Over the years when I have voiced some of the ways in which Ben manifests himself, it can be perceived as an overreaction. This is correct – it is. But it is also so much more than that. Some of the thought processes I have are completely illogical but they are also very real to me. And despite trying to fight Ben with rational thoughts, sometimes he wins.
I often have intrusive thoughts relating to myself or those I love. These can range from fairly neutral to horrifying.
I can be blow drying my hair and suddenly thoughts enter my head like “it’s going to explode”, “you will be electrocuted” or “your hair will get caught in it”. I immediately feel uneasy about using the hairdryer, or I will instinctively hold it further away from my head. Sometimes, I’ll just turn it off altogether.
I often have thoughts that something bad will happen if I’m at home and I go to bed without saying goodnight and I love you to my parents. I often have thoughts about something bad happening to them full stop. And the mere thought can create an incredible amount of anxiety and fear inside of me. This is very difficult to control until I can somehow push these thoughts out of my head.
I can be walking along the road and picture cars driving onto the pavement and hitting me. Or someone walking past and hurting me.
When I used to work in a bar I would sometimes picture myself leaning in to serve a customer and getting stabbed. These thoughts could create a lot of unease and I would often be on even more of a heightened alert to everyone’s behaviour around me.
These occasions can turn something perfectly mundane and ordinary into something that needs to be feared or ignored and I can see so clearly how easily people can become agoraphobic. The world outside can seem like such a scary place that people only feel safe whilst inside their own four walls. Fortunately, I haven’t ever reached that stage but there has been occasions where I am fearful of things such as sleeping or eating; both of which affect my health dramatically.
Food and eating have always been a trigger for Ben. But in a way that a lot of people don’t understand. If you are new here I’ll give a small update: I suffer with emetophobia (fear of sick/being sick). I had therapy for this back in February and although I would say it was successful and beneficial, I do still have issues surrounding this. Especially when it comes to myself becoming unwell and how to deal with the anxiety that arises. I often link eating/food to stomach bugs which creates a desperate need in me to control what and when I eat; or even if I eat at all during times of extreme anxiety.
I have a lot of irrational thoughts when it comes to sickness and illness in general. As a child I was always seen to be a hypochondriac – I would worry and obsess over the smallest things. I remember when I went through puberty and first started developing breasts I was convinced they were tumours. Every headache was a brain tumour, every minor ailment meant death or serious illness.
As I’ve gotten older the anxiety seems to focus mainly around actual vomiting. I don’t know why my brain allows me to be more rational in regards to aches and pains elsewhere in my body – but where my stomach is concerned, it’s always feared to be a bug.
A friend whose children I occasionally look after messaged me recently to inform me the family had come down with some illness. A normal, helpful thing to tell someone so they can avoid visiting and spreading the germs. But it sent me into a panic – I immediately worried that I had already caught a bug. I convinced myself that any stomach ache or any nausea was a virus doomed to make me throw up. When in fact, it would have been caused by Ben ramping up the adrenaline and panic within me. Only when the 48hr incubation period had passed without signs of illness did the anxiety begin to lessen.
Over the years I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have teased or undermined my fears around sickness; sometimes I can handle the attempts at jokes and return them in good faith. But in reality it gets less humorous when you remember it’s your actual life. Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to look back and find amusement where I once saw fear.