Today we are grateful to publish the story of Bridgette Saunders, a young woman who has endured the torture of Pure-O for a number of years. Her vivid metaphors and descriptions bring her experience to life:
By Bridgette Saunders
When I was blossoming into an annually more neurotic and anxious version of me, OCD was very black and white. Or, rather, red hands and locks and numbers. There was this gargantuan misconception that OCD was entirely a visible illness, yet mental illnesses are predominantly internal creatures. But when I was a teenager, obsessive and anxiety-riddled, this misconstrued definition of OCD did not reside anywhere within the sphere of possibilities to explain my suffering.
But I was obsessing. I had mental rituals. I sought reassurance to extinguish the great flame of panic and fear. I had doubts about my character; my sexuality; if I’d hurt my loved ones in any manner of ways. And if I’d magically guess the next song on the radio, I wasn’t this, that or the other. Maybe, just maybe, if the light was green when our car arrived to it, I was a good person.
It was an ever-turning spiral of irrational and intrusive thoughts, the need for reassurance, the carrying out of compulsions and perpetual rumination. There was a mouse in the corridor of my brain: timid and scampering, fearful of everything but with the potential to fully infest my house. And the more I chased this mouse, the more it stole from my life.
I have a lesser known form of OCD known as Pure Obsessional (Pure-O) OCD. It is largely manifested internally with little to no physical compulsions. It is unrelenting and a shape-shifting monster to coincide with the circumstances in your life, or it can become a singular theme with just as ruthless of a grip on you. There are various themes from religious themes to violence/harm themes, to sexuality and relationships.
After 9 years of Pure-O, I still struggle with it daily. My partner struggles with it by association to my struggle. Fortunately, he understands from his own struggle with OCD and agoraphobia. His is centered more on one fear that resulted in becoming fearful of leaving the house, eating specific foods, needing to plan ahead for a day out to calm his worries. It steals so much from a person.
I rarely cuss because cursing feels malevolent and maybe that could escalate into me becoming a violent person. Maybe serial killers cuss a lot. I can’t say anything mean about another person, even internally, because this means I’m a horrible person. Sometimes seeing a knife makes me anxious until I can move the knife block to the back of the counter so it’s not easily accessible, were I to be all that I fear. Maybe I could become one of those killers that snap and hurt all my loved ones, despite the fact I couldn’t hurt a fly. Despite the fact I don’t even consume animal products to not contribute to such harm. Despite the fact I’d do anything I could to help someone in need. OCD doesn’t listen to truths because that would mean it was rational and it’s not rational. If I don’t give into a compulsion, it feels as though fire ants are crawling all over me emotionally and I need to grab a water hose of compulsions or reassurance to get them off.
It is overwhelming. It is irrational. It is a mental illness that deserves much more understanding, even by the medical community. A mental illness that feels all-encompassing, taking a machete to the core of me and my identity then cutting it down to distort it and create its own truths. But I’m learning to stop chasing the mouse and reside alongside it so that I can go about my life while it lives in the corridor of my mind.
If you suffer from OCD and need help and support, this website has some good resources: