~Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

I was watching Change Your Brain, Change Your Life on PBS last week. I know, single me is thrilling. Anyway, Dr. Amen is going through all the different brain types. He says there are compulsive brains, impulsive brains and for the mack daddy of neuroses, compulsive-impulsive brains. He lists the types and the characteristics. When he described the compulsive brain, I knew instantly that was me by the flip-flops my stomach turned. Compulsive brains get stuck on one thought until they become over-focused. These are some of the other not-so-flattering characteristics:

Excessive or senseless worrying; being upset when things do not go your way; being upset when things are out of place; tendency to be oppositional or argumentative; tendency to have repetitive negative thoughts; tendency toward compulsive behaviors; intense dislike of change; tendency to hold grudges; trouble shifting attention from subject to subject; trouble shifting behavior from task to task; difficulties seeing options in situations; tendency to hold on to own opinion and not listen to others; tendency to get locked into a course of action, whether or not it is good; being very upset unless things are done a certain way; perception by others that you worry too much; tendency to say no without first thinking about question; and tendency to predict negative outcomes.

It was like Dr. Amen saw the things within me that I try to hide from even my closest friends. Every now and then I'll feel brave enough to try to explain my thought patterns to one of my friends and she'll just look at me without the slightest comprehension. My friends, obviously, do not have compulsive brains.

Having a compulsive brain has benefited me in many ways. Like when I was tired of being unprepared for the future, I went to the library and checked out about 20 books on finance, read them all and followed the steps and opened the necessary accounts and then I lived on $10 a day for about a year to fund those accounts. Having a one-tracked mind kept me focused (to the point of obsession), but it enabled me to succeed.

The same thing happened after I left S and started a new job in a new industry in which I had no previous experience. A lot of reading and a lot of work hours coupled with my strive for perfection made me a necessary asset to my company, at which I've done very well. Compulsive behavior wins again.

I'm also compulsive with my knitting, but for very different reasons. I am a yarn-aholic and have begun hiding yarn from my sight in my one-bedroom apartment. It was fine when it fit in a chest; and then a chest and a basket; and then a chest, a basket and then the laundry room. Now we are approaching on chest, basket, laundry room and hidden-box-under-the-bed territory. My mind is again stuck. Boyfriends have asked me why I love knitting so much to the point that I have to do it for hours every day, and I would just shrug and say, "it quietens my mind." I never realized how true that statement was. Because when I'm knitting, I'm not thinking about my stock choices or my wording choices at work or my many boy problems. I'm not thinking at all.

Do you know how exhausting it is being me? Having a thought pattern that works like a runaway train stuck on a mouse wheel? Running 100 miles an hour but never goes anywhere? Oftentimes I feel like a skipping record and would just wish for someone to come up to me and slap me on the side of the head just to get my thoughts to move forward. I once told a person I didn't want to believe in heaven, because if that's the case, then I'm stuck my thoughts for eternity.

Because having a compulsive brain also means that when it switches gears to boys, I obsess. I will review every detail forwards and backwards and sideways and unilaterally. And this isn't the cute, healthy compulsion that funded my Roth IRA; this is the damaging compulsion that makes me unattractive to men.

But wait! Dr. Amen is a doctor! And he has the fix-it solution to quieten my mind without making me the weird yarn lady or the Prozac popper. He has a list of foods to eat and supplements to take, so I am going to try it out.

It explains why I feel the need to write out my feelings on here, when you may think I am still thinking about things I shouldn't be. It's just the way I think. It is how my brain operates. I feel the need to reminisce every gory detail and disgusting action that happened in my previously relationships because I have a hard time letting go and turning my mind elsewhere. The characteristic of repeating negative thoughts could not be more spot on. When I am told how I should feel or what I should feel, I will take it and run with it. But I feel myself getting better. I am learning to love myself for the first time in my life, and I'm not going to let that derail my progress to the point that I am once again the midst of some shame spiral where I'm hating myself for not being as far as I want to be, or where you think I should be.

Today I thought about boys less than I did yesterday. Today is a good day to me.


Bathwater said...

I have a compulsive brain also now that I have learned this I am going to compulsively look into it.

jkdavies said...

you know, you also have a highly literate and entertaining brain. loved this piece!

Sarah said...

Bathwater, I already have a list of books. Apparently I also visit the library compulsively. :)

JK, thanks!

J said...

I caught the tail end of the show the other day too! I was already familiar with Dr. Amen's work as my counselor told me about it. I was thinking I need to go pick up his book(s).

I am pretty sure I have the compulsive brain. Because I do the exact same things...this line:

"I feel the need to reminisce every gory detail and disgusting action that happened in my previously relationships because I have a hard time letting go and turning my mind elsewhere."

Yup. That is me. I don't want to think about it but I still do...for some stupid reason I still want to know where it all went wrong so I analyze every single detail. And all it does is just upset me. I need to let it go and move on. I am getting there...but I still have my moments.

dont eat the token said...

I identify with all of this, except the knitting. But replace all your yarn with my beads....

So I feel ya sista. It's always good when we start to value ourselves and find happiness just being a person. :)

Kudos to you! x

dont eat the token said...

Oh and if you're still thinking about it then you're still working through it. That is okay!

I just cried about something that happened to me when I was 12... for the first time. I've been thinking about it for 20 years. Now that I'm feeling my emotions I may actually be able to let that fucker go!

nuttycow said...

Doesn't matter whether you have a compulsive brain or no brain at all, as long as you're feeling happier :)

Lpeg said...

Well I hope these new foods and vitamins help you feel better. I think you're already doing much better, knowing what it is you do, and why you do it. Just being aware is a good step!

Curvy Jones said...

I wish I was like that. I can only be compulsive for about a day and a half and then I am over it.

Paige Jennifer said...

I buy lots of yarn but rarely finish a project I start (she says pointing to two scarves and a vest dangling off various needles). But I'm too lazy to be compulsive. How pathetic is that!?!?!?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

God, I'm also very compulsive especially when it comes to boys, but knowing who you are and working through it, that's healthy.

La Femme said...

I'm with Curvy. I swear I will obsess about something for maybe a day, and then it bores me. Also the reason I will NEVER get a tattoo. I'd be sick of it before the week was out. Then I'd hate it. Forever.

Rachel said...

I found your blog through your comment on Hope's blog about thinking in facebook statuses that you never post. I do the same thing.

I also could have written this post. And I was just writing today about how I thought maybe thinking about boys would distract me from job hunting but its really just making me double insane, because boys = obsessive thinking.


mihinikki said...

I just found your blog with when I searched for "what to wear on a non-date". I'm a compulsive brain and find comfort in information except I always want more information. Well, its good to know I'm crazy, but its not all my fault! Love your writing :)

mihinikki said...

I just found your blog with when I searched for "what to wear on a non-date". I'm a compulsive brain and find comfort in information except I always want more information. Well, its good to know I'm crazy, but its not all my fault! Love your writing :)


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