Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Obsessive Thoughts.....12345678

Note, before you read this post:

In the past I've talked about the obsessive thoughts I had about a particular guy. This post is not about that. I actually deleted old posts about him a long time ago, as I was so humiliated by that obsession, and there are not many mentions of him anywhere on this blog now. But I will mention that those thoughts are one type of obsessive thought that plagued me for 12 years.

Now, onto the post:

Lately I've had this TMJ pain. A spot near my right ear and my jaw gets hit with this throbbing, incessant pain, so that this spot hurts, then the pain stops for a second. Pain comes back, pain stops, and the pattern goes on, sometimes all day long. I take Naproxen and just deal with it, but it's really annoying. I mention this because there's a similar problem with my thoughts.

Like a hammer hitting me in the head, over and over, nailing them into my brain, obsessive thoughts plague me. They have always been there, to some degree, for many years, but particularly since I developed psychosis, though the thoughts occur even without psychosis. I mean, I can be completely free of hallucinations and delusions, which I almost am right now, but these horrible OCD-like, repetitive, intrusive, unwelcome thoughts are getting hammered into my head over and over. It's like this: BANG! pause. BANG! pause. BANG! pause. The thoughts come, then stop, then come again. It's a word, or a phrase, usually, but it is repeated in my head and I cannot control it.

I've had this obsession with numbers since I was a little kid. I would be sitting somewhere, or going to sleep, and I'd count. Count forwards, count backwards, count again. I'd count to 10, or count to 100, or try to count to 1000. If I had something I had to do, and didn't feel motivated to do it, I'd make myself get up and move as soon as I was done counting. I'd use the numbers as a force to motivate myself. I was prone to depression since age 12, and first diagnosed at age 15 after a suicide attempt. As I'm sure you know, depression leads to a lack of desire to do things. So I'd procrastinate about something, and then count to make myself do what had to be done. The strange thing is, I still do that today. I've done it now for most of my life. It's a weird thing, but it's not a major problem of any kind, so I never actually talked about it with anyone. I don't think I've ever mentioned it here, even. But I count when I have to get up for work in the morning, before I get out of bed I'll go to twenty, then backwards to zero, then to twenty again, then backwards again, until, finally, I tell myself it's enough and I can get up and go.

Here is what it feels like in my mind:

It's time to get up.Italic Count to 50. Count backwards from 50 to 0. Do it a gain. Do it again. I need to get up and go to work. Count to 60. Do it again. Do it backwards. Count to 20. No, 30 feels like a better number. Zero to 30 two times. Then backwards. Okay, I can get up now.

Then, there have been the times when the obsessive thoughts were a real problem. When I had anorexia from my early teens, until around age 20, numbers meant a great deal because my entire universe revolved around calories, fat grams, and, later, carbs. When I was in my twenties, a few times I had bouts of the eating disorder again, and the number issue would become an obsession again. How many calories I could eat in one day, during these periods, was the issue that ruled my world.

I'm in my thirties now. I do not have anorexia anymore. I don't consider myself a "recovering" anorexic, because personally that doesn't feel accurate, but I understand why other people use that terminology. I just think that I overcame it, and it feels more empowering to me, and more accurate, to state that it isn't a problem I have anymore. I could be wrong, of course.

But because of my antipsychotic meds causing extreme weight gain and a slow metabolism, I now have a very real, problematic weight issue which affects my health. I am pre-diabetic. (As I've mentioned before, I gained 100 pounds in three years after going on antipsychotics, after previously having always been 100 pounds or less for 15 years.) Now, I legitimately need to lose a lot of weight. Strangely, my past talents at defeating the hunger urge no longer exist at all. I eat too much because I am hungry literally all the time, due to the Seroquel and probably also the Risperdal and also the Anafranil that I recently stopped taking with my doctor's approval.

The only reason I was ever on Anafranil was the obsessive thoughts. It's an old treatment for OCD symptoms. Anafranil is no longer used as commonly as other drugs like Luvox to treat OCD, but I had some kind of bad side effect from Luvox in the past that no longer comes to my memory, and so, I ended up on Anafranil for several years. Since going off of it, I do not notice the obsessive thoughts being necessarily worse, but they still exist every single day, which is why I knew that the Anafranil wasn't working.

Some of the obsessive thoughts are about horrible things, or gross things. When I was severely depressed and/or psychotic, they were often about death and suicide. But I haven't been severely depressed in the past two years, really. I don't get very psychotic these days (knock on wood), thanks to the meds that do work. Yet, I still have the thoughts. For example, I'll hear someone say something disgusting about something to do with bathroom issues, and then that thought will come back to haunt me over and over and over again, and I never really get rid of it. That's a mild version.

Worse, at times the thoughts are about criminal things or weird statements that I would never actually say myself; they come from some bizarre mental hell and they are always things that I would be horrified to even think of thinking, if I had a choice about it. My therapist told me that this is how obsessive thoughts and OCD work. You think of the very last thing that you would ever normally think of, and that thought comes back over and over, because the fact that it horrifies you and shocks you makes it recur more and more. So, she'd try to get me to tell her what the thoughts were. In some cases, I never told her, because I was humiliated by it. She told me once that if I never told someone about it, the thoughts would have more power and would just continue. I guess that is part of the reason I am writing this post. I would like to put the problem out into the open somewhat so I can try to diffuse the power it has in my brain. If it's true that the secrecy worsens the problem, then perhaps I can lessen the problem by talking about it here.

My therapist told me about other clients she had and the kinds of obsessive thoughts they'd have, so I would realize that I am not the only person with this problem. One of the stories she told me about was a devout Catholic, elderly woman who came to see her because whenever the woman went to church and was praying, suddenly the horrifying phrase, "F#$k you, God!" came to her mind. My therapist explained this as an example of how the obsessive thought is based on the last thing a person would normally be thinking about.

I miss my therapist. She's very knowledgeable and was a huge help to me the past three years. I can see myself having more problems lately because I do not have her to talk to anymore. Nothing I can do about that though. It is thanks to the government that she can't have me as a client anymore, and in truth she allowed me to keep coming for many months after they stopped paying the community mental health center for my visits. She literally gave me therapy for free, which was incredibly kind. As I write this post, I wish I could discuss the obsessive thoughts with her, because she would probably have some helpful input about the situation.

The obsessive thoughts are certainly not the worst problem I've had. They're not life-threatening and they don't ruin my life or anything. However, they are an incredible nuisance. Sometimes they are completely innocuous; for example, as certain word like "sing" will have a special feel to it, and I will have to say, "sing", in my mind to myself, over and over because I'll have this obsessive urge to do so. That's not a harmful thing. I'm sure it's not a normal thing either. But I don't consider it worth worrying about. Similarly, I have this habit of moving my feet compulsively whenever I'm sitting somewhere, and the only reason I'm even aware I do it is that my sister finds it incredibly irritating to see, so she snaps at me to stop it frequently. But, like "sing", this is not a real problem.

On the other hand, the gross thoughts or inappropriate words that come to mind bother me a great deal, and I would really love to have a way to get rid of them for good. I know that if I mention them to my doctor (who is actually an A.R.N.P., not a doctor), she'll be ready to put me on yet another pill, to treat this problem. I really don't want to go on another medication right now, if I can avoid it. I am on so much already, and I have to think about the long-term consequences of that and weigh those against the possible benefits another medication would have. Such is life with psychiatric illnesses.

Interestingly, I hardly think about the obsessive thoughts much of the time. This is because I am so used to them, I just normally treat them like a part of my life, and not indicative of something worth worrying about. Then, at times I wonder, "do other people's brains work this way?", and I suppose not. I'm sure some of you reading this might relate, but probably not most of the general population. In the past couple of years there have been a number of television programs on OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and in watching some of those programs, I became aware that some of my obsessive thoughts and compulsions to count and move my feet in a certain pattern are really indicative of a misfiring in my brain, not just some personal oddity.

I'm interested in your feedback regarding obsessive thoughts, and what your own experiences with them have been like, so please feel free to comment.

1 comment:

  1. I found your post when googling anafranil and schizophrenia. My brother was diagnosed with schizohphrenia and nothing seemed to help him at first. After about a year and a half, all of the halucinations and delusions had subsided, but what remained was obsessive behavior such as repeating the same statements over and over, pacing, and constant praying. He was prescribed Anafranil and about a week later- I have my brother back. I now wonder if the obsessiveness is what caused his psychosis. I also have traces of OCD and can only imagine what it is like at a more severe level and with particularly frightening or horrible thoughts. He is doing so well and has been for a few weeks now- but I am almost afraid to believe it. I just wanted to share this because few people can understand how incredibly devastating something like that can be. He was completely unable to function socially or personally.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your blog.


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