Lists Save My Life

When I say OCD, I get the impression that people think that this is extreme finicky-ness or perfectionism that I have as a personality trait.  But that’s not the case, as people much better at writing than me have pointed out.  I’m fortunate to have a pretty mild obsessive compulsive disorder, or maybe it’s just better handled because my parents were so aware of my genetic predisposition for it.  But the obsessive compulsive thoughts are always my hardest battle.

This morning was a bad one. Depression or stress or anxiety always ups the compulsive loops in my brain.  Sitting at my desk at work with a lot of uncertainty about my future and a lot of just generalized despair and I felt the thoughts go through, like some evil version of Buddhist prayer wheels, poisoning the air in my mind.

I learned a while back that if I made lists, it would fight it.  I figured this out because prayer solves a lot of things in my life, but because of the nature of these thoughts it is so difficult to practice, it become a religiously tinged negative loop.  Making lists works though.  It works as a form of prayer, as a meditative practice… something weirdly obsessive enough to disrupt whatever is going on in my brain.

These lists go from the mundane to the spiritual.  They can be lists of ways I can fix a situation, or things I’m grateful for,  of the LORD’s promises through scripture, they can be a shopping list.  I don’t know why it short circuits the compulsive thinking, but it does, and it offers me relief.

The tricky bit is to remember to do it.  When you are locked in what Allie Brosh calls a “Sneaky Hate Spiral”, thinking about anything outside of that spiral is hard, even without an OCD component.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s time to go back to therapy, and possibly get medicated.  Maybe I shouldn’t make mental health decisions when I’m on my period and my husband has had a bad week.

But until then, I’m going to make lists, and remember to breathe,

A.C.

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