The show isn’t perfect, but it helps people with the intrusive thoughts kind of OCD feel seen.
Back in January, I was diagnosed with OCD. I’ve had severe anxiety all my life, so I spent years thinking that my OCD was just anxiety. I’m not much of a germaphobe and my room is always messy, so how could I have OCD? But the signs were there all along.
My OCD doesn’t manifest in the way people traditionally think of OCD. I’m not tidy. Pre-COVID times, I didn’t freak out whenever I’d touch a doorknob. I do have some rituals associated with the most commonly known kind of OCD, like only being able to brush my teeth at times that end in 8 (i.e. 10:28) for exactly two minutes, and I have to check myself in the mirror a specific number of times before heading out.
But my type of OCD is primarily the intrusive thoughts kind. Last fall, I had obsessive, intrusive thoughts about death, thinking that I was going to die or that my family would. It sometimes made me afraid to leave home. It was quite severe but eventually dwindled down.
I also get intrusive images all the time. My brain just picks something random that’d make me feel severely uncomfortable. It could be picturing someone naked who I feel zero romantic attraction towards, or jumping into train tracks when the subway’s coming.
I didn’t know anyone who had this kind of OCD, so I just thought I was a weirdo and only really talked about it with my therapist. But even then, it took 2 years of therapy to bring it up to her. So it was an absolute blessing to have come across Pure. This British TV show aired on Channel 4 in 2019 and is now available on HBO Max. I stumbled upon it while watching stuff on Netflix UK last month and it made me feel so seen.
The show is loosely based on Rose Cartwright’s memoir about struggling with OCD, but particularly focused on intrusive sexual thoughts. Charly Clive stars as Marnie, who decides to impulsively leave her home in Scotland and start a new life in London after her intrusive thoughts get out of control. At first, she mistakenly thinks she’s just a sex addict, so she decides to join a support group for sex addicts and acts on her sexual thoughts.
She befriends Charlie (Joe Cole), who informs her that she actually has OCD. The scene where Charlie lets her know that she has OCD felt very relatable. At first, she reacts in denial. “I’m really untidy. I don’t wash my hand for long enough,” she says, incredulous to his diagnosis. But then, she finally accepts it. She feels relief knowing that she’s not a “freak” – she just has OCD and it’s treatable with therapy.
It’s similar to how I felt. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me for years. But seeing a character go through a similar experience to mine suddenly made me feel okay. Dealing with OCD can be isolating and difficult. Rationalizing your thoughts to friends and family members who don’t have it is quite challenging and frustrating. But shows like Pure help normalize OCD. Not only does it help people who have it feel understood, but it helps those who don’t understand the struggles that come with it.
And yes – some aspects of the show are exaggerated. Intrusive thoughts caused by OCD can take control over someone’s life but I don’t think it’s quite as chaotic as what Marnie deals with. No spoilers, but some scenes are very difficult to watch because they’re quite over the top. But at its core, Pure gives people like me the representation we never thought we’d get.