The pain of rumination is like a volcano, erupting in my brain.

Written by Kou


01 When Kou was exposed to pornography as a child, he started to get sexually intrusive thoughts. As a result, he would perform mental compulsions, like praying to God for forgiveness.

02 Although it helped to be with his family and focus on school, the intrusive thoughts became debilitating. He began to self harm and have suicidal ideation.

03 After a talk with his sister and learning more about his symptoms, he now knows he has OCD.

Disclaimer: For privacy reasons, I concealed the identity of some individuals in order to respect their consent. Trigger warning: self-harm, suicide.


“Some memories are elusive, fleeting, like a butterfly that touches down and is free until it is caught. Others are haunting. You'd rather forget them but they won't be forgotten. And some are always there. No matter where you are, they are there, too.”  - Beatrice Mosionier

When I look back at my past, I enjoy my childhood memories. I was raised by hard-working parents and angelic siblings. My mom taught me religion, manners, and ethics. My father, who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, is my main inspiration. My bond with my family is strong and nothing in this world can surpass my love for them. I always thought that we lived in a utopian world. 

We ended up having a predator in the extended family, and because of him, I was accidentally exposed to pornography when I was 8 years old. I remember playing a Sonic video game on his laptop. I was a curious kid who liked discovering new software, features, and all things tech. When I accidentally clicked on the “wrong” folder, chaos began. 

Pornographic images filled the screen. I was terrified and confused. I had no idea what I was looking at, so I asked the wife of this predator about the images. When she saw the screen, she was horrified, quickly covered my eyes, and ordered me to wipe all of the images. After deleting the folder, I promised to never open that laptop again. 

In fourth grade, when Bluetooth technology became popular, my classmates would exchange and share explicit content on their phones. One peer showed me a graphic zoophilia porn sequence. I was disgusted and didn’t understand what was happening. My exposure to such graphic images in childhood tormented me. 

These dark scenes would end up haunting me for a very long time.

Dr. Phillipson Talks Science, Symptoms & Treatment of OCD

Un Point Noir (A Dark Spot)

Some time between twelve and fourteen years old, I had a terrible spike of intrusive thoughts

Following one specific thought, I was so frightened that I ran to mom and tried to hide behind her back. She was watching her typical middle-eastern dramas while I stood there, terrified by the disgusting content of my mind.

Eventually, the scene in my head faded and I forgot about it. The next day, the image came back, but with another person involved. It felt like I was doomed. I asked my God to clear this sinister scene from my soul, and hoped my prayers were accepted. 

Throughout my childhood, the spikes would randomly come and go. They rarely lasted more than a day or two. I used to be a prodigy in school, always successful and striving for high grades. I cherished education because it was my only escape from intrusive thoughts. My interest in coding flourished in my teenage years. I was excited to pursue this passion in university, which I imagined would be a utopian escape from my sadness. 

I asked my God to clear this sinister scene from my soul.

Although I loved programming and coding throughout college, I still struggled a lot. When I started to develop feelings for someone, I’d look back at my past and blame myself for sexually explicit thoughts that entered my mind. I thought of myself as a monster — someone capable of harming others and inflicting pain. This belief kept me from intimacy. When a close friend asked to be my girlfriend, I cried and told her I couldn’t accept her offer. I remember going to bed that night, sobbing and ruminating on all of my intrusive thoughts.

One evening in January of 2018, I was studying for my finals. I remember placing my documents all over the table and practicing tough exercises. Suddenly, a destructive spike came in, and I was extremely thrown off by sexual thoughts. I went out into our yard crying, repeatedly asking God, “Forgive me for my sins. Deliver me from this burden.” I thought that God was punishing me for things I hadn’t done and that my exposure to porn at a young age is what caused this interior war. I kept asking God for forgiveness, and finally, the thought faded away like magic.

The July That Tormented My Heart

One summer afternoon, I decided to go swimming at the edge of my village. Before heading to the beach, I sat on our stairs to think. I was scanning my personality, trying to figure out whether I’d sinned in recent intrusive thoughts. My ruminations suddenly spiked to an extreme level. I became trapped in an intense spiral, asking myself question after question. It felt like lava erupting in my head.

“What if I have common traits with perverts?” “What if I never develop a relationship?” “Who would ever accept me as a partner?” “What if I am emotionless?” “Do I have affection for men or women?” “Am I a terrible pervert?” “What am I thinking about?” “STOP!”

Then, I had another sexual spike. 

I instantly related it to my childhood spikes and began to have an anxiety attack. I ran out of my home crying until it felt like the bones in my chest had torn apart. I was pleading to God, “Please do not punish me for my sins. If I have oppressed or hurt anyone in the world, please help me out.”

Rose Cartwright on Pure O

I related these spikes to the belief that I had failed my religion. Maybe I didn’t fulfill prayers correctly. Maybe God didn’t accept my remorse. Maybe He damned me forever. But I also believed that the almighty is far beyond that — He is gracious and merciful. I knew I was speaking nonsense and trying to reassure myself of the baselessness of my intrusive thoughts. 

The more I resisted the thoughts, the more they grew. The more I related the thoughts to religion and sins, the more they popped up.

I scanned all of my history since my birth date until now, and found that I have never transgressed against any morals in my life. Of course I am not perfect, but when I tried to scan any scenario to see if I oppressed anyone, I couldn’t find any proof. Sometimes I related my obsessional thoughts to the fact that I killed an ant by accident, or the day I ignored my cat because I was in a bad mood.

Since that day in July, my sexual OCD worsened exponentially. Whenever I went out in public, I “saw” naked bodies everywhere and people fornicating in my head. For a moment, I thought that I had a perverted mind, but it wasn’t an attribution of arousal — it was a dark, terrible, and painful experience. I ended up failing a semester during my final year of graduate school. No one would have ever believed what I was seeing. I barely slept for six months.

I thought that I had a perverted mind.

The graphic sexual images that were haunting me drove me to consider self-harm. One day, I wounded myself slightly and started crying. I asked God whether He was punishing me for my sins, then I questioned if someone had cast black witchcraft upon me. I kept ruminating on meaningless scenarios and never got any answers. 

My sister started noticing my lack of sleep, my weight loss, and my pale skin color. I couldn’t reveal what was happening in my head, but I remember telling her, “I am a disgusting individual. I either need to get out of our home, go into a mental health rehabilitation center, or end my own life.” She reassured me that everything would fade soon, I’m not a bad person, and my intrusive thoughts have never meant anything because they don't define me. I hugged her while I sobbed and thanked her for helping me.

“Pure O” and Personality

What I have learned from this nightmare is that everyone gets intrusive thoughts, and each individual reacts differently to them. My intrusive thoughts made me think I was a monster, a pervert, and cursed by God. In reality, I just have obsessive compulsive disorder.

For people with OCD, in particular Pure O, we perform mental compulsions to lessen the anxiety of intrusive thoughts. I have learned the thoughts don’t relate to anything, like my childhood or exposure to immorality. It’s a state of being alert and anxious. 

Most importantly, no matter how relentless, dark, and obscure the thoughts can be, we as humans have been given the capacity to choose how we react to those thoughts and take away their power. Although it can be difficult, I now see how brave it is for me to confront my fears — no matter how much my OCD tells me otherwise. 

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