Writer Rose Bretécher was plagued by constant sexual thoughts. Some days, she was unable to think about anything else.
“It was thousands of times a day,” she told The Guardian. “I had mental images of people having sex… of random flashes of penises, tits, vaginas, the works.
“The more I tried to get them out of my head the worse they became.”
She felt like she was going mad.
Bretécher, it was later discovered, was suffering from what the World Health Organisation has listed as one of the 10 most debilitating illnesses.
People who live with the condition have a 40 per cent chance of experiencing depression at some point in their lives, an over 60 per cent chance of experiencing suicidal ideation, and 25 per cent will make an attempt on their own life.
Bretécher was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
LISTEN: Lily Bailey speaks to Mia Freedman about what it’s like to live with OCD on No Filter. Post continues below.
She did not have the impulse to wash her hands 100 times a day, or check if the door was locked 47 times at night. Her work desk wasn’t immaculate. If you’d met her, you’d have had no idea she was living with OCD.
Our representation of OCD in popular culture is overly simplified and reductive. The characterisation of the quirky OCD “neat freak” who is a die hard germaphobe, has infiltrated our cultural lexicon.
Most have heard offhanded (not to mention grammatically incorrect) remarks along the lines of, “I’m so OCD!” or “Omg, your room is ridiculous, you’re OCD,” which perpetuates the myth that the disorder simply means excessively tidy or ordered.
Just as you wouldn’t say “Oh, I have a sore arm, I’m such an amputee!” or “I didn’t get out of bed today, I’m such a cancer patient,” the same jump shouldn’t be made between tidiness and a debilitating illness.