Intrusive thoughts :: WTF?

A few weeks ago Adam and I were watching Russell Howard’s tv show and one of the stand up comedienne’s came on stage and started with a skit about thoughts that just pop into your head, that you can’t control, that have no place there really and are just a bit… random.

I didn’t know that apparently this is a common thing, known as “Intrusive thoughts”.

Well blow me down bishes, I thought this was just me. I suffer with these thoughts terribly – who knew that a comedy show could be so enlightening.

Basically, intrusive thoughts are just that – intrusive, unbidden and often unshakable and unpleasant. I’ve always worried that it is just me that has these thoughts, thinking there was something wrong with me. These thoughts can be anything from planning out odd scenarios to “what ifs” of varying degrees. Mine almost ALWAYS centre around my children and they can vary from what if something happened to one of them, what would I do if XYZ and they often come late at night or during periods of stress. I also get them surrounding work – what if this happens, what if I can’t help support our family, what if I’m going to lose everything tomorrow because I just delete my accounts in a moment of total madness. Sounds odd right?

Apparently not for creatives and people who suffer from anxiety.

Yep, I had no idea that this was a thing but apparently its very much a thing and it’s all linked to that anxiety that I mentioned last week that I said I wasn’t prone to… apparently I was wrong, I’m very prone to it I just didn’t realise that this is how it was presenting. One of the most common thoughts when I was desperately tired with a constantly breastfeeding Edith was what if I suddenly snap? What if I can’t cope and I suddenly just… SNAP! Omg… and then I would build contingencies in my mind and be unable to get to sleep until I could plan around it. Yep. I had to plan around it – same as now that they are older. What if we go out and one of them gets lost? What if they get taken?

An overwhelming panic often sets in that I can’t control. I find myself fidgeting as if I can physically remove myself from these fears and worries, which them makes me question my own sanity. Why do these thoughts pop into my head? I can be thinking about the shopping and what I need to meal plan next week and the next moment I’m watching Reuben being led away by teenagers to a certain doom that I can’t prevent and making a mental note to talk to him in the morning about the safety of NEVER going off with anyone, even if they seem like “big boys” and how important that is to remember.

If you’re reading this and you don’t suffer from intrusive thoughts (or perhaps yours are slightly less… extreme) then you probably won’t understand. I often thought it was a part of post natal depression, something I was never diagnosed with though looking back at the fug I felt I was wading through, it seems likely I was suffering more than I care to admit.

Another thing I’ve discovered after researching this anxiety reflex/symptom, is that these types of thoughts are a coping mechanism for an anxious mind, but specifically are common in creative minds.

When people refer to me as a “creative” I always laugh. I am NOT creative in my mind. Creative people are the ones who make pinterest worthy crafts and recipes, creative people are hipsters that are totes rad and far FAR too cool for school, whereas I’m that person that is not only at school but the valedictorian of uncool and corporate. Funny how stereotypes twist things in our minds even when we do our best to fight them off. I am a creative, the way I can see a solution to marketing issues, create campaign ideas and advertise outside of the box. Those are creative things, they aren’t products of a corporate mind set, they are simply basic creativity that doesn’t fit inside a box.

So, intrusive thoughts… I wish I could tell you that knowing what they are has made it easier for me to control them and find them less horrible at times but, alas, no. Then they wouldn’t really be intrusive anymore would they. As a control freak it is something that really frustrates me and that I can feel totally overwhelming but as an issue solver (who ironically hates puzzles and riddles – go figure) I feel the need to solve the issue and once I’ve done that the thoughts pass. On occasion I can just stop them in their tracks and say “not tonight motherfucker” but that is not a common thing.

If you suffer from them, just know that you aren’t the only one. They suck, they are common and your brain is basically a giant dickhead but you’re stuck with it because it’s also the thing that tells you when to breathe… so maybe let it off once in a while when it goes doo-lally.

H x


  1. February 6, 2018 / 7:25 am

    I too have had these thoughts. Never knew they were more common in creatives! I used to get really stressed about them but then someone recommended a book that explains thoughts are just random thoughts and if you just let them go or ignore them and think “oh that was a funny thought” and move on, you can get over getting really fixated on them. I’ve only read it once but it helped and I know to go back to it again if I get a bad flare up of anxiety. Great post harriet xx ps book is called Stop thinking start living by Richard Carlson I think

  2. February 5, 2018 / 9:50 am

    I think everyone has intrusive thoughts… but maybe in different levels of craziness! I certainly have had the one you refer to about your kids being taken away by older children… this is the effect of things like the relatively recent news story about that girl in Glasgow (or Newcastle?) being led away from her mum whilst out shopping. It takes me back to the Jamie Bulger story and I can’t help but panic when I hear of such things. I look at my girls sometimes and my mind goes straight into the what ifs. It’s blood frightening actually. When something like that comes into my mind it can take me hours or days to shake the feeling off. I haven’t got an answer to why it happens or how to stop it but I’m so glad I’m not the only one.

  3. Paige Nancarrow
    February 5, 2018 / 9:49 am

    Ah the intrusive thoughts! They are so common and don’t necessarily mean you have anxiety it’s your brain preparing you about your worries if it impacts on your daily life e.g not leaving the house then it could be anxiety. If it makes you feel better mine are severe I didn’t leave the house for 2 years without another adult to help me protect my children. And due to other mental health problems I’m heavily medicated now but I finally have a life again!

  4. Elizabeth
    February 5, 2018 / 9:48 am

    This is reassuring to read that its not just me and that i’m not completely insane afterall. I constantly have a battle with my inner thoughts and over thinking things but this year I have been determined to be nicer to myself and surround myself with positivity, although I am finding this easier said than done.

  5. life_with_atty
    February 5, 2018 / 8:02 am

    This is 100000% me! I have these thoughts daily and what I’ve found helps is voicing them to my husband. Most of the time he looks at me with a wtf face and occasionally tells me I’m a bit loopy but it helps sometimes just to air the worry and talk it through with another person who isn’t having those thoughts and they almost seem to drift away. My most recent one was that my one year old son was crying in the night because he ‘knew’ it was his last night with us and he wanted to see us. I sobbed most of the night staring at the monitor waiting for him to cry again so I could squeeze onto him. Crazy what your mind does!

  6. Hanna
    February 5, 2018 / 7:12 am

    I suffer have these as well. Its vwry frustrasting and focus around my young children. Ive never rrally thought about others having them too. X

  7. Dena
    February 5, 2018 / 7:05 am

    Thank you. This well written piece has described me in a ‘nutshell’ I’m am much more honest about my ‘weird’ level of anxiety and can discuss how far fetched my mind goes but I never used to, I hid this scary side of myself and it felt so lonely. I truly believe you will helped so many readers with this article. Xx

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