Tuesday 23rd January
I’m struggling today, so I’m going to start writing in an attempt to free some of my thoughts, but I’m absolutely terrified of them. In the beginning of my OCD was the word and the word was ****. Sorry, I can’t say it. I can’t even write it, but I remember when I first heard it: I was eight years old and somebody shouted it in the playground. I called my dad the word the very next day, when we were arguing about nothing in particular, and he was very, very angry. “Don’t you EVER say that again” he scolded, and then he hit me hard on the back of my legs until they stung, but not as much as my tears. The word is bothering me today; I can’t get it out of my head. I sometimes wish I had Tourette’s and then it would be on the outside, although knowing me it would be something else that was uttered without permission. It would be something silly, like brussel sprouts, and I would feel a fool. I sometimes think OCD is like Tourette’s. You have unwelcome thoughts in your head and ‘they’ have uninvited words coming from their mouths. I expect people with Tourette’s sometimes wish they had OCD.
Thursday 25th January
I was thirteen when I found out that the word referred to a part of the female anatomy. I was very naive; I think I still am . I used to think that I could get a girl pregnant if I brushed past her on the bus on the way to school . Until then I’d managed to block out this expletive by covering my ears when I heard it, tutting with disgust like my father used to do, but without knowing why. After that I couldn’t get rid of it; it filled my thoughts and then the phrases began repeating endlessly in my mind, incorporating new disgusting words. “I’m sorry, Dad”, I would say, but I never gave an answer to his “why?”. Today they wouldn’t stop and they seem to be getting bigger. Can thoughts get bigger? Every time I think them I can feel my heart beating louder and faster in my chest until the anxiety overwhelms me. I couldn’t go up to Communion today, because God could see my sins, and he didn’t want me there. I read the Bible after church for nine hours in a row, and then I googled sin. I want to know that I will be forgiven for my thoughts – my disgusting, blasphemous thoughts that incorporate the word. I think I’ve committed the unforgivable sin, so I’m going to go to hell. If it’s unforgivable, you must be very bad to commit it. Am I very bad? I didn’t ask for the thoughts, but I must be an evil person to have them in my head. Good people don’t do that. Do they?
Friday 26th January
I think I’ve found the answer: all I need to do is replace the bad thoughts until they go away. Perhaps God will forgive me then, but I know he won’t because I’ve committed the unforgivable sin. Thoughts are as bad as words; my father told me so. What if God doesn’t forgive me? I’ve got to try to make them go away, so this is what I’m going to say until they do. Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. But what if I think the word by mistake? What if I think it instead of one of the other words? I’ll have to say the prayer as loudly as I can in my head so there’s no room for anything else. That will work! Won’t it?
Sunday 28th January
This morning I said exactly three hundred ‘Hail Mary’s’ before I went to church, but I could hear the thoughts beneath God’s words, and so I tried to shout more prayers in my head. The Lord’s Prayer couldn’t stop them, nor could the prayer of Saint Francis. It made me panic uncontrollably. What can I do? The thoughts completely fill my head; they are there when I wake be it night or day, and when I go to sleep. They are there in my nightmares. I cannot eat or sleep, and the weight is falling from me. In church lewd unwanted thoughts about an old lady came into my mind when I handed her a hymn book; I heard a phrase inside my mind and inside it was the word. It was so loud that I think she must have heard it. If she didn’t, I know that God did, and I will go to hell. I don’t know what hell is like, but I feel it every day. I tried to take Communion, but I couldn’t. The vicar gave me a look of such disgust that I know he knows, and I left. Why did the word come in my head when I looked at him? Why doesn’t my mind respect my fear of thinking blasphemous thoughts? I need to pray more. I must replace the thoughts.
Sunday 4th February
I couldn’t face going to church today, so I stayed in bed. My heart is living in my stomach and my stomach in my heart; I can hear them both beating inside each other. I wish the panic would go away; I wish the thoughts would go away.
Tuesday 6th February
I sobbed uncontrollably at work yesterday when my abilities were questioned. I got so hysterical that they took me to hospital. I just wish I could stop thinking; it feels as if somebody is squeezing my scalp. I’ve thought about ending it, but I’m too afraid to die. I’d rather not have been born at all. The hospital said they couldn’t help: there are no psychiatrists in urgent care. “Make an appointment to see your GP” they told me. Don’t they know how bad I feel? I’m scared that God will punish me now; I’m scared that he is going to take my children back from me because I do not deserve them. I watch them when they are sleeping and ask God not to take them from me. I don’t deserve such beauty in my life. I feel so unworthy. I feel so dirty and unclean.
Monday 12th February
My doctor has suggested cognitive behavioural therapy. He has officially diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; I know because it was in the notes. I think I should look it up to make sure. He’s given me antidepressants too, but I don’t know whether to take them as Google has told me how bad the side effects are. There’s this forum of people who have tried them, so it must be true.
I’ve just typed in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and found this on the Mind website:
What are the common signs of OCD?
Although everyone will have their own experiences, there are several common obsessions and compulsions that occur as part of OCD.
The three most common themes are:
- unwanted thoughts about harm or aggression
- unwanted sexual thoughts
- unwanted blasphemous thoughts
Obsessions often appear closely linked to your individual situation. For example, if you are a loving parent, you may fear doing harm to a child and if you are religious, you may have blasphemous thoughts.
I sort of think it refers to me. I sort of understand it, so why don’t I feel any better about myself?
Monday 5th March
I’m sorry I haven’t written in you lately, diary. In truth I haven’t really done anything much, apart from ruminate; I’m not hungry and I haven’t been out since I was signed off work. I think the drugs are starting to help, but they haven’t made the thoughts go away. Nothing seems to make the thoughts go away, and the harder I try the more they torment me.
My appointment finally came through and I saw the therapist this afternoon. I’m sure he thinks I’m a bad person and doesn’t want to help me, but I guess he can’t tell me that. It would be unprofessional and unethical for him to do so. He told me that I would have to face my fears in order to recover. Does he know how scared I am? We’re going to start next week.
Monday 12th March
I said the word in CBT today; I said it out loud for the first time since I was eight. I said my worst phrases as well as the blasphemous ones. Apparently, it’s called exposure therapy; it will help me to see the thoughts for what they are and I WILL learn not to be afraid of them. I think the therapist half smiled, but I must have been mistaken. How could anyone smile at my vileness? I was permitted to tell God what I was doing before my first utterances. I needed to have a word with Him before speaking; I needed to tell Him about the exposures, in case he thought I meant what I said. The second time the therapist told me that I could reassure God afterwards, but then I wasn’t permitted to speak. I was so frightened that I wanted to express how sorry I was and explain, but I knew deep down that I shouldn’t. I have been given some homework: I’ve got to record myself saying my thoughts over and over again, and then I’ve got to listen to the recording every day. Apparently, it’s a way of desensitising them. On the way home I felt a mixture of fear and relief. The relief was because it felt as if somebody had put a trapdoor in my head to let the bad things out. My fear is about saying the thoughts out loud again. I have visions of hell in my mind and I can feel them in my heart. Dear God, I’m sorry.
Thursday 15th March
The doctor upped my medication yesterday. There are some side effects, but I would far rather experience them than the full weight of the illness. You do get used to them after a while. I think they are starting to help the depression, which is also consuming me, but the doctor has told me that it will take a while before they really get into my system, and another increase is likely. I’ve read a lot of unhelpful comments about depression lately. People still think that you can snap out of it, and I’ve been told that I’m selfish because I have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life. Somebody even told me that they didn’t have time to be depressed with four children to look after. Do they not realise that this is an illness? A chemical imbalance in the brain and not a disease of the selfish. Do I not realise this? It’s been a week since I started my CBT. Some days I find that the words have started to sound a bit silly, and they’re not quite as scary as they were, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes I have lucid moments when I find myself imagining an omnipotent being looking down at me with the same smile as the therapist, but most of the time I have visions of hell. OCD is quite bizarre, because deep down I know the truth and yet the thoughts can be overpowering. I’m back at the hospital on Wednesday.
Sunday 18th March
During my last session I was told that I’ve got to carry on with the recordings and I was given a new challenge. I was told that I must go back to church and that I shouldn’t try and block the thoughts orjustify them to God. I went to Holy Communion this morning. The panic I experienced was overwhelming, and I felt as if my sin was apparent to every member of the congregation. They are all such virtuous people, which makes me feel so much worse. I was welcomed back and my smiles masked the fear, but I felt disgusting. I kept wondering what they would think of me if they knew what I was really like, and the quieter the moments, the louder my thoughts became. I couldn’t pray at all because I wanted to apologise to God and tell Him that I do not have any malice in my heart, only unwanted thoughts in my head. I’ve also been told to start exercising and making time for my hobbies, but I really don’t feel like it. Apparently it’s known as action before motivation. I’m going to go for a brisk walk on Saturday, and I’ll take my binoculars in case I see any birds; I used to enjoy bird watching.
Saturday 24th March
I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but the therapist told me to keep a diary of my exposures and my activities. When I began today’s walk the thoughts were enormous; they were so enormous that they hurt my head. Thump, thump, thump. They stopped for a moment when I saw a kestrel on a branch close by. The kestrel was watching me and I was watching the kestrel, and in those seconds the thoughts went away. I saw the beauty of its plumage and I noticed the way in which the top of its beak is ‘painted’ yellow; I‘ve never really taken that in before. I do feel a little bit more positive this evening, but it seems to come in waves. In time will the thoughts go away for longer? I think they might if I’m not afraid of them. I’ve been told that the World Health Organisation has actually ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life. I think a lot of people would dispute that, but I know it’s true, and I know that there is far more to this illness than most people will ever know. I worry endlessly that I will be judged, but in truth I realise that nobody has the right to judge me.
Saturday 31st March
I went for another walk today and I noticed more beauty in the world. It peered out at me between the thoughts. I’m still afraid, but less afraid. I once saw this in a book and it’s beginning to make sense.
Face Everything And Recover
Monday 9th July
If you were human, dear diary, I’m sure you would have guessed what the word is a long time ago. Would you be able to block it and not allow it into your mind? Can you imagine the fear of thinking that failure to do so would lead to eternal punishment? It’s been four months now since I started the exposure therapy, and I’m starting to feel less afraid. I’m going to church every Sunday and the thoughts don’t come as often. I’m finding myself having conversations with other parishioners, forgetting my unworthiness. Some days I even laugh at the thoughts because they seem so ridiculous, but I know I still have a lot of work to do. I’m really aware of the fact that we mustn’t be afraid of what appears without invitation in our minds. It’s what’s in our hearts that matters. If we lock thoughts inside our heads and throw away the key they will only shout louder and cause mayhem. Secrecy gives them power, and OCD loves to feel powerful; it’s what keeps it alive. I’m now on the maximum amount I can take of my antidepressant and that’s fine. It did take a while to get used to it, but my body is adjusting. I know this won’t be forever, although I’ve been told that I might need to stay on a maintenance dose. I don’t think I’ll even notice that. I’m finally learning to cope with my OCD, and I’m beginning to get my life back because I am learning not to be afraid of fear!