Rose Bretécher is a 28-year-old writer with OCD. When she was 15-years-old she started experiencing obsessive sexual thoughts which took over her mind for a decade. Rose has now written a tragicomic memoir about her life with OCD, which she is crowd-funding through Unbound. You can pledge to help her tell her story.
Part 3 of 3
WHAT LIFE IS LIKE NOW
Apart from the frightening obsessions and time-consuming compulsions, OCD has lots of attendant problems – loss of confidence, relationship breakdowns, guilt – and even after successful treatment, it can take a long time to work through them.
I found openness to be very therapeutic in helping me rebuild my life. Somehow, taking the risk that people would reject me if I told them the truth about my OCD, robbed the illness of its power. Since finishing CBT and ERP, I’d been doing a lot of writing about my experiences. So I pitched an article about my life with OCD to The Guardian, which they decided to put on the cover of their Weekend magazine.
Everyone I’d ever known was about to find out my most intimate psychological secrets – I was terrified and thrilled at once. Would people think I was a freak? Would they be grossed out? Would they even believe a single word of it?
The public’s response was an immense comfort. Not only did people not judge me, they actually seemed to empathise with the symptoms of the condition. Suddenly I was having loads of fantastic conversations with friends and strangers about how everyone has weird, inexplicable thoughts sometimes that they’d never dream of telling anyone about.
Of course, few had experienced them to the extent I had, but it hardly mattered, because now I felt far less alone, and far less ashamed. I was so encouraged by people’s genuine interest and care that I turned my writing into a book about my life with OCD, which I’m now crowdfunding through Unbound.
When my illness was at its worst, I used to long for the day I’d be cured – when I could wake up confident that I wouldn’t have a single uncomfortable, ambiguous thought all day. But part of my recovery was accepting how unrealistic this was, and I’m now completely at peace with the idea that I’ll probably always have OCD to some extent. That might sound pessimistic but it doesn’t feel it. Because I’m now able to recognise how this illness has given my experiences texture and richness, and how its bestowed on me an invaluable awareness of what’s important in life.
I still obsess sometimes about whether or not I’ve actually got OCD at all. Maybe all of this – the years of therapy and the article and the book – has just been one big elaborate plan to escape my true identity? Whereas once I would have delved into mental compulsions in an attempt to answer this question, now I can say ‘it’s possible’ with a shrug. And that’s when I realise how much better I really am.
When I was younger I didn’t think I had a future. I couldn’t make plans or build lasting relationships with people until the obsessions stopped, and my life could only begin once I’d found an answer to my mind’s unending questions. But now that I’ve relinquished that search, ironically, my future feels bright and real.