By Emily Steinbach
Yes, the title is true.
I have OCD, and this is something I have been battling since I was twelve years old. My OCD manifests in several ways, but intrusive thoughts that I have no control over are the most common. These thoughts may not make sense to people. I can assure you they are very real to me. While everyone's battle with OCD is different, this is my reality.
Let me explain.
A Quick Understanding
If you have no idea what it’s like to have OCD, let me help you understand with a quick thought exercise.
Whatever you do, don’t think of a pink elephant. You can do anything you want, but whatever you do, you CANNOT think of a pink elephant. The pink elephant definitely should not have any stripes on it either.
You pictured it, didn’t you?
See, having OCD intrusive thoughts is just like trying not to think of a pink elephant. Oftentimes, these thoughts are ironically the opposite of everything you stand for and believe in. If this doesn’t make sense to you, imagine how confusing it can be for us.
OCD is caused by a mix of factors including chemical imbalances, environmental stress, and genetics. While it can be debilitating at times, treatment is available, and things can get better.
My Intrusive Thoughts
Most of my OCD thoughts are often violent, shocking, repulsive, and/or unspeakable by nature. These types of thoughts go against my own beliefs and are not appropriate, therefore, I won’t mention those. These, however, are a few of my milder OCD intrusive thoughts:
My dog's legs are chicken- My dog is my best friend, but sometimes I get intrusive thoughts that his legs are chicken. While I have no intention of hurting my dog, and never have, this random thought comes out of nowhere. Thankfully, this thought is the easiest one to control.
Touching the stove- This is a common one we OCD sufferers tend to have; resisting the temptation to touch the stove. Yes, I am aware that if I touch it, I will burn myself, but for some reason, I feel like I have to. I've never done it though, and I’m glad I haven't.
Not sleeping- I have frequent thoughts of pulling all-nighters. Unfortunately, this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so much so that I need to rely on heavy sleeping pills to avoid it from becoming a reality. Any time I picture myself not sleeping or have fears I won’t sleep, it occurs. When I don’t sleep, I also worry I will go insane and have to be wheeled away to a psych ward.
Going to jail- In the back of my mind, I have a fear I will do something that will make me go to jail. While I can't mention exactly what these thoughts are, I can assure you they are purely intrusive. I am scared I will hurt people and even myself, even though I am a kind person.
Choking on food- For some reason, I have a fear that I will choke on anything I eat. I never actually choked on food before, so it’s not like it's a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reaction. Intrusive thoughts that I or others might pass away over things that likely won’t happen is a common intrusive thought for me.
Losing control- Ultimately I fear that one day I will lose control. Maybe one day I will lose my sanity or have some sort of freak-out in public. Maybe this will be the one day I act on my intrusive thoughts, who knows? Even though the chances are slim, this is partially why I feel as though I have to control everything in my life. I worry that if my life is out of control, I too will lose control.
If you get to know me, you will know that I have a very kind heart. I never mean or want to hurt anyone, and I mean well to everyone. For people who don’t have OCD, it can make sense why thoughts like these can be cruel, but I can assure you, I don’t mean any of them. Almost all of the intrusive thoughts I have are the opposite of what I want or feel, and it is very counterintuitive. If you have OCD or know someone with OCD, seeking professional help is very important, and just know that you are not alone.
Emily Steinbach is a student obtaining her Bachelors in Psychology. She is a volunteer at Crisis Texline and a writer on Medium under the name Emory Beck. Emily strives to help other people who are struggling and hopes to break the stigma around OCD and other mental health conditions.