Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Quirks

    I have a secret to share. It is an interesting quirk about my winter weirdness. Every winter I develop some random OCD issue. Something I am never really aware of until it has been going on for several months. Four years back it was taking my own bags to the grocery store. I would have a full on meltdown, tear inducing anxiety attack if I didn't have my own bags. That was a particularly difficult winter, by the way. One winter it was an aversion to water.
    This year it is nothing quite so dramatic. I have a shirt, an old shirt, one of my favorite cold weather race shirts. It has developed into somewhat of a security blanket it would seem. I sleep in it every night. I wear it most days that I am not at work. I am wearing it right now. I make sure to wash it when I am working out, so I can be distracted from the fact that I don't have The Shirt on. It is a winter wear Champion brand running shirt. Silky, not too snug but form fitting, has the little thumb holes on the extra long sleeves. It doesn't have tags, I make no secret that I cut the tags out of all my clothes, but this shirt never had them to begin with. I paid about $5 for it at Value Village 4 years ago or so, and have looked for another every since. I love this shirt. It is very often the base layer under whatever other shirt I decide to wear.  I don't wear it to work very often, but I put it on as soon as I get home. I pack it in my swim bag so I can slip into it after a swim. I don't wear it for workouts, but as soon as I am done I am snuggled back into the shirt. It is like a cocoon, or armor. It shields me from discomfort, anxiety, the cold. It is this winter's OCD focus. Not bad, compared to past winters.
    I make no secret that I am a creature of habit. Habits so strong that they border on compulsion. I pack the same thing for lunch nearly every day that I work, and have done so for years. The foods have changed over the years since my dietary restrictions and needs have changed as well. I eat a well rounded diet, but it tends to take the form of very specific foods. Every night I drink a cup of herbal tea. I have the same routine every morning and every night, almost to a tee. I always put on my left sock and left shoe first. Always. I put in my left earring first, and if I don't I can't manage to get the right one into the hole.
    I have learned to make habit work for me in some areas. Especially in fitness and nutrition. I workout largely because it is a deeply ingrained habit. I have worked out regularly in one form or another, nearly every day for the last 20 years. The older I get, the stronger my habits become. I think that if I were ever to develop dementia I would continue on with my habits because my body is so tied to them it doesn't need my brain very much.
    So, habit or obsession. Quirk or compulsion. Every winter the need is a bit stronger and deeper. The more I understand myself the more I can look at it with humor, and the less dramatic it all seems. For this winter I have my favorite shirt, like Linus with his blanket, that keeps me sheltered from the darkness of winter. I love my shirt.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lose My Mind, Just A Little

    It is getting close to that time of year when I start to lose my mind, just a little. Okay, more than a little. It usually strikes about mid-February. I am not sure if it is because that is when my birthday is, or Valentine's Day, both of which have reminded me for a very long time that I am facing life alone. Maybe it is because we are in the depths of winter, and still have months left before the rains cease and the sun returns. Most of the year, my aloneness doesn't bother me, I am used to it, even revel in it. But there is something about this time of year when the crazy starts. Cabin fever? Spring fever? I don't know. I just know it is also when I am most likely to feel predatory and reckless. I begin to feel like my skin doesn't fit. I am twitchy, restless, moody. I want to hide, and yet want to prowl the streets. I look at everyone who passes me and mentally categorize them as predator or prey. I feel like a wolf among sheep.
    This is when my Demons will come out to play, but we understand each other so well that it is more visitation and invasion. I talk with them, chastising and teasing. Let them make me cry, vent, and rage, just a little. Then chase them back to the shadows where they wait for our next playdate.
    Now is when I feel like I am resting up for the inevitable mania that will hit. I am sleeping 10 hours a night whenever I can. I want to eat, storing up energy for later. It is tough, feeling so tired now, yet knowing what is to come.
    Year after year this has been my life. At least 20 years. It has only been the last few years that I have really come to understand what is happening, what is coming, and how to get to the other side relatively unscathed. For the second year in a row I am facing it unmedicated, trusting my healthy lifestyle, and my hard won understanding of myself to get me through to spring.
    The last two years have led me down some fun and interesting paths. I have let myself play loose and free, let my dark side come out into the light. It has been entertaining and educational, without a doubt. This year I may very well go down a similar path. Let my inner demon out to play, have some fun, break a few hearts. Why not? Life is about experience, life is about play, life is about exploration and pushing boundaries. Life is about losing your mind and letting it run wild and free now and then. It will come back, soon enough, and likely better off for an unbridled romp through the wild.