In August of this year, my mind unhinged itself and I became convinced that I was wanted by the police for possession and distribution of child pornography. I'm still not entirely sure why this particular terror overtook me. It might have been a newspaper article I had read weeks previously in which a twenty-one year old university student was said to have been arrested for soliciting sex from adolescents over the internet. Or it might simply have been the accumulated pressure of years of intense schooling suddenly finding a bizarre but needed outlet. It was a false fear, one with no basis in reality - I had no interest in kiddy porn, had never seen it or anything approximating it - and yet it was a very real and palpable sense of terror that I just couldn't shake. I couldn't eat, I couldn't talk, I could barely control the violent urge to run every time I saw or heard a police car. All I could do was sleep and hope that the groundless fear would pass on its own.
It didn't and instead I was taken to the emergency wards of a mental health centres and hospitals. There I talked to doctors who were at pains to determine why a seemingly benign young man would believe himself to be culpable of this terrible crime. Some postulated that I was suffering from a confused sexual identity. Others had no answers and merely diagnosed me as having obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. They prescribed drugs. I took them and for the first week or so they made me feel worse. I was a wreck, thrashing around on the couch in my mothers living room, clutching at my body as if it was hardly my own, feeling viscerally the imminent arrival of the law. I begged my parents to promise me that nothing was going to happen. I asked my uncle, a lawyer, if I was headed for jail. I planned to kill myself - biting off my tongue seemed the best option, as it was the one method police custody would not deprive me of. The intensity of the feeling began to subside with time. I no longer felt that overpowering sense of guilt. I was able to function again. But I still feel crippled by the experience. I wonder what it was in me that wanted so ferociously to feel targeted. What was it in me that needed to feel criminal?