Am I still anxious? Does this still bother me? And other querulous questions.
It's as if I am poking someone who is sleeping, and saying "Are you sleeping?" poke, poke, poke, and then they wake up. The mental ritual of checking on my anxiety level or sensations is one of the hardest to deal with. I'm sure that some of those reading this blog have had the experience of being consumed by anxiety about a particular obsession or topic and then getting up the next day and the anxiety is gone. I assumed that once anxiety set in, only sleep could fix it, and I would long for it to be the next day.
Even more frustrating is waking up calm, and then remembering my anxiety from the day before and having it all kick up again. My immediate response when remembering an old worry is "Damn, there it is again. Why can't I get it to go away?" It's like a staticky bit of plastic that you try to flick into the trash, and it just clings to your fingers. This is followed by having the urge to check if I am still anxious or if a certain symptom or thought still bothers me, and the more I check, the more entrenched it gets.
I would recogzine anxieties that would probably fade the next day, like fear that I'd chosen the wrong dish off a menu, and I'd be frustrated by my inability to step away from it sooner armed with this knowledge. Knowledge alone is not a match for the anxiety created by OCD. My theory is that sleeping would give me a break from poking at the anxiety, waking it up, and increasing its noisy dominating behavior. It wasn't a magical cure.
My therapist has encouraged me to let my anxiety producing thoughts into my mental space, letting the noise happen, in fact practicing introducing the noise into my mind, which is an exposure. I usually feel snarly when he suggests this, but I also recognize that the vigilant checking to make sure the intrusive thoughts aren't there repeatedly reminds me of them. And every "Damn there it is again," highlights the thought, magnifies it, makes me exquisitely sensitive to even the threat of a particularly despised thought.
I know this sounds crazy. If you are desperate to avoid a scary thought, and you forget it for a few hours, the last thing you want to hear is the idea of purposely seeking it out, and disrupting that bit of peace. But the peace is fleeting and leads to long term anxiety--I have never been able to force a thought out and make it stay out for good. I have learned that it is possible to enjoy life even with those thoughts making noise.