Great Article by Jordan Taylor
“I routinely sobbed in my husband’s arms, knowing I loved him so deeply, but convinced my deviant thoughts meant we’d have to get a divorce.”
BY JORDYN TAYLOR AUG 24, 2020SIPHOTOGRAPHYGETTY IMAGES
I wanted to be happy on my honeymoon. Instead, as my husband and I clinked our glass mugs of mulled wine at a holiday market in Berlin, I was tormented by thoughts of all the ways I could ruin his life.
The mental anguish began a few months before we got married. Whenever we did something wedding-related—engagement photos in the park, tastings at the caterers’—I’d get this weird feeling of disassociation, like there was a thick glass wall between me and the rest of the world. I was supposed to be enjoying this. What did it mean that I felt nothing? The question was terrifying. I knew I loved my husband more than anything else in this galaxy and beyond. But what if some secret part of me didn’t want to marry him?
I was so sad and confused that for the first time in my then-twenty-five years, I got professional help. My therapist chalked up my symptoms to my discomfort with the wedding industrial complex, and assured me I’d feel better as soon as the nuptials were over.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t shake the idea that since I didn’t feel pure, unbridled joy throughout the wedding-planning process, it must mean I secretly didn’t love my husband. On our honeymoon, and for the next six months, my thoughts spiraled. I worried I was a sociopath who’d faked every emotion in her life, and I needed to find the answer for certain. Whenever I smiled or laughed around my husband, I mentally calculated how “real” it felt. Whenever I looked at him or touched him, I tried to measure my attraction to him. Whenever I doubted the sincerity of an interaction, I frantically searched my brain for a good memory to cancel out the bad.
Sometimes these mental rituals brought relief; other times they heightened my panic. They occupied my every waking hour, exhausting me. I routinely sobbed in my husband’s arms, knowing I loved him so deeply, but convinced my deviant thoughts meant we’d have to get a divorce. (Somehow, my wonderful husband never once considered divorcing me throughout this ordeal.)
Eventually my therapist saw my constant self-doubt for what it really was: obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Over the course of a year or two, I learned to manage it with cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. But when she first diagnosed me, I was confused. I always thought people with OCD engaged in physical compulsions like organizing and hand-washing to battle their intrusive thoughts, or “obsessions.” I’d never seen a mainstream depiction of my brand of OCD: where the compulsions took place entirely inside a person’s head.
The condition is known as “pure O,” short for “purely obsessional,” and it’s the subject of a new series called Pure on HBO Max (inspired by a book of the same name). When I saw the trailer the other day, saw the main character, Marnie, in mental agony trying to make sense of her intrusive thoughts, I teared up. I was seeing myself. And finally, other people would see me, too.