A big part of my mental health recovery journey has involved time spent on my own. Until I began cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in earnest in early 2020, I had done everything in my power to avoid being by myself.
When I was alone, all I had were my thoughts. There were no distractions from my feelings. Although I didn’t know it then, I was experiencing the full force of OCD. Alone, intrusive thoughts ran wild in my head, egged on by Jerk Brain. The stress and tension these endlessly negative and hurtful thoughts created had to be let out. I found relief in a compulsive behavior, talking to myself out loud.
Human beings talk to themselves as a normal part of life. Mostly, it’s an inner monologue. In my case, it was over the top. The longer I was alone, especially when I was traveling for work, the worse it got and the harder it became to conceal. The compulsion would come over me in public. I was terrified of how people would judge me, the assumptions they would make. Of course, the more I tried to control it, the worse it became.
The tools and techniques I’ve learned through CBT have addressed the underlying cause of my compulsive talking to myself. Now, I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and they do not become intrusive obsessions. The need to speak to myself out loud is no longer a compulsion.
Most surprising, I’ve found that I really enjoy my own company. That may be one of my biggest victories to date.