Did you know we have around 6,200 thoughts a day? You probably didn’t, because most people don’t actually pay attention to each thought that crosses their mind. It’d require an insane amount of concentration and would be a potentially huge waste of time. After all, they’re a windstorm that flashes in and out of sight, which we have absolutely no control over.
When I was nine, I had my first intrusive thought. Of course, at that age, I wasn’t even aware of what that meant. All I knew was that one moment I was watching my sister’s birthday video with my family, and the next my mind was conjuring up sexual images with one of the guys that walked in front of the camera. That day has been engraved inside my mind for over a decade.
In a single moment, my life changed completely.
Every one of us has intrusive thoughts, but someone without OCD would simply dismiss the thought and continue with their lives. My reaction at the time was quite different.
I didn’t know it then, but the rollercoaster of emotions triggered by that one disturbing thought would become a routine for the rest of my teenage years – deep confusion, a fear that rendered me speechless, and a bottomless guilt, which kept me up for countless nights.
It was the very start of a nightmare that would follow me around like my own personal ghost.
Pure O OCD is one of the rarest, less known forms of OCD. Usually, the people who have it don’t even know they have it. I didn’t know until I was 16 and found forums of people going through the same hell I’d been experiencing for the past seven years.
I suffered most of its worst moments in silence, muffling sobs into my pillowcase, and praying to God for any sort of escape because the shame that came with my intrusive thoughts made it nearly impossible for me to talk about them. This is very common among those who suffer from Pure O. It is estimated that around 1% of the global population has this form of OCD – the number is probably much higher, yet remains unknown.
This condition is particularly hellish in one sense because it makes the person obsess over their own thoughts, which are completely out of their control. This obsession keeps the thoughts coming with more frequency and so a vicious cycle begins. The compulsions are mostly mental, which makes it even more difficult for others to notice the person is even doing them. Constant rumination, repeating words, seeking reassurance from both others and whichever source you might be able to get your hands on – these are only a couple of possible compulsions.
I would spend hours analysing my thoughts, isolated from the real world, locked inside the nightmare that was living inside my head, helping it grow. I was feeding the monster in my attempts to get rid of it. I’d also read dozens of articles online and other people’s experiences with OCD, confirming to myself that it wasn’t my fault, that those thoughts didn’t represent who I was. Of course, this reassurance was always short-lived and, as soon as another awful thought would pop inside my head, the cycle would begin again.
The thoughts were usually different, but always disturbing enough to torment me for days. They were awful scenarios combined with that voice inside my head trying to convince me that simply by thinking about them, it meant those were my darkest, deepest desires.
I was nine when I had my first intrusive thought and 21 when I was officially diagnosed with Pure O. I cried the day my therapist confirmed it, when she explained my symptoms, and I could finally say: ‘Yes, I wasn’t wrong, there’s a name for this, and it isn’t my own.’ And yet even now, I still get intrusive thoughts almost on a daily basis. My reaction to them is much more different than the one I had for years. But I’m aware that most don’t have the opportunity to seek professional help.
I know there are thousands of people out there currently suffering in silence, most probably completely unaware that there’s a name for this condition, that they aren’t alone, and that this isn’t their fault. My goal is to enlighten someone who might be going through this, or at the very least, educate those who aren’t in the hope of Pure O becoming more recognised worldwide.
Camila Gimenez is a freelance author from Argentina, who wishes to spread awareness and educate people about Pure O.