I sit with my arms tightly embracing the folds of my knees, rocking back and forth. The spell of chill sends shock waves through the nerve impulses, and I cry for a warm tusk to coil my fragile silhouette. I am in cognizance of what’s happening; it has happened before. The thought leaves me not and the grip of it, formidable enough to saunter my mind for affirmations and denials.
Eating has become a menace, a mundane ritual of nick-nacks. An epicurean with a penchant of good food, I never thought twice before nibbling on my favourites. Well, that was a decade back. Two bouts of food poisoning back to back curated a thought, indigenous and impregnable. Eating food has now become a gallimaufry of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.
“Were the vegetables washed before cooking?”
“Did the cook wash hands before preparing food?”
“Eating little and cautiously to avoid any episode of dyspepsia.”
Ghosh! It’s like gun fire and shots being pummelled, coercing away the ability to think and act. The ritual before eating is to look at the food discreetly to pick out something abominable. While eating, the thought ruminates, sine qua non for the mind to make me eat little or abruptly propel me to slide the plate under the watchful siphoning of the intrusive thought—of food being contaminated or not cooked properly.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is about obsessive thoughts and behaviours, and the respective compulsions to ward off apocalyptic storm inside the mind. But, we hardly talk about the emotional turf a patient cocoons in or if has been ensnared by the embittered reflux of traumas and turmoil.
Guilt is concomitant to a person suffering from OCD. He feels caged by the thought, channelizing the mind as a questionable offence or an insurmountable guilt. He wants to escape the thought; meanders from one room to another, switches on the TV and then turns it off in a jiffy. What next?
In the terrible juxtaposition of the unwelcomed thought and the coup de grace to nip in the bud, fiddling with a pen and paper is consolable but only to the extent of giving reason to his protracted thought. And, gradually the loss of muscle power makes the body go numb. Chills predominate the pores outlining the folds of the skin. These imperceptible nuances are a proof of the emotional depredations that an obsessive thought or action can do to the mind. Why we call them emotional and not physical? Because it’s the emotional pain of disinterring the cobwebs that eventually engulfs the body to become restless and rummaging.
Dr. Chhaya Sinha Goyal, Co-Head Psychological Services—Mental health and Behavioural Sciences, Artemis Hospitals, talks about guilt in OCD patients, “Most of the patients suffering from OCD have extreme guilt buried inside. There is an insight to their ordeal and that is why they are not able to control these intrusive thoughts. Guilt also comes if these patients have involved caregivers in their dilemma of vicissitudes.
Guilt—it’s a vague analogy of expression or emotion that is contemporaneous to remorse and regret. For example, an obsessive thought that you might harm your kid is flippant but reoccurring glimpses of the same is deleterious to the mother-child bonding, eventually perforating guilt of:
‘I am not a good mother’
‘Am I a murderer or a child-abuser?’
The guilt incapacitates your inclination to look after the child with vigour, and presumably even touching the child would scurry a flurry of emotions, adding more dust to the already lingering one. In case, you choose not to discuss your ordeal with your loved ones, it precipitates more guilt laden by fear of making you a pusillanimous goat ready to be slaughtered.
Guilt forms an inclusive part of OCD. I once had an obnoxious thought concerning my sexual orientation; I am heterosexual and distinctly affirmative about it but the fatiguing thought of me being hooked up with a woman was fatiguing that I could not sleep the whole night. The thought striked as a harrumphed lightning bolt, quivering; a clarion call, I said, ‘to end the improbable.’
“I like men”, I cudgelled. But the thought was incongruous, maybe a charade or a suspicious black magic that was adamant to change me. The mere thought hung to me like a noose. Sitting with my girlfriends became a nightmare. An invisible voice frequently cradled the spears of my head, unapologetically insinuating, “Am I attracted to her.” Imperceptibly, I withdrew from the girl-gang and conspicuously tried to be more with boys. The guilt arose—ricocheting the value system I was brought up with.
Guilt; an enormous baggage that does not let your overcome the despicable situation you are in. It can only be conquered by believing in your own ideological framework rather than indulging in machinations nestling you in the ambiguity of lies. Let’s re-affirm, it’s just a ‘thought’—a manifestation of what we see around and how it affects us.
In the former case, the mother might have had a traumatic childhood or must have been exposed to an environment of violence and bondage. The latter again could be a grotesque simulacrum of ‘homosexual punditry’ or a phantasmagoria of a realistic distortion. Nevertheless, people with OCD incubate these thoughts as personal and live with it in the nest of their own doubts and apprehensions.
We accept it as trivial but the guilt carries on. Have we ever wondered why? It’s not the thought that makes you vulnerable but the reaction to it. A thought is like a capsule; the outer crust, a Spartan pebble but inside lies assimilation of sediments, when exposed would do more harm than good. So, it’s better to carry a dead thought rather than evaluating the churning capabilities of the mind.
“What makes me guilty is definitely not me; I am a proprietor of my thoughts and have no room available for rented thoughts.”