A Ridiculous Reason to Lose Sleep

Be Quiet

The other night,  I encountered an article about Pick Up Artists on Buzzfeed. The oddly dressed Romeos haunt the internet, touting seduction secrets for a fee.

The piece made me sad–sad for the seduced women, sad for the fee-paying men and sad that insults could ever be part of establishing a relationship.

I skipped to a cheerier article and then pre-bedtime hands of Spider Solitaire.  At 10:00, I clicked off the lights.

As I snuggled under my pillow castle, my brain began a conversation with itself over Pick Up Artists.

Like a rude person having an interesting discussion on a cell phone, my brain invaded my peace. I tried to ignore the intrusive cascade of thoughts, but they were too loud and fascinating to ignore.

Brain chattered about relationships and the human condition. It devised elaborate match-making services and philosophized about neurodiversity, dating and mating.  Sophisticated scenarios evolved and replayed themselves.

I tossed and turned. The rational part of me  knocked on the window, as the rest of held a Pick Up Artist Party. After the 25th pillow adjustment, I glimpsed the clock–1:30 a.m.

Irritated, I hoisted myself out of bed, clumped downstairs and fixed some Malt O’ Meal. I watched an episode of South Park, returned upstairs and conked out.

The next morning I woke with this thought: my brain is a pet of sorts. It hungers and has strange cravings, especially when anxious. I’ve been feeding Brain too much Curious George and Spider Solitaire. Like a naughty dog, Brain responded by chewing on the mental shreds of a Buzzfeed editorial.

I plan to nourish my mind with finer fare, and to change the midnight scenery when I endlessly toss. Or perhaps I’ll take my late night dialogues to the computer screen so I have something to show for those lost hours.

Digital elements: Sherrie Drummond, Beth Rimmer.

My Sticky Brain

OCD

Sometimes little things consume me. An irregularity ensnares me. I fixate and flail, struggling to smooth that lopsided bit of my life. Worry propels me to make my existence even and predictable.

Some of my struggle comes from having a sticky brain. It rolls along, collecting data, stopping to process the chinks and chunks it encounters.

When I come across an important detail, compulsiveness becomes resolve. I am on a mental mission to solve a problem. I ruminate. Thoughts circulate as I wash dishes, eat, or play with my son. I try to sleep as thoughts pry at my brain—they ask, “How do I fix this?”

In the end, insight arrives. Realizations never creep, they explode. A hurricane of thoughts blossoms. It is as if an ocean dropped on my head. My problem, all its possible solutions, consequences, and future implications occur to me at once.

This giant mental thunderclap shakes me physically. My gut tingles symphonically. Anxiety melts away, replaced with profound euphoria. I sing, dance, and snap my fingers to celebrate. My lungs and limbs are not enough to express my joy.

My sticky brain, however, is not discerning. Its gluey tendrils fasten themselves to countless details. Sometimes they bind to my son. Notions of how he should behave form. I compare his good days to his every days. I focus on variables, circumstances and behavioral interventions. My brain whizzes so fast that I don’t do what I need to do—sooth my anxious son.

He has the same sort of sticky brain as I do. He needs help to get unstuck. When he melts down, I find myself frozen, calculating and measuring variables. How can I continuously miss his need for comfort and redirection?

This pattern repeats interminably. The unexpected shifts my brain into computation mode. I must stop analyzing his behavior (and my own) and take simple actions. Redirect. Soothe. I know what to do intellectually, but in the moment, I am lost.

perfection

How do I remind myself? Should I tattoo “offer choices and give hugs” on my hands or paint a sticky-brain resolution on the kitchen wall? Maybe ink a message to my future frustrated self on my son’s forehead?

Perhaps, I am melting down alongside my son. In that moment,  I need to sooth and redirect myself. What could I give my brain to chew on so I can act instead of think? I am open to suggestions.

Reflections on OCD

doom

I have an anonymous relative who wonders if he makes enough saliva. This thought prods him at night, his mind whispers, “Is there enough? Will my mouth dry out?  Or will there be too much? Will I strangle in my sleep?”

He is a logical, rational, respectable man. If you met him you would find him amiable, genuine, and enthusiastic.  He knows these thoughts are absurd, but at midnight, they are deafening, almost convincing. A brilliant man, with multi-disciplinary doctoral degrees, is brought to his knees by thoughts of spit.

My secret terror is driving, an ironic agony, because I love long roads and flashing scenery.  Ever since I was a child, road trips thrilled me. However, as an adult behind the wheel, my mind reels out Final Destination moments with numbing frequency. The images are vivid, immediate, and triggered by tractor-trailers.

Whizzing by me with monstrous wheezing engines, I shudder–not because they will slurp me and scatter my bones behind them–but because I see myself steering under their grinding wheels ( though I would never, ever do such a thing!).

The event is not an impulse or a wish but a horrible, unspeakable image my brain slings at me. As semis thunder by, part of my brain forces the other to watch Clockwork-Orange style as I turn the wheel. The vehicle fragments. I meet a pulpy, splintery-red death. And my son. Unspeakable.

These bouts of intrusive horror peaked after my son’s autism diagnosis.  The diagnosis did not unsettle me, but the headshaking therapists did. I could not reconcile giving up hours upon hours of precious motherhood for A.B.A., Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Pathologists.

list

One day, I pulled off the highway, past the gritty shoulder, and into a worn meadow. My head was so rushed and crushed with interfering images, I felt unsafe to drive. I called my husband for emergency mental health relief.
He did not pick up.

I felt alone, out of my league, and completely crazy. Everything I failed at rushed upon me and nearly swept me away, but Liev fussing in the back seat revived me.

I made a list on the notebook beside me:

1. Being a mother is your job.
2. Home is six minutes away.
3. Get calm enough to drive.
4. Drive home.
5. Feed Liev.
6. Read Liev stories.

That list was a turning point for me. I quit being sad and overwhelmed and began to ask questions. Questions about autism treatments. My obsessive, intense brain turned to more fruitful pursuits. I still have my tractor-trailer jitters, but I keep them in check with lists and moral outrage.