I have OCD.
Yes, I'm obsessive-compulsive, but not in the way the mainstream media would have you believe. My room is unkempt at its best moments, the pictures I hang on my walls somehow always come out crooked, and I am a big believer that most germs won't kill me. While being diagnosed this year, I've learned that there is no cookie-cutter standard to having OCD.
What started as compulsively flipping light switches, touching posters ceremoniously, and kissing my dog's foreheads before school a certain number of times, turned into ruminating thoughts of abandonment and betrayal from the dating partner I was with at the time. My therapist describes it as "relationship OCD" and asides from ripping my own eyebrows out in midst of intensely anxious moments, my compulsions are all in my head.
At 23, I am grateful to have an understanding and patient girlfriend and a therapist who walks me through my triggers and fears. However, I have been lacking, however, is a task that allows me to be "mindful", which in my definition, would be a moment where my mind is not at war with itself about all the terrible things that my partner might do to betray my trust. Believe me, I have tried a plethora of activities to achieve mindfulness.
Podcasts were helpful at first but unfortunately, it is hard to reach a state of calm while listening to people discuss true crime.
Before you may suggest, yes, I tried yoga. Hot yoga, actually. It was extremely difficult to try to reach inner peace surrounded by nearly naked older gentlemen.
Running often makes me more anxious and I'm too much of a perfectionist to draw or paint like I did when I was a kid.
"Try something you know you'll suck at but will force you to concentrate on the action itself" is what my therapist said to me one day.
I reported this to my girlfriend, who wanted nothing more than to share a hobby of hers with me: embroidery.
Impulsively, we went to Michael's to get embroidery materials before we knew if this activity would be one I could commit to. I had never attempted anything like this craft, the most I had done with a needle was using a sewing machine to make pillows in middle school. I had watched my girlfriend sit quietly in our living room, weaving the colored thread in and out of the fabric and this made me nervous: sitting quietly in a content state had never been achievable for me.
I don't want to admit how long it took me to create the amateur great white shark featured above, nor how excruciating it was to embroider my favorite mantra for the first time. Regardless of how it looks, I am extremely proud of this piece. The best thing about this product is that for the first time in years, I was able to reach a state where my mind was not crowded with negative self-talk or irrational fears.
I find that my two favorite aspects of this hobby are not the stitching itself, but the first and last steps of the process. I love finding a design and drawing it out, as doodling and sketching were my first loves of the art world growing up. It is the idea that I might botch the drawing when trying to apply the thread to it that was daunting at first.
What I'm sure most of us love most about a project is nearing the finish line. Taking the small embroidery scissors (I have two pairs, tiny scissors are awfully cute) and cutting the rainbowed threads off the back of my hoop has to be the most satisfying part of this experience.
As I'm sure you've observed, this is a project of mindfulness, not mastery. I don't intend to become a professional embroidery or sell my work on Etsy.
I've come to terms with the idea that this hobby will likely stay as just that; a thing I'm crap at, but enjoy very much. My mind will likely remain riddled with obsessive thoughts. What I must learn to master is taking my mental trimmers, to cut the ends of these deeply woven strands of harmful thoughts out of my head.