A common symptom of both down swings and up swings for me, is anxiety. And with anxiety, come compulsions.
Let me be clear, I don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, nor am I ignorant enough to suggest I’m ‘a little bit OCD’, I’m not. What I do experience, is an urge to fulfil certain behaviours during times of high stress and/or anxiety. These compulsions, these habits or routines, are crutches I fall on. They are as comforting and as irrational as a child’s security blanket.
I’ve mentioned before, briefly, that I am a Manic Street Preachers fan. The most recently released album included a track called ‘Builder of Routines’ which articulates the feelings I have around the routines, or compulsions I sometimes feel (You can listen to the track here). In order to talk about how this mood takes me, and the experience of being gripped by compulsions, I’m going to work through some key sections of that song.
I have sealed myself in /Laminated all of my skin/Sellotaped my world in bits/I must embrace paralysis
I go into a closed loop, no new experiences or sensations in – the very idea petrifies me – but so doing closes off the world to me. Everything outside my front door is overwhelming, too much noise. But working within the closed loop, closed system, robs me of any creativity or originality. I become paralysed as I repeat the same actions and activities over and over.
Builders of routines/It makes me safe and clean
Everything calms down when I start going through a routine. Cleaning the kitchen, picking pieces of fluff from the floor, remaking the bed, brushing my teeth in a particular order with rinsing/spitting/brushing, listening to the same song again and again until I get it right…I can’t even articulate that last one properly. I have to go through it, singing, or running through the lyrics, again and again until I get it right. Or I practice conversations – how will I introduce a funny anecdote? What is every possible response I could get? How will I reply? How will I pronounce each word? Over and over, running through every scenario, past present future.
It doesn’t make me safe and clean, as such though, because the execution of the routine is never perfect. But trying, doing it over and over, silences the frantic parts of my mind for a few minutes at a time. And a few minutes silence can be worth every agonising moment of precise action.
It crucifies parts of me/But never seems to make me bleed
There’s a numbing quality about doing things over and over, be it eating the same dinner every night for three months (it was beans on toast when I did that) or cleaning the kitchen just right, making it ‘safe’ enough to rest. Part of me goes to sleep, is silenced, is numbed, is crucified. It doesn’t leave a mark though – the hours, the days, spent doing the actions that bring temporary quiet to my mind – no evidence of the violent compulsion that came before. Not a drop of blood spent.
Writing this entry has been excruciating. I am going through a period of compulsion and anxiety and getting each successive word down has been like pulling out a piece of me. I’m left exhausted after each sentence. Pushing out of the compulsion, pushing out of the places I feel safe, in order to write something ‘new’ is a huge undertaking. It’s easier, maybe even safer, to stay sealed in.