I’d be naive to think that I won’t have down days, or get anxious from time to time. Everyone does. How would we appreciate the good times without the bad? CBT has helped me embrace this, and not catastrophise about every grey cloud. A problem isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a temporary inconvenience.
Meditation is a key component of CBT, and in my opinion, the best way to both focus your mind and teach yourself to let things go. So why have I stopped? Well, the first answer – and this applies to therapy too – is that now I’m feeling better, and have been for a long time. I’m scared that making meditation and therapy regular parts of my routine will remind me too much of when I was in crisis mode, desperately trying to claw my way out of the hole. It’s superstitious, I suppose, but there you go.
I’m aware, too, that abandoning things like meditation and therapy is what leads people to relapse. So I’m not abandoning them completely; I’m just finding ways to make them work for me. For example, instead of setting aside ten minutes in the morning to meditate, I try to run to the gym every day, or take a long bath as often as I can. A decade ago, on some horrible organised trip to Thailand, Buddhist monks made our tour group sweep their courtyard. “Working meditation” they called it. ‘Yeah, right’, I thought at the time. But, the act of focusing your thoughts on something like your cadence as you run really can work as a form of meditation, and you’ll feel physically better for it to. It doesn’t have to be a chore, or an inconvenience.
And while my therapist likely wakes up and checks his phone each morning, longing for my call, I haven’t given up a form of therapy, either. Now more than ever, I know the importance of talking about how I feel, encouraging others to do the same, and even just chatting about how knackered or fed up we are from time to time.
Over the past year, I’ve found the more I talk about how I feel, the more other men I know want to open up to me. I’m not talking about whispered chats in pub corners with close friends, but honest, open ‘how are you’ conversations. We talk about how we feel, listen to each other, offer help when we can, and then move on to the football/cinema/ballet dancing. Simple.
The point, really, is that one year in, this is what works for me, and while it might not be exactly what works for you, if you’re willing to put the work in and face OCD head on, you’ll soon realise its power to influence your day is all in your mind.
One last note. I can’t stress how helpful the book Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Overcoming Books) has been. It might have saved my life, and I can’t recommended it enough for anyone suffering from OCD, anxiety, or any line of continued, disturbing thought.