“There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” -Dr. Suess
I recently broke our computer.
It’s our only computer. It started out with me unintentionally bumping it that caused a tiny crack in the screen, which has become a bigger and bigger spider-looking version of itself spreading through the left half of my visual field. We talked briefly about fixing it, but due to the cost we are instead attempting to ignore it.
After a few days of “ignoring it”, I realized it’s pretty tough. It’s reminding me of the old psychology exercise instructing the listener, “do not think about a pink elephant” when of course, a pink elephant is the first thing that pops into my mind.When it comes to thought suppression, we as humans aren’t equipped to do this consistently and for long periods of time. Now, if there’s no reminder of a pink elephant, we can go long periods without it coming across our brain, much like I didn’t give much thought to a nice, clean, smooth computer screen before it was cracked. But if the reminder is there, it’s pretty tiring, as anyone with OCD can tell you. Sometimes called “thought stopping”, this technique may work for some and typically requires replacing it with another thought or activity, and lots and lots of practice.
We train ourselves with therapy to become aware of our thoughts, our symptoms, our behaviors, and our relationships. We bring certain things to our minds and we want them floating on the radar, so we know how we’re doing, what to tell our therapist, and what to figure out next. We want to feel like I’m feeling, which is that I think I have this big spider looking shape memorized because all I can do is look at it. That, to some extent, makes us feel like we’re doing a good job with paying attention to ourselves, our environment, and our mood. But there can be too much of a good thing. Personally, I worry that if I hyperfocus on this input too much and for too long, what am I missing on the rest of the screen?
My answer lies with balance. It takes practice building some muscle behind it, so you can flex it well. It takes being able to say, “there’s that crack in the screen, right over where I need to read right now” and choosing to zoom out and refocus my eyes. If I only focus on this crack in my screen, it will drive me nuts. But if I pretend it’s not there altogether (which is pretty impossible), I lose my insight, my vision, and my big picture. The answer- at least for me, with most situations-lies somewhere in between. A space to acknowledge how annoying it is, how it’s in my way, how I wish it wasn’t there, and it never happened, and a choice to peacefully coexist if acceptance isn’t possible at the moment.
Our inventory of symptoms, our mood charts, our sleep cycles, our relationships, all of it- are all very important, but there is also the big picture of your life and who you are aside from a diagnosis. Aside from a list in a book, aside from what a doctor might say, there is YOU. The rest of the screen is there, and you can see all of it and parts of it at exactly the same time. A diagnosis is encapsuled within the very courageous, very beautiful, very multifaceted you. We can think of all of you and pieces of you at the same time, so do not allow yourself to be defined by a word.
For now, the computer will stay this way. I really like the way I think about it now.