When you have lived with OCD for years, and it has manifested itself in a variety of ways, or ‘themes’ as they are called, it becomes difficult to distinguish a ‘real’ and ‘rational’ worry or effort, from one propelled by your obsessive nature. Yes, I know, part of therapy involves learning to not ask those questions, whether this is real or that is not, but it’s not always easy.
Growing up, I struggled with Pure ‘O’, and ritualistic behaviour. When I was fourteen, during summer vacation, I suddenly had this thought, how can I be sure I’m not a cannibal. I don’t think there was a specific trigger, it was just something that occurred to me, and I could not shake it off. My mother was lying next to me on our bed, and I felt scared, that I would harm her. I could barely sleep that night. The next morning, I got up and started reading up on cannibalism, to assure myself my thoughts are wrong, that I cannot be, of course I’m not. However, the more I read, the uncertainty grew, from narratives of cannibalistic communities to a particular story about a group of expeditioners stranded in snow capped mountains, without food, who started feeding on the corpses of their fellow expeditioners, to survive. This, scared me. People could become cannibals. I could become one, maybe I’m one, and just haven’t been pushed hard enough. I got increasingly terrified of becoming, quite literally, a monster. This was bad as it was, and soon enough, my obsessive thoughts and consequent attempts to reassure myself by reading up had acquired a newer theme – which was of sexual in nature. I visited websites, trying to hide what I was reading, whenever my mom or dad would enter the room. I felt miserable, and dirty, and like a pervert. Soon enough, I could not take it any longer, I broke down in front of my parents, I told them everything – they were puzzled, but supportive and took me to see a psychiatrist. I live in India, and mental health is a taboo topic in most families, and awareness, even amongst those educated, is grim. After navigating through three shrinks, two of whom did not offer anything conclusive, I got third time lucky. Actually, being diagnosed was a relief. It meant, this was not me, I was not this pervert, this monster.