Jouska is a term to describe compulsively rehearsing hypothetical conversations in your head. It also takes up about 90% of the space in my brain.
Not everyone who has OCD is a compulsive cleaner. I have a friend who’s compulsions make her unplug everything in her room any time she leaves the house. She even has to reset her alarm clock daily. Personally, Part of my OCD is fixating on previous conversations and rehearsing ones that I may have in the future. I obsessively fill my mind with list, scripts, planning, and retrospect bias.
So you’re probably thinking “everyone does this.” I would agree with you. Everyone tries to think of something to say before they talk to someone cute. Everyone’s had a “why did I just say that” moment. Jouska goes a little further.
I still beat myself up over an awkward response to a compliment way back in my figure skating days. A high school girl that I really admired complimented my new haircut. I had a hard time even looking up from the ice skate I was tying, and the locker room started to warp. I awkwardly responded that I didn’t deserve her compliment, and my hair didn’t look nice on me. I stumbled out of the locker room and onto the ice, not able to control my arms and legs during my dissociative episode. This was fifteen years ago, and I think about it daily. Being awkward sucks. Being awkward in front of someone you really admire, even aspire to be- that’s just crushing.
I play out conversations in my head over and over in preparation of attending a social event. Planning and rehearsing bring out severe frustration if someone does not respond the way I anticipated, and my rehearsal does not go as planned. I feel like this is still in the realm of normal. I cross the line into jouska when I can’t sleep all night because I have to go to the grocery store the next day, and I’m wondering what the cashier will say to me.
My jouska is worst when I’m alone with my own thoughts- I zone out when driving, showering, having quiet time, trying to fall asleep, and during monotonous tasks. Everything around me becomes white noise as I obsessively make lists in my head, remember and rehearse.
I try everyday to have a healthier mind. I see my therapist, I try my coping skills, do my yoga, etc. Yet somehow still, I’ll feel mike gently rest his hand on my thigh to draw me back to real life when the jouska takes over. I’m not talking now and then, but several times each trip we make in the car. I don’t even realize I’m gone until mike physically touches me to ground me back into the present moment. He realizes I’m drowning in my own mind before I even can, and throws me a life preserver every time. ( I wouldn’t survive this life without his support- I really did find my 1 in a million. )
So what do I do about it?
Meditation for me has always been unsuccessful. As soon as my mind enters a peaceful state the obsessive list making sets in. There are so many benefits to meditation that I really, really want to make it work.
On Friday my therapist gave me an article about how building jigsaw puzzles stimulate the brain almost identically to meditation. Getting a piece in the right spot releases short bursts of dopamine for happiness. The light focus puzzle building requires keeps you mindful, and in the moment. I shared the article with mike after my session, and an hour later he came home with four puzzles.
God love that man.
The article inspired me to research other types of meditation that may avoid jouska. The thing that jumped out at me most was candle meditation, where watching a candle flicker and burn induces mindfulness and calming.
Mike ended up having to work tonight. I was disappointed he wouldn’t be around to puzzle with me, but it gave me an opportunity to try candle meditation.
I put the kids to bed, got on my comfy clothes, and headed for the home gym. I first stretched out with my yoga strap (my bad disc has really been acting up) and got myself comfortable on the mat. I lowered the lights, put on shavasana radio, and lit a candle.
So how did it go? I was able to zone out for a few seconds at a time. I loved watching the flame flicker, and I celebrated small bursts of happiness when the flame synced up to part of the song as if they were dancing. This is the closest I’ve ever come to meditation, and I’ll definitely be adding this method to my nightly routine. I feel much more relaxed already, and I’m looking forward to resting for recovering instead of sleeping to escape. The this meditation thing could really help me out here.
Trying new things is an essential part of better wellness. For our bodies we try new food or exercise. For our social health we make new friends, and try new places. For our finances we try different stores, sales, and coupons. Mental health is no different. There are infinite possibilities. If you’re not feeling right, get help. Maybe that means calling a professional for a session. Maybe it’s just starting by making time for yourself. Maybe it’s just a workout, or a meditative session. There is no right or wrong way to feel better. Do what works for you. Don’t know where to start? Try Pinterest! They make it super easy to discover yoga poses, alternative meditation, new trauma therapies, even recipes to make your body feel better. The options are endless. You don’t have to suffer. Help yourself.
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.