I talk quickly. I trip over my tongue quite regularly to the amusement of my nearest and dearest. I interrupt – I’m working on it. There are so many things to say!
I walk quickly. This is unfortunate considering my innate clumsiness. I’m often a mess of bruises. The clumsiness may be a function of my absent-mindedness. My thoughts are often not on what I’m doing. They’re turned inward instead, headed down dark and difficult paths.
I think quickly at times and this can have unfortunate consequences. “Quick” in this case is not referring to a processing speed. It’s more of a racing thoughts kind of thing. I’ve found there’s a fine line between quick and driven; too often I’m on the wrong side of it.
The fast thoughts are, like so many of the unfortunate occurrences in my life, a function of anxiety. Sometimes I feel like I use anxiety as a scapegoat – eating disorders and anxiety, compulsive behaviours and anxiety, agoraphobia and anxiety – but really, it is pervasive.
I find the fast thoughts unpleasant. I have done, and no doubt will do again, inadvisable things in an effort to be rid of them.
Sometimes, organizing helps. I’ll alphabetize my books after arranging them into categories, yet again. I’ll clean the kitchen cupboards and line up the tinned and boxed goods. Why people can’t remember to put the soup away in groups and subgroups is beyond me. I refold the clothes in the dresser, seeking to perfect my folding so the drawer looks like an “after” photo in a home-décor magazine. Sometimes though, organizing isn’t enough. The thoughts still come, loud and fast and abusive.
I would drift into worse behaviours then. Cutting and self-mutilating. Mood altering with drugs, benzodiazepines and marijuana primarily though I certainly overused tylenol with codeine pills when I had them available. I’ve been willing to try a number of things to try and quiet my brain. And let’s not forget bingeing and purging. The bingeing was all about escaping the feelings, all about quieting the voices. And the purge, well, that’s the reward. That’s the quiet.
There are less maladaptive and harmful techniques available to deal with the problem of a quick brain, however. I try to turn to less self-destructive techniques now and I’m having some success in that regard. Various websites offer hints and tricks and the common ones show up everywhere: cognitive distancing, have a mantra, focus on the present, write things down, and breathe. For myself, as long as the problem hasn’t converted itself into a full-on panic attack, I prefer the last: deep, slow breathing.
Sometimes I simply breath slow and deep. In and out to a count I establish. Sometimes I follow a pattern: in for eight, hold for eight, out for twelve. If I’m at home, I often open an app. You’d be surprised – or perhaps not – by the number of breathing apps available. My favourite is one called, aptly enough, Breathe Right. I picked it because I liked the home screen graphic and it was free. As good reasons as any, I suppose. At any rate, I like and recommend it on its own merits now.
Sometimes I slow down the body. As I breathe more slowly, I try and move more slowly. I treat the air like a liquid; push my limbs through it, feel the resistance. I slow down my paces, put brakes on my limbs. I try to incorporate grace; I hear my grandmother’s voice exhorting me from back in the day, when as I child I raced around unconcerned with obstacles in my environment. I sit slowly, turn my head slowly. Sometimes, I rock. It’s a very soothing and restful thing to have, a rocking chair.
Once it’s done, once I’ve calmed down and quieted the thoughts, I deconstruct. I try and figure out what set me off, why I got going. One can do cognitive work with racing thoughts, but it’s hard. I do try, but I have to keep it simple. During the debrief with myself, I work on getting down to the heart of the problem.
I’ve noticed something else, however. I do better overall if I keep things slow and easy, if I breathe deeply, even when I’m not struggling with racing thoughts. It’s hard to live like that. Everyone moves quickly. Everyone is a rush. Everyone is a little bit agitated. I can’t, however, fix everyone. And so, I work on the one thing I can control, myself. I’ve slowed down my driving, slowed down my walking. I let myself think before responding.
It’s got challenges. I’m always the last to reach the restaurant doors. But, as I previously mentioned, I was willing to do a lot of perfectly dreadful things in search of piece. So strolling instead of striding doesn’t seem like to big a price to pay.