Learning about OCD


 

The period since publishing my novel and promoting it on social media has been a revelation for me. I have learned so much from the stories, shared experiences, and expertise available on social media. I am learning about the different forms that OCD takes (but each form following the same pattern and cycle of intrusive thoughts and compulsions). I used my own experiences with OCD in my late teens and early twenties to create a character, Quentin, whose smart and confident personality is destroyed by the intrusive thoughts that he begins to find impossible to resist when he goes to university. The novel uses first person narration as a direct and forceful way to show the impact of obsessions and compulsions on Quentin's mind and on the structure, content, and fluency of the text. I wanted Quentin's sections to be his mind poured out on paper. I wanted to give an honest account of what OCD can do to a person's mind; to use every imaginative and creative tool at my disposal to show exactly how debilitating a condition OCD is. I then took the main theme of Quentin's battle with OCD and applied it to sections on the tyranny of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the tyranny of greed in 1970s Tokyo, before circling back to the battle raging in Quentin's mind.

When setting out to write the book I had the goal of laying bare the truth about OCD and showing that this condition is in no way cute or eccentric or in any way related to the, "I'm a little bit OCD" t-shirts that are available to buy. While promoting the book, I began to delve into the communities of people with OCD with a presence on the various social media platforms. I have gained so much knowledge and insight from reading people's stories on a daily basis. I learned that my own mental health problems are not 'in the past' or something to look back on as an experience. No, OCD affects my mind and the way I think on a daily basis. I have started a process of reconciling myself to the trauma of being hospitalised for two months due to OCD and depression when I was 19. I have come to realise quite recently, with the help of a therapist, that this experience changed my personality, the way I interact with people, and how I manage my emotions. I am on a journey of learning about my own past and coming to terms with it. This is not living in the past - far from it - I believe very much in the power of being present in each moment. What I'm talking about is an acknowledgement of my past experiences and the ways in which I carry them with me in the immediate present moment.

Publishing the book has enabled me to be my authentic self as somebody who spends most of his time writing, and as someone with OCD.

I know now that OCD is not confined to my past but is a condition I live with and manage. I feel that I am becoming increasingly aware of my thoughts and the things I say to and about myself inside my mind every day. Social media has enabled me to learn more about how OCD affects people's lives. I will never take the management of my OCD for granted. This is an unseen condition that destroys people's lives. In my darkest moments I would never have considered that I could live with the condition and not have it dominate my life. The more stories that are shared at different stages of recovery from OCD will help people at the beginning of that journey, in the darkest places imaginable, to see that there is still hope. That is one of the overriding themes of my book. Even in the most bleak and terrifying moments of my narratives set in Tokyo and Afghanistan, when evil appears to be all-pervading, there is never a sense that hope has been defeated.

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