One of the most challenging products of my anxiety is that I experience intrusive thoughts. I was terrified to tell my therapist about these, I thought they made me sound dangerous and that no one else would understand the distress they caused me.
I did it thought. I sobbed and finally told her that I had them and it felt like a weight off my chest. Finally I didn’t have to box it up and pretend it wasn’t happening, finally it wasn’t an unidentified monster under the bed – it was just a way my anxiety expressed itself.
OCD is, for me, a scary label. Because of the stigma attached with the less palatable mental health problems, I was afraid to accept that I was experiencing intrusive thoughts. My therapist explained that it comes under the umbrella of anxiety, and actually its not scary. I don’t describe myself as having OCD, for me I say I am dealing with anxiety and part of that makes dealing with intrusive thoughts.
If you are out there, crying and frustrated, feeling guilty or ashamed, please know that you are not alone. Intrusive thoughts actually happen to everyone! Who hasn’t had a thought that seems strange and out of character? They are just thoughts, and thoughts are ever changing and coming and going, like the waves!
I am trying to use mindfulness for my intrusive thoughts. First I try not to immediately react, i try to go “okay wait before i panic and feel bad I know that that was an intrusive thoughts and I’m going to wait for it to pass, then I will refocus my attention on what I was doing or my feet on the floor or my breath”.
Its taking time to learn to cope better with them. I experience them during times of high anxiety – and its hard to be mindful when you are feeling stressed and restless. I also find that I can find myself several minutes later reminding myself of the intrusive thoughts. Again a mindful approach helps; “that was then and this is now, it was just a thought and I have permission to let it go, let that memory go and continue to be in the right now.”
But intrusive thoughts are nothing to fear, they have no power over you unless you let them have it. So step back when they occur, watch them objectively, label them for what they are and then continue with your day.