Life Soup Keeps Cooking - Impermance and OCPD

Everything must change. Even the most solid building tumbles sometimes, and even a little ant can begin to pick away at the foundation. This impermance is a main truth in my Buddhist mediation class, and it can totally change how I relate to anxiety and my self.

So if I'm feeling all wrapped up in something - dirty glasses for example - it takes over my mind, its all I can see, its perfect for fail, do or die. Well, at least it seems that way. But the glass is decaying. I am decaying. My situation, and my emotions, can't be solid.

I can't quiet put my hands around my anixety and hold it still. It's always growing or dissapaiting. I can try to control if it goes up or down, but I can't stop it.

I'm not anxious about dirty glasses now, or about anything else. But soon I will be, and then again... I won't be. And so on. Until this body too moves into impermance.

Deep huh? But its just a way of relating "nothing lasts forever" to negative feelings. After all, if everything is moving and change, what is it that I'm so hung up about?

It's easy to take this as - "Well if nothing is solid or stable then nothing matters! Pass me the bottle of wine!". But it does matter.

If everything is moving and changing then I have the power to change it. If I am positive, if I take the view that "this too shall pass" and smile at someone then I have set in motion a good change. There is no way to tell how far one smile can go to brighten someone's day. Ever seen that movie "Pay it Forward"?

So I'm getting over the way things look - solid. I know they aren't so stable, and my body, my mind, my life is in constant evolution and motion. The dishes, the make up, the perfection - these things a moving in and out of my life.

Actions and emotions all make up my "life soup" - just one big swirling pot of soup that keeps on cooking. The flavors change, it can get better or worse. . Once the heat is on it, the cooking doesnt "pause" or suddenly stabilize. It just gets warmer , the veggies and broth keep changing in reaction. I can't make it stop, not without turning off the heat. I can add salt or pepper, I can stir it. I can make the best damn soup I can, so that when the heat goes off and my "life soup" is off the stove it tastes amazing, full of the positive memories and impacts of a life well lived. But until the day my light goes out, I have no choice by to keep cooking.


Taking it Personal - Cleaning and OCPD

Sometimes the kitchen feels like a battle zone. And not just because of any food issues or tempting cookies in the fridge. It's New York tiny, cramped with two ego's and one obsessive, both of which are trying to eat and drink without too many bruises. Only one of which cleans up. Guess which one?

I do the dishes and I don't mind - we don't really cook or use that many. But its hard to to attached my "pass/fail" logic to how clean my kitchen is. I try not to obsess about it, as nothing will ever be totally, perfectlly clean. Mostly I keep all this domestic worry inside.

But then he wanted a cup. I heard him rummaging. I asked what he needed, eager to make him stop messing up the cupbord.

"Oh I need a cup, and they all look kinda dirty" He grabs one cleanish on to examine and started to leave the kitchen. He didn't sound hostile- just a fact to him. But to me? It was a condemnation.

I started by apoligizing, anger and hurt coming though. He was taken aback. No big deal he said. "I feel like a failure!" I responded as I began to haul out all of cups from the cabinet, into a soapy sink. I had to fix this!

He came back into the kitchen, and stopped me. I paused. Time for mindfullness. We looked at eachother. "Not a big deal" he repeated" I nodded. I saw it now. It really wasn't about a cup.

I took a breathe and fessed up to my obsession with a "perfect" kitchen. He understood, I was honest that it didn't make sense to care so much but I did anyway. He listened.

The cups stayed a bit foggy, but our relationship just got a little clearer.


Seeing the River- Mindfullness of Mind and OCPD

I am taking a meditation class at the Interdependence Project and our last lecture was on the Four Kinds of Mindfulness. It went into some pretty deep Buddhist stuff, but a lot of it could be helpful to anyone with anxiety.

One of the kinds of mindfulness was of the mind. It is observing and watching your mental state, being aware of the "tone" of your thoughts. Silent Mind Open Heart has an article that explains it in more detail. Its not so much emotion, but what effect emotion has on your mind. Tricky to explain, but if you try it for yourself it helps!

Ok an example- I feel sad about a friend canceling plans. If I pause and feel the "mind" inside, I can see my thoughts are running a million places all at once. Plans to do something else, to eat, to sleep, rehashing the conversation, wondering if I did something wrong- all these bombard the mind like a waterfall. I know the "tone"- it's anxiety.

Through "Mindfulness of Mind" I try to look at all these anxious thoughts like an observer, even a scientist. I give it a name, a label- "anxious". Once I label it, maybe I can work with it, recognize it, and not get so caught up.

The river of thoughts can be rushing, rapids, languid or just plain muddy. But if I stop, pause, and try to observe that river, I can figure out how to cross it. If I just jump in, without being aware of just what that "thought river" is doing, I risk getting swept away by strong currents.

Being aware of our mind gives the tools to cross even the most deadly rapids, because we do the work to find and navigate each stone. But it is work! You have to be willing to pause, which is hard in daily life.

This weekend, I'm going to work with the "Mindfulness of Mind", and try not get swept away by any currents that push and pull the river inside my head.


Checklist for Happy - Getting stuff done and OCPD

Like a lot of people, I rely on a mental checklist of "Things to get done" every day. Partly its just nessesity - there are errand to get done, and a list helpes me to feel like its more managable. But when I start to create things to do, even when I have no time to do them, I run into problems. I find myself wanting to create items on my checklist of "to do" just to have them there.


I think I love that "Done!" feeling. The more I can get done, the more "Right" I feel. I push myself, and feel good finishing all my errands, plus cleaning my office, plus brushing the dog... plus plus plus.

Well, there is no way the plus can go one forever, because time runs out. Why am I filling my daily list until it overflows?

I have to realize checking off "Accomplishments" isn't what makes me happy. Yes, I need to get errands done but my self estem and mental state shouldn't be all wrapped up in it. I can't beat myself up if I don't get all my "pluses" done. The dog can wait to be brushed! I talk myself down until I really feel its no biggie.

If I don't let the to do list make me feel bad, I can't let my happiness get bundled with it either. Getting things done, being efficient, being "perfect" at tasks- these are addictive. It's a easy prop for a good mood. But it's not deep or content. I can feel proud if I manage to juggle it all but its not everything. Deep down, I know no matter how many checks are filled in on my to do list, they don't add up to a fufilled life.


Positive Place - Journaling and OCPD

It's easy for me to focus on the negative. All the little things I did "wrong" - late to work, spilled coffee on my sweater, forgot to spray static guard on my scarf and now have Einstein hair all day...

The list is long.

But if thinking about all those little "failures" only makes me more anxious, and more likely to be frazzeled. Then I just continue in a negative mindset, snowballing into more mess ups, more stress, and more spilled coffee.

So I started a positivity journal. This is a place where I write down all the things I do right! Every healthy meal, every tactful momment of honesty, when I am on time, when I make the choice to *not * change my outfit 5 times- these all have a place to go.

The list of times when I choose not to obsess could be long, but I just write down when the impluse strikes me. I feel proud when I am on time, I feel better when I make healthy food choices. And the positivity journal gives me a place to revel in my little victories. It feels nice to know I have a special place to put all my positive actions.

If I don't write down the good stuff, my "failures" just crowd out all my successfull momment. For me, its easy to revel in self loathing at my clumsy ways, or my dishonest impluses. But these don't get a record. I remember them well enough without writing them.

When I feel like my day is all wrong, I can picture the pages of my positivity journal. My little victories are written there, real and remembered. My anxious mind can't erase them!


Word Cloud- Parts of me and OCPD

Here is a word cloud of the most common words for this blog:

Wordle: Bashing Perfect- Life with OCPD

Wow... "need" and "time" stand out..

Click to see the pretty full size :)

Here is from Science Daily about OCPD

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), or anankastic personality disorder, is a personality disorder that is characterized by a general psychological inflexibility, rigid conformity to rules and procedures, perfectionism, and excessive orderliness.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is often confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
While the names sound similar, these are two quite different disorders.
Those who are suffering from OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions (such as excessive hand-washing), while this is a common symptom of OCD.
Instead, people with OCPD tend to stress perfectionism above all else, and feel anxious when they perceive that things are not "right." People with OCPD may hoard money, keep their home perfectly organized, or be anxious about delegating tasks for fear that they won't be completed correctly.


Dunking My Brain in Drugs - Anti-depressant medication and OCPD

Recently I had coffee with a friend of mine who is studying to be a neuro-scientist. She plans to be brain researcher who uses computer modeling to predict behavior and medication affects.Needless to say, she's smart.

I was very interested in Anti-Depressants, specifically SSRI's like Zoloft. I have been on a low dose for about a year, and noticed a major difference even at the lowest dose (25mg). But its hard to tell with all the other metal work I've done to rid myself of anxiety. Is it a placebo effect, where I convince myself the meds work? Or do they have even more of an effect than I know?

So I asked. I said I have lots of friends on anti-depressant medication, which is true, but I didn't mention me specifically. She doesn't know about my "issues" but maybe in time I'll share ( wow that's another post!)

She said we just don't know exactly what they do, or how they do it. My reaction was "What?!? Then why are they prescribed?"

Most of the time, SSRI's work in the brain. But taking then orally "bathes the brain" in the medication, hitting relevant and irrelevant parts of the organ. It's like "taking a bath to wash under your fingernails."

So that's been in my head every morning as I pop my pill. Here's to dunking my brain in serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Now I'm not saying this is all bad- its just the limits of our science. I was resistant to going on Zoloft for a long time and still don't like the idea that some "medications" are legal, while other natural things are not.

I don't have a conclusion, but there is a lot of talk about medication, anti-depressants and health care right now. All I can say is meds (along with lots of therapy) can help - but the impulse to instantly look to pharmaceuticals for the answer is misguided. Even scientists admit the brain is more of mystery than we want to believe.


Challege the Habits - Rituals and OCPD

I love coffee. (See this post) To get through a day, I need at least one cup, often too. But I know drinking two cups isn't great for my body, or my anxious state of mind. Plus, its cost money and time out of my work day to run for that 4 pm cup of joe. In the past, I have moved mountains to get that coffee- often making me tardy to distracted by my "need".

It was a ritual. And it was time to challenge it.

Challenging habits is tough. My mind goes though all kind of worst case scenarios. With the coffee, they mostly end with my passed out on my keyboard. But the victory comes when you change the behavior, and then see that nothing that bad happens.

I switched to a power of B12 vitamins (no caffeine) to add to my water if I need a boost in the afternoon. And guess what? I wasn't sleepy. I actually felt less jittery. But I had to change it up, take that leap, to prove to myself I wasn't a slave to my rituals and my worst case scenarios.

Also- the B12 packets are 35 cents each- beat that Starbucks!

So what rituals do you want to change? Can you challenge your "need"? Do I "need" to check the mirror, to spay my hair, to pick up that dust bunny right now?

Or do I need to be happy?

The choice is a challenge, and confidence in a change is worth it.


A New Routine - Meditation and OCPD

I want set myself up for a great 2010 by bringing in some new habits. I have a lot of routines that aren't helpful and just contribute to my anxiety. So, its time for a new routine for a new year!

Last week, I made a vow to meditate 5 minutes each day for 7 days.

Well I did it! At first I started to dread having to take a "time out" and sit there, and my mind couldn't let go of all the things I "should be" doing. I should clean, I should eat, I should walk to the store... etc.

But as the week went by, I really focused in my mediation time. I saw my emotions swirling. I felt the self as solid, and the rest of the world is a mixed up vortex where nothing is solid. Very trippy.
By last night, I was looking forward to falling into the mediation, and not just because my eyes hurt from a day working in front of a computer screen.

I started to use the OM Meditation App for my Iphone. It let me time my mediation, and gently vibrates at the end of 5 min. This is important, because I lose track of time when I meditate. Also, it plays a OM chanting that helps me to focus, and gives a variety of lovely and spiritual pictures to m meditate on if I wish. Having a program to keep me accountable and give my mediation structure made all the difference! You gotta have a system to help establish a new routine. Whatever works - be it a alarm clock, a note on a toothbrush, or special incense that gets burned, training your mind takes retraining your habits.

I'm just glad I live in a time that gives me so many fun tech tools to help!