Friday, May 6, 2011

The Practice of Resurrection, OCD, and a little bit of glee

I am a Glee devotee for various reasons, not the least of which being that it's so different than anything else on TV (read: reality shows and medical examiners or other non-federal agents partnering with police in a man-woman pairing fraught with sexual tension that they deny). It may be more preaching than plot development, but often the sermons aren't half-bad. Watching the episode "Born This Way" (I think the producers tore their hair out when Lady Gaga came out with this song after they'd already done their Gaga episode), I teared up a little watching Emma seeing a counselor for her OCD, and hearing there that OCD was not who she was; it was keeping her from being who she was. I came to this distinction after much internal struggle in college; Emma's "OCD"-blazoned T-shirt is mine as well.

OCD is a fiendish little boggart; it disguises itself as valid concerns, then runs amok through the brain. I thought I had conquered it in high school after I was able to name my obsessions for what they were: a mental disorder. But then it took on other forms. I had been brooding and losing sleep, thinking about how I'd screwed up various relationships in my living community and elsewhere. I went to a counselor to see if I could resolve the feelings of hurt and anger that kept plaguing me. When I told him I had OCD, he was all on top of it and recommended a book called Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior. It was wonderful, because every time I saw a counselor in the past they always gravitated towards my depressive symptoms rather than the OCD, which in my case is actually far more pernicious. I felt so relieved to finally find someone who had the training and inclination for doing OCD therapy, which apparently is rather rare. I would recommend this book to anyone dealing with OCD or living with someone who has OCD. Because I started reading this book a week before Easter, I discovered to my delight that I had found a new, concrete way to "practice resurrection," as Wendell Berry puts it, by literally transforming my mind. I do mean literally; behavior therapy physically alters the brain.

The book occasioned the shocking epiphany that there would be no resolving my emotional turmoil. I could not think my way out of it, or air some unresolved feeling that would make it better. I had to stop thinking about it. I had to tell myself that rehashing the past was not making me more adept for the future, but rather crippling me. I needed to let go. But when I think about the disagreements we had in our community, the moments I shut up when I should have spoken up, I can't convince myself that I shouldn't be thinking about it. It seems too important. What I can do is focus on how it feels to be ambushed by terrorist thoughts and emotions armed with fear, guilt, anger, and self-doubt. I have learned to recognize the feeling of "brain lock," as the book puts it, the rising of tension, the feeling that the CD in my head suddenly got scratched and is going on repeat. I focus on that, rather than the thought content, and remind myself that this a mental disorder, not reality. As Schwartz puts it, reality is my ally.

As I practice this mindful vigilance, it helps me to know that this is what it means to embody resurrection; to strive inwardly to create peace, focus, and the renewal of my mind and body. OCD's a bitch, but at least it's occasioned a practice that is at once behavioral, mental, and spiritual; the practice of resurrection.

1 comment:

  1. So I had written this long comment, which blogger proceeded to eat. But the long and short of it was that I loved this post-- especially this line:
    "The book occasioned the shocking epiphany that there would be no resolving my emotional turmoil".

    I was reminded of what I see as the genius of tikkun olam-- the idea that "the work is not yours to complete, but neither may you put it aside." It is a useful antidote against the all too common "complete fix" mentality.