How is this meaningful? Well, I worry. A lot. I spend most hours of most days with one worry or the other either front and center in my brain, or waiting in the wings, merrily waving every few minutes to be sure that I can see him.
I recently realized that most of the foods that I crave and have thought of as "my foods" all my life--milk with various starchy junk foods, sunflower seeds with oversweetened iced tea, peanut butter and jelly on squishy white bread, turkey sandwiches on similarly squishy white bread, and, of course, chicken (usually with rice) are packages of tryptophan-rich foods plus carbs. Which, according to Google, help produce serotonin. Which is good for reducing worry cycles.
Oh. Now you tell me. So I've been self-medicating all my life? No wonder I'm round.
And, yes, I wash my hands too often, and I check doors, and I worry about bigger things that are harder to see as irrational and I demand that other people reassure me about those worries. OCD genes flowing down the family tree. Further Googling tells me that the cycle of obsession leading to compulsion leading to following the compulsion leading to temporary relief is, in the long run, about as addictive as a smoking habit. Every time I comply with a compulsion, whether it's washing my hands or demanding reassurance or rehearsing all the details of "did I do that right?" in my mind, I'm training my brain to demand another fix.
I think. This is, admittedly, all coming from Google. But the respectable-looking sites all seem to agree: Complying with those compulsions is not only bad in the moment, because you wasted thirty seconds running back to check the door, but they're bad in the long run, because you train your brain to demand the comfort of the compliance, like a baby who never, ever seems to be able to get himself to sleep without help.
I don't know what I'd recommend for the baby, but I think it's time to let my brain cry it out. I've kept a conscious level of control of the little OCD rituals--I won't let myself wash my hands or check my doors more than I did last week or last month. But that just seems to let the worry emerge in areas where it's less clear that I'm being irrational, and that's worse.
So I think it's time to stop merely holding my ground, and start making progress. No more washing my hands for no good reason. No more checking that I've locked the door--never, not even once, has it turned out that I hadn't locked up, so the check is clearly irrational, even if my mind is gibbering at this very moment that it's not.
And when those big, less defined worries come up, the ones where it's less clear that I'm nuts? I think it's time to accept that someday, before I die, I might actually do something wrong and somebody might actually be mad at me. But that the consequences will probably be less than the consequences of spending my entire life with the worry of the day tapdancing in center stage. So, no more making absolutely sure that I've done every conceivable thing to resolve the issue, no more rehearsing the details over and over in my mind, no more endless impossible-to-satisfy quests for certainty.
Now I'm going to go drink a vat of milk and eat a cookie or three. I'm not giving up the tryptophan yet.
Image: By Unisouth. Wikimedia Commons.