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A Penny for your Intrusive Thoughts

Turning Pain into Purpose interview with A Penny for your Intrusive Thoughts

It all began at the 2017 International OCD Foundation Annual Conference in San Francisco at a session about taboo intrusive thoughts. The session consisted of a panel of OCD sufferers moderated by Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale, who is open about her own struggles with OCD. To start out, the panelists handed out slips of paper on which they asked the audience to write anonymous questions. Then they collected the papers and began to answer as many questions as they could. I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the questions I could relate to. The questions were raw and honest, about all the OCD topics that people tend to avoid talking about. There were people asking how they could know for sure that they were not pedophiles, others who asked how to deal with thoughts of murdering family members. I had been diagnosed with OCD about a year and a half prior to that conference, so I knew the basics of different OCD topics, but this session opened my eyes to the types of OCD people in my therapy group didn’t talk about, the thoughts I had never dared to tell my therapist, the thoughts I didn’t even know were OCD. Hearing other people’s questions had a freeing effect. Some people submitted questions about therapy for certain symptoms but others just wrote a symptom they had, and as the panelists read them out loud, people nodded and murmured in agreement that they had had the same thoughts.

There were so many touching questions that I cannot remember them all, but one stood out to me in particular. How do I convince my son he didn’t rape me?It made me want to cry hearing that question and imagining the shame that the poor kid must feel. I thought of all the stereotypes about OCD. No one says “I’m so OCD, I’m convinced I raped my mother.” As someone with OCD I didn’t even know that such thoughts were a type of OCD. It was about six months later, when I found my mind still wandering to that mother’s question, when the idea for A Penny for Your Intrusive Thoughts came to me. I wanted to find a way for people who have embarrassing, shameful and taboo intrusive thoughts to share them so they could realize they are not alone. These taboo thoughts are not often part of blog posts. They are the thoughts that people leave out when they tell their stories. That is why A Penny for Your Intrusive Thoughts is anonymous. With the option of anonymity so many more people have opened up about the thoughts they never thought they could share with anyone and felt completely alone in having.


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