Because we are bad

CW: suicide, OCD, abuse

Yesterday, I listened to a podcast on the recommendation of my mother and one of my friends. It was on the ABC, Conservations program, titled 'The strange reality of life with severe OCD'. The interview was with Lily Bailey, a 22 year old UK based writer and model - she spoke about her experience with OCD and her book released earlier this year, 'Because we are bad: OCD and a girl lost in thought'.

After listening to the podcast, I downloaded the book on my phone and read it in a few hours. Many parts of the book sounded like they could have been my diary, the way she would analyse and go over every interaction and every little thing she had done wrong and what this meant about her character. How accidental glances at people meant that she was a pervert, that she had killed people with her brain and the compulsive praying of her childhood sounded a bit like mine. 

Bailey describes the mental chaos that rang in her head for as long as she can remember - she talks about the voice as 'we' - we did this, we thought that - she thought everyone else's brains worked this way, her friend was there all the time, unlike the other children whose imaginary friends seemed to only be around as a phase. 

"Ever since I can remember my brain has been flooded with weird and strange and uncomfortable thoughts, What if I kill someone with a thought? What if I think I want that person to die and then they do? What if my sister dies in her sleep? What if family leaves me in the night?"

Her book talks about how she would convince herself she was a pervert if she happened to look at someone's chest, a pedophile if she looked at a child, a murderer if she thought that someone had died. Then would come a huge list of every little thing she had said, done or thought wrong throughout the day.

Although my compulsions are a little different - they lie in going over the things that I might have done during the day but not in a list way and repeating certain phrases if I think I might have done anything bad - something along the lines of "kill myself...kill myself...kill myself" hundreds of times each day to reassure myself that I do not want to think or do whatever bad thought or minute action I may have done. Another compulsion of mine, more similar to Lily’s is spelling out the bad word I have done until the total number of letters is divisible by 5. However, if it is a ten letter word, it needs to be done 10 times or a 5 still needs to be spelt 5 times.

Bailey talks about how she underwent CBT and exposure therapy to challenge her OCD, something that initially left that voice in her head in a strop. She only got help when she was 16 as she had internalised most of what she was going through.

"Until I was 16 nobody realised. Because I was so centred around not being perceived as bad, I hid it so people thought I was a a good student with nice friends and a happy life."

This seems to be something that is pretty common with people with this type of OCD, I know it was for me. That voice in my head would say I couldn't tell anyone about what I thought, that I was a monster and that I deserved to go to jail. Like Lily, it took me a very long time to work out that I was in fact not a psychopath and believe that maybe this was just OCD - just not the type that is really spoken about. 

I would really recommend reading Lily's book to anyone who wants to understand what it is like inside the head of someone with OCD or if you struggle with it yourself. I will warn you that all this is quite raw for me at the moment as I've really only started getting help and you might find it a bit confronting too if it's like your experience, but it is reassuring to know that you aren't the only one and you really aren't all that bad.

If you're struggling with OCD, the International OCD foundation is a great place for information. If you're in a crisis situation call lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to the emergency department.