Friday, June 8, 2012


The nature of an obsession is that it is irrational. The irony is that there is a rationale behind unreason. As i child premonitory forebodings permeated my sense of oneness. I would become fractious, petulant and irascible when i found the large doses reality dealt me unpalatable. I survived fear after mortifying fear which studded my childhood like fallen leaves, but always returned with redoubled vigor.

At 20, 4 years back, after a couple of drastic mood swings and a suicide attempt i was diagnosed as manic depressive with psychotic symptoms with an attendant co morbid diagnosis of panic attacks. I began a long course of meds and cognitive therapy.

One of my obsessions has always been venturing into public. The fear that i am being looked at, my inner neurotic thoughts plumbed and my apprehensions fathomed leaves me very vulnerable and exposed.At heightened moments i'd see a car passing by and see with vividness my dismembered body beneath it. I'd see the butcher eviscerating a chicken on the slab and imagine my innards being decimated. I'd think that the person next to me on the metro was going to murder me and the thought would become so obsessive that my palms would glisten, my tongue dry up, my eyes dart with fear and my throat parched. My hands would shake, my heart would palpitate chaotically and all sense of security would vanish. At moments like these i'd welcome the prospect of release but only as a valedictory gesture. The obsession would be self contained  within whose irrational structures i would be lost, going round in circles, navigating but foundering, going back again and again to the original obsession , despairing for my sanity, suffused with helpless resignation.

One of my major obsessions is my teeth. Two years back i had scaling done to my teeth, a simple cleaning which filled me with terrifying intimations of losing them.I always feared the loss of my teeth. And strangely i'd be cruising seamlessly on a given day and suddenly my thought would center on my tongue swallowing. Then the swallowing tongue would push against my back molars and i'd start believing my teeth were shaking. It would start with one tooth and would gradually metamorphose into a panic that all my teeth are shaking. I have this habit, when under the throes of an obsession to rinse again and again, unceasingly, indefatigably. I'd rinse till my mouth would be sore. I would rush to the dentist and ask her what was wrong. At least 20 times, on different occasions she assured me my teeth were healthy. 'Your teeth are fine, its your mind that needs treatment' she'd quip.

Another of my contretemps is hair loss. At a very disgusting physically visceral manner i'd scratch my head and imagine a follicle attached to my nail. I'd peer shortsightedly at my fingernail, convinced i'd see my strand of hair and worrying about hair obliteration. I'd wash my hair again and again repeatedly, unrelentingly till my scalp would bristle at the slightest touch. I applied hair creams to lubricate my scalp and used unguents to kill the pests. Curiously enough these obsessions went on for very long. I'd experience them and be terrified for my sanity. I was scared of seeing a shrink.

Eventually when my obsessions impinged on my family's collective well being i was taken to a therapist. As the sessions progress i learnt to sift through the detritus of my obsessional thinking, go to its roots and find a way out. When i feel my teeth shaking i simply mouthwash and soothe the burning sensation around my psychically inflamed gums. That stems the  tide. I avoid getting into situations that trigger off obsessional thinking. I, the moment i identify the tingling sensation of irrationality surfacing, locate the thought, accept it and overcome it. I call up a friend, take a walk, write or even sometimes inhabit the strong emotion and then expel it. At times, even death of the most painful kind has seemed a welcoming reprieve to the convoluted, labyrinthine circuitous world of obsessions.

I am out of it and i am glad. But i miss, in a nostalgic yet relieved way, my obsessions and my overcoming them.


  1. fantastic bharat really fantastic how much writing has helped you

  2. A fascinating account, Bharat. I confess to being a party to obsessional thoughts myself. The same fear or idea repeating itself until I am almost physically worn out. It's akin to a computer program being in a loop without being able to end. Someone I know, who had the same problem, likened it to a thousand monkeys chattering in his head. I wonder if these obsessional thoughts may act as sources of inspiration in one's writing? But not to write about it in a cathartic way, but to use these images or visions or monologues as genuine sources of Art. You know that I look behind poems. Behind our lives is something chaotic that is normally hidden for purposes of control and order. Yet that chaos is there. Could obsessional behaviour or thoughts be a way of opening that door? Yet is it wise to do so? I don't know. Anyways I like your article, Bharat.