By the age of thirteen, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. 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 make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough.
Beautifully written and astonishingly intimate, Because We Are Bad recounts a childhood consumed by obsessive compulsive disorder. As a child, Bailey created a second personality inside herself—”I” became “we”—to help manifest compulsions that drove every minute of every day of her young life. Now she writes about the forces beneath her skin, and how they ordered, organized, and urged her forward. Lily charts her journey, from checking on her younger sister dozens of times a night, to “normalizing” herself at school among new friends as she grew older, and finally to her young adult years, learning—indeed, breaking through—to make a way for herself in a big, wide world that refuses to stay in check.
Charming and raw, harrowing and redemptive, Because We Are Bad is an illuminating and uplifting look into the mind and soul of an extraordinary young woman, and a startling portrait of OCD that allows us to see and understand this condition as never before.
-Description via Goodreads
Let me first begin by saying that I had to read this memoir in small doses because it triggered my own anxiety. Mental illness is no joke. It is a very real entity that has the ability and power to consume a person. While I do not have experience with OCD personally, I related to the constant battle of intrusive thoughts. Lily’s account of growing up with OCD is one of the most truthful accounts that I have encountered.
A statement in the memoir that truly resonated with me and I feel best describes the state of Lily’s mind is this:
“Mindfulness is the fucking problem: my mind is too full”
There are clearly two narrators to this story. One is Lily and the other is “She”. The separation of Lily into two distinct personalities was important in conveying the battle that never ceased in Lily’s mind. She was constantly convinced that every action she made was offending someone. She was paranoid that she smelled unpleasantly, that people found her disgusting, that a lingering glance could be interpreted as perverted. There were countless examples in this memoir that I found to be exhaustive. My heart broke for Lily because all of this was occurring when she was just a child. She did not find it abnormal that she would check to make sure that her sister was alive and breathing while sleeping. With every check on her sister she would have to go through her normal OCD bedtime routine of checking doors and such. She would function on a few hours of sleep if she were lucky. As exhaustive as my own brain can be I cannot fathom what a life like that would be like. It sends me into a panic just thinking about it.
Because We Are Bad covers Lily’s life from an early age up to college age. In that time you are privy to the exhausting actions that are result of her compulsions, her treatment and how Lily overcomes her compulsions. I was fascinated to learn more about OCD through Lily’s experience with her therapist. If you are interested in learning more about OCD and overcoming it this is a perfect choice because it is incredibly honest. If you have suffered from mental illness yourself this memoir will connect with you. I was able to relate to several descriptions of Lily’s intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are all consuming. Intrusive thoughts are truly invasive and they do not make one bit of sense. While I was reading Because We Are Bad I could not help but think of myself as two distinct personalities. Their is my ‘logical self’ and my ‘illogical self’. Every day I struggle with those two entities; just as Lily did with ‘She’.
If you are searching for an honest depiction of mental illness Because We Are Bad fulfills that need. If you are struggling with OCD and other forms of mental illness you will find someone to relate to with Lily. I was glad to receive this galley copy of Because We Are Bad by Harper Books in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book. Even if you cannot relate to the depiction of mental illness it will still provide invaluable insight to the struggle that so many people experience on a continuous basis.