Compulsivity never cured anything

At least, this is what I'm telling myself right now.

It seems to be the cure, because I'm always anxious about something. So if I do XYZ, then I won't have to worry about this one thing.

The problem is that the thing my brain is currently freaking out about (did I exercise enough? Did I ask the right question during the interview? Did the person I was interviewing think I'm a dumbass?) really isn't relevant to what I'm actually anxious about, which is the boatload of uncertainty in my life right now. Being compulsive fixes these little worries (do more exercise, double-check the interviews, nitpick over their transcriptions, analyze the questions you asked) but it really does nothing to address that big, looming question.

But at least that one worry is fixed, right? At least then that's one thing I don't have to worry about.

Except that outside of my OCD-wired brain, I'm not actually worried about these things. They're a smokescreen. Or a record that gets stuck. You know, the old black vinyl circles that our parents (and occasionally some of us aged bloggers) used to listen to. If the record got a scratch, the needle couldn't translate the sound right because it got stuck on the scratch. It couldn't play any further. OCD is like that stuck needle, playing the same annoying two-second stretch of song over and over and over again. It can't get off of it unless you get up and physically move the arm. The entirety of the album is like my overarching worry. Focusing on every little scratch doesn't help you listen to the album.

(Am I totally dating myself here? I owned several records when I was younger, one of which was a Sesame Street album, and also a Debbie Gibson record. There were others that I'm blanking on. Good times.)

So metaphors and reminiscences of the 80s aside, it's easy to over inflate the importance of these nagging worries. Sometimes yes, they do need to be addressed, but sometimes it's just your brain getting stuck. It's easier to focus on silly things you can do something about that a ginormous, looming fear that you can't quite articulate.

Of course, when these nebulous worries plague me, my brain gets stuck more easily. It's almost primed to get stuck on every stupid little thing that comes my way. I don't deliberately try to focus on the minutiae, but that's just where my brain goes. Then I forget all about the big picture because I'm caught up in ridiculous details like "is the fact that I exercised for 27 minutes instead of 30 going to make me gain 10 pounds?"

One not-so-irrelevant detail is that it's bedtime, and sleep deprivation doesn't help one bit.


Cathy (UK) said...

I empathise... Executive dysfunction, rule-bound, rigid, inflexible, poor set-shifting, rituals, routines, compulsions....

But with regard to your last statement: "is the fact that I exercised for 27 minutes instead of 30 going to make me gain 10 pounds?"

Remember the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics... The most highly trained athlete could 'burn' no more than 75 kcal in 3 min (i.e. 30 - 27 min) and 10 pounds of body fat has an energy value in excess of 40,000 kcals, so the maths just doesn't add up!

James Clayton said...

In brief: yes, yes and yes. :)

The compulsive mindset and wiring constantly gets me and I love the imagery of the stuck record. It's so much better listening to music that flows instead of that infernal, irritating scratching...

Amanda @ HopeHasAPlace said...

"I'm not actually worried about these things."

I can recognize that my ed makes me think irrelevant, irrational things; and that it attacks my body image when that's not really the issue. However, I've yet to connect that what I'm actively worrying about isn't what I'm REALLY worried about.

I worry compulsively. About things that don't matter. I know that, but I often don't tell myself, "this doesn't matter. This ISN'T what I'm worried about. What's the real issue?"

Thanks for reminding me. You've given me something to think on and work on.

JenP said...

Oh, Carrie, this so relates to me the past few weeks. I'm in the process of cutting down to a more manageable exercise routine (I felt that my previous one was too much for me and making me a bit too compulsive) and in the process of interviewing and job searching, which is of course making my little OCD quirks and exercise obsession come out much more than I'm used to lately. Sometimes it's hard to truly realize that what I think I'm worried about (calories, minutes, etc) isn't what I'm *really* worried about

Lisa said...

One of the reasons I love reading blogs and blogging is because it's amazing how much people who don't even personally know each other can relate.

take care...and stay strong. don't listen to ED. you're doing great.


Sirena Page said...

This is the story of my life...

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul said...

I love the title of this post - because you're right - obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior only distracts us from the real issues. It's tough, dirty work facing these real issues, but ultimately so worth it. I had a professor once who said the real issue is always death, our existential fears... Not sure about that, but whatever it is is certainly bigger than three minutes of exercise.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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