Love, Death, and OCD: Ritual


He hates me? hates me, hates me, hates me…I’ll be left alone again, I’ll be left alone again.” These are the racing responses to a swarm of intrusive thoughts desperately trying to quell the ensuing panic attack that is sure to follow this fool’s errand. The thoughts can’t be stopped; they blast on and on in our heads with few moments of reprieve. They are exhausting, paralyzing, and terrifying. They are involuntary, sudden, and not representative of how we actually feel. 

We are forced into this daily confrontation with a voice telling us in our brain that not only is everything terrible going to happen but that we ourselves are terrible. Darker and darker the thoughts become as we try to quiet their bellowing anxiety-filled roars. Thoughts that it would be easier to live in controlled ritualistic isolation, in a fantasy world, and to discover that even easier than that escape would be not to live at all. This is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

 Known for his works Shin Godzilla and various Evangelion Projects, Hideaki Anno is a legend and his 2000 Film Shiki-Jitsu or Ritual is among the artist’s greatest works. Ritual centers around a woman and a man who struggle with their own mental health afflictions. In order to attempt to escape the negative circumstances surrounding her mental illness, the woman constructs a system of ritualistic behaviors and a structured image of the world. Through these rituals, she isolated herself from the rest of the world, living in a fantasy of structured ritualistic delusions to keep her anxious truth and intrusive thoughts at bay. 

Part of her ritual is to state every day, without fail, that tomorrow is her birthday, freezing time in an attempt to have control over her anxiety. She implies throughout the film that it would be easier to disappear than to exist in a constant confrontation with the dark sources of her anxiety – her trauma and the thoughts that stem from it. She struggles with suicide ideation because of this and even centers one of her daily rituals around seeing if she still has the strength to stay around, not in the real world but in her structured fantasy. This is telling as it provides the insight that the girl’s delusions are cracking and the darkness is seeping through. 

On the other hand, the man, played by All About Lily Chou Chou Director Shunji Iwai, is struggling with loneliness and depression with a hint of disassociation. He takes interest in the woman and her peculiar lifestyle. He spends every day with her for quite some time and through his relationship with her, his loneliness diminishes and his depression improves. He helps her with her feelings of wanting to disappear and the darkness raging within, while she helps him feel like he is not alone and that his presence in her life matters. They are a mutually beneficial relationship. 

However, when he starts to feel strong enough to spend time with others and does so, the woman’s intrusive thoughts creep back in, thinking that he hates her, that she is bad, or that he doesn’t love her. She tries anything to calm the thoughts, even thinking that she has to ask him whether or not he is going to leave her. The thoughts are so loud she starts to think that they are something to be considered, but like with real cases of OCD, the intrusive thoughts aren’t representative of the truth. He does really like her, she matters to him, and although he might not have said it or known how to verbalize it, she has made him want to be better.  

It is always her birthday tomorrow because it is easier to stay here on one day and never let time move forward again. She says, “They left me, abused and then abandoned me. I tried everything but my fear made me tremble.” These traumas motivate her to stay isolated from the world. She never expected someone to come in and shake it all up for her, someone she might not want to disappear for. Someone who is there every day, takes interest in her life and cares to think about her. Someone who makes her feel special, pretty, and worthy. She does the same for him. Regardless of their mental health afflictions, they stick around with each other even after disputes because more than just “getting” each other, they make each other feel less alone. 

OCD, Depression, and all other mental illnesses are exhausting circumstances to be dealt with. They truly make life even harder to endure than it already is. Due to the taxing trials of life, many people, especially people with such circumstances, might think it would be easier if they either didn’t exist or would disappear. However, it is finding others that endure similar trials as us that make the journeys we take less lonely. 

People who make us feel understood even when that understanding isn’t perfect. When they don’t understand, they still can’t give up on us because they desperately want to understand. When you find someone who wants you around all the time, who makes you feel not only understood but happy simply doing things together, and you don’t want a path without this person, you might’ve just found love.    

Ritual is an excellent way to introduce ideas about mental health, loneliness, and love to people who don’t understand the ways in which these concepts can intersect. It is an excellent depiction of what OCD can look like and the extremes people will go to calm the loudness in their minds. It is about what diminishes loneliness and how love can be a powerful motivator in changing ourselves for the better. It is about feeling worthy and worthwhile even when the loudness of those dark thoughts is saying it would be easier to disappear. Mostly, it is about how our connection with one special person can not only bring us happiness but hope that things will get better.

My name is John Carter Jr and I have OCD.

I give Ritual an 11/10 for its excellent depiction of mental health, aesthetics, and love.

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