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Dealing with intrusive thoughts

Monday, 06 August 2018 Amber

Amber blogs about how her OCD can came in the form of intrusive thoughts and how she deals with it.

Amber is 27 and has been dealing with mental health problems for 17 years. She hopes that writing about her experiences will help others speak out.

I have been dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for 17 years, but until recently I’d been totally unaware of what I was dealing with. Only last year I found out that I have been dealing with a form of OCD called ‘intrusive thoughts’. I discovered this through research and reading blogs on the Mind website, and seeing a therapist.

"I remember keeping myself awake at night because of my intrusive thoughts."

I have been really struggling to come to terms with it, but it’s something I am learning to live with through help and support. I know my OCD will never go away, so I am learning to make it my friend rather than my enemy.

As a child you always think you’re going to have this amazing fairy tale life and that you won’t be someone struggling with a mental health problem. I get scared of my own brain - how can something that is a part of you make you feel so rubbish and so scared? Knowing that there is a name for all the suffering and darkness after 16 years of not knowing what I was struggling with makes me feel like I’m not alone and not the only person feeling like this. For so long I thought no one would understand, that everyone would think I was crazy. Only now have I found the strength to talk about OCD so I can help others.

"I’m not a religious person but I would pray to God that ... he would make these horrible thoughts go away."

When I was around 13 I remember keeping myself awake at night because of my intrusive thoughts. I would stay up thinking that I was going to end up with a serious mental health problem and be put into a psychiatric hospital. I was so scared of losing control. I would get out of my bed and would just cry and cry in a ball and wouldn’t sleep the whole night, I felt so alone. This carried on for most of my teenage years.

I’m not a religious person but I would pray to God that if I got myself christened he would make these horrible thoughts go away. I would then get it into my head that because I never did get christened I was going to be possessed and become evil. I would stop myself from watching the news or certain films because my thoughts would tell me that I was going to carry out the horrible things I saw, or that something bad was going to happen to me.

"I would stop breathing when walking past people so I didn’t breath in their germs."

I used to time myself putting on my clothes, or walking to another room. If I didn’t do it in time I thought something bad was going to happen. I would stop breathing when walking past people so I didn’t breath in their germs. I was always scared about going to new places, or staying at friends houses, or going on holiday, I would get so anxious of the unknown and losing control, or thinking something bad was going to happen to me.

When I was 15 I went to counselling, but I was so terrified of opening up that I used to sit in silence until the end of the session. The only person I could talk to was my mum, as she could understand the pain I was going through, but I still thought she was going to send me to a psychiatric hospital.

"All I felt were these dark clouds over my head."

I have been in some really dark places. I have days where I have intrusive thoughts I can deal with, and I have days where I really struggle. Three months ago I was in a really dark place to the point I couldn’t go into work and felt like I was losing control. The biggest thought that scared me was that I would seriously harm myself or take my own life. Even though I didn’t want to, I felt like I was out of control and that I was just going to do it and from there it spiralled. I made my chin sore by rubbing it too much from anxiety. All I felt were these dark clouds over my head, that I was in a dark hole that I couldn’t get out of. I cried for the whole day, so scared that no one could help me. My boyfriend had to come home from work and we drove to the countryside for a walk to distract me, which helped a little. Sitting on a bench and feeling the warm sun on my face was like sunshine was breaking down the dark clouds.

I’m lucky to have such an amazing boyfriend, friends and family who support me, but I knew that I needed to seek help. I needed to open up and not be scared, and be honest about my feelings and thoughts. I firstly went to a homeopath. My first session was very good, but very hard - I had to talk about how I was feeling, my past and fears. I now see my homeopath monthly and also take remedies on a monthly basis which help so much. I religiously have Epsom salt baths 4 days a week which also help to relax.

My homeopath also recommended that I went to see a therapist. I went to the doctor and he referred me to my local therapist through the NHS, who confirmed that I have OCD and that I needed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). My first session was challenging because talking about all these thoughts and feelings made them seem more real and I didn’t what to give them recognition, but I learnt from my therapist that it wasn’t recognition that I was giving them, me talking about it was fighting the intrusive thoughts. After my first session, I was still in a low place, but I felt so happy that someone could finally help me and I was excited for the future.

"I’m not the only person in the world that has these thoughts."

I saw my therapist for around two months and I would have to complete a survey every week. After the two months my ratings from the survey had reduced, indicating that I was getting better, and my therapist felt comfortable that I needed no more therapy. One of the biggest things I fear is that my thoughts are going to come true, but the therapist helped me understand that they’re all ‘just a thought’. I now always try and replace my thoughts with “I’ve just had a thought that…” and it gives it less meaning than if I think, “What if?”.

I have also been reading an amazing book which has helped me so much called ‘Overcoming unwanted intrusive thoughts’. It’s a CBT-based guide to getting over frightened, obsessive, or disturbing thoughts. I try and read this book every night. It’s helped me to realise I’m not the only person in the world that has these thoughts and it helps you understand the science behind it.

"I also have amazing days where everything is good and I’m super happy."

I still have really bad days to the point where I don’t want to wake up, I can’t be on my own and I’m in that dark hole with dark clouds and I think, “How am I going to get through this? I can’t live my life like this!” But I have to remember I have got through it so many times before, I need to be strong! I also have amazing days where everything is good and I’m super happy. Or days where everything is just right. I feel I’ve always tried to search for happiness, but what is happiness? It’s not a thing you touch, it’s not an object, you have to make your own happiness, even from the smallest things. I’m now trying to come to terms with the fact that this is who I am and my OCD isn’t my enemy, it’s me.

I hope that in speaking about my OCD I have helped someone feel like they can open up about how they feel and hopefully recognise they’re not alone.

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