I want to put a trigger warning but I’m unsure as to what to say. This blog will deal with some difficult issues so please prepare yourself if necessary x
Looking back I’ve suffered with OCD for as long as I can remember.
My earliest memory of an intrusive thought is so childlike and simple that it may sound odd that it was distressing.
I was very small and trying to go to sleep (not my speciality), I suddenly had an image of a gun. It was like an stock photo of a handgun, not moving, not shooting; just a photo of a gun on a white background. Then it changed and I had a picture of my mum. The 2 photos together created the meaning that meant my mum was going to be shot. I was so scared and upset. I remember running to my mum and climbing on her lap for a cuddle. I can’t remember what happened other than I know I couldn’t speak about it or tell her because 1 – that would make it happen & 2 – my mum would think I wanted her to get shot because I’d thought it.
I struggled like that for a long time. I coped with it by using repetitive thoughts that were opposite to the intrusive thought, in order to cancel it out. Those repetitive thoughts became a compulsion.
Compulsions are a way of coping with intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of OCD – see here.
I would also try to use analytical and critical thinking to rationalise these sudden, intrusive thoughts and work out whether I did actually mean to think them or wanted the horrible thing to happen. (Answer: No, I didn’t want it, see here ~ magical thinking).
This was ok for a long time but eventually this coping strategy became a compulsion too.
A really bad thing happened. It was extremely traumatic and I’m not going to talk about it (apologies but it involves other people too). But what happened was that it triggered an avalanche of turmoil inside of me.
I was plagued by intrusive thoughts, pictures and videos. The videos were the most traumatic aspect and were like being a witness to some awful, awful things. More on that here.
I’ve always suffered with anxiety but it skyrocketed. I was living in constant fear. Fear of everything. It was all consuming and debilitating. I was eventually told I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I will write about this further in a future blog post.
More traumatic things happened and it all compounded my sense of responsibility (see here). But all the while I focused on other people and bottled everything up and suffered alone and in silence.
I started to read around and thought I was probably suffering with PTSD. This lead me to find out a lot more about OCD and I realised that I was suffering from it.
Still, I thought that using logical, analytical, critical thinking was my way out. I knew I didn’t want to see or think these intrusive images/videos etc, and it wasn’t happening because I am a bad person or want it to happen, so I should be able to convince myself that the thoughts weren’t real and I could stop them… except it didn’t work.
I would lay awake at night being haunted by these thoughts and trying desperately to make them go away. I was doing and telling myself all the right things that I’d read about but it wasn’t working. I was stuck. This lead to the compulsive thought that I didn’t want to exist anymore. Not in a suicidal way, see here (again).
Then someone close to me started talking about issues that were bothering them. I realised what was going on and I urged them to go and get help. I couldn’t just keep quiet and let someone else suffer like I had been. They went and saw their GP and were referred to Healthy Minds. They started therapy and were told it was severe OCD. We kept talking and eventually I was able to become more and more open about my struggles and they urged me to get help. I was so scared.
I didn’t see how anyone else could help me. I had done everything I’d read about and none of it had worked. I was terrified of being told that’s it, I’m stuck like this forever. Slight hope is better than no hope…
Eventually I self referred to Healthy Minds. This is the mental health service in my area and is in association with Mind
After a little wait I started a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. My therapist was brilliant, he was kind and understanding but also clever and funny and he put me at ease straight away. Thank you L. I never felt judged or that he thought I was stupid and it felt like we worked through it as a team.
We hit a bit of a block with the intrusive images and videos and couldn’t get to the bottom of it. But we’re tenacious and kept digging. L realised that my solution of analysis, critical thinking etc, whilst being one of the “right” things to do, had turned into a compulsion and was therefore feeding back into the OCD cycle. I think this revelation is the biggest thing that helped me in my fight against OCD. Now I know not to enter into that discussion with myself and instead I use other methods, such as telling myself “it’s just a thought”. (I didn’t believe that would work but it does. I have to resist the urge to stop it working by thinking it’s too simplistic and obvious and just stop fighting and accept the help).
Fighting OCD is a daily struggle but after having therapy it’s something that I’m generally managing to keep at bay, that goes for the Generalised Anxiety Disorder too. I owe a lot to my therapist, L. As well as my family, I’d be lost without them.
I decided that I needed to be more open about my struggles because nothing good had come from keeping it hidden and I hoped that by talking about it other people who are suffering might recognise some traits and realise they aren’t alone.
I’ve made a page that lists places that you can get help, support, information or just talk to someone. Please check it out here and don’t suffer alone xxx