(Self-) regulate

One aspect of being diagnosed with OCD later in life that I’ve come to appreciate is how it explains past actions that were previously mysterious. It’s helpful in that now I have a reason for what before seemed like an insurmountable character flaw. In this case, I’m specifically thinking about how I react when people send me a message that, regardless of their intention, upsets me.

In my past experience, that feeling of hurt would morph into an intrusive thought. “They don’t care about me,” for instance. And that germ of an idea would take root in my mind and Jerk Brain would cultivate it. It would expand as the hours passed until it overtook everything else in my head, a giant weed choking the delicate seedlings in its midst.

Taking an outsider’s perspective, the original issue was a trifle, perhaps a misunderstanding or a careless rude remark. In my head, it was now a towering redwood. My brain would go into overdrive, obsessing about my response, my retaliation, my parry. It was entirely wasted energy. When the pressure and tension finally reached the boiling point, I would reply, unloading on the other person, much to their surprise. It was Powell Doctrinesque on my part, a show of overwhelming (and ultimately unnecessary) force.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has equipped me with many tools, but enhanced self- and situational awareness are two of the most important. Working together, these skills allow me to better regulate my responses to stimuli in my environment. Unkind messages still needle me, but my reactions are measured and proportional.

Self-regulation is a gift we give ourselves.

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