Obsessive Thoughts

–I have been trying to figure out what the significance of the April 19th date for the Looby bombing is. The Hattie Cotton bombing took place the evening of the first day of school. The JCC bombing was coordinated with a bunch of other bombings of Jewish buildings across the south. But why blow up Looby’s house then? The sit-ins had been going on since February. The school desegregation lawsuits were on-going.

If something had provoked the bombing, it’s hard for me to figure out what.

So, does the date mean something? If a black man’s house were bombed on April 19th, 2017, we sure as fuck would think it did, but I don’t know about then.

–I have a weird rash on my arm, so I spent a great portion of my weekend washing everything in the house I could find to wash–bedding, couch slip covers, clothes, towels. I’m also trying very hard not to scratch it. When it itches I rub it, but I try not to use nails. It kind of works. It also kind of is not fooling me.

–One of the most personally embarrassing things about going to therapy is having to admit to myself how I have these weird, obsessive thoughts, which are sometimes paranoid. A few weeks ago, I woke up and a cat was in my bed and I became overwhelmingly convinced that it was not one of my cats. I get overwhelmed sometimes by the thought that I am fat and ugly and no one will ever love me and the people who like me only like me out of pity. And this shit is hard to talk about  because it’s not low self-esteem. Because low self-esteem would mean I felt bad about myself all the time.

But I’m really proud of the stuff I’ve accomplished and, sure, while not in love with the way I look, I like how I look in pictures and I’m kind of in awe of how, when I smile, I can see that it radiates. Like, okay, it must feel nice to be smiled at by me.

And I have a lot of friends who love me and they have big and interesting lives and they have other stuff to do beside be someone’s friend out of pity.

I say all this to try to make clear that these are obsessive thoughts. They don’t go away because they’re disprovable. They’re not satiated by being true–in the case of me being fat. They come out of nowhere, hit hard, and leave me reeling. There are some things that make them more common–me being tired or stressed or upset about something else but not dealing with it. But it is like being swept up in a storm my brain is having.

So, on the one hand, the medicine helps a lot because it seems to slow down the storm and, if I can recognize what’s happening before it blows up into the emotional hurricane, I can usually dissipate it. Oh, that’s just the anxiety.

But another thing we’ve been working on is that I like to have order and schedules. If I could keep my whole life by calendar, I would. And that’s great when it helps. Setting a recurring task of cleaning the litter boxes on Monday evenings means I get into the habit and the poop goes in the garbage can the day before garbage day. The schedule works for me and makes my life easier. Why wouldn’t I then schedule everything?!

Because I also sometimes, okay, often, then get caught up in the ritual of the schedule. In other words, I do scheduled things because those are the “rules” and I don’t want to break the rules or my life will be infinitely harder, whether or not I need to do the things.

And here I think you can see how close kin anxiety is with OCD. “I have to check the door five times to feel confident that it’s locked” is not the same thing as “I have to go to the grocery store on Sunday morning because… um… that’s when I’m scheduled to go to the grocery store.” But you can see they’re cousins.

So, I’ve been working really hard on separating what I feel compelled to do from what I need to do from what I want to do. So, Sunday, I was reading a book. I didn’t want to go to the grocery store. Did I need to go to the grocery store? Actually, no. I have enough stuff in the house that I can skip a week. But it still felt really weird and like I was going to regret not going to the grocery store.

The thing is that I think I like schedules because it lets me kind of put my life on autopilot. I can zone out through stuff I find boring or unpleasant, trusting on my schedule, my to-do list to keep me productive even while my brain is checked out.

But I think that coping mechanism has soured for me and I have to find ways to be present more in my life.

And a thing I find baffling and funny is that, without the checklist, I often don’t know what I want to do. I’m 43 years old but when faced with a truly empty day, I often don’t know how I’d like to fill it. And I pride myself on being so insightful and shit. And I don’t even know what kinds of small ordinary things bring me pleasure.

But I am having fun figuring it out.


8 thoughts on “Obsessive Thoughts

  1. Re your itch: Use an ice pack, with a towel between the ice and the rash. The cold will shut the itch down for a little while. You can also alternate ice packs and hot packs at five minute intervals and it will confuse the hell out of your sensory nerves and the itch will shut down for a good bit.

  2. I have hives (right now and intermittently for the past few years). Yes, the ice pack advice is terrific and helps. I also take an OTC combo of ranatidine (Zantac), loratadine (Claritin), and benedryl (if I can afford to be sleepy) — it was suggested by my doctor as a way to block the various itch-makers. Of course, you’ll want to figure out if these things interact with your current meds before you try it, but when the itching becomes unbearable, this combo gives me some relief.

    Yeah, not coming up with anything historically relevant for April 19th — a Tuesday, no less. Easter Sunday was on the 17th, so the Easter shopping season was over. It’s the third Tuesday and the Nashville City Council meets now on the first and third Tuesday of the month, but I don’t know what their schedule was in 1960. Looby was a City Council member at the time. Maybe he said something at the City Council that night…or really, just being there was probably enough.

    In a few days, I will have the whole house to myself and nothing to do for 24 hours. I use busyness and angry energy to forestall feeling things, so I am already expecting to be walloped with sadness during this down time and I know I will feel terribly adrift without my ordinary duties of tending, fixing, cooking, driving people to places, and so forth. Which is only to say that I identify with your struggle but I have no helpful observations about how to fix it.

  3. Probably–only probably–beside the point, but that was the last day of Passover that year..

  4. The thing you’re not touching on here with the OCD and the schedules interacting with anxiety is that you, like me, are single and live alone. I have had so many people marvel at “how organized” or “disciplined” I am. But I always tell them “I have to be!” because if I don’t do it, who will? Hence the schedules – if I get too off track everything falls apart and there’s no one to come behind me to fix it all.

  5. Beth, I think that’s a good point. In many ways, I do have to be my own partner. And I think that, as long as I am setting the schedules and using them as a helpful tool, they are really important. I just need to not use them to make myself miserable, too.

  6. I have gotten in trouble at work with the schedules. I do certain things at certain times. I do not do them at a different time. If you haven’t done your part and it’s time for me to do mine, too bad. It’ll have to wait until next time. I am a slave to the schedule. However, that’s what keeps things moving along and eventually everybody figures out when they need to have their stuff done. In reviews it’s “We love that you’re so organized!” and “You need to not be a slave to the schedule.” They also tell me to set a time to do certain tasks, but want me also to drop everything to do that task whenever it appears (anywhere from never to 5x a day). . . . . Whiplash much?
    All that to say that schedules are a good thing, but I’ll admit that they can be overdone. I’m sure there’s a right balance, but I’m not very good at finding it. All or nothing for me!

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