Sometimes I liken my OCD to being locked in a cinema for a personal horror film. I have to watch images of me doing horrible things or see my worst fears come to life on repeat. Imagine having to watch yourself push someone in front of a bus, or having to constantly see yourself hurt somebody you love. In 2016, I basically lived inside that cinema, and the longer you’re inside that horror film, the more convinced you are the images are going to actually happen, or that you’re going insane for imagining the horror film in the first place. You wake up with the repeating thoughts and become nothing else; just a floating head of thoughts and fears and anxiety. I would stand in the shower silently begging for some sort of scientific breakthrough that would stop me from ever moving or talking so that I would never have the possibility of performing any of the intrusive thoughts that came in my head. I did not have a life. Existence was not favourable when every second I was terrified of what I had become and my life revolved around terror.

Talking to people, social media, music, anything that removed me from my brain was heaven to me. Being in a room, alone, made me afraid of my own existence and was my literal hell. I didn’t have time to feel ashamed of sleeping in my parents bed some nights or drinking to make night-time thoughts easier, all I knew is that I had to be on guard for me to impulsively do any of the horrific acts in my head. I was on constant standby, from waking up to eventual sleep. All the while, I went to school, did my A-levels, socialised with friends, lived what appeared a normal life. I would go to a lesson and sit in my seat with no room in my head for what the teacher was saying because it was full of ‘I’m going to lie down on the ground and never be able to get up’ or ‘I’m going to stab my hand with that pencil’ and just will the time to speed up so I could escape the non-existent threat i had come up with. But nobody would know, because OCD can be complete silence whilst I feel the world about to end in my head.

I had no idea that fighting the thoughts was what kept them so intensely vivid and terrifying. I had to learn to watch my horror movie in my tiny cinema and feel no emotion to the images I was seeing. To let them be exactly what they are, just images. They carried nothing but moving pictures and colours and noise. Slowly, I began to leave my metaphorical cinema every now and then and saw the outside world again. And that first glimpse of it, I literally sobbed with relief. The feeling of freedom was so intense. For a moment, my life finally felt like mine and not one hijacked by some alien version of myself. There are still days I accidentally find myself with the thoughts and images and the cinema walls start to close in around me but after a year of CBT, I know how to remove myself and see the images as meaningless blobs, and the thoughts as just words and noise with nothing more to them. The power I gave to my obsessive thoughts was fear. I’m now able to let the thoughts drift on by through me, and life finally feels like mine.