I thought it meant I was either losing my mind or a danger to children
Firstly you should know I have a physical disability which is just a part of my life and mostly does not bother me. I have always suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety and realistically depression and anxiety are a lot harder to deal with than my physical disability. I want to share with you how I discovered I have, obsessive compulsive disorder, specifically Pure –O.
I believe the ignorance and the lack of awareness around this illness increases its impact ten fold. Until researching this and its symptoms I really had no clue OCD could manifest in so many ways. In fact I perceived it as more of a quirk than the debilitating illness it is. I can’t express how frightened I am of people getting all of this twisted, with OCD the content of the thought is irrelevant, it does not in anyway mean I desire to carry out or act on my thoughts quite the opposite. I fear them so much I would do anything to prevent anything like my thoughts ever happening, anyway, lets start from the beginning.
It was the first Sunday of February this year and I am a student so obviously I was procrastinating, scrolling through my Facebook news feed and I scrolled past an image of a friend’s child, from this moment, it feels like my life changed, for some reason my mind changed this image into a naked child! Holy shit, the thought of a naked child entered my mind, this absolutely repulsed me, I thought it meant I was either losing my mind or a danger to children, at the time of having this initial thought I had a panic attack because I couldn’t deal with the thought. I just thought my life was over, the very thought felt as bad as taking pleasure in such thoughts (a thought process known as “Thought Action Fusion”). After the attack and throughout that day I ruminated on that thought, reasoning that because I was so disgusted, disturbed and distraught by the thought, it meant that I would be OK. This helped calm my anxiety for a tiny amount of time, but then the thought of the thought and its possible meanings flooded back, so I told myself, if I do not figure this out, if this feeling doesn’t go away, if this fear doesn’t go away, I will go up north (where my family live) and confess it to a friend, and beg him to kill me if this thought that I never asked for, or had any say over, made me a Paedophile… (my friend would never do this, I now see the stupidity in that idea). I was frightened to Google these thoughts, in case I would find out that I was either legitimately losing my mind or something I detest and can’t ever be OK with.
I got very little sleep that night, I was trapped in my head. To me all of this was very real, I was convinced if I told anyone, the nature of my thoughts and then the subsequent thoughts that they would deem me a paedophile. I couldn’t step back and realise that these thoughts made me ill, I was sweating and freezing, I have openly campaigned against child abuse, so there was and is no reason for anyone to think I would be capable of taking pleasure from such thoughts let alone acting on them. Oh and one big thing, I’m physically confined to my wheelchair which made and makes my worry so irrational and I see that. Anyway I remember my carer coming in the next morning to get me dressed, I told her I was ill and to come back later, I remember every sound being loud, she asked me if I wanted headache tablets when I told her my head hurt, I replied no “inside my head hurts” she suggested I see a doctor and seemed frustrated out of concern that I wouldn’t. How on earth do I explain this I thought? I had never felt so alone. That first week was a living hell.
Once I got out of bed I emailed my universities counselling service to ask for an emergency appointment. I thought “well it’s confidential” and that if my counsellor thought I was a danger he’d do something about it. I told him about the thought and he did the best he could just to listen but I was annoyed, I wanted reassurance, that’s not his job though. Neither of us knew what to do.
Luckily after Googling unwanted thoughts I discovered the term “intrusive thoughts” and I found an article. I cried whilst reading it, I think I read it three times in a row, I cried out of relief, relief and empathy.
I wrote a comment on the article which simply read, “Thank you Thank you Thank you”. The first person I told besides my counsellor was a friend who runs a social group I attend, I’ll refer to her here as “B”. I told her and started to cry and heave. She told me “Kyle, I know this is not you, it’s anxiety, you love children and would never harm them” and since then she’s always been there for me. This friend will never get how grateful I am for her patience, if she just did her job I don’t think I would be anywhere near recovery, I sent her every link I found that related to me and we would talk through them.
Without Rose Bretécher’s “Pure O A rude awakening” I wouldn’t have gone to my GP. I’m not lying when I say this woman’s account of her experience with what I now know I have, has become like a bible to me. I showed my Mam, and I think she said “Yup that’s you” after I told her all the gunk in my head a few days prior sobbing while Facetiming and Facebooking, I sent her links to prove this wasn’t me. My Mam never asked for proof, she didn’t need it, she knew and knows who I am.
I showed the article to B and she said something like “well this is the answer” – she of course reminded me of how brave I was. I found being called brave hard to understand. I was so frightened, I felt like a different person, like life had stopped. I felt guilty, I felt shame. B wrote me a note to give to a doctor and we printed multiple copies of the article, one for my care plan so my carers could see it, one for my doctor and B also showed my learning facilitators.
I made an appointment to see a doctor, I ended up seeing a nurse, and I don’t mean to be mean to nurses, however this nurse did not handle me with great care at all, she looked over the note that B wrote and kind of interrogated me. The reason I had the note was so I didn’t have to speak my thoughts, however the nurse pretty much forced me to verbalize my thoughts. After this she asked me what I’d been watching on TV. I bumbled through my Netflix history, this made me feel so sick and angry. She nodded not really listening and turned to a computer, looked up my meds and said something like “well I’ll book you into see the doctor, but I think it’s your medication”. The medication that she claimed was the problem I have been taking for 7 fecking years without a problem. I saw a doctor about a week later. Below is a document I wrote and gave to my doctor to explain my head at the time.
Once I realise the thoughts are just thoughts, that I never asked for and they are apart of a glitch in my brain I feel better. However that does not stop the glitches, the glitches in my mind. Over analysing images in my mind. Then over analysing the over analysing, this in turn convinces me I must be suppressing, at this moment I’m forgetting this is part of what ever malfunction my brain has. The horrid thing is, is that, the last line will be turned against me, it will somehow be part of the grand cover up. If I was my phobia that are embedded within my thoughts, I would not feel this dead inside, I would not be scared of my own mind. I would be able to feel like I can live again. No these thoughts could never represent me as a person, there’s no rest right now from the internal burning questions that rationally I know the answers to. Look, all children are beautiful, I can find them pretty while being innocent, my brain though right now is twisting the meanings trying to convince me it’s not innocent and it means I am what I hate. Last night, I saw my two year old sister’s legs and innocently thought “chubby cute” but like a beast my brain turned that against me. So then I wonder why, it’s a malfunction, cause time after time I test and I check and there is no adult attraction, it’s the malfunction. I wrestled with it last night in my bed, fought and thought I’d won, told myself I’d never become, I’d never be one, closed my eyes saw beautiful women, felt normal again, only for obscene half visions to break me down. Don’t ask me to describe them, I don’t fully remember them. I’m told not to fight or suppress them but to ignore them so I tried then I questioned the morals of ignoring such obscene thoughts, I fight back with “I’ve told people. If I was, I wouldn’t be telling people, I wouldn’t feel so horrified”, It launches an argument with “your just hiding and confessing” it won’t listen. I suppose there’s bittersweetness in the fact that rationally I will never become this and at worst this can only ever really harm me and no other person. It tells me, that it will and it will make me look at child porn, although I never have and I never will, it tells me I scroll through facebook just to look at young girls, in reality I scroll through facebook out of sheer habit and boredom and its always been that way for years. It’s pathetic, if I was religious I would describe it as a demon, this is what I imagine hell to be like, there’s no escape, although it does take short breaks only to come back when I scroll past an image of a pretty child. The feeling I get at this point is panic, it turns my stomach, it tells me that if I scrolled past so quick, that that means I’m running away, if I go back to check and find like always no adult arousal no adult attraction, it asks me why I had to check, and round and round we go again.
I was so scared giving the doctor this but my carer and B as well as my Mam told me this was important to share and the doctor would understand me, this was very very hard to believe. I was convinced I was going to be thrown away, I was wrong. The doctor seemed concerned, concerned for me not about whether I was a danger. he said that he would refer me to a psychiatrist.
It was a few weeks until I saw the psychiatrist, in those few weeks I was lost just going through the motions. OCD is often described as the doubting disease. I can totally get this. Those few weeks and even now I doubt that I’m the good person I was before all this started. To me sometimes anything that has a remote chance of happening will happen in OCD logic. I have spent days reliving meaningless childhood events in my head for some answer and this hurts, it’s brutal. OCD is a bully, it hurts, it changes themes. Once your mind finds away to deal with one theme, it’s a new worry, for example I started to worry whether I was going schizophrenic, not that I understand that illness. My OCD figured out that I fear losing control and would cause harm as a result of an illness. This is very common. I’ve spent hours wondering whether strangers are real, listening to every sound and finding its source to quell fears of hearing things. I also obsess over my memory and the fear of having dementia, so I force myself to remember things that have just happened. I would never say Pure O was worse than the more well known OCD, that would be very misleading, the level of torment and anguish is the same for the sufferer. The lack of public knowledge about Pure O is shocking though.
On April 9th 2015 I went to an appointment anxious, worried as hell, while I was in the waiting room I filled in a mood chart then I got called into a room with the same psychiatrist as before and another doctor of some sorts, we spoke about my thoughts, which at this point centred more around my worries of going insane or developing dementia. I was asked whether I avoided stuff, I told them I was avoiding being alone. I explained that I never watched television but if I had to I was scared because I couldn’t determine what would come on, unlike with Netflix. Strangely I was asked if I’d been in hospital a lot as a child, I was. Then she asked me if I was worried about things as a kid. I was obsessed with my Mam getting cancer and dying. I was worried for some reason that my dad would be murdered, therefore if I was at my dads and called on him and he didn’t answer I would automatically think of him being dead and then me being left at my dad’s house to die. In reality he just didn’t hear me. I was asked if I performed any rituals and apart from the mental checks I said there was nothing. The doctor said, well, the diagnoses is OCD and she wrote the phrase “I have OCD, this is an obsessional thought” she told me things about OCD that I already knew and encouraged me to learn about it, which would not be a problem giving the fact that I bled the internet dry of OCD anxiety and depression information while waiting for help. The doctor asked whether I wanted to tell my carer or whether she should tell my carer. I got the doctor to tell my carer as I wanted the clinical proof, not that my carer would doubt me. I would doubt me, I do doubt me and that is Pure OCD.
Going through what I have been through makes me angry, hurt and hopeless, until I realise that I’m not alone and millions fight with this everyday and millions live, and live well with this. However millions feel as lonely as I did, on that first Sunday and don’t have the support which I have had. I genuinely want to help those people who are struggling with any mental illness. My way of paying it forward if you will perhaps. If you are suffering in anyway please take care, please believe that you matter and you can get help.
Categories: The Wall