OCDiaries: Intruder Alert
There I am, just minding my own business, smelling my cat’s little head and drinking the a brew from mystery teabag that I found in my enormous Box of Unsorted Tea a few minutes before. Then, out of nowhere, BAM! An intruder. But it’s inside my own head. Take that one and run with it, Wachowskis. In the meantime, I’m going to tell you a little about intrusive thoughts.
Intrusive thoughts are this delicious part of obsessive-compulsive disorder (which I just discovered has a hyphen in it! Not obsessive-compulsive about my grammar, am I right) and several other disorders, like depression and PTSD, that I really didn’t know anything about until I got my diagnosis.
Intrusive thoughts are exactly what they sound like – unwelcome things inside your own head that apparently come from nowhere. And they are a really hard thing to explain to someone who doesn’t have them, because, of course, everybody has random shit pop into their heads once in a while. Yeah, occasionally, weird things just burst into your brain for no apparent reason, right? And sometimes they might be grim, or dark, or even shock you – maybe they surround hurting yourself, hurting someone else, committing violent or sexually violent acts. And it’s normal to be able to see them and dismiss them for what they are, random notions that have no bearing on you as a person.
Where the abnormal kicks in is the point where my OCD locks into whatever intrusive thought has burst into my head uninvited, and decides that the very notion of it occurring to me proves that I am an awful human being. It usually goes something like this: I’ll notice some small detail, like someone standing quite close to the edge of a train platform. I’ll think wow, if I moved a foot, I could knock them on to the rails. And then spending the rest of the day screaming at myself inside my head for wanting to murder a stranger, even though I know – I know – that I don’t want to do that.
These thoughts about my badness will go around and around my head, and every time another intrusive thought like the one I mentioned above pops into my brain, I use that as further proof that I truly am pond scum who deserves to spend the rest of my life cleaning up the cat’s vomit. For the longest time, I honestly and truly felt that I was a really evil person, and was constantly waiting for the people around me notice and shun me like I deserved. The OCD voice was – is – constantly there, mulling on every negative thought I’ve ever had, forcing me to contemplate it more and further until my brain is full of these horrible thoughts, and these horrible thoughts that me being able to have these horrible thoughts is proof that I am horrible. It feels like I’m trying to walk towards something, and someone is constantly just grabbing the back of my shirt and yanking me back to remind me of what I really am.
I was listening to a really interesting podcast by NPR on the matter of intrusive thoughts, where they come from, and how some people have treated it (right here – there’s a transcript, too, if that’s more your thing), and there was a quote that really jumped out at me: “Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a thinking problem. You focus obsessively on the things that most disgust you. If you hate germs, you think continuously about germs – how they’re crawling all over you. If you fear fire, you think about burning down your own house, day and night…It’s really just a question of what they’re afraid of.” For me, that fear is secretly being an awful person, and my brain has decided that it’s a Hella Good Time to try and prove that, constantly, until I can’t deny it any longer.
Every time it comes to finish these articles, I want to be able to say “…and that’s how I overcame this issue!” and close out on the recipe you’re presumably all scrolling for (sorry for the cooking blogger shade, it just makes me so mad). But, like everything else with my OCD: figuring out that this stuff isn’t normal is still where I’m at. I’m getting better at challenging those thoughts these days, and what they say about me, but OCD-voice is a very convincing one and sometimes, I’m too tired to argue with it. I’m used to letting it convince me, because I thought it was right for a really long time. Still do, mostly. So I’ll try to close out on a positive note, and say this: here’s to putting up a better fight now that I know what I’m dealing with. And to sorting out my teabags. That too.
You can check out the rest of the OCDiaries, my blogs about living with OCD, right here. And, as always, if you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon!
Your post resonated with me in a big way. Although not formally diagnosed and being controlled-ish at the moment, I do have obsessive-compulsive tendencies and have been ruled by them in the past. Intrusive thoughts are always there, they disgust and distress me, how could I think such a thing? I spend my public life doing good deeds to atone for something other people know nothing of! In past centuries I may have been performing penance on a regular basis and would have been convinced I was possessed by evil, these days, if they intrude I make myself busy to lose them.
I’m sorry to hear you deal with this too. There’s some interesting writing on Scrupolosity, which is religious-related intrusive thought and compulsion, out there which covers just what you’re talking about!