Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Anxiety and Me

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, with some General/Social Anxiety thrown in to complete the package. And I'm just going to jump straight into this one, without worrying whether I should be writing this, whether this is far too egocentric (hell, this is my blog, of course it's egocentric!), whether this is reaaaaaaallllly dull... see me now, jumping right in.

My personal variety of OCD is known as 'Pure Obsession', as it comes without physical rituals, and consists of obsessional thoughts. Often they are disturbing images, impulses and ideas; the Pure O sufferer catastrophically misinterprets these as being 'evil' or as revealing something dreadful about their true self. Really, of course, almost everyone has bizarre intrusive thoughts from time to time, and they don't assign them undue importance. However, I thought the 'bad thoughts' meant that I was an evil, terrible person; I thought I had done terrible things, and that my thoughts were evidence of how 'evil' I was. These false beliefs lead to thoughts becoming obsessional, and one ends up in a state of extreme anxiety. I finally got the courage to seek medical help aged 19. The response of the doctor was to give me an anti-psychotic which he told me would 'make the thoughts go away'.

This reinforced the false idea in my mind that the thoughts were something I had to get rid of. The GP chose the meds because he believed I was psychotic and that I had voices, and that my mind needed to be 'controlled'- another common false assumption of people with OCD. So the very logic behind the several different meds he gave me was skewed and backed up OCD beliefs rather than refuting them.

And then there was the sedative effect of the drugs. I couldn't do anything. The drugs effectively killed my body so it couldn't do what I wanted it to: I couldn't read, write (the two most important things to me in terms of my identity), watch TV, talk, walk properly, eat, swallow... I was effectively in a vegetative state. And I couldn't tell anyone what was going on. I felt so completely alone.

But I didn't have any intrusive thoughts. Nope. None. The reason? My brain was sedated, and could no longer maintain any thought process at all. The price of losing the thoughts was losing my mind, degrading it to a state of helplessness, trapped in a body that didn't work properly, that drooled and jerked about. The price was too high.

We cannot strive after complete perfection in our minds. We can aspire to behave according to our consciences, to act with integrity and personal strength, but it is impossible to take all disturbing thoughts out of the brain. The thoughts are normal; what we can control is our reactions to them. Everyone has 'bad' thoughts, urges, ideas that we cannot control; it's part of being human and killing all disturbing thoughts means killing the rest of our minds as well. The price is too high! We should all respect our minds and ourselves, and accept the uncomfortable thoughts and impulses which are meaningless and common.

These days I'm on a different type of medication which lessens anxiety, but doesn't 'cure' anything. Last year I was fortunate enough to receive some talking treatment known as 'Cognitive Behavioural Therapy'. CBT enabled me to uncover and deflate my self-deprecating beliefs and cognitive biases. It helped me to think in a completely different way, and helped me in finding my voice again.

I thought I'd just share that with you.

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