Warning: the content of this article is based on the personal experiences of the writer. Each person has their own experiences, and they may differ greatly from what is expressed herein this article. Suicide is NEVER an option nor the answer to our problems, whatever the circumstances are. If you feel suicidal now, please seek for help. Visit The Canada Suicide Prevention Service or call this number 1-888-456-4566
It was a dress rehearsal I knew all too well. The note I would leave behind to garnish my corpse was a manifesto of despair, defeat, and disillusionment in relation to a grisly, cerebral theatre played out in the visual and sensory cortex of my mind. It would be the penultimate act of relief to satiate years of self-loathing, paranoia, and tormenting thoughts furnished by a horrid psychological disorder. The method by which I would rid humanity of me varied over the years. The first one involved drowning. On a hot evening in the summer of 1993, while standing on the shoreline of Sunnyside Beach in Toronto, Ontario, the conspiratorial muse of ending my life arose from the belief that my death would prevent me from harming or killing other people; a pre-emptive execution if you will. Even though that would’ve seemed a cruel remedy for what psychologists and psychiatrists call “Harm OCD,” from my distorted perspective it appeared to be the best resolution. I didn’t realize it then but many years later, a study done by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that people with Harm OCD are ten times likelier to commit suicide than the general population. No wonder it seemed like a good idea!
OCD stands for “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.” It is compulsive behaviour meant to remedy an obsession, uncomfortable preoccupation, or irrational fear of something, similar to a phobia.
"Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear"
Those afflicted with Harm OCD believe they will commit horrific violence because of the continuous, intrusive thoughts about it. The tragic result of this disorder is that some sufferers believe they’re monstrously evil and therefore have no right to associate with other people. It is one of the loneliest forms of mental illness for two reasons:
- Not telling others about it for fear of being branded the very thing you think you are (even though you are not), and
- Fear of committing the evil act you’re convinced you’re likely to commit. The strange irony of this loneliness is that it can be comforting to the Harm-OCD sufferer in that you’re secure in the knowledge that as long as you isolate from people and don’t develop relationships, they will be safe from you.
For many of us with Harm OCD, the thoughts and urges that plague our tortured souls often involve people we love, or try to love. It even threatens opportunities to forge relationships with mere acquaintances, making success at any relationship precarious at best, impossible at worst. This condition can surface at any age, driving the sufferer into abysmal depression and terrifying precipices of anxiety. Medication can soften the edges of this macabre mania for some but not for everyone and even if psychotropic treatment may ease the symptoms, it doesn’t cure the root cause, which is still unknown and highly debated among medical and psychoanalytic practitioners. What is certain though is that extreme self-loathing lies at the core of it.
My Harm OCD first surfaced in the summer of 1975, at age ten. What seemed to trigger it was watching a ‘true story’ TV movie about a woman who murdered her parents and got away with it. After watching this movie, I was convinced I would murder my parents and was terrified to get too close to them. Afraid others would think I was a lunatic (which I felt like!) I refrained from telling anyone about this morbid paranoia. Thankfully, my OCD seemed to fade as summer passed. By the fall of 1975 it subsided to the back of my mind, even though I knew it was lurking in the recesses of my psyche, ready to pounce on the next rumination that traversed my wary soul.
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