As I join this blog I am going through a relatively good time with my mental illness, I am learning what it takes to nurture mental health as I prepare for a course of study. Self-care is important, and so is understanding what is going on up there in my grey nut.
So I want to feel feelings fully and choose not to respond, then they need not stick around. What am I on about, how do we feel fully? I am not sure it is possible to explain… we can give them a location, we can note them, we can ‘hold them in awareness’, perhaps all of these; it is something that has improved with time.
Constant themes are not my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) anymore, more so every doubt or emotion is exacerbated. Usually a sufferer has one of around thirteen themes, such as sexuality, harm, relationship, inappropriate or disgusting ideas (which are not a reflection of our true self – the opposite), existential, contamination… you may have read about some of them before. Compulsions on their own is possible, that is what non-sufferers think OCD is; counting, checking, tapping, becoming obsessional for no reason right? But that is not so common, having compulsions on their own. A compulsion is usually an immediate response to the constant distress and torment caused by obsessions. I had a few of these obsessions. But all I get now are periods of intense doubt, where any doubt can take over and ‘guilt’ gets sprayed around in the storm.
A compulsion for me is a ‘mental argument’ and less intensely ‘rumination’: the chasing of an uncertainty or a response to the exacerbated guilt (the emotion of guilt being a red herring in this disorder).
Happiness only comes about when we are not chasing it. As I write I am slightly less overpowered than usual, slightly less blocked, and slightly excited in this. If I feel feelings as if it were the first time, every time, then I will likely let go of judgemental feelings that fly around everything. Learning through experience that if we chase pleasure or even happiness, the process is in fact not a happy one, and we become locked in a never-ending pursuit. Happiness is for the journey, it is something that arises itself from calm, and not chasing. I found antidotes to core feelings, through meditation, which will prove useful, if I recite them in a non-compulsive way, for the first time every time.
When a thought or idea preoccupies the mind constantly for more than an hour a day in a way that causes constant distress and anxiety, it is called an obsession. Compulsions are the brains’ attempt at relief, but the relief is short lived, and they push us deeper into a contradiction, and deeper into the lava stream. Exposure-response prevention (ERP) therapy is what desensitises us to obsessions by formulating exposures to purposefully trigger ourselves whilst learning not to respond with a compulsion.
OCD, it has been known as the ‘doubt disease’ and ‘guilt disorder’ by many a therapist.
Each time I meditate now is for the first time, every time. Zen Buddhists call this ‘beginner’s mind’. As I adapt mindfulness principles to my own condition, I can teach the brain not to hold on to obsessions (by not responding to them with a compulsion) notably because they are new every time, and support the idea that we do not have to respond but when I do, apply non-judgemental awareness and cultivate compassion towards myself. Even if the part of the brain that is keeping things around: the thalamus, amygdala or whichever else it may be, is troublesome, it needs to be sat-with, given tea, not fed but befriended.