Mental Health, OCD

Meditation is awful; meditation is wonderful

192 days ago I openly declared on Twitter that I would meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. I didn’t have an end date in mind. I simply declared my purpose and started counting. I figured the act of tweeting a number daily would hold me accountable. So far so good. I plan to continue into the future, but I still don’t have an end date. In fact, I don’t want one. I just want to make this a habit. I’m told this stuff is good for you.

I don’t know what kind of meditation I practice, though it might be something close to mindfulness. I only know that’s it really freaking awful. I have OCD, so simply letting my horrifying thoughts pass without trying to ritualize is, ahem, difficult. FFS is it difficult. Plus, my thoughts generally wander. In mere seconds, they shift from coconuts to zebras to dolphins on a bicycle doing the hula. I saw that once on YouTube.

But, you know, this stuff is supposed to be good for me. It’s supposed to be hard, but once you get in a groove the benefits are fantastic. So I’m told. And, well, I have to reluctantly agree. Ok, not so reluctantly. I like meditating. There, I’ve said it. Meditation is helping me. I’m not sure if my neural connections have been affected, but that’s what the scientific literature says will happen. (I’m the odd American who believes in science. Gasp.)

When I was on meds for my OCD, I hit a sweet spot. I knew it wouldn’t last, but it felt good. During that magical and oftentimes insufferable titration period, I was able to briefly enjoy moments without intrusive thoughts and exhausting rituals. Sure, my body was buzzing and shaky, but my mind felt, if not clear, at least free of oppressive thoughts. It’s like the waves stopped building. With meditation, I can get there again. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but when it does: wow. That’s really all I can say. (Remember, I’m only masquerading as a cynic.) When meditation works, it is wonderful.

To be fair, it’s not a cure-all. I still believe we have to take a holistic approach to wellness. That might mean seeing a therapist, taking meds, and eating and sleeping well. Whatever combination works for you is the approach you should take. I personally need to work on so many aspects of my self-care. But as far as meditation goes, I’m a believer. Did I really just say that? Why yes I did.

What kinds of things work to keep your mind calm?



This is OCD

I live with OCD, which means my brain is often a cauldron of worry. Most people don’t truly know what living with OCD means, so they say ignorant things or make stupid jokes. Here’s how I see OCD, but keep in mind that every person experiences the disorder in their own unique way.

Having OCD means a person is hounded by intrusive thoughts and lots of them. Intrusive = we don’t want them. So we engage in compulsions or rituals as a way of blocking out the thoughts. This only brings a modicum of relief until the thought returns, so we have to engage in the ritual again and again ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

The thoughts might run the gamut from harming your loved ones to doubting your faith to believing you’ll throw yourself in front of a train. People with OCD might worry that their house is on fire. Still others might be bothered by thoughts of stabbing or strangling someone. Now before you go judging, keep in mind that most people experience intrusive thoughts of some kind. More than 90% of people have experienced such thoughts in their lifetime. Over 90%. That’s a lot. Having these thoughts is essentially a part of life. If you have OCD, however, you take these thoughts seriously. Really seriously. After all, the thought came from inside your head, so it must have value.

Of course, such thoughts don’t have value. They’re just thoughts, but don’t flippantly tell someone with OCD that. We give these thoughts a lot of weight, and we can’t believe we’re having them. They are, in fact, contrary to who we are. That’s where the pain comes in. WE DO NOT WANT TO HURT ANYONE. We do not want to hurt ourselves. We do not want to be infected by disease. If we’re believers, we don’t want to be blasphemers. If we’re faithful, we don’t want to be cheaters. We do not want our actions or inaction to make the world tumble into chaos.

So we ritualize.

Here’s the caveat: we know ritualizing won’t stop the pain. So why don’t we just stop ritualizing? BECAUSE WE CAN’T. Okay, we believe we can’t. The pain is too real. That’s what needs to be understood. The pain is real. Imagine that time you were so frightened you could puke. Imagine that time you were so enveloped by dread it’s the only thing you felt. Now imagine feeling that constantly. This is OCD.

Pure, unadulterated dread. Crystallized fear. Doom.

I write this with urgency because I believe our pleas to stop using our disorder as a synonym for fastidiousness are being unheard. The seriousness of our condition is not understood. The pain is real. I just want that to resonate.