My wonderful OCD community, we're in for a huge change. A stigma-busting, ground-breaking change. This change is going to affect the way our condition is understood and represented both in the media, and, even more importantly, in actual REAL life - the life that involves medical staff, our friends, our family, and anyone else who might make up our support networks, social circles and medical teams.
***I should stick in a quick word to say this won't be the best piece of writing you've read by me. My son is off school with a viral wheeze, we've had hospital trips which have been stressful, I'm sitting on my laptop surrounded by chaos and I've had very little sleep. He, thankfully, is absolutely fine now, just in recovery mode and full of beans (read: we both have cabin fever and are driving each other up the wall) but I want to get this post out today - it's so important.***
On Monday night I had the privilege of watching the first two episodes of PURE - the Channel 4* adaptation of Rose Cartwright's (Bretecher's) book of the same title. Click here to see the trailer.
My first thoughts upon hearing that the book was to be televised was excitement about was how incredible this could be for the OCD community, but I was also a little worried about the genre. It's billed as a comedy/drama and, for those of us who have spent any time within the OCD community, you'll know that the use of humour with OCD is hotly debated. Yes, of course it's absolutely right that was can use humour to help us cope with our conditions... but what about when it's being done by people who might not understand the full extent of the condition? I heard Rose speak at the OCD Action conference in March last year and it was clear the team were working exceptionally hard to correctly depict OCD. Channel 4, however, haven't always chosen shows that are sensitive towards those with OCD (think Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners) so being wary was natural I hope.
I'm so pleased to say that these fears were completely unfounded. From what I saw in the first two episodes, the team have done an incredible job. Rather than turn this post into an epic I'm going to list the main things - I'll try not to give too much away.
- The series follows Marnie's (Rose's) move to London for a fresh start and to begin a career in writing, all the while dealing with intense sexual intrusive thoughts.
- The tone of the show is bang on point. They manage to walk a very fine line between expressing the true horror and upset of distressing intrusive thoughts whilst softening the blow with comedy IN THE RIGHT PLACES. At no point in a room of hundreds did I see people laughing at the condition. There where winces and grimaces and the odd laugh at Marnie's reactions to her thoughts and the irony of the timings of their occurrence in everyday life but there is no doubt in my mind that everyone at that screening came away with a much better understanding of OCD and the devastation it can cause.
- There was a Q and A session afterwards and from the answers given it was clear how hard the whole team had worked on getting things right. They worked alongside OCD Action, Mind and also ran scenes by Professor David Veale. What's more, they altered content according to the advice and feedback given. It's incredibly refreshing to see how much effort was put into representing this much misunderstood condition. Writer Kirstie Swain (Clique) had clearly done her homework and worked very closely with Rose.
- The Q and A session also showed the deep level of understanding and respect the actors had for their characters, and how keen they were to get it right. Hearing Charly Clive (Marnie) discuss how she prepared for the intrusive thought scenes and her subsequent on screen response to them was a joy. Joe Cole, who plays Charlie - a character in treatment for porn addiction - also dealt with questions around the character sensitively and with clear knowledge.
- The camera work for the intrusive thought sequences were very close to home and will do a brilliant job at helping those who don't have OCD to realise just how intrusive these symptoms are. As someone with OCD prepare for them to trigger you - how much depends on your condition and point of recovery/treatment. The following two days for me saw an increase in intrusive thoughts. It was like the programme somehow tripped by brain into experiencing more than I usually would but, for me, it was a small price to pay for seeing something so wonderful. Keep your guard about you and remember you don't have to watch it if it's increasing your symptoms. Just know that something incredible is happening within your community.
- A huge thankyou and congratulations needs to go to Rose for her bravery and her gut instinct that told her these were the people to do her story justice - truly incredible work.
Okay, I'm going to force myself to stop now - I could write about this wonderful series all day.
A huge well done and congratulations to the whole team - it's hard to explain just what a huge shift this is going to create for OCD awareness. There is no doubt that lives are going to be improved - and saved - by this story being so responsibly told and I can't wait to see the rest of the series.
Imagine being able to say to someone 'You know what, that sounds like OCD. No of course you're not the only one with it, look, they've even made a tv programme about it!'
Pure is on Channel 4, 10pm 30th January. If you feel up to it share it and tell as many people about it as you can - together we can help lift this show into the stratosphere.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!
All the best 😊
* I want to say a huge thank you to Channel 4 for inviting me. I had previously tried to get tickets but they'd run out and I was so chuffed to get an invite. I've previously been very outspoken about programs that cause damage to the perception of OCD and stand to sensationalise the condition rather than spread awareness and I plan to do even more so to help spread the word for this amazing program - it is ground breaking television at its finest.
Also, is it too early to write to you to ask for a second series?