Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My new anti-anxiety kit

It is amazing that after years of therapy, I am still learning things about myself. What I've learned recently, now that I am recognizing the signs of anxiety and the OCD features, is that I am a very tactile person. Touch is a primary way that I can ease the anxiety.

I learned that when my counselor suggested aromatherapy, to find a scent that would relax me, and all the scents I tried didn't do anything for me other than make me sneeze. But she got me thinking about what I do when I'm sitting and anxious.

I pick at things: skin, hair, scabs, cuticles, fuzz. I pull hair out, which I discovered is a diagnosis all by itself and part of the OCD spectrum called trichotillomania or TTM for short.

I'm attracted by textures. In fact sometimes I wish I could wear a tallit katan just so I could finger the knots in the tzitzit (fringes). A friend suggested worry beads but my first reaction was that it would be mistaken for a rosary!

So I went on a scavenger hunt around home and started collecting things in an old small sewing box:
  • satin binding from a childhood blanket
  • set of four 1-inch ball bearings, to manipulate in my hand
  • palm-sized smooth stone
  • pair of strong magnets to play with
  • hand-held bathing brush with bristles on one side and pumice stone on the other
  • Koosh ball
  • Rubik's Cube
  • and to top it off, hand lotion in a Eucalyptus/Spearmint scent that I can massage my hands with

Then for Chanuka my husband gave me a home manicure set from Israel, with Dead Sea minerals (or so it says). I tried it on one nail and it's smooth and shiny like I polished it and lately I've been rubbing it instead of picking at hair.

My counselor thinks it is great that my answers to anxiety are things that are self-care. I fear becoming vain or superficial, yet at the same time these things are allowing some of my hair to grow back.

While I don't usually like labels because I think they often are unhelpful, having a diagnosis to help me understand why I do what I do--when I'm not thinking about what I'm doing--has been very helpful. Finally I can stop fearing the manic episode that has never come and work on finding ways to deal with and tame my anxiety before it turns into depression.


Shira Salamone said...

If it works for you and doesn't hurt anyone else, go for it!

Rivka said...

It is interesting what has and has not worked in this kit. I feel a strong sense of melancholy, grief over a childhood lost, when I see that satin blanket binding, yet I don't seek it out for comfort.

And the Rubik's Cube, though a perfect thing to play with and keep my mind in the moment, can also raise my anxiety. Mostly because I mixed it up after I got it and I haven't been able to solve it since.

Shane Ritchie said...

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