Sunday, July 21, 2013

Looping and Obsessive Thoughts

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets these, but one of the more irritating little side things I've noticed of my post-head injury life is what I like to call "looping." Looping is when a few thoughts, or more often one line of thought, starts to repeat itself over and over in your head. I'm sure everyone has had a version of this. A song gets stuck in your head, an event that happened to you gets replayed over and over.
    This is of course one of those lovely qualities those of us who tend to over-think things have had to deal with throughout our lives of mental disorder/disfunction. I have at least one friend whose habit of doing this borders on the pathological. I am also pretty sure (in fact I have a few pre-injury friends who can probably attest to this) that this is something I did before my injury and I only really became aware of it post-head injury.
   That doesn't make it any less frustrating or problematic when it happens, especially when bouts of it also can, and often do, involve strong emotions. The issue here is that when it happens, the brain tends to fixate on whatever that train of thought is, and can't navigate its way out of it. No matter how much I may want it to, or how inane the thought is, my brain will remain in that state until a) it is distracted or b) the cause of the thought resolves itself.
   Some of the more fun results of this "condition":
- inability to fall or stay asleep, which is great, because lack of rest really improves this condition (no, it actually doesn't, for those of you bereft of the skill of detecting the sarcasm in the word "fun")
- compulsive and/or obsessive social media checking, which usually starts as a attempt at distraction, and then all of the sudden its 2am and you are arguing with someone in Vancouver about alternate side of the street parking rules. This is especially a bad idea when said cause of train of thought is a person. Most especially when that person is someone you may or may not be romantically interested in/involved with (Wait, what was that? It sounded like the collective painful sigh of several of my friends who relate. Awww... you're shaddup)
- compulsive and/or obsessive texting to friends (see above)
- compulsive and/or obsessive blogging about your "problem" (okay, so I'm guilty of that one right now, sue me)
- combination with a cognitive misfire, a most dangerous mixture

I've found their are really only a few real solutions to "looping".
 - Distraction. Aside from the more dangerous forms listed above, comfort can often be found in watching television, a movie, listening to music and/or reading a book to get the brain working on something else. Be wary of movies, television, or music that reinforce your train of thought however, especially is said train of thought is a person. Also be wary of comfort eating, as a) it doesn't really work for this particular problem and b) is probably unhealthy either way. Exercise can also work pretty well too. And hey also, look at this, writing can also help. Unless of course you keep writing the words "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy," in which case please put the axe down and leave your wife and child in peace.
- Meditation. Meditation can help you clear your head but it takes discipline to do it correctly, and oh boy, can it take a while to do. Which leads me to my next point-
- Riding that shit out. Its miserable, it can stress you out, and even if you are meditating you still need to do it. Sometimes the only solution to "looping" is time. Sucks I know but thems the breaks. In fact, its best to ride it out a while especially if it lasts more than a day and you are forced to do the following step.
- Dealing with the loop's cause. This is generally only necessary if said cause is person and/or the loop is a recurring problem but I'm including it because its important. You need to deal with whatever issue is causing you to obsessively think about it. Since this usually involves a person you need to communicate with that person, preferably in person. Most often in my experience the thing you were obsessing over is actually not that big of a deal, and you are dumb. Every once and while however, it is actually a major issue and the sooner you deal with it the better.

   I have had this sequence of events (i.e. it's not a big deal and I am dumb) play out so often I beginning to suspect I might actually be a profoundly stupid person. Which is strangely comforting, actually, as it reminds me I'm still human. Also, I'm not sure when this blog somehow morphed into some sort of mental health self-help type thing, but here we are. Hopefully next time I will be back to ranting about Walking Dead, or giant robots or some such other nerdy nonsense, or (SHAMELESS SELF-PLUG INCOMING!!!) shall I direct you to my podcast:

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, I have never had a head injury but I get this , especially when I haven't slept well or I am stressed out. Perhaps it is that being related to you thing? I find that the only thing that really works for me is waiting it out. Which sucks. Actually sometimes I obsess about the thought so much that my brain finally gets bored and it ceases to have any effect on me.

    Oh and sometimes a glass of wine. Because when you are a little tipsy you can't hear your brain so well. :-)

    When I was pregnant and learning hypnobirthing and meditation skills, my coach said that your brain can actually only hold on to a thought for 10 seconds without it moving on, unless you actively fixate on it to keep it there. There must be something useful in that, although I am still working on it....