Disturbing, Unwanted Thoughts

I was watching a trailer for a movie last night, one where a huge tsunami was bearing down on a Japanese beach. Initially it was a distant speck, barely visible to the thousands of sun bathers enjoying their day on the golden sands. An idyllic scene, where families laughed and played innocently unaware of the devastation about to be unleashed upon their lives. For when it hit, nothing would ever be the same again.

As it rolled ever nearer, becoming more visible, people raised arms to shield their eyes from the glare of the sun’s rays. A dull rumble steadily increased as the first panicky voices rose to meet it. Within seconds chaos replaced the previous calm, parents screaming for children to run, sun worshipers abandoning their belongings and sprinting for their lives as the deadly wave bore down upon them.

It was too late, they could not outrun its deadly surge. As it struck the city, skyscrapers collapsed like decks of playing cards, mighty suspension bridges wobbled like punch drunk boxers before succumbing to its overwhelming force. Bodies and buildings were swept away like twigs thrown from bridges into surging streams. The carnage was indiscriminate, old and young, rich and poor, all gone.

This morning I started work on a new chapter of my book. A chapter where the main character, Kirkwood, wrestles with obsessive thoughts and compulsions which threaten to sweep him away. His OCD is just like that killer Japanese wave, it’s incessant power blowing away all who dare to stand in its path. Call it what you want but OCD is equally indiscriminate. It strikes where it wants, when it wants.

There is no cure. Yes, the right medication and therapies can help. I am armed with a variety of coping mechanisms which allow me to function from day to day. Look at me and, on the surface, all is well. But I fight a battle every day. A battle to lock away the monster and ignore its seductive voice. A sugar sweet voice dripping with paralysing poison, a voice that means you nothing but harm.

It’s not quirky, it’s not a slightly eccentric character trait. It’s victims do not fuss about their spotless houses, checking that the oven is off and straightening bathroom towels. We don’t all have it, you can’t have a ‘little bit of OCD’ any more than you can have a ‘little bit of cancer.’ It is a living hell for millions of people, people who did nothing to deserve what has befallen them. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is no laughing natter.

It twists, it turns, it shifts shape on a whim, adapting to changing circumstances, always seeking to strike where you are at your most vulnerable. The unwanted thoughts are planted and nurtured, growing from tiny seeds into choking, suffocating weeds which destroy any last vestige of logic and order within your beleaguered mind. OCD sucks you dry until there is nothing left bar a shattered husk.

Today my head is above water, I cope and I function. I talk to loved ones, I write, I run, I take my pills. I’m not a survivor but I survive. Living my life the best way I can, but always with one eye nervously scanning the horizon for that telltale speck. The speck that heralds unprecedented horror and suffering, that reduces my meticulous defences to ruin. It’s out there….waiting. Always waiting.

What is your knowledge of OCD?

Do you struggle with unwanted, disturbing thoughts?

How do you deal with them?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 15 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

40 thoughts on “Disturbing, Unwanted Thoughts

  1. Thankfully, I do not suffer from OCD but I know of someone who does (and has been for the past 2 years or so). I’d be very interested to know if you have any advice which I could pass on regarding either the way you managed to get your head above water (as you described it), the strategies you now use and/or any books that you recommend. If you don’t want to post it publicly then I think you have my email address, but let me know if not. With many thanks in advance.

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  2. I’ve learned more about OCD from following you than I ever knew before. Reading your posts has given me an awareness and sensitivity to the plight of those who suffer. While I don’t wish it upon anyone, I thank you for your honesty and openness as you share your personal battle.

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  3. I don’t know much about OCD, but I do think it has some things in common with depression (which I know a lot about, having had it most of my life!) Depression is often characterised by unwanted, disturbing, obsessive thoughts, particularly about the past. There are lots of things which help my depression, the most important being exercise (having 4 lively dogs helps). It’s also important for me to have at least a bare minimum of structure to my day – it just makes me feel better. Regular good quality sleep is important, as if avoiding sugar binges. Good luck, man.

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  4. Another thing which helps me with unwanted thoughts – mindfulness. I don’t regularly practice meditation, but I do try to use the core skill of mindfulness in my daily life. It basically involves choosing to be ambivalent to thoughts and feelings. Rather than resisting unwanted ones, or grasping after pleasant ones, we just accept whatever comes our way. And then the strangest thing happens… the thoughts and emotions just go away on their own, much faster than if we’d poured effort into them. Mentally, I try to imagine myself shrugging my shoulders at unwanted thoughts. “Whatever,” I say to myself. Obviously this is easier some days than others!

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  5. I appreciate your post. I’ve never read a first hand account.

    I’m probably more of what you’d call quirky, something more people have based on habits. However, I do see geometric lines extending out from furniture and other man made structures. I generally have to step over them. Again, quirky. I’ve seen them for the past two decades, sometimes taking some planning, but it’s not debilitating.

    My best to you.

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  6. When I was 13 I read my first book about OCD. It touched me so deeply that for the science fair we had that year, I presented an in depth study about it called “Wanting to Forget”. The teachers had never heard of the disorder back then, none of my classmates had either.
    To this day I shudder when people say “I’m a little bit OCD.” Really? So until that “picture frame is straight” you have to perform highly embarrassing and sometimes even dangerous rituals? I’m sincerely sorry that you have to cope with that monster Stephen. I just hope one day they find a cure, so you can be free.

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  7. I don’t personally struggle from OCD or know of anyone that suffers from the diagnosis. But I can tell you that your OCD sounds eerily similar to my MANIC mindsets. Because the allure of mania is profound, it is impossible to ignore. When mania starts creeping, reality just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Because reality sucks and the mania is the answer to that suckiness. Or so the mania would have you believe.

    But I’m with you, currently holding my head above water. Mania has swooped in and consumed my thoughts. Thousands upon thousands of words are overwhelming my being with their mad desire to get out into the real world, words about a reality that is real but not yet really ours to experience.

    I’m a victim to the overwhelming nature of my thoughts because I haven’t learned to stop them only to allow them to manifest without being a complete detriment to my family. And even then, I’m slipping. Because to deal with the excess words I need to write and writing takes me away from my daily responsibilities, which are sorely lacking.

    So perhaps I’m not holding my head above water but rather slowly drowning but catching a few breaths of air here and there. Either way, I have air in my lungs and I’m not dead yet so you’ll get no complaints from me.

    I’m sorry for your suffering with OCD. I hope you can find a way to take the stigma and difficulties of the illness and learn to appreciate how those difficulties make you better in the long run. Because in my opinion the struggles you face within your mind have conditioned you to be one of the best kinds of people. And so I wonder how bad is the diagnosis if it got you to be such a wonderful person? I bring this up because this is where I’m at with my bipolar – it has its undeniable negatives with manifestation but it has an abundance of good that has come from the struggles to be well.

    I’m of the mindset, the struggles we face help make us a better reflection of who we were always meant to be. Perhaps your OCD tells you that you were meant to be the best of the best and is always there motivating you to do more, spinning those blessed wheels of awareness, creating beauty and depth of the most wondrous nature.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I hope this day finds you well and you find relief to the struggles about your present moment.

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      1. I am still in the process of learning and growing with experience with the bipolar diagnosis. For control of my manic episodes, I tend to go into seclusion. So many things become a trigger in that overwhelmed state, that just participating in normal activities risks a destabilizing breakdown. I am virtually a recluse these days only leaving the house to for school for the kids and the store for groceries and the doctor for mental health wellness. Other than that, I actively try to avoid those things that set off my mind.

        Because oh goodness gracious how my mind can be triggered while in mania. I felt guilt-tripped into attending a church revival while I was severely manic. I thought to take a notebook to jot down how stimulated my being became from being in a church. Fifty-three different items presented themselves to my mind. 53 items that I could each write 1,000 to 5,000 words per topic. That’s 53,000 to 265,000 words flooding my mind at the same moment.

        To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. When my mania takes me to overwhelmed state, I simply cannot function. I become sluggish, irritable, and a bitch to be around because I just feel so uncomfortable that my uncomfortableness makes others uncomfortable. It is wretched.

        This is when I have learned to take myself to bed and pass out, effectively ending the ability to be overwhelmed. If the overwhelmed feeling is too much to handle I have a tranquilizer concoction my doctor and I realized helped to stop the mania dead in its tracks. But that tranquilizer isn’t for frequent use, it’s the kind of thing I only use when I’m feeling as though I’m going off the deep end.

        My manic episodes are becoming predictable. There is not a rhyme or reason for how or when an episode is going to start. But I start showing symptoms long before the mania takes over.

        The biggest indicator is my hypomanic state. When I am hypomanic things are perfect in my mind and I’m flying high through realms of bliss and euphoria. But the high of the hypomania has always resulted in the production of a manic state to handle. So I’ve learned to become aware of my hypomanic state and nurture the high feelings so they don’t become so high as to switch to full on mania.

        It’s a process of watching my every thought. I have to make sure my thoughts don’t think the wrong thing that will lead me to get out of control.

        Weirdly, it’s almost like I’m may be obsessed with the content of my thoughts and am always trying to control the nature and color of how they manifest. They more control I have learned over my thought patterns, the more blessed the experience of bipolar has become.

        Because now I no longer fear the mania taking hold. It is a natural part of who I am and is now a state I long to enter for the disconnection it provides from reality. But knowing that it disconnects me from reality, I have taken the steps to learn how to disconnect without being a detriment to the family (who I do not wish to lose in my insanity).

        How does OCD affect your awareness of your thoughts? Are you able to process whether your thoughts are anger based, fear based, love based, or hope based as they are happening?

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        1. I control mine largely with medication, running, talking to my wife, not keeping it bottled up like a dirty, guilty secret. At its worst it terrified me. I don’t want to go back to those days. I respect your brave & open response to your illness.

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  8. I know more about OCD from you than from anyone else – and it’s something that now makes me cringe when I hear that “I’m a little OCD” statement. Mmm, no. You have control issues, not an obsession to keep something terrible from happening.
    Logically, I know my quirks (and they are quirks) are surmountable. Yes, I like things symmetrical. You know what? If I’m not the one climbing the ladder to make them that way, then I don’t get to be unpleasant that things aren’t as I’d do them. I know that some of my anxiety comes from feeling like I don’t have control in other areas of my life. OK, are these things I can control – like the requirements for Spring Semester Biology? No? Well, then stressing over that doesn’t serve me. I can work on getting better grades in Chemistry, keep up my work in Math, and hope that works. If it doesn’t, then, no matter how much I dislike it, I change my goal dates. That’s my life in a nutshell. I’m also working on being kinder to myself – my overflowing inbox and need to study has me taking a “personal sanity” day. Getting caught up, but not losing ground in other areas, is a plus right now.

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  9. Usually just keep myself busy with other things and get myself so tired that I can sleep at peace. But sometimes the thoughts are invariable. That is when I paint or write.

    Loved reading this one. Spoke for a lot of minds! Keep shining 💜

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  10. I’ve been waiting for a chance to comment (either super-busy or sick lately), and finally got it today. Thanks for posting this. My daughter suffers from either OCD or Tourettes. I know it’s sad that we don’t know, but she flat refuses to go see a doctor, and it would really be quite pointless to do so without her cooperation at age 15. She has finally reached a point (after much relentless insisting on my part) where she’ll talk about it, but she still can’t adequately explain exactly what it is (hence the uncertainty about which one it probably is). Together, we’ve chosen to learn to cope with it. I pray for her every day.

    But you are so right – it has less to do with a spotless room and more to do with a fierce internal battleground. It’s weird. It’s tricky. And some days she does absolutely fantastic. Other days, it has her by the throat and she’s grumpier than usual. But we love her through it and she’s learning that it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. I just take heart in knowing someday, she’ll be free of whatever it is and I’ll be free of pain!!

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    1. You’re always welcome, Heather. OCD is incredibly difficult for the sufferer to explain to others. It shifts and changes from day to day. All you can do is be there for her. Talking to others helps me massively, and sharing my OCD experiences with others is one of the main reasons I started writing. In my book, the main character, Kirkwood overcomes his OCD and saves the world. Your daughter is just as much an OCD warrior in my eyes.

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