Something that’s trending right now is the art and habit of meditation, this idea of mindfulness in one’s life. At the beginning of the semester, I think in January, I started using an app that guides you through this app called Headspace. The app features ten or eleven minute audio clips you can listen to each day of an Australian man named Andy Puddicombe walking you through these exercises to make you more aware, more present in what you’re doing throughout the day, giving more meaning to each action performed. Now incredibly recently, as in yesterday, my phone became nothing but a very expensive brick. The device just doesn’t respond to any sort of stimuli, and I surmise that something has knocked the connections to the display loose, but I didn’t think it was going to be a major problem. I can live without a phone for a week or so, and I still think I can, but not as comfortably as I thought I would. With a dead phone, I have remembered how aware I actually am, and it’s not because I’m no longer meditating in the morning.
I have had anxiety for most of my life, being officially diagnosed with OCD when I was 9 or 10, and then with depression when I was 16. Over the years, it’s been very difficult to get both chemical imbalances under some form of control, and I still have days where one or both will flare up, but I forgot that the nature of my illness pervades my physical body, too. I feel it in my hands, feet, and legs, particularly, as my anxiousness and unrest will manifest itself in the form of fidgeting. I’ll tap my fingers on a table, or sometimes I’ll rub my thumbs like one would if beckoning for some sort of payment. I tap and stomp my feet, or I’ll bob my entire leg up and down, side to side. Yet I just never notice it unless a friend brings it up (usually to stop me). Now that my phone is gone, my morning consisted of eating breakfast and just existing without a retina display right in front of me. To put it lightly, it was odd.
I guess I first noticed it when I was walking to Blackstone, the coffee place on campus, and I took stock in just how many thoughts I was having. With OCD, I have a lot of obsessive thoughts, and they usually revolve around negative things I’ve come up with in the back of my subconscious mind. I’ll worry that something’s going to happen to my loved ones, or that something bad will befall me, all if I don’t do some sort of ritual or action that my psyche has deemed as a guarantee that the thing that I truly know won’t happen not happen. I sound like I’m talking in a circle, but that’s just the way it works; It’s an awful circle to be stuck in. No phone for me means no music and no podcasts, so I just had the music of my mind to occupy my morning jaunt down campus walk. Dear Christ, is it uncomfortable. I think about how I’m walking, my posture, how I look, that I’m walking again, about everything I’m going to do during the day, but at an unbelievably rapid pace. Usually I’m preoccupied thinking about the lyrics of a song, or seeing what my friends post on Instagram, but without that social background noise, all I can do is think. If there’s one thing I’ve learned with mental illness, I don’t like to think.
I appreciate when things slow down. I see a task before me, an obstacle, and I’ll put together a path slowly to cross over, get to, and finish it. With my mind unoccupied and at ludicrous speed, I’ll start building ten or so paths all at once, and I can feel myself thinking. It’s so…uncomfortable. That’s great that I’m using my brain, but I’m not using it in a way that is beneficial to my situation. This hyper-awareness is taxing, and it’s not helping me in any way that Mr. Puddicombe says the less extreme version will. So with all this extra brainpower and space, how do I cool things down? How do I open up the heat vents or exhaust pipes of my mind?
I’m going to try just keeping myself busy as much as I can. They say an idle mind’s the devil’s workshop, so perhaps focusing on the development of a few web pages or editing some of my essays will keep me grounded in reality. I’ve also been thinking about investing in a few fidget toys to keep my hands busy, like a spinner or those fidget cubes that seem so popular.
This withdrawal that my body seems to be going through without my phone or to occupy my hands is nowhere near as bad as actual withdrawals I’ve gone through from trying to find the right medication for myself, but I would still really appreciate if it could just stop. Maybe it’ll go away in a day or so, and there are many better things I could focus on, so we’ll see. This, too, shall pass.