Intrusive Thoughts - Don't suffer in silence

Recently I started thinking about what has been my biggest achievement in life so far. And out of everything, I realised that getting through day-to-day life whilst coping with what can for many be a disabling disorder has to be top of the list. Anyone who has suffered with anxiety or depression knows what it feels like to seem happy and like they are coping on the surface, whilst they are crying on the inside. But unlike a broken leg, it's very much a silent illness and not something that's seen or spoken about. For me, anxiety has taken the form of the "bully" known as OCD. Before I finally plucked up the courage to seek help, a day I left work early and cried my eyes out to a doctor I'd never met, if anyone told me I was suffering a form of OCD it would have seemed ridiculous. I always associated the disorder with people who clean things a hundred times over or people who check things repeatedly. I knew I had always been a worrier, a bit of a perfectionist and needed to revise for exams a stupid amount, but surely this wasn't OCD? However, it turns out OCD comes in many guises, all of which involve "intrusive thoughts", doubts and reassurance seeking. My anxiety all stems from a severe episode of anxiety, after finding myself completely overwhelmed and unable to cope only a few days into my course at Cambridge University. If it wasn't enough to feel I had failed at something I'd worked my whole life towards, the experience had terrified me and left me wondering how my mind could have gone to such a dark and scary place in a few short days. Even after I felt better, and found myself on a career path I enjoyed, I always worried that the anxiety might resurface the next time I found myself in a stressful situation and I'd find myself unable to cope again. One particular day while making the decision to progress my career, the anxiety worsened and led me to fear that I must be a "bad person" to deserve feeling this way and this is when the OCD really began. If someone had told me that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness, that I was not alone, this might have prevented future OCD periods of intrusive thoughts and doubting that I may have done something "bad" in the past, had repressed it from my memory and was now being punished. No matter how irrational the thoughts are, OCD can make you believe whatever you fear the most. It can make you feel so guilty and like you are the worst person in the world, something which is a far cry from your true self. It can leave you unable to relax until you have absolute certainty, something which is almost impossible to achieve. And worst of all, it can leave you feeling completely alone, for fear that talking about your problem will lead others to either believe your irrational thoughts or think you are completely crazy. Despite cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions and all the logic in the world, at times of stress my OCD can worm its way back in. The good news is that even though this disorder may never be completely "cured", I now understand and have techniques to cope with it. Just as importantly I have an amazing husband, family and close friends who I know are there for me no matter what. The number of friends I confided in, who have turned out to have suffered some form of mental illness, or know someone with a similar problem, has been eye-opening. You wouldn't wish this on your worst enemy, but there are lots of people suffering. Partly I'm writing this post for myself, to show myself its something I no longer need to hide or feel ashamed to talk about. But I'm also writing this post in the hope it might help anyone else out there who is feeling alone and suffering in silence. If you are, help is out there, you just need to ask for it. Making a trip to the doctors and seeking help was one of the best decisions I've ever made.