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Blade in the Shadow

ScotLitDaily Nonfiction Book Of The Year (2021) 

The Wee Scottish Bookclub’s ‘Life-changing Book of the Year’ (2021)

A coming-of-age memoir about Harm OCD. Getting diagnosed late in life, the memoir follows Halket from her early teens to early twenties and into recovery. 

"We need more voices like Jillian Halket's in conversations around mental health in Scotland." — Elsa Maishman, The Scotsman, read the full interview here.

“A dark, rich account of how it feels to live with OCD, glimmering with light and hope.” — Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater (Portico Prize)​

“This book is vivid, lyrical and at times startlingly honest. The writing is fresh, frank and fearless and I highly recommend it.” — Catherine Simpson, author of TrueStory

Blade in the Shadow a memoir by Guts Publishing

Hippocampus Magazine Interview

Morgan Baker: I spoke with Halket from Scotland, where she grew up and now lives with her partner, about the content of her memoir and her writing process.

MB: Who did you write this book for?

JH: Initially, it was for myself, just trying to make sense of a few of those difficult years of my life. But then, as I was writing I started seeing a lot of things about OCD in the media—a lack of representation. There have been a lot of misconceptions around it still, and I felt some anger. People were still saying “Oh, I’m so OCD” or using negative language. I had productive anger. If I can turn the page or shift the cultural conversation on something (OCD) and if I could add my little bit to the conversation—that’s what was driving me.

Read the full interview here.

Chapter 1: Knives

Every night I die.

    The ephemeral hours of night break and dawn bleeds in. The dream slows – the fabric of one strange reality unthreading, desperately trying to stitch itself to another. My fingers trace the line of my skull and pause at the hollows of my eyes. I move my hands over my cotton underwear and feel the curve of my body.

      I’m still here.

     The sweet relief soon turns saccharine and my back teeth ache as I try to imagine making it through another day like this. Another night like this. Oblivion would be sweeter still than these dreams of ragged flesh.

     There is a certain way things need to be done. A perverted set of rituals. I crawl to the edge of my bed and climb carefully over the side. If I were to stand up near the end I would trip and the bedpost would drive up into my vagina and rip me from the inside. The image of my impaled body rotting on the bedpost burns in my vision. A sad grey sack.

     The room is airless and my mouth has an alloy tang like my spit is made from metal. Adrenaline tears through every fibrous nerve of my body. Just like every other morning I reach for the door handle and find I cannot open it. I hit my head off the frame again and again and pray for it to split open and let the worms and grubs pour out. The burrowing obsessions have rotted my brain and left porous holes behind like old cauliflower.

     In a viral loop in my mind the same four words repeat: I am not safe.

    Defeat stills my body and I drag myself back into bed. Careful to climb over the side not the edge. Once buried I pull the blanket over my head in a kind of futile sanctuary. From a formless dark shape – the obsession has latched on.

     I am not safe.

     It will happen today.

    There is no escape, no place to hide and nothing to do to stem the coming tide. Like the doctor told me I breathe deeply – in for four, hold for four, out for four – and with razor thin desperation I try to convince myself that I’m okay and that nothing bad can happen to me here.

    This is a lie.

    Red.

   There is a single shift, atomic in size, and then the violence tears through my mind. My eyes are ripped from my skull. Blood jets down my cheek as the stalk of my eye is severed. The pulp like rotted fruit. Everything goes black. Howling like a desperate animal before slaughter, I claw at my face. The metallic salt of my blood singes my nostrils. In my arms I cradle my skull, trying to hold the plated bone together.

    Please make it stop.

    I rock back and forth and wait for the end to come.

    Hours pass and I awaken drenched in a slick sweat of confusion. My hands search my face, pass over my underwear and I find I’m still here.

Jillian Halket Photo

About the Author

Jillian Halket is a disabled writer from Blackwood, Scotland. Her debut memoir Blade in the Shadow delves into her obsessive compulsive disorder and explores what it is like living with violent intrusive thoughts.

She is an advocate for OCD awareness and recovery and was proud to take part in the first Activate Training for Movement for Change, a grassroots campaign by See Me Scotland.  By telling her story she is determined to help in the fight against mental health stigma and discrimination.

When she is not talking about OCD, she can be found haunting the local bookshop or out in the Scottish countryside with her family and partner. She is a hippie at heart and enjoys anything to do with the occult and the written word.

Website: jillianhalket.com

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