Book Review: Because We Are Bad

Title: Because We Are Bad

Author: Lily Bailey

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 272

Rating: ★★★★☆

As a child, Lily Bailey knew she was bad. By the age of 13, she had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease and ogled the bodies of other children.

Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she correct her wrongdoing. But it was never enough. She had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. From child to teenager to young woman, OCD had ruled Lily’s life, sending a bright, vital mind spinning into a downward vortex. Until she learnt a fundamental philosophical lesson.

If, like me, your whole understanding of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is based on episodic television characters and friends who say, ‘omg I’m so OCD’, then you really need to read this book.

Lily Bailey’s account of what it’s really like to live with OCD is gripping, searing, and devastating. She details how, at a young age, she began to have intrusive and invasive thoughts that developed into compulsions. Things like washing her hands and checking that her younger sister was still breathing became obsessions. Everything had to be done in groups of three, and if one of them was stuffed up it had to be done six more times to make a total of nine. Her hands became raw and red from over-washing. During the day and up until the early hours of the morning she would list every ‘bad’ thing that she had done, from looking in the mirror to having body odour or sweaty hands or a rumbling stomach. Her lists would take hours to complete, creating a storm inside her head. She suffered from intoxicating guilt, believing that everything she did was bad. Things only get worse at boarding school, but it is when Lily starts attending university that her life completely spirals out of control.

While this book isn’t very long, it carries a lot of weight. I couldn’t read it all in one sitting – even though I wanted to – because there was just so much to take in. I didn’t really know anything much about OCD at all until I read this, and it was shocking to see how deeply a person can be affected by this, to the point where it literally takes over their lives.

The subject-matter is very serious and quite haunting, but Bailey has a dry sense of humour that adds a comical layer to many parts of the story. It is raw, funny, heartbreaking, and also hopeful, all at once. Bailey now has a successful career as a model and a journalist, showing that with the right help and the right support network anything is possible.

This book will captivate you from start to finish. Bailey writes with authority and does not shy away from sharing her innermost thoughts from the darkest periods of her life. Because We Are Bad is an authentic and engaging portrayal of living with OCD, and will inform those of us who thought OCD was just about being a neat-freak, entertain readers, and provide hope to those who are struggling.

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