Sunday, December 5, 2010

Intrusive Thoughts and the Fear of Being Unredeemable

Rosalie Stanton recently found my blog and shared a post she wrote about her struggle with intrusive thoughts.
I had no idea my obsessions were perfectly in-keeping with my particular case of OCD until recently. I'm not certain if it helps others afflicted with OCD, but the knowledge that I was NORMAL probably saved my life. For as miserable as I was, thinking I was wrong and twisted and evil, finding out that my disease had a name and there was nothing I could do to prevent it, nothing I was at fault for thinking, was the biggest blessing I've ever received.
The pain of feeling wrong and twisted and evil is something I know as well. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I started having thoughts that most adults would find scary, violent, disturbing, let alone a child. It was as if they were injected into my mind, just suddenly there, in an occupation, a siege. I wondered why I couldn't make them stop. I began to enter the world of my thoughts in a set way, in a ritualistic sequence, as if I was standing in front of a mirror, looking at my face, and crossing through into a world of torture of women, an observer of it all.

How I came back out each time, I don't recall, but I remember feeling defeated when the thoughts came back again. The images spun themselves into a series of stories, expanding seemingly endless to my young mind. It was as if they wrote themselves. They were unfamiliar, alien. Even now, I can't comprehend where they came from. They so crowded my mind, that one afternoon, I asked a friend to play out part of the story where doctors kept women captive. Her look of confusion combined with a stabbing sense of shame, but also gave me a little room, to feel grounded in the actual world, not in my head.

She was completely uninterested in cooperating, and from the day onward the thoughts did not return in that form. I was amazed that I no longer was sucked into the narrative of fear and violence. The thoughts did remain as a memory, as something I wondered about, as a part of my history.

In college, I participated in a survey about women's sexual fantasies, and I was stricken with fear that my old thoughts were a fantasy, that they were something I wanted to think about, something I enjoyed. Filling out the survey filled me with dread about what my thoughts meant. Then I went to a presentation about the destructiveness of hardcore pornography, with a series of slides of some of the most violent images in magazines, and it was as if the images from my past were there right in front of me. I was in a state of anxiety and fearfulness. The slides repulsed me, and yet the old images from my mind were of the same substance. I was startled by the resemblance, and even more troubled about what this meant about me as a person.

I started to worry that somehow I had been subjected to pornographic magazines as a girl, but couldn't remember it. Or maybe I had been sexually abused. Or maybe I was just bad. That all my interest in helping women, the classes I took on women's history, my compassion for suffering, was all a lie and in fact I was twisted, that all girls were twisted in some way. I spent a lot of time in my head, trying to figure out the nature of my soul, the origin of the images, and the new set of horrors that the pornographic slides had introduced into my head, and desperately wanting to make them go away.

To be continued in another post.


  1. Firstly, thank you for the shout-out. :)

    Secondly, these fears are so remarkably like mine and yet not at the same time... The feelings, sensations, fear-cycles, and everything that goes in them are incredibly familiar to me, even if the thoughts themselves are not. It's really a symptom of how embedded you can become in the condition, even if you're educated about it and its symptoms/side-effects. I've been struggling over the past couple weeks with ROCD (dealing with my husband, who I love more than anything, but my OCD likes to attack that) and telling myself I KNOW THESE THOUGHTS ARE OCD AND THEREFORE INSIGNIFICANT!. Telling yourself that while you're in the middle of a spike is beyond difficult, but we try.

    I have nothing but respect for anyone who suffers something like this - something they didn't ask for, didn't want, and can't control - and have the strength to fight back.

  2. Wow, this is a powerful post. My childhood was marked by intrusive morbid thoughts, from age 10. I never tried to sort them out or analyze what they meant, I just believed them. It is a horrible, secret hell.

    How did writing this on the blog affect you?

  3. Rosalie--that's a great way to describe the state of living with OCD so long, being "embedded"--it takes a lot of work and courage to get some distance.

    Kinder--I'm sorry you had to deal with intrusive thoughts at 10 as well. Writing about this was hard, but ultimately, important for me to do, since I still get waves of "what did it mean? what does it say about me?" and the best exposure is to just put it out there, and live with it, and hope it helps others.

  4. wow. hi. i am currently in therapy to help deal with anxiety, stress and most importantly - OCD/intrusive thoughts. thank you for this blog, I look forward to reading more. For me, it is just so exhausting knowing that it's NOT me that it is just "it is what it is" and whether I like it or not - no matter how hard I try - the intrusive thoughts will always be there. violent, sexual, whatever...i can't make them go away. it is "comforting" to know that i'm NOT the only one out there and also that it doesn't make me "crazy". anyyways. thanks for this blog!

  5. Hi Annie,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post! I'm sorry you've had to deal with intrusive thoughts. It really helped me to know other people had the same thing--that I wasn't "crazy" and that with treatment with Exposure therapy, I could get better!