Friday, February 5, 2010

Unhelpful Strategies for my OCD: Relaxation Exercises

When I was in graduate school, and had a blast of anxiety that the numbness in my hand was Guillain Barre Syndrome, and went to see a psychologist at the Health Center, she gave me a cassette tape of guided progressive muscle relaxation. Tense each muscle group and then let it go. Later, I had a therapist that wanted me to imagine a relaxing enjoyable scene and invoke it when I felt anxious. This didn't offer me much relief though.

I do believe that the body and mind are intricately intertwined, and I know that I carry a lot of tightness in my muscles, and am hypervigilant about uncomfortable sensations, which seem to speed me into obsessive thoughts at quite a clip. But undoing the tension in my body doesn't undo the thoughts in my mind. I could get into a deeply relaxed state, and then a thought would pop up, and ruin it, and I'd try to wrestle the thought down, and keep checking whether I still had the thought, was it still bothering me? Was it still there?

I also tried weekly massage sessions for a couple years. My mind would run around like a twitchy squirrel while the massage therapist worked on my knotted muscles. I'd leave reeking of lavender and criticizing myself for not enjoying the massage enough, that I was defective for being unable to relax.

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