This is Lily Bailey and she is a hero. Her first book, Because We Are Bad, was published in the US last spring, but I only recently got my hands on it (thanks to a certain goodreads friend who brought it to my attention). Lily's book is an authentic, raw account of what it's like to live with OCD. Perhaps the most important thing Lily does here is help rescue OCD from its pop culture reputation as the disease of "constant hand-washing super clean bedroom organized desk neat and tidy everything." She paints OCD as it really is: profound psychological distress that often has nothing to do with cleanliness and order.
Even as a child, Lily always felt like there were two people inside her (the real Lily and the OCD Lily). In the book, Lily often uses "we" instead of "I" to explain these dueling identities. She describes a childhood overrun by exhausting routines and rituals. As a 7 year old, Lily woke up 12+ times per night to confirm that her little sister, Ella, was alive and breathing:
What if Ella stops breathing? What if she is dying upstairs right now, gasping for her last breaths and no one knows because they aren't there to hear? Thankfully, Ella's door is open, because she is scared of the dark. We creep to the side of her bed. We can hear her breathing, but to be sure, we hold our palm an inch from her mouth. We can feel her breath on our palm, so she must be alive. We count nine of her breaths. Then we lower her duvet till it is just above her tummy. We place our hand on her chest. Her heart is beating. We count nine beats, but we're still not sure, so we count another nine beats, which takes us to eighteen...We think we must be done. It doesn't feel quite right, but if we stay here she might wake up. We pull the duvet up under her chin. We repeat the words:
The rest of the book is as genuine, raw, and distressing to read. Lily brings the reader through her years at a posh, English boarding school and then through her first year at university. All the while, she is still consumed with exhausting routines, obsessions, and rituals. Today, Lily lives in London. She still struggles with some OCD symptoms, but with the help of medication and therapy they take up much less brain space. Lily is an outspoken mental health advocate, a model, and a writer.
And, from this reader's perspective, a hero.