Fourteen years I was in my first year at college. I’d gone through a period of drug abuse after leaving the air force but had started to get my life together. Anyway I was at a friend’s house one day with his two daughters when this “what if” thought popped into my head. The thought was essentially related to whether I was capable of hurting a child physically or sexually. I was extremely disturbed by this as I had always had good relationships with children, babysat for my mother’s friends when I was a teenager and never had any self-doubt in this area before. However within days of it starting, I was avoiding supermarkets at certain times of day, avoiding walking past schools etc. The thoughts became more and more intrusive, my experiences of anxiety became more and more extreme and my distress grew daily. I really believed I was losing my mind – what I now know to be a classic symptom of anxiety and OCD – which I was later diagnosed as having.
Over the years the problem has been manageable at times and extremely upsetting at other times. I got a degree, MA, worked successfully as a journalist for several years and got married. The contrast was that in my personal life (and secretly) I tried many types of therapy (private and NHS), lots of different anti-depressants, been to OCD self-help and support groups but without ever really getting any better.
There is a lot more to my story than the synopsis above. I can say with all sincerity that my belief in the rights and well-being of children has never changed and to be frank I can’t believe that my OWN mind has done this to me. I’ve compared myself to the worst abusers imaginable, have cried myself to sleep, ritualised over and over again, had so many panic attacks while desperately trying to maintain a facade of normality. I know from my own research over the years and of course from talking to professionals that I suffer from an extremely upsetting form of OCD which is not entirely uncommon and I take comfort from the fact that statistically people with this illness are highly unlikely to hurt others. I do, however, desperately want to improve my well-being, be less afraid, be happier, help other people and even have children. I don’t believe that these aspirations are unreasonable or unrealistic.
As I said I go through periods when it is not so bad. However, recently I’ve had extremely distressing intrusive thoughts about being violent to my girlfriend. It’s unbearable and terrifying – I understand it but at the same time I don’t; the same feelings of “impending insanity” and panic overwhelm me. I think “how can I go on like this?” I feel like I want to avoid her – just like I felt previously that I had to avoid my nieces and nephews and other children.
It’s very upsetting.