That’s what I like about me, there’s always that stubborn and insistent side that, for real, KNOWS. Knows that I CAN do it, that eventually I WILL.
Hello, my name is Rodrigo. I am 21 years old and live in Costa Rica. I have a wonderful family: mom, dad, four sisters -two with families of their own-, two nephews, and a niece. My friends are wonderful, supporting, incredibly helpful, and just plain awesome. I am a filmmaker and a musician, passionate for both art forms. I have nothing to complain about in my life – I would like to be a little taller, but that’s frivolous – but I am far from being fine. Actually, I am not fine. I am doing badly. Allow me to tell you why; and bear with me, because I like detail.
On a Tuesday in June of 2014 I was practicing keyboard in my room when, suddenly, this little thought crossed my mind: “What if I… raped somebody?” My reaction was a serious face and an internal “Whoa”; however, I didn’t make much of it. I kept on practicing, only a little distressed. I spent the rest of that day having that question in mind, but attributed it to just “being distracted”. The next day, I was constantly repeating to myself “I will not think about rape today”, even during practice, which of course only distracted me more.
It didn’t take long for the question to leave my mind. But something came to replace it: images. Images of me raping a woman, child, or man; getting caught by the police; being thrown into jail; being on the news; my friends hating me and leaving me, alone; my parents and sisters crying, disappointed. I applied the same technique as before, “I will not think about rape today”, every day, and added REALLY TRYING to focus on whatever I was practicing or studying. By the end of the week, I wasn’t a man rapist anymore, but I was still a woman and child rapist -in my head, of course-. I was a monster that only needed the right time and opportunity to reveal myself. My TRUE self.
I didn’t know what to do. Tell mom or dad? They’d freak out (especially since one of my older sisters had given birth to her first son earlier that year – yes, he was in the images too). Tell one of my friends? HELL NO; they would stop hanging with me, and eventually everyone would know. Go to a psychologist? He or she could tell the police and I’d be done for. So, I kept quiet, as per usual.
I could be eating, hanging out with my friends, at the movies, riding the bus, taking a walk… and these images would just rush at me. If I’d be out in public and a woman or child passed by me, or I passed by them, my brain would go into “rape mode”, with them as protagonists. If I was in a class, I would sit soaking in the shame of the thoughts I was having, always wondering “what would my classmates – particularly the female ones – think of me if they knew what’s going on in my head?”.
But my obsession with rape was not just about doing it. I dreaded the idea of it happening to any of my sisters or my mom. I would picture myself going to the deep trenches of the internet to check child pornography. I would react with anger and contempt to news of child abuse, child rape, violence against women, kidnappers, etc. Regarding this last one, I would imagine punishing these people myself. Beating them. Sometimes killing them. “They deserve that… right?”. But of course, my brain took this as me masking my appetite for sexual violations with fantasies of vigilantism.
I tried to control the thoughts (the rape ones; didn’t care much for the punishing ones). Tried to reason with myself that “sex is only enjoyable if both people want to do it with each other” or that “there’s nothing sexual about children”. I’d imagine myself saving a woman or child from such situations, to KNOW I was a GOOD guy. Which worked. And then didn’t.
Eventually the thoughts mutated. I wasn’t raping women anymore in my head, I just thought about them getting raped. And the worst of all: I was convinced at this point I was a pedophile, and will eventually awaken. Children weren’t sexually attractive to me -obviously- but my brain thought one day they would be (“hey, some grandpas pop their cherry at 66, why would you be any different?”). My brain was always telling me that the thoughts were just a repressed and subconscious desire.
Every day that passed meant getting closer to my reveal as a monster. I was distressed, disturbed, even grossed out at times. Lost my sex drive at times (masturbation wise, I’m still a virgin -told you I liked detail, sorry-). But make no mistake, my life wasn’t stopped, it kept going. I powered through everything. I still went to parties, hung out with friends, went to the movies, ate with my family; still practiced, and still studied, A LOT. My body at least did. My mind was always split between “Pedophile Ville”, whatever I was doing at the moment, and screaming internally “Why these thoughts?”, “Why the hell now?”, “What the FUCK is WRONG with ME?”.
Around November, however, I came across a video about intrusive thoughts. And I was okay! It was NORMAL to have intrusive thoughts! Yay! I wasn’t a repressed pedophile anymore. I was fine. Or not. For a while -quite a while, actually- I didn’t have these thoughts, but there were some small pieces of them still floating around my thinking space. I would see a child and quick thought like “Some children in the world are raped” would appear. Or I’d see a kid and immediately turn my head away. And don’t get me started on the goddamn groinal response. As for raping women, that was gone, somehow. During this time off, I was constantly dissatisfied with the results of my practice and studying, took breaks from it frequently, and just didn’t feel well all of the time. But the thoughts were gone, so yay.
In August of 2015, I received a call (on a Tuesday, weird right?) from my drum teacher, who had a job for me: conduct an elementary school band for the parades of our Independence Day. Yes… elementary school. Yes… children. He was asked to do it, but already had been hired by another school. I didn’t freak out, though, I accepted without question: it was an exciting chance to do something I’d never done before and I wasn’t going to let some bullshit thoughts (or fragments of thoughts, at the time) stop me from doing it. As soon as I hung up the phone I got ready and headed to the school to meet the band and talk to the principal; my drum teacher was there, as well. Turns out, it was the elementary school I went to. Life is so weird.
In case you are not familiar with the history of this small piece of land in Central America, Independence Day is September 15th; this means I had around five weeks to take these non-musician children and get them to play some drum tunes. They also asked me to build up a little band with PRESCHOOL children for the parade the school has on September 14th. I said yes to this too (I like challenges, apparently).
Now, I am most definitely not a qualified teacher nor have very good people skills (with everyone; babies stare at me like saying “what do you want?”, as I do to them). Put that together with only five weeks of preparation, children being children (you know, energetic, chaotic, talky-talky, etc.), and little rehearsal time and what you get is A LOT of stress and anxiety. Plus, a little extra: when I set out to do something, I want it to come out as great and awesome as possible, and demand a lot from everybody, including myself. I still remember how, amid all this craziness, one day while getting the kids’ instruments ready for practice, the thoughts came back hitting me like a freight train. And this time, I was IN CHARGE of children. And this time, the thoughts were REAL, this time I was for sure a pedophile, it wasn’t intrusive thoughts, that didn’t exist in me.
Since I was very busy with the two bands (again, powering through), I didn’t ruminate as much as the first time. But they were THERE, like a cloud above, below, and all around me. I feared getting “too close” to my students and really didn’t try to talk or connect with them, to avoid being seen as “creepy”. If they’d come into the instruments’ storage room to chat with me, I sure as hell wasn’t focused on what they were saying; all that was in my mind was the thought of people talking about how I was “alone in the storage room with children”.
Based on previous experience, I turned to the internet for answers. “What if I’m a pedophile?”, I asked all-wise Google. Pedophile Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is the answer I got. I read through the pages and all the thoughts, reasonings, fears, images… people described I had too. HUGE RELIEF. Other people had this; I wasn’t crazy or had a paraphilia, it was just something that happened. Nevertheless, I ignored the OCD part of POCD. Nah… I didn’t have OCD: I wasn’t washing my hands every seven and a half minutes, or checked door locks six times before leaving, or arranged everything in certain patterns. I had POCD but didn’t have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; it was just some thoughts, and they’d go away eventually (ha…). Now that I had answers (for real this time), I was able to be a little bit more calmed when working with the kids.
Everything turned out fine in the end: the kids were able to play well in both parades and I didn’t hurt any of them. I felt pretty happy with how things ended in that job. Happy and well for a while.
In the following couple of months, I kept myself busy with a little break, a music composition project, a film works competition, and another break. The thoughts weren’t making the concert levels of noise they had done in the past; this time, they were mutating silently, in the background. Rape disappeared, but the fear of being a pedophile (yes, they are different things; thank you OCD for this knowledge…) stayed there. I “began” to periodically think I was attracted to children, but just in a romantic way. I pictured myself building relationships with kids, but rape or molestation thoughts happened rarely. It wasn’t all children, though, by this stage the thoughts were only with little girls. In retrospect, I think this is the point where I was making peace with the thoughts; I just didn’t care anymore about it.
In December I had a week that I remember as the last time I felt truly happy and well, and it lasted. It was a week of movies, music, friends, and family. Awesome all around. It ended on Christmas day. We were going to my sister’s house to celebrate (the one with the baby I mentioned earlier). Before we headed out, I was on my phone, browsing YouTube. I came across the video of a creator in which she talked about how she was sexually abused as a child. And everything came back, thoughts, images, situations… Lousy Christmas day.
That same weekend I discovered Mark Freeman’s videos. After checking some of them out, I realized I most definitely had a health issue. Beyond the obsessions and compulsions, he talked about fears, anxiety, uncertainty… most of what he talked about, I had. There was a monster alright, but it wasn’t me, it was WITH me. His videos opened my eyes to the WHOLE of the problem. And if this whole situation were a nuclear weapon, the POCD was the explosion, but what came next is the fallout.
Back in 2014, I chose to drop out of college and train in music and filmmaking by myself. I believed (and still do) that it was the path I was supposed to take. It felt right. I also thought that I didn’t care about the future: only the now mattered, I didn’t like college and like the prospect of self-education better (I wanted to be happy); thought that I was okay with being alone, away from people, it was “the sacrifice to be made for my education”; thought I didn’t care what others said about me for doing this (or just in general); thought that I could always be able to trust in my capabilities to do things instead of wanting a diploma. Turns out, I did care, I wasn’t, I did, and I don’t.
The result? Compulsively practicing and studying for around 10 hours a day, six days a week -only three hours on Sundays-, with ONE day off each MONTH. I would go from this instrument to the other, this book to the next, exercise after exercise…, thinking I was being committed and disciplined, but I was just trying to deal with the situation in a very BAD way. People HAD to know I was making an effort, an effort maybe even greater than that of someone who DOES go to college; that I wasn’t lazy or a bum. I NEEDED to have every exercise come out right, not once, or twice, but AT LEAST three times, so I would “learn them correctly” and NEVER screw up. And if ALL DAY’S PRACTICE wasn’t perfect, it was a BAD day, because I wasn’t measuring up to what I had to, especially since “I am not in college”. Learning didn’t matter, progressing and getting better didn’t matter, all that was important was filling the day, going to bed having DONE SOMETHING in the day.
I felt guilty, too. You see, I was always the good kid: the one who followed the rules at school, obeyed his parents (99% of the time), got excellent grades at school… I got into Costa Rica’s best university among the top 100 grades in the admission exam. My parents were SO PROUD of me, smiles, hugs, thumbs up…, and I threw all of that away. I was a disappointment. I was a bad son for not doing what my parents hoped for me. They have always given me and my sisters anything we needed, always made sure we had food, a house, a good education, and I betrayed that. I betrayed THEM. Only practice helped me deal with this. (Note: my parents and whole family, despite being reluctant when I first brought it up, were very supportive of my choice of education).
Remember that gap between periods of awoke pedophile obsessions? That gap was filled with all of this and that HUGE compulsion I never saw. Of course I had to take breaks every three or so weeks, changed my practice schedule frequently, and sometimes didn’t even care to do anything. I was fucking exhausted! Mentally and physically. But it doesn’t stop there.
I AM scared. Terrified, actually. I’m scared of failure. I’m scared of success, of not being happy with the goals I set out to achieve. I’m scared of disappointing people and of losing who I am (that’s where the POCD comes from). I’m scared of my friends and my family, that’s why I don’t talk much, so they don’t judge me. I’m terrified of my future, how will fend for myself? I fear regretting stuff, fucking up as I’ve fucked up in the past, seeing how even the most insignificant ones come at me NOW. I fear rejection and what other people say and think about me. I’m not scared of death, death is just blackness, you don’t feel and just aren’t anymore, so I don’t see it as a bad thing -and no, I’m not suicidal-; but I fear life. BIG TIME. I fear a life of feeling, being, and things passing. I dread an unfulfilling life, a boring life, a worthless life; that’s when death IS scary.
All of these, and probably others I can’t remember, have been there with me all this time. Obsessions, of course. The compulsions? Aside from the ones I mentioned previously, not many. Actually, only rumination is the one I can properly name (A LOT of rumination, by the way), but probably there are others (of course, the compulsions of my POCD show up here too, like picturing situations where these fears don’t happen). I was properly diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in March of 2016.
I have anxiety, as well. It had been a while since I’ve felt it. In January, exactly on the first day of the year, I felt it again. In my chest, head, arms, back, and mind, of course. I guess I have depression as well, but I guess everything is just a byproduct of everything.
These monsters didn’t barge into my room in 2014, however. They had ALWAYS been there. Maybe they weren’t clinging to me, but they WERE watching, from every corner, everywhere I went. Most of the time, I didn’t notice them, but when they’d reach out to grab me I’d FEEL it. Like when I HAD to place whichever toy of mine was lying around belly-up, or standing, because leaving it belly-down meant I would vomit in the middle of the night. Or when I would think, as a kid, of my parents dying, leaving me my little sister and I alone, and just burst in tears in the middle of a family reunion, only to say that I had a stomach ache or something because it was too embarrassing. Or when I, from elementary school all the way to the two years I was in college, wouldn’t approach people -especially women- to simply talk and meet them, fearing they’d think I had some “particular interest” or “ulterior motive” (this one really sucks, in retrospect).
The monsters would grab me for a while and then go back into the shadows, watching me grow until it was the time for the full assault. And then it was time. In my best days, I only feel their gaze; I know they’re there. In my worst days, I’m lucky if they let me go for five minutes: they grab me, pin me down, drag me in the ground, pressure my chest… Quite the beating.
Currently, I’m seeing two psychiatrists, one who gives me medication and the other, counseling. I don’t think there are any ERP, ACT, or CBT specialists here in the country, but I’ll keep looking. I am waiting for a very recommended meditation course to open admission; meanwhile, I do it at home. I’m also focusing on only one project: a short film. And I’m still trying to accept that I have OCD, and that the road is gonna be a long one. It’s a start, but fallout is still falling.
I have never felt so fragile in my life. At 21, I feel like a small child, helpless. Anything can trigger any thought. The medication controls the pedophile obsessions, but those don’t bother me THAT much anymore; in the end they were the insignificant obsessions, and that’s saying something. I don’t know what I want from life anymore or what to do with it. I go back and forth on career paths and life choices, think too much how these will affect my relationships -friends, family, girlfriend, if one were to appear-. I wonder if I’ll ever get well.
I’m lonely most of the time, in spite of SO MANY wonderful people around me. My happy moments are brief. I can enjoy them as they happen, but once they pass, it doesn’t take long before all the thoughts cloud everything again, making it seem the happy moment never happened or was too long ago. The same thing happens with any victory I get in all of this. I feel something missing from my life and I don’t what that that is. I’m like in a dream: always inside my mind and I glimpse into reality from time to time, only to be back in my head. I don’t sleep very well, either. Sometimes I feel like crying, but something doesn’t let it out (it’s not my strength, I can tell you that).
I guess there’s a part of me that likes to suffer. To hate and be angry at my illness, at my difficulty to make the extra effort and commit to recovery. To fear everything and everyone. To have these thoughts. Of course there is, it’s fucking easy! You just lie or sit somewhere and let it grab you. You just wander through life. Being okay requires effort, constant work, and pulling strength from every last molecule. And I’m tired as all hell after this two years, and I know for sure there are lots more to come. Overwhelmed is the word, and it doesn’t help having an obsession thinking that life ends at 30 or 40 years old!
Now, I’m not one to be overly dramatic -as fun as it can be sometimes-, so I’m not going to say all is lost, because that’s bullshit. I’m goddamn 21! Haven’t even started to live! Shit! (sorry for that). That’s what I like about me, there’s always that stubborn and insistent side that, for real, KNOWS. Knows that I CAN do it, that eventually I WILL. That side that knows things will be alright, even when, at this point in my, again, VERY YOUNG LIFE, the best answer I can give to many questions is “I don’t know” -man, I’d be such a fun date-. That side of me that is very, very hard to listen to.
I don’t regret my decisions that led here. The explosion was going to happen eventually, and this is as controlled an environment can get; it’s way better this monsters come out now than when I’m older and have lots of responsibilities, or a job, or a wife, or children (not that I want them), or have only myself to support me. And honestly, OCD gives me an opportunity. An opportunity to shape my life however I want to. Facing these monsters made me realized I was heading into a life, and had lived one so far, lived by preconceived notions and expectations, regarding everything. It wasn’t a life of discovery but a preprogrammed life. Which is a lie.
I’ve learned that you can’t begin to move unless YOU want to. Forced actions suck, and I’m too old and tired to even pretend I care for them. That’s why I’m standing at the gate, wandering around it, a little batch of path being the only visible thing. I can’t see the fire, the spiky mountains, the darkness, the cold… I can feel the pain of falling on my face, I’m used to it. I can’t see at the distance the batch of light that is the Valley of Being Well, with the rainbows, and flowers, and beautiful women, and other awesome bits of life (ugly women are also awesome, it’s all in the personality -just saying-). I don’t know if it this valley of me being happy, of me being me, exists. I don’t know if it’s real, I don’t know who I AM. I don’t know if my legs will support me for the whole ride.
What I know is that fire can warm you. That mountains, as perilous as they can be, are beautiful and majestic works of nature. That darkness can be quiet, and quiet can be peace. That cold makes your skin come to life. I won’t always feel that about them, especially with such monsters coming along, but they are that. Always.
I hope you’re reading this because you’re researching for some psychology paper or because your internet exploration led you here, because I don’t wish you to have this. IT FUCKING SUCKS. You probably do have it, though. If so, I hope you’re passed the gate or, hopefully, in Happy Valley. If you’re not, then you’re probably next to me, so “Hi. We’ll get through this… or die. You really can’t know anything.” (Now that’s an OCD joke).
Will I get through it? I. Don’t. Know. But that’s not a bad thing.
Will you? I KNOW you will.
P.S.: I don’t want to see this as a struggle. I mean, it is one, it’s hard as hell, but I refuse to see life as a struggle. Life is just life.