To the Little Girl Who's Afraid of Knives
Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
My room is on the right side of the house and the knives are also on the right side. A little closer to the middle of the house but definitely still on the right.
Two walls separate us — my wall and the bathroom wall, but that isn’t enough to keep the strength of the knives out of my mind.
I can’t go to sleep facing the right side of the house. I have to focus my vision on the left side, away from where the knives are placed. If I don’t do this, the vision of the knives will attack me.
When I was 8 years old, for some reason I was scared of knives. Not all knives, but these knives sitting in the block on the kitchen bench, in the middle of the house.
Before I went to bed each night, I had to do a ritual to ensure I wouldn’t see the knives when I shut my eyes to fall asleep. But, the image kept overpowering me. I had to extend my foot out from underneath the covers and touch the carpet beneath the bed at least three times before I could safely go to sleep, knowing the knives wouldn’t attack me in the night.
I knew the knives wouldn’t attack me but the image was wrong and uncomfortable and I needed to do something to fix it.
If I went to bed with the image of the knives in my head without touching the carpet three times, surely I would die.
Well, this is what I felt anyway.
I was scared of being hurt by them.
I was scared of using them to hurt someone else.
I was scared of my own thoughts.
I told my parents that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after staying up late one night Googling my symptoms, as I knew at the time the feelings and thoughts I was experiencing were not “normal.”
I told them my diagnosis, they looked at me blankly and told me not to worry.
But I did. And I kept worrying, until one day I just forgot about it. Well, at least I thought I did.
But the obsessions came back, partly with the image of knives in the house but mainly with the word “loser.”
This thought would pop into my head more than 50 times a day. I would say “no” every time I acknowledged the thought.
And so on and so on… until I learned to live with this as a typical part of my day. I just couldn’t get a handle on my thoughts, so I had to live with them as comfortably as I could. Some days were easier than others, but the thoughts never completely went away.
It took years of needless frustration, but eventually, I managed to stop the obsession with just one simple acknowledgment. The acknowledgment was this…
Telling myself: “I am having a thought. I am noticing I am having a thought; that is all it is, just a thought.”
I said this over and over and over and over again until one day, I started to believe it.
Soon enough, I was free from the needless struggle OCD had brought about.
My advice to my 8-year-old self?
I would tell my tiny, cute, adventurous and button-nosed self to acknowledge I am in control. I wish someone had sat me down and told me the simple truth, that I am in control of my fears and thoughts, and ultimately I am the only one to stop them.
Instead of being told to simply stop worrying (which, is quite possibly the worst advice ever), I needed to delve into my fears and ask myself why it was I was scared of knives and being hurt in the first place.
Acknowledging the fear could have helped me to cope with the obsessive thoughts when they came into my mind. If I had understood it was just a thought controlling me and I needn’t be afraid, I could have saved myself years of needless frustration and obsession.
In short, if you have or know someone with similar OCD, delving into the fear behind the thoughts can be extremely beneficial. It is possible to expel the thoughts that seem so real and deeply ingrained.
With a little time, effort and patience, it can be done.
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Getty Images photo via SergeyNivens