Let’s have an ugly, raw, rough conversation. It’s a conversation about ‘bad thoughts’ and it’s well and truly overdue.
Have you ever had a thought that made you cringe? Like seeing a train approaching and seeing yourself jumping in front of it? Or – worse – pushing the lady in front of you onto the train tracks? What about seeing your baby in the bath and seeing yourself drowning him?
Upsetting? Yes. Anxiety-inducing? Yes. Weird? Nope. A staggering 4 out of 5 people experience these ‘intrusive thoughts’. But, for 1 in 50, these thoughts become harder to dismiss. They take a darker turn and hone in on the subjects we find most disturbing.
For those people who suffer from a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder commonly referred to as Pure OCD (referring to the focus being on obsessions, generally without any noticeable physical compulsions) intrusive thoughts can become all-consuming and target commonly delicate and taboo subjects like sex, violence and blasphemy (see, I told you we were going to get ugly).
It’s a normal human phenomena – thinking about things we don’t want to think about – and the funny and cruel twist is that the more you don’t want to think about something, the more it pops into your head. And, despite it being staggeringly common, people are still suffering in silence all over the world. Some, so much so, they don’t make it out of their darkness. They’re so convinced they’re the only person in the world who has these thoughts and so, they decide the world be better without them.
Just over a year ago I shared a story about my journey with postnatal OCD (also referred to as postpartum OCD or postnatal Anxiety). The illness is a subset of its parent OCD and often mimics that of pure OCD.
The article titled ‘The perfect mother and her pet monster’ was published by intrusivethoughts.org and then The Huffington Post and resulted in me receiving messages from women and men from all over the world who had dealt with the same gut-wrenching, heart-breaking mental attacks.
Subsequently the story ran on Mamamia which opened the conversation to Australian parents. Here is part of what I wrote:
Let me explain this in a little more in detail. Unlike the common understanding of what OCD is and how it affects people ― like washing or checking rituals ― mine has always involved obsessive and intrusive thoughts and images that are of a distressing nature to me. To be precise – thoughts and images of a sexual nature.
From intrusive sexual images involving family members (cue vomit in the mouth); fearing I was a pedophile (even writing this word makes me want to cry ― but of course my mind would choose the thing that is the most deplorable to me to try and bring me to my knees) to images of hurting a disabled person ― my mind threw me the ugliest, most terrifying images and thoughts it could conjure up. It took everything I stood for and every moral bone in my body and shook it to its core using ammunition it knew I would detest, despise and crumble under. And crumble I did.