Obsessive-compulsive disorder is one of those things that people often say they have as a joke. “Oh, I’m really OCD about germs.” or “I’m totally obsessive compulsive about eating the same thing for breakfast every day.”
But actual OCD is very very different. Actual OCD can derail and even destroy your life and that’s very nearly what happened to 23-year-old model Lily Bailey who has written a book called Because We Are Bad which details her excruciating struggle with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which manifested itself as a voice in her head when she was a child.
Lily became convinced that she did horrible things that people noticed. And the way she dealt with this was to modify her behavior in ways that ultimately took over her entire world. Lily wrote her book, a memoir, to help others who have OCD and to help those of us who don’t to better understand it.
From child to teenager to young woman, OCD ruled Lily’s life. The following piece is an edited extract from her book Because We Are Bad.
Our justification system — our way of not saying sorry all the time — starts to get out of control. Initially, the idea was to justify things we would normally apologise for, to make them go away without having to say sorry. But as we got better at it, we realised we could use the system to deal with pretty much anything. Unless you can remember what went wrong, though, you cannot put it right. So we take the first letter of each worry and put it in a list. We continuously repeat the list in our head until we have a quiet moment to go through them all. If we find a way of justifying the action, it becomes a green word. When we can’t justify it, it is marked as a red word. We must remember and learn from it so we don’t do it again.
Green words stick around for a day, being re-evaluated to check they definitely weren’t that bad, and then get left behind at some point between when we fall asleep and wake up the next morning.
Lily explains her condition to Mia Freedman on the latest episode of No Filter:
Red ones can continue to be carried forward for several days until we find a way to excuse them.
If a word is very red, sometimes we have to accept that there is no way of excusing it. It then goes into the master archive, which is the area in our head where we store all the really bad things we’ve done. We visit those words about once a week, to see if anything about them has changed.
Our list from today is EHHCSBR:
ENTER: When we came through Wimborne’s main doors, Mum and us were holding our trunk and we brushed past another girl. Will that girl think we were being a pervert trying to touch her?
HANDS: Was my hand sweaty when we shook my new housemis- tress’s hand in the entrance hall? If so, will she think I’m disgusting?
HELLO: When we met Alice, we said ‘hello’ and she replied with
‘hey.’ Is hello the wrong way to introduce yourself ? Will she think we are weird?
CRYING: Does everyone think we’re a ridiculous baby because Mum cried?
SHIRT: Mum dried her eye on her shirt. Will they think we’re disgusting and have been brought up to clean facial leakages using items of clothing?
BUM: After Mum left we were talking to Alice about her favourite bands and she turned round to get something out of the drawer under her bed, but she did it so quickly we couldn’t look away, and our eyes skimmed her bum for a second. If she saw, will she think we’re a pervert?
RUMBLE: Our stomach rumbled when we were all sitting in the room talking. Did anyone hear, and if so do they think we are vile because our body made a disgusting noise?
EHHCSBR. EHHCSBR. EHHCSBR.
We sit on our bed and try to quickly sort our head. We anticipate this could take a few minutes. Luckily, Alice, Ellie and Soo-jin are also sitting on their beds, having a conversation about Ellie’s old school. With the right amount of nodding and smiling in (hopefully) the right places, we’ll be able to look like we are involved in the conversation while sorting through EHHCSBR. Before we repeat the words, we must do the movements.
Years ago, when we promised Dad we would stop fidgeting in exchange for a pet, we learnt to be subtle with them. Now, we keep them as imperceptible as possible by only making tiny moves. We are grateful to him for this; we wouldn’t want to be marked out by some noticeable physical quirk. We tap our feet on the floor nine times, invert our feet to the left and right, pull our sleeves down on each side, and tuck our hair behind our ears.