In 1992 while living in America, I became pregnant with my second child. A few months later my husband was made redundant. At 7 months pregnant I flew half way across the world to have my baby in Singapore. Three weeks after my C section my family and I resettled in the UK. I stayed with my in-laws temporarily and moved house two more times before we could purchase our own home. Meanwhile my father-in-law passed away after a long struggle with cancer. When my husband found work outside the UK I stayed behind to look after my 2 young children in a small village in the south of England.
When my baby was 5 months old I started to have recurring thoughts about a small incident at my father – in – law’s funeral. These unwanted thoughts had such an emotional charge that every time I picture the incident I get upset . I would cry. Things got worse when I started to cry for no reason. The thoughts were intrusive and interfered with my daily routine. I could not concentrate on the simplest of tasks and it occupied my mind for most of the day. When my 5 year old son asked me why I was crying I started to panic and feared that I was going mad. I felt scared and exhausted . In desperation I went to see my GP. I thought that he was going to be dismissive of me. Instead my GP listened carefully and referred me to a mental health practitioner.
At the first session the MHP took a history. She reflected to me that in one year I lived in 3 countries – experienced redundancy, birth and death and now caring for my young family without my husband. She instructed me to wear a rubber band on my wrist and to snap that rubber band each time I have the thoughts. She helped me put the incident in perspective so that I wouldn’t load it with negative emotions.
Skeptical about the process but desperate to get better, I tried the technique for 2 weeks and guess what? It worked! I saw the MHP for another session and that was it. The rest of the time I did my own internal work. No pills, no long therapies, just a technique and sorting out of thoughts.
Looking back I’m convinced that my intrusive thoughts came from relentless stress that I had generally managed well but never gave myself enough ” me ” time to regroup. I basically took care of everyone but did not see to my own needs. The incident itself wasn’t that traumatising. It was at best a little embarrassing. Now I would just shrug it off or laugh it off. But at that time due to my stress levels I made it into a very big deal – to such an extent that it affected my mental health. I have learnt many things since that incident in 1992. One would argue that snapping a rubber band and causing pain – thus associating pain with unwanted thoughts is a mild form of self harm. For me it wasn’t. The pain if you can call it that was rather mild . As it was self inflicted you can control how hard you snap that rubber band. More importantly it worked for me. For those who do not wish to have the rubber band you can snap your fingers or clap your hands to literally snap out of the intrusive thoughts. But I thought the rubber band technique was the most discreet and would attract little attention if you are in a public place. Please share if you’ve experience something similar.
#thought stopping # mental health practitioner #stress#association