Over the past several days that I've been out of town, I've missed writing here and having the chance to read and respond to others' posts. It actually makes me a little anxious being away, which is why I have been half trying to keep myself away intentionally and half avoiding it unintentionally because I don't want to write something incomplete. I don't want to begin putting my thoughts down if I might have to stop before those thoughts have been captured accurately. And, I have been avoiding reading and commenting on others' blogs because I have difficulty looking at just a few if I can't read them all. I am always too anxious and eager to read more. So, for the most part, I have been avoiding it altogether.
Nevertheless, I think this has been good for me. I still have a couple days more of my trip and separating myself from this site and the internet in general is probably a healthy change of pace. Getting out of my head, out of my usual routine, and out into the world is good for me, but getting myself to do just that usually seems incredibly difficult, this trip included. I made the decision to go more out of guilt and fear of letting down others than out of my own desire to be here. However, I am actually enjoying myself as I would have before my latest wave of OCD issues, and in some ways, perhaps even more.
Trips like the one I am on, where my mind is NOT constantly at work, where I have a lot of free time to just think but not a lot of opportunities to ritualize, are great opportunities to practice just being in the moment. As cheesy as this may sound, I often struggle with this on vacation. When there is mental downtime (even when my body may be hard at work - walking and exploring) and there is nothing to fully demand my attention, I find myself constantly trying to figure out what's next. The days become a to-do list of recreational activities to check off rather than enjoy. I am constantly thinking of the next "task" ahead and wondering when the current activity is going to be over. And then, as if that wasn't enough, I find myself wondering if I am in fact enjoying my leisure plans the way I am "supposed to" or if I even really like doing such things at all.
And of course, with all that convoluted obsessing, I begin to feel a bit numb and removed from the things I am doing. The enjoyment is compromised by the obsessing about enjoyment. :)
So, while I am NOT so actively fighting my most recent and impairing contamination symptoms, I am succeeding at fighting my OCD in others ways - ways that have improved my general vacation experience and have made it better, in some ways, than such trips have often been in the past. Just being in the moment and appreciating the place I'm at, when I'm at it, without passing judgment on my choices of activity or trying to evaluate my level of enjoyment, has made my vacation that much better. All that I have learned over the last year in treatment has helped me remain much more emotionally stable and present (and perhaps the meds have helped some, too).
I feel like the treatment mantra of "you can't control your thoughts; you can't control your feelings; but you can control your behavior" has been incredibly helpful. I now know that, while I could choose to mentally punish myself for something I did or for feeling a certain way about something during my trip, I also know that I don't have to - beating myself up for feeling a certain way or doing a certain thing is a choice. And doing so doesn't help.
Also along these lines, I have learned that it is not helpful to try make myself feel guilty for not feeling the "right" way at the "right" time and in the "right" situation. It doesn't make me anymore likely to feel the way I think I "should" feel; instead, it just upsets me. Now I know that this, too, is a maladaptive strategy that I have long used to force myself to feel and act in certain ways...a strategy that I am just now learning to overcome.
So, it's been refreshing to get away - to be in a different world both mentally and physically. But I will be looking forward to reading all that others' have written in the meantime, when I get back home. Similar to the way I used to look forward to listening to all the messages collected on the family answering machine or sorting through all the missed mail when I was a kid, I now look forward to having lots of posts to read when I come home!