting that no one will read in a composition book helps me self-diagnose when these onsets are occuring. Just like when I keep a mood chart and journal for my bipolar symptoms, this allows me to see when these thoughts are occuring and their duration. It also forces me to see what is real and what isn’t. Stress triggers them as much as idleness when I have been periodically unemployed. However, they’ve been most pervasive when I was working full-time.
This is not to say that my job is the trigger. I like what I do and do it well. I have found ways to minimize these thoughts when they come up and make their occurance very infrequent. These thoughts have forced me to slow my manic brain down and focus on one thing at a time. I pay detailed attention to copy editing and it has forced me to see how the details make up the larger picture.