The word OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder was something very foreign to me.
My association with the word is always about people who always clean or like things to be in a certain order. I never thought that I would have one too.
My OCD is not on behavior but on repeated unwanted thoughts.
My Story of Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts
There have been signs since elementary school. I didn’t see any more signs until I was a third-year student at university.
Even though what happened in primary school was over 15 years ago, I can still remember it vividly.
It was during a maths exam in the fifth grade.
My grades have been going downhill for a while. Maths used to be my favorite subject but now the subject that I want to run away from the most.
I can’t catch up during class anymore and am no longer able to do my maths homework with ease.
Every day in school feels like a struggle and a burden for me. I am not happy with school or studies anymore.
Growing up in a strict family background, I do not dare to tell my family about my struggle, nor do I know how to handle my emotions and the situation well.
Fast forward to that day in the exam hall.
I had my first panic attack.
Every single word on the maths exam paper glared at me. I felt I could no longer breathe.
I start to feel immense fear, my palms are sweating. I lost the attachment to reality and felt the urge to scream.
I want to scream so bad.
The thought brings more anxiety and panic to me. Why do I want to do that?
What if I actually start screaming?
How would everyone look at me? Everyone will think I am mad.
But I felt the urge to scream is so strong and I am about to lose it.
There are two voices having tug-of-war in my head.
“No, you don’t want to do that.”
“No, everyone will think you are mad.”
The image of me screaming and all the kids in the exam hall looking at me with shock on their faces is making my heart racing even faster.
Eventually, the 2 voices combine into one.
What if I can’t control myself and scream out loud?
What if I can’t control myself?
I don’t remember anything else from that exam but only the intense fear I felt at the moment.
I fled the scene, ran to the toilet, and puked.
And screwed up the exam badly.
After that, the fear of exams was rooted deeply in me until I left school (which was a while ago, thank god, no more exams).
Nobody understands why I fear exams so much. I will take so many deep breaths before an exam to get my racing heart to calm down, and I will read all the words on the exam paper repeatedly to help myself concentrate.
People told me.
“There is nothing to fear. Just take it as a fun assessment of what you have learned recently.”
“The more exams you take, the less fear you would have towards exams”
But it has never gotten better.
Life just carried on until I had that awful semester in my third year of university.
I had a great relationship and a lot of friends. When I thought that I had handled all my relationships really well, things started to fall apart.
When people around you that you were once close to start to distance themselves from you, I realize I have no power to change anything. It’s driving me so mad and so hopeless inside, yet I choose not to show any of my fragility on the outside.
I guess I have accumulated too many negative emotions in me, and these emotions start to backfire.
And, it happened during the exam, again.
I had my second panic attack in my life. And the start of life with anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
Let me tell you how it feels when the panic attack is here.
You can clearly see it coming. The emotions just crawl up slowly. You can feel the blood flowing towards your head.
My heart was pounding so fast. I do not know what is happening.
After sitting in my seat, I start to feel panic, thinking I can’t screw up this important exam, and all the disastrous images formed in my head.
One reaction led to another. I felt my hands start shaking.
I felt a strong sense of detachment from my surroundings.
I look around. Everyone is focusing on their exam. The panic just heightened to a new level.
Am I having a heart attack?
I want to run, run out of this exam hall now.
I want to scream.
I can’t control myself.
All these overwhelming emotions took control of me.
I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. I felt so desperate, like a fish out of water.
Things just went downhill really fast from there.
I didn’t run away in that exam hall, but instead of neglecting the whole experience, like when I was 11 years old, this experience traumatized me even months after the exam.
I was scared, deeply scared.
Why can’t I seem to control myself?
What if similar things happen in the future?
All the ‘What ifs’ popped into my head.
I was like falling into a rabbit hole.
I can’t stop the thoughts, and all the unpleasant, disturbing thoughts pop up one after another.
I start to feel I might be dangerous to be around. I might hurt others. What if I can’t control myself and hurt my loved ones?
Every single action or thing in life can trigger an intrusive thought.
I was so hopeless, so scared, and so ashamed.
I lock myself up in the toilet at night, worrying I would harm others. I cry endlessly, thinking I might have gone crazy, and I will be harmful to everyone. I don’t know what to do.
Now looking back on those days, I didn’t know how I went through it, but I still can recall the deep fear I had.
I have never, not even one time, acted on my thoughts even though I constantly felt the urge to act on them.
This is not my road to recovery, but my learning journey. It will be a lifelong learning journey, and I want to share my insights with anyone going through the same path.
3 Key Takeaways After Years of Anxiety and Intrusive Thoughts
1. Don’t be fearful of anxiety and intrusive thoughts, it’s a self-care reminder for us
Looking back on the few years since the first time seeing OCD symptoms, it has been a roller coaster ride, but I am feeling very grateful for the experience today.
It has been truly a road of self-discovery and betterment. I learned so much about myself and the proper way to deal with my emotions and thoughts.
I embarked on the journey to understand many areas, including mindfulness, Zen, psychology, philosophy, and many more.
I do see my experience as a valuable lesson for me. It’s not just a sudden event but an accumulation of all the emotions and pressure on myself.
It’s a time to change a new set of thinking and start to love myself better.
2. Accept your thoughts and emotions, they are a part of nature
Everyone will have intrusive thoughts.
Just like when you are standing on the top of the mountain, you will admire the views, but you will also have another thought telling you to watch out and don’t fall.
We might even see ourselves falling down the hill.
These thoughts are completely normal. It’s our mind telling us to be careful and a mechanism to protect us.
All our emotions and thoughts are just part of the natural cycle. They are just like the weather.
Though we love a sunny day, we also have to accept there will be rainy days and snowy days.
Do not try to suppress and control your emotions and thoughts.
When you are sad, let your emotions out.
When you have a thought, just let them come naturally.
Watch them like a bystander.
They will all come and go.
Same for other things in life.
Things that are not controllable by us – like our future, or other people. We do not need to hold on the persistence to change them.
Just live every day fully and go with the flow.
3. Move forward daily and live in the present moment
Instead of focusing on your thoughts and emotions, put your attention on self-enhancement.
Read more books to know about yourself.
Start a healthy lifestyle.
Do the things that can help you to stay in the present moment.
Be patient. As long as you live every day, fulfilling and moving forward, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Everything will get better.
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