Down the Rabbit Hole with Pure O:Pure Obsessional OCD

2013-04-08 17.59.37

This post starts out gloomy, but it ends well! I promise 🙂

The last few days have been Pure O days.  Pure O days are the days when I don’t get out of bed because I want my brain OFF. I call it “going down the rabbit hole” or “through the looking glass” because it’s all nonsense.  I missed my first class of the day this morning because I got stuck in the nonsense.

Pure O is a lesser known manifestation of OCD (explained in detail here by Steven Seay, PhD and in this hilarious blog post by Fletcher Wortmann, for those of you unfamiliar with it). This excerpt from Fletcher Wortmann’s blog post  explains “Pure O” WAY better than I ever could:

 Some of the most distressing forms of OCD have no visible signs, no tangible compulsions. I happen to manage a variant of the disorder referred to as “Pure O,” or purely obsessional OCD, characterized by runaway intrusive thoughts. With Pure O, the mind is held captive by its worst nightmares: fears that the world is about to end, for instance, or that the sufferer is a murderer or a sexual deviant who could succumb to uncontrollable violent urges at any moment.

With Pure O, these problems cannot be put to rest through physical rituals like hand-washing or counting. Instead, the sufferer is left obsessing, silently and almost continuously, incapable of finding conclusive proof that these hideous scenarios will not occur. We cannot tell anyone, for fear of being labeled paranoid or psychotic, and because our symptoms are internal, we are rarely offered aid.”

Fletcher Wortmann, The Real Experience of Obsession

My own brand of Pure O (that sounds like a drug or something) from obsessions past have included themes of the fear that I was capable of running over pedestrians on purpose, the fear that I was capable of stealing/shoplifting (that’s a fun story), the fear I was capable of being a murderer (thanks a lot CSI)  & the list goes on. If I think it’s horrible, I’ve had a Pure O episode about it. My longest Pure O episode lasted 3 months and was the thing that made me finally go to the doctor.

What stands out to me right now about Pure O (and OCD in general) is that if I stay in the OCD loop long enough, I feel I can’t tell what’s right, what’s left, what’s reasonable, and up from down. It makes you doubt every good thing you have and are. It might even make you punish yourself needlessly. My logic has been at odds with my sympathetic nervous system for so long that my brain is overwhelmed.  Underneath it all is this feeling that I’m absurdly frittering away my precious life, but can I be sure?  There is a quote from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland which I feel captures the how my brain feels when it’s’ muddled from wrestling with the Pure O, trying to tease apart the false messages from reality:

Be what you would seem to be — or, if you’d like it put more simply — Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” – The Duchess,  Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Thanks a lot brain. I’m glad you were able to sort that out. Not.

This current Pure O is  not as bad as it once was, which is encouraging! I am not as far down the rabbit hole as I could be.  It has the power to go from mole-hill to mountain, but I won’t let it. I refuse to follow through with “checking” on it.

Dear OCD,

You made me miss class this morning, but you really don’t deserve my time. So I’m going to go live my life now and stick my tongue out at you, because instead of getting stuck, I turned this into a blog post that can spread awareness about Pure O. I deserve good things.

Take that,

Serendipitous Sally



6 thoughts on “Down the Rabbit Hole with Pure O:Pure Obsessional OCD

  1. Staying in bed to escape obsessing… sounds familiar… sometimes I didn’t want to get up because I either wanted to concentrate on my rituals or escape my obsessions. Plus, EVERYTHING around me reminded me of my intrusive thoughts! I used to spend time obsessing immediately after waking up.

    • I can relate with obsessions first thing after waking up. It is not a comforting way to begin a day , but all to often the case for us . The silver lining is that is does pose an opportunity to begin the day by making the right choice .

  2. This post made me cry this morning because finally FINALLY someone out there gets it. My PureO is torture. I am a strong Christian and my PureO revolves around being good and sinning. It’s awful. But I love what you wrote at the end in your note to OCD. I am going to adopt that and begin a “Dear OCD” journal to commemorate the little successes.

    Thank you for your bravery and for sharing this.

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