When I was very young, I remember my dad picking up each of our two cats, Amber and Dawn, and swinging them by the tail. He would laugh hysterically as they flew through the air and landed on the front lawn.
At another point in my childhood, my mother used to babysit a little 12-month-old boy. I vaguely remember my dad slapping the boy for no reason except to watch him cry. He would even pick the boy up by his hair; I’ll never forget the contorted, screaming face of the innocent little boy dangling above his playpen as my dad laughed like a madman.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had thoughts of kicking, hitting, and torturing cats, small dogs, and other defenseless creatures.
I think about capturing a rabbit or stray cat and holding it captive, beating it and watching as it suffers and dies.
Until I told my sister a few days ago, no one had ever known this about me. (As I’ve mentioned before, my sister is the only person close to me who can fully relate to everything I go through.)
My sister then shared a link with me about Harm OCD. I had never heard of it. It totally described me:
Harm OCD is a manifestation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which an individual experiences intrusive, unwanted, distressing thoughts of causing harm. These harming thoughts are perceived as being ego-dystonic, which simply means that the thoughts are inconsistent with the individual’s values, beliefs and sense of self. Harming obsessions typically center around the belief that one must be absolutely certain that they are in control at all times in order to ensure that they are not responsible for a violent or otherwise fatal act. (Source: ocdla.com)
Here are some common intrusive thoughts experienced by those with Harm OCD:
- I will suddenly snap and violently attack:
- My significant other or ex
- My child (especially common in Perinatal and Postpartum OCD)
- My parent or other family member
- My nephew/niece/godchild
- A disabled or ill person
- A baby
- A friend
- A stranger
- I will fail to respond to disgusting violent or sexual thoughts appropriately and will reveal myself to be a monster.
- I will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to push someone into traffic, jump out a window, or experience some other impulse that will result in me being responsible for my death or someone else’s death.
- I will be overwhelmed by harming obsessions and have to act on them to relieve the pressure.
- I will lose my sanity and commit suicide. (Source: ocdla.com)
Here is another definition and example:
This is a particularly disturbing OCD subtype as the person has thoughts, feelings and even urges of violence to themselves or others. They can be quite intense, and they often feel like they are on the verge of doing the violent act. They feel absolutely terrified much of the time. Many of them feel like killers and develop a personality that says they are a killer of some sort.
I’ve done therapy with a guy who was convinced he was a serial killer. Of course he’d never hurt a soul and he never would, but I could not convince him of that. The obsessions were powerful, continuous, and 24-7. They were so persistent and tenacious that he had given up all hope of resisting them. They had also become quite strong in that the illness was actually telling him or ordering him to commit the violence. (Source: robertlindsay.wordpress.com)
This morning, I told all of this to my psychiatrist. I’ve never seen him at a loss for words. He finally said, “You have to see a therapist before I see you again. Normal people don’t do things like that.”
Last week, one of my colleagues gave our family a hermit crab with the full aquarium/habitat and all sorts of accessories. My two sons were ecstatic at the idea of finally getting a pet. However, little did we know that hermit crabs were nocturnal, so we never saw the little guy; he was holed up in a wooden tunnel all the time.
As soon as I got the creature home, the raspy voice of my illness began whispering in my ear: Now’s your chance. The kids are already bored with it. Torture and kill it. Take it back to work and get rid of it. No one will ever know.
I did just that. I waited until late at night, and then I put the crab and shell into the water dish. It kept trying to climb out, so I held the crab under the surface for a solid minute. I pulled it out. No movement. Nothing.
It felt like I had just snorted a line of cocaine: Adrenaline raced through my body and made me feel invincible; all my worries were gone. I was in control!
After half an hour, I began to feel extremely guilty. Looking over at the aquarium where I had placed the crab under a tuft of moss inside the wooden tunnel, my heart began to ache.
Right before bed, I went over to the habitat in a corner of the living room, removed the tunnel and picked up the shell. The crab moved! Its legs flung out, and I supposed it was getting hungry.
I went to bed relieved, happy, and sad.
My doctor told me to get rid of the crab because I couldn’t be trusted with a pet in the house. I told him that the crab earned my respect for being so tough and surviving the attempted drowning.
He doubled my Lexapro and asked if I wanted to get some in-patient treatment.
For the first time since I’ve been seeing him, the doctor didn’t shake my hand; rather, he rushed out of the room, telling me goodbye over his shoulder. The door between the offices and the lobby were closed and locked immediately.
And I staggered out of the lobby with a handful of prescriptions, not knowing what to expect from myself.
I’m still terrified.
(Photo by Topaz)