Viewers with OCD review Channel 4’s Pure and share their own experiences of the condition

Six contributors who suffer from intrusive thoughts have their say on the 'courageous' and 'relatable' comedy drama starring Charly Clive

PURE

Pure is Channel 4’s daring and hilarious portrayal of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which has been lauded for subverting stereotypes surrounding mental health.

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Based on the memoirs of Rose Cartwright, the comedy drama tells the story of one young woman’s experience of “Pure O”, a nickname for a type of OCD that manifests itself as intense, distressing, intrusive thoughts.

In the case of the show’s lead, Marnie – played by magnetic newcomer Charly Clive – those intrusive thoughts are inappropriate sexual visions often relating to her own family, friends and strangers she encounters in everyday life.

We wanted to get an idea of just how well Pure portrays the issues and experiences associated with this type of OCD – so we asked six people who suffer from a range of intrusive thoughts to review the show and share their own stories.

Many of the contributors note that they have never seen their experiences depicted on screen before and explain that, like Marnie, it took years of living with the condition before they realised it was a form of OCD.

‘I was terrified these thoughts defined me’ – Josie-Anne Searl, 25

I’m 17 and self-diagnosed as ‘sick in the head’. Hunched over an A Level Psychology textbook, I’m triggered. From that moment, for four years, cue a barrage of unwanted and intrusive sexual thoughts about the worst things imaginable – children, incest, murders.

I avoid the news, my family and check my body for arousal, terrified these thoughts define me and what I want. I’m in a flux of anxiety and self-disgust, detached from reality and myself.

Around 21, I discover an OCD website… I’m not sick in the head, it’s OCD. Therapy proceeded to help me overcome Pure O.

Pure courageously pushes the graphic and disturbing reality, yet non-reality, of Pure O into mainstream awareness. It’s relatable, comedic, emotional, therapeutic and accurately depicts the anxiety, shame, hopelessness, loss of self, then relief and search for liberation reflected in my own experience. Pure is a tonic that will help and heal thousands.

Charly Clive as Marnie in Pure (C4)
Charly Clive as Marnie in Pure (C4)

‘Pure OCD has caused me untold shame, pain and suffering’ – Michael P, 34

For almost 20 years, I’ve suffered intrusive thoughts of a sexual nature about members of my family. This has caused me untold shame, pain and suffering.

It was only a few years ago that I discovered I wasn’t a freak, that I suffered from a diagnosable medical condition – ‘Pure OCD’. Before that, I self-medicated with unhealthy amounts of alcohol and weed, in an attempt to blot out these thoughts, which not only didn’t work, but left me in a worse place mentally.

Since starting a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, my symptoms have mostly receded, but I still suffer. Seeing someone else have the courage to share what for me was my most shameful secret has filled me with envy, respect and admiration. Pure on C4 accurately reflects the pain and confusion I’ve lived with.

Marnie self-medicating with alcohol in Pure (C4)
Marnie self-medicating with alcohol in Pure (C4)


‘Pure is challenging outdated misconceptions of OCD’ – Catherine Benfield, 38

I have had OCD since childhood and as part of that have experienced intrusive thoughts about violent harm coming to my loved ones. Although in recovery now, in the past it has brought me to my knees.

My experience with OCD gives me the ability to say with no uncertainty that Pure has managed to do something nothing else on TV up to this point has. It’s managed to capture the distressing and debilitating impact of intrusive thoughts and OCD upon those who experience them.

From the camera work, to the writing, Pure has managed to sensitively deal with a difficult subject and carefully walk the line between drama and humour – as someone with OCD, I know how important it was to get that balance right.

It also brilliantly covers a range of other conditions such as addiction and generalised anxiety. The entire cast do a fantastic job of bringing the reality of these conditions to life.

Pure is challenging outdated misconceptions of OCD and will have an immeasurably positive impact upon both those living with the condition, and the awareness of it in general society.

I loved every second of it. Huge well done to everyone involved!

Charly Clive as Marnie in Pure (C4)
Charly Clive as Marnie in Pure (C4)

‘I went through the same thing as Marnie: sheer disbelief’ – Rich Evans, 33 

Pure on C4 immediately connected with me. I was diagnosed with Pure O last year but have had it for a long time.

The most relatable moment for me on the show is in episode two where Marnie finds out for the first time that she has OCD. I went through the same thing, sheer disbelief: ‘I’m not a messy person, I don’t need to switch lights on and off, I don’t wash my hands 50 times a day, how can I have OCD?’

But when Pure O was explained to me it was like they were explaining me as a person: everything seemed to makes sense and I didn’t feel alone anymore.

Pure is one of the best productions I’ve seen on C4 recently, Charly Clive is brilliant as Marnie and the show portrays what it’s like living with Pure O perfectly.

The moment Marnie realises she has OCD in Pure (C4)
The moment Marnie realises she has OCD in Pure (C4)

‘I felt I was wrong for having intrusive thoughts’ – Finn, 21

Pure for me was something I thought I’d never see on TV. As someone with the same diagnosis as Marnie, it was so surreal to see but in the best way.

I was diagnosed with OCD at 17 years old after experiencing symptoms like Marnie and like her, I felt I was wrong for having intrusive thoughts. I remember thinking “I can’t even explain what’s happening” because I felt like I couldn’t resonate with anyone’s experience as I had only known OCD as the stereotypes of just “organising and cleaning”.

Knowing someone in my position five years ago now has a show proving they’re not alone, and that they’re not a bad person, makes me so happy to see. I highly recommend Pure to anyone who wants to know more about OCD, knows someone with OCD or has OCD themselves so they can resonate with someone with the disorder.

Pure (C4)
Pure (C4)

‘Talking about intrusive thoughts is still so taboo’ – Sarah Barrett, 30

Ever since I was a child I guessed there wasn’t something right with my brain. I’d get sudden unwanted thoughts about making a fool of myself in school assembly, while everyone was looking. At around ten years old I overheard a story about “devil worshippers” on the radio, and managed to convince myself within hours that I was probably one too, because the intrusive thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone.

Pure is the first TV show I’ve ever seen that tackled intrusive thoughts and it’s handled everything so well. Talking about intrusive thoughts is still so taboo that many OCD sufferers don’t know for ages what’s really happening to them. Now when I talk about my OCD to new people I can use Pure as a reference point.

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Pure airs every Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4 and the whole series is now available as a box set on All4