I will admit as someone who writes a lot about my conditions, I don’t read as much as is offered regarding these mental conditions I have. I don’t feel wrong in this, it is not the case that I read nothing—it is the case that nothing I’ve read or heard about mental illness seems to work for me in terms of short-term solutions. I’m not even going to touch on long-term solutions, as that almost encompasses all of the challenges discussed on most of this site—which is a pretty complete extension of my brain.
I know mechanisms exist to combat anxiety and the spaghetti of infinite loops my brain gets entangled in with my OCD. By “exist” I merely mean they are suggested to me by articles, people, and even my doctor.
So this article is pretty much the antithesis what has become the stereotypical communication on this subject of “things to help calm your ________.” Sorry, if that was the type of article you were looking for, I can’t provide. At least not today.
When I am in an episode—which is what I label the flaring of my condition(s) to the point where my brain is consumed, nothing works. However, I feel the need to address—only from my vantage point and my experience, not discussing anyone else’s experience—some specific mechanisms.
Reframing and Compartmentalizing
This one comes directly from the doctor that I see, and from an off-the-cuff short potential solution. I get the concept. Part of solving mental health issues is taking them from issues purely inside your brain, and moving them to real-life problems. If you can get there, that is a big help1. I can at times, in fact! Sort of. My brain doesn’t stop though. It just has an external slice of existence to analyze and fret over. But it is now external, and thus in a figurative frame or compartment.
Unfortunately, as much as I want to move that compartment into a place in my brain that is not pounding at every neuron to turn on its “worry” engine, I can’t. Because in reframing, the problem at best is moved somewhere. And when moved, a vacuum is created that sucks in all of the bad thoughts that have been brewing in my brain all along. All of this is to say—I can reframe in concept, but my brain will not cooperate.
Work is hell? Move it into the “screw it, just do my best, and let it be” compartment. Ok, I do. Then my brain goes back and starts its infinite loop of analyzing eventualities again in the space from which I moved the hell that is work. Work remains hell. It can merely now be looked at from a different—hellish—angle.
Meditation or Breathing Exercises
I have practiced meditation on and off for twenty plus years. I seem to only be able to do so in a group setting, which makes it very difficult as an emergency exercise. Long-term I think it has brought me to realize a lot about the utter absurdity of my problems on a universal—almost mystical—plane. I get that. But I go back. Or, better put, my brain goes back. Again with my brain refusing to cooperate to connect a good process of thought with a good view of reality. Those two things are there! My brain will just not connect them.
So meditation is a big thing. It involves a whole life view if done right. But smaller forms of meditation exist in simple breathing exercises. No doubt when I am in an OCD or anxiety2 episode—my breathing is much different than normal life. Shorter, more tense. So it should make sense to loosen up that whole physical reaction to a mental issue in order to at least—simply put: calm down.
This one is pretty simple and fatalist. I don’t calm down. I just breathe slower and more deliberate for a period of time. That’s it. I’ve tried this more than just a handful of times, because the connection between mind and body should be something an intelligent person realizes. And I do. But. Maybe for others. Deep, deliberate breathing, while counting slowly is a nice way to take a mental illness episode happening at 4:00 PM and simply turn it into one happening at 4:15 PM.
Removal from the situation
This one goes a bit hand in hand with meditation and breathing exercises: the concept of taking a break, removing the frantic mental self from the frantic situation, and returning later to a less frantic situation in order to approach said situation less frantically. Problem here is the frantic me goes out for the break, remaining frantic.
My OCD will not stop thinking frantically until the situation is completely solved. It has either baffled, annoyed, or infuriated people I love. Ones, say, I get into a slight fight with. I don’t have to win, but I must have the fight end and be considered “solved” by all parties. If I get an inkling of every detail of said conflict not being solved, I will not stop doing everything in my power to somehow afford a path to complete resolution.
So in leaving the situation, take a guess what my brain is thinking? Of calming down? Not at all—it is obsessed with every possible way I can see the conflict stopping with no chance of it returning. Again with “every eventuality.” I’ll find the one that works, and removing myself from the situation just puts me in a place alone to think of these things obsessively, and to figure out the best way to let my compulsions—pounding to get out—to affect the problem in a satisfactory way.
Thinking of the positive
I think by now you realize I just can’t. I’ll this one at that.
Thus, all of the above not working (and there are others, all in the same realm)—my last inclination is to scorch the Earth and quit. Whatever quitting means relative to the mental issue I am having—I think about it. Here, though, I am in a world of fantasy—because I don’t quit. I don’t have the strength and energy to make that happen—especially considering the endless eventualities (again!) that quitting could bring up. I can’t quit bad situations, I have to let them play out. It is a horrible part of my personal illness. I have to hang everything on hope.
As an ceaseless pessimist.