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Tuning in

June 23, 2010

Having downtime/tuning in are probably the most important parts of managing my OCD. Which is why when I’m super busy, and these things don’t always happen, OCD can flare up. So, I want to be proactive this summer. Use what I learned from last summer to help keep my anxieties at bay.

When you have time to tune in, you have a moment here and there to process what’s happening during your day (even if it’s nothing out of the ordinary) and acknowledge all of the thoughts that go through your head. Even if all you do is think, “Ugh, I just had such a bad image of people I love dying” and then move on–you tuned in.

For me at least, when I’m busy, those split seconds of acknowledging don’t even happen. So then, at the end of a day, several things can happen. If I’m moderately aware, and overall tuned-in, I’ll probably have downtime and feel everything flood me at once–but I know it’s just me catching up with all the feelings and thoughts. And I kind of do a delayed acknowledgment. But if I’m already in a detached mindset, it might not even occur to me to tune-in, in that sense. So then, I don’t realize what is flooding me–and it just feels like a flood, weights on my heart, a whirpool in my head, etc. And I have no idea why and it’s overwhelming and scary. And just sets me up to have more OCD thoughts, fears, etc. See the cycle? See what it’s important to be proactive?

Now, with downtime, it gets tricky. Sometimes I need mindless downtime–after a long day sometimes spending some time checking in on Facebook is calming and therapeutic. But, it’s hard (although necessary) to monitor. Because sometimes, watching t.v. or checking email can appear as calming, and be justifiable as such. However, in reality, I’m using them as avoidance strategies, in a more negative light. Usually that happens when I’m detached, and not realizing it. I avoid avoid avoid, and again, in the moment, often I can’t figure out what I’m avoiding, or why. Or even IF I’m avoiding. But retroactively I can see–I am avoiding dealing with the flood, the weights, the whirlpool.

So, in the spirit of being proactive, I am writing this. Getting these thoughts and understanding out into the universe helps me make sense of it, and formulate a “plan”, if you will. And as a start, I will take a deep breath and acknowledge that which I DON’T want to acknowledge, because it evokes a lot of intense emotions and anxiety: two nights ago I had an awful dream, in which I dreamed about a woman who hurt me years ago when I was a child. Many times (although mostly years ago) I dreamed about others who have hurt me–but never her. And, when I woke up from the dream, I avoided thinking about it immediately. Because it’s emotional, and why would I want to face it? Except…then, last night I barely slept four hours. And I was tuned-in enough to know it was because I didn’t want her to invade my dreams again. If I hadn’t been tuned in, chances are it would’ve turned into a panic attack, and today would’ve been a wash-out, because I would have had no idea where any of the anxiety came from.

But. I didn’t let that happen–I forced myself (gently!) to tune-in (although a bit late…better late than never?), and I feel freer for it already.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2010 11:24 am

    I am glad you wrote this! Tuning in is such a hard thing for me–my engrained habit of fleeing any strong emotions did not serve me well, and yet I felt if I connected with these emotions, that I would be swept away. I have been practicing acknowledging what I don’t want to, and in spite of it being hard, like you say, it has a sense of liberation as well. I listen to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s cd about mindfulness and depression, and he has a line about “Whatever I’m feeling, it’s already here, so let me feel it.”

  2. July 2, 2010 4:38 pm

    Hi, Amelia! What a great post! And I wrote a similar one, “Compulsive Slowness,” just two days after yours without even reading yours first! I really like the term “tuning in.” I’ve never heard that before. Is that a common term? I thought I knew most of the key OCD phrases, but I guess not! I’ve done similar activities, but that really helps to pinpoint the action and make it a priority, or as you put it, the importance of being proactive. I find myself in the situation you described a lot, where what would normally be a leisure activity starts to become yet another way to avoid what I’m feeling. I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to “tune in” and see if I might be able to beat this thing.

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