I don’t exclusively visualise my OCD as that b*stard crow. Last month my OCD felt like a wall crawling with ants; recently it’s been a black cloud the size of a continent, drifting over a world in a corner of a cosmos created somewhere within the sparking wires of my mind.
I had been suffering violent intrusive thoughts for a long stretch of time. But it wasn’t only physical harm that terrorised my world; thoughts about injuring people with abhorrent, hurtful words constantly threatened to spill from my mouth, to wash away those that I love like village huts in the path of a tsunami. I imagined whispering such dreadful things, blowing hell into a loved one’s ears, remarks to wound and scar for life. And then one morning I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, and I noticed an abrasion on my skin.
“Here I come!” shrieked the Crow, and I lost two days ruminating over what that blemish could mean. Of course, when the crow smells fear, he becomes a great white shark. Cancer was the word of the week. Cancer in my stomach, cancer on my skin, cancer in my liver, my brain, my blood. The cloud was above that place in my mind where every time I looked into that cursed mirror, or felt a bruise on my flesh, or suffered a thumping headache, I imagined it was the beginning of the end of my life.
I glared at my sombre reflection in a television screen, imagining a well-groomed man, with a smile like a knife slash in pigskin, pointing to a weather map in a familiar television studio. A world spun gently on its axis, as a dark shadow crept slowly across the globe like a noxious gas.
“This afternoon the cloud continues to cover most of the north-western continent,” he said through that wicked smile – cracking across his face like a splitting sheet of ice.
My OCD can manifest itself as violent images, false memories, a need for symmetry and fear of contamination. But for two weeks my OCD cloud had cast a shadow over a patch of land that has been storm free for quite a while.
I was suddenly an old man coughing up blood in a long corridor. In five days I convinced myself I was going to die of three or four different cancers. I rang health lines and visited the doctors, and ‘Little One’ had to go for blood tests too (for different reasons) and of course, Crow convinced me of the worst possible outcome, and I became a twitching mess at the bottom of a deep black sea, as well as that tired old man in slippers, shuffling down infinite hallways.
Urges to ritualise, to keep those germs away, flashed past the window like cars on a motorway fast-lane. Would picturing a blinding white light wash away my medical fears? Of course not, Yan.
I fought against some, I capitulated to others – on my knees and following orders over the trench wall like a frontline soldier.
The doctor told me I was ok.
The doctor told ‘Little One’ that she was ok.
I thought that meant that the world was going to be fine, at least for the time being.
And then we got a phone call in the middle of the night.
I’m not going into too much detail but after three days at the hospital, we lost someone very close to us.
Irrational compulsions hadn’t saved the day. We lost. And I think the crow knew that under such stressful circumstances he wasn’t even on the horizon.
I couldn’t see him. The world was too black.
I couldn’t hear him. The world was too loud.
I saw people I love break down in tears, and that wrenched me across the floor, crashing me into walls.
One evening, while pacing across the hospital waiting room, a shadow crept across a familiar, well-trodden field in a corner of my mind. It was the cloud and it was black like a bucket of coal.
“What are you going to do, cloud? F*cking rain on me? Your threats are useless! I’ve just come from the Critical Care Unit!”
A thought rolled across my mind’s eye, a black plastic bag tumbling on a breeze – could compulsive visualisation change this situation?
I thought of Crow. “Shall I look at a spot on the back of a chair and think of a brilliant white light?”
I glared at a picture on the wall – a village church in a field. “Should I blink at the image, Crow? Is that fair trade for a miracle? Or is there anything else I should worry about? Can I save myself from incurable illness by repeating certain words in my head? But what is it you can actually do right now? Send me to Hell? I’m already here, Crow.”
Black feathers stirred in distant skies.
“You can stop this situation,” I imagined him taunt.
I broke once. I almost upheld a desired policy of zero tolerance, but not quite. And it didn’t help. The news was bad.
I’m home now. The OCD cloud is still thankfully dispersed, replaced however by a great sadness. Not a fog but a vast hole in the sky.
“It’s not known when the storm will return,” says the neatly dressed weatherman with the sinister smile. He points to the video map projected over his shoulder, but the world spins in semi-darkness. “However, anomalies continue to blot out the sun.”
I purposely picture him ravished by raptor dinosaurs.
Crow has been quiet all day. I imagine him sleeping in a nest of snakes.
I know he’ll be back. But today I’m so numb I don’t think there’s an opening for one of those OCD ants crawling up the wall, let alone a mischievous crow with nuisance on his mind.
Yes, I thought I was going to die from a horrendous disease.
I ritualised and I lived.
But someone I loved did die from a medical condition.
I only had a couple of OCD attacks, so should I have ritualised more than I did? Of course not, but somewhere down the line I’m expecting Crow to tell me that I should have.
Terrible things will happen, whether you surrender to your compulsions or not. It can be hard to convince ourselves that we have no control over certain things – over most things, in fact.
The Crow will be flying my way soon.
I know he’s coming.
And I’ll be waiting.