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Understanding Harm OCD

by Cora Dessalines

I joined Guts after graduating from Goldsmiths University in 2020. Which means the joy of once again immersing myself in stories that shatter taboo topics and go beyond the norms of the publishing industry. Stories that refuse to follow the rules are the kind of stories I look for as an editorial intern – this was the story I found when reading Jillian Halket’s Blade in the Shadow, a coming-of-age memoir about Harm OCD.

As someone who relates to having intense, invasive thoughts, some of the biggest questions I tend to ask myself are: am I normal? Why do I have these thoughts? Am I a bad person for thinking about this? It’s an utterly terrifying and isolating experience. You begin to convince yourself that you’re not worthy of people’s kindness and love. Harm OCD isn’t so well-known or properly funded and, like Jillian, some people might not even recognise it’s OCD at all until later in life. Jillian’s memoir was a balm to me. She wrote Blade in the Shadow with the hope that it can act as a lighthouse, and it reassured me that I wasn’t alone.

I know that Jillian’s story isn’t the only one out there. We’ve had so many emails, comments, and stories from reviewers who’ve deeply connected to Blade as I have.

For Emma Grae, author of Be Guid Tae Yer Mammy, it’s “a story of survival, bravery, and hope.”

For Jessica Andrews, author of Saltwater, Blade is a “wrenching portrayal of the mind in all of its colours.”

Sarah McLean, Scot Lit Daily Blog, writes that “Living with OCD is like living with someone who knows intimate details of all of your worst fears and stores them up to damage you when you least expect it, when you’re least equipped to cope with it.”

Social stigma surrounding Harm OCD, and its effects on mental health, means that people often find it difficult to seek help. We want to have a discussion about that. Blade in the Shadow is a lighthouse; we want to raise awareness and put the spotlight on this often-misunderstood subject.

With the release of Blade on the Shadow on 14th October 2021, I’ve been looking for venues, bookshops, and libraries around England and Scotland to host a reading event. COVID regulations have made finding the right one tricky, but I’m reaching out to you, dear reader, for any suggestions and leads you might have. Do you have a bookshop you love visiting, a library that could be the perfect space to share Jillian’s work?

Let me know – all suggestions are warmly welcome, and you can contact us via email at Availability can range from this month until the end of this year, including up to early 2022. Our hope with this, as well as celebrating Jillian’s exceptional work, is to show readers that no one is alone in their mental health, that we can all understand Harm OCD better together.

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Cora Dessalines is an editorial intern for Guts Publishing. They are a London-based freelance writer and poet, and you can find more details about their services and work at A lover of fashion, space, and anything colourful, they are currently working on their first science-fiction novel for adults. Follow them on Instagram: @cocco_x and Twitter: @CoraDessalines. Their pronouns are they/them.

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Pre-order Blade in the Shadow from Guts Publishing here: It’s also available from The Book Depository, Amazon worldwide, and many other online retailers.

Join us at 7:00pm on 14 October for the virtual launch of Blade in the Shadow. Register for the online event here:

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