Before I begin I must say a big thank you to my Nan for buying me a Child’s Atlas when I was nine years old. I remember clearly the picture of the boy picking fruit in Botswana and the list of international flags at the back of the book. I slowly became obsessed…but in a good way.
This blog is purely and selfishly written to help me. If it can help at least one other person, then I will be the happiest OCD sufferer ever to walk through the lounge door thirty-seven times before leaving the house. I suppose this is my disclaimer; that if what I have done to battle the Crow doesn’t work for you, then I apologise but I’m neither a doctor nor a packet of Clomipramine. If it can help, then great, but if it doesn’t, please continue with your medication. This is an account of my own personal demon, and my attempts to drown it in the bathtub. If anything, this is a blog dedicated to my teenage self, telling that terrified awkward shell that it was worth sticking around after all.
I’m sitting on a pebbled beach on a beautiful Greek Island as I write this. There’s a dull thud in the back of my mind, as if the Crow is stirring, trapped beneath floorboards. He is present, but at the moment contained. I would have chopped off my hand for peace like this ten years ago. Arguably the Crow attacks me as frequently as he ever did, but now he has those floorboards to get through before he can hurt me, or his beak is tied with duck-tape, or I manage to bat him away before his claws sink too deep into my skin. He is an old enemy and we know each other well. I can usually predict his tactics, smashing him with a pre-emptive strike, and some days he’s just a pathetic cawing black smudge on the horizon. (Although on bad days he’s a pterodactyl with talons dipped in anthrax.)
I watch the gentle waves breaking on the stones, thinking back to an earlier time in my life, not the Crow’s first visit but certainly one I remember quite clearly…
…When I was ten years old, while eating breakfast in the kitchen, a sudden thought emerged in my head that I had the option, the possibility, to pour the milk and cereal over my dad’s head. I could just do it, I thought. It wouldn’t be a nice thing to do, I’d be in a lot of trouble, but if I went into the lounge I could quite easily empty the entire bowl over his head. It wasn’t an urge but a fear. And what is actually stopping me? I wondered. So I stood up from the table and walked through the hallway to the lounge door, where I paused, aware that my insides were tied up in knots. My body was hot and clammy. I pictured the milk and cereal oozing through my father’s hair, dripping down his face in a series of zigzagging white rivers. I imagined his shock that would quickly turn to fury, the scolding that would inevitably follow, but worse than that, I imagined his disappointment, upset that his son had done such a thing…I felt like I was being punched in the stomach? The horror of this consequence was strong in my head, I focused all my attention on the sadness that would come of this act, and after fifteen minutes of concentrated effort outside the lounge door, it felt that I had actually followed through with my urge. Had I imagined it so clearly that I’d actually tricked myself into thinking I’d witnessed first-hand the worst of what could happen? The fear of doing it finally subsided, my intestines untying, my heart no longer pumping blood around my body quite so fast. I felt odd that I should have had such a thought, but I was barely ten, and so finished my breakfast and moved on with my day.
I didn’t realise at the time but pouring milk over my Father’s head would be by far the tamest of acts I would have the urge to perform.
The crow got a lot darker.
My thoughts shuffle back to the present, to this beautiful beach in Greece, and I notice I am turning a smooth pebble over in my hand.
“F*ck you, Crow,” I mumble, picturing him drowned in a shallow rock-pool. He floats motionless, face down in the salty water. I take advantage of his silence, punching the first draft of my first ever blog-post into my phone.