##This blog could be triggering! Please be kind to yourself and if you are feeling a little raw, don’t read!!! If you do read and find yourself triggered please call LifeLine on 13 11 14 or online at http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Online-Services/Online-Services##
I’d like to thank my tweep @Tim_A_Roberts for inspiring this blog.
Confession. What a strange word. It has so many meanings. To confess to a priest. To confess about a crime. It implies that you have done something wrong. As some of you may know, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). My particular brand of OCD presents it’s self mainly as Hyper-Responsibility-Morality (usually expressed as OCD-R[M]), which in many cases expresses itself in the form of religiosity. I went through the religious thing. I felt “evil” for a long time. These negative feelings were reinforced by a religious leaders saying that I was possessed by the devil. But I am not getting into the religion thing here. It will deviate from the central message.
OCD-R for me is about intrusive thoughts about all the bad things that could happen to the people I love and cherish most, just because they know me. A lot of germophobes are afraid of being touched because they will catch something. For me I am afraid of infecting others with something.
I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards my family and friends. To the point where I would be willing to risk my own life in order to help them. No matter what, I am loyal till the end. Even if the person uses and abuses me (both metaphorically and literally) I will not leave them. Even people who have done some awful things to me have been given the opportunity to have my forgiveness and my friendship. That’s how messed up I am.
A friend said to me once, while discussing an unusual situation between mutual friends. To cut a long story short, one friend was being a complete knob over some money (which I thought was out of character) and the other was being a stubborn pain in the arse (also out of character). I cared very deeply for both them and tried to rationalise their behaviour to balance in-congruencies between my belief about my friends and the truth. Trying to make their stupid behaviour, that was dragging more and more of our friendship group for both sides okay, so that everyone could be friends again. I find conflict very triggering. Everything I thought I knew about these two people was wrong. I had “forgotten” or disregarded other situations of knobbery. She said too me:
“Pinky, I love you but even you can’t make them good. You can’t fix this.”
I do try to see the good in everyone. Everyone deserves a chance. It’s the “how many chances” question that I struggle to answer. When do you give up on people? In my mind never. This is where the problems start for me. Undying loyalty. The reality is, some people aren’t good and don’t deserve my loyalty but it takes a lot of convincing. This is all apart of OCD-R.
Once upon a time, I was convinced that the events that triggered the beginnings of my mental health happened to me because I was a bad person. To right these wrongs and try and silence those thoughts in my head, I had to atone for being me. I rejected kindness because evil people don’t deserve to have nice things happen to them. I had to earn my place in peoples lives and constantly prove that I am worthy of belonging. I would constantly chastise myself for my short comings and this fuelled my eating disorder and regimented my life. The strict regimentation of my life was the illusion of control that got me through some very dark days. These days, with the wonders of medication, this only happens when I am really triggered. It usually starts with me openly mocking my own intelligence, ability, and/or reason for being. I’m so good at flying under the radar that people think I am joking. This is usually an indicator that I am about to go on a “confession spree”.
Confessing is okay. When you’ve actually done something. Confessing because it makes you feel better about something totally irrelevant to anyone but you is a whole other level of mental which I am not sure I can explain, yet. There are reported cases of people living with severe OCD of confessing to crimes they have not committed. There’s a vignette’s on the you tube or do the google search about OCD confessing. If you don’t have it, it’s really interesting. It’s hard to describe the the feelings that over come me. It feels like I know I’ve done something wrong, you’re not sure really what you have done so you actively seek evidence to make *something* fit (social & cognitive psych geeks call this confirmation Bias.).
Lets pretend that I am going through a phase of being fixated on death and stationary. An intrusive thought entres my head that one of my pencils is missing and I used it to kill someone. There is no evidence that I would have done something like that and I have no memory of going out. So I set a test for myself. I line up 3 pencils and an eraser on my desk. All measured so I would know if one had been moved. I wake up in the morning and find that one of the pencils has moved ever so slightly.
I conclude using a OCD-R filter:
“This pencil moved a millimeter therefore I am Jack the Ripper”
There is no correlation between pencils and murders in my neighbourhood, in fact as far as I know, there has been no murders by pencil at all.
Before you chastise me for using humour, I am presenting this as a serious example of just how illogical this type of OCD can be. I admit that these examples are simplistic but hopefully you get the gist. These thoughts and rituals are usually an early indicator of a “confession session”. This means I will confess to things. Not crimes (not in my real life, I’ve never done that myself). I will confess that I am “being naughty by going shopping” or that I am an Atheist. Particularly if I am talking to someone who is a believer. I guess I want them to know that I am not “lying” to them or trapping them. It’s just a weird thing to do to someone who doesn’t know you.
Once the confession has started you start screaming to yourself in your head
“SHUT UP!! FFS! NO ONE CARES BUT YOU”
But out of your mouth tumbles the confessions. And in true style the more I try to shut up, the less I do. The content of these feelings differs for everyone just as the events that set off OCD are different but the outcome is pretty much the same. Confession. It has always been a very “full on” experience for me. I don’t know a lot of people with this particular sub-classification so I am unsure of the collective feeling around this. In other words, I’m not sure about other people, but this is how it is for me. This is the reality of my life. It’s one of the reasons I avoid human contact sometimes. I don’t want to embarrass people. I don’t want to make people more scared of me. So I stay away.
An example of this is, one of my tutors said at the end of our class that he hopes he will see us next year and to drop an email and find out which classes he is teaching and try to get into one of them. No promises and all that. I didn’t think he was talking to me. Why would he want me in his class? This really upset me. Thinking that I wasn’t wanted, yet again. Somehow I made it real in my head and I wanted to cry, but of course I couldn’t. I don’t know if it’s true. I’m certainly not going to try and find out. More because if it is true, that would mess me up. I believe that people perceive me as I perceive myself. Worthless. Then comes the next worry, if they do truly want to be around me that means I could contaminate them. I could make them mentally ill and I don’t want to do that.
The infecting people with mental illness is a new one for me. It’s only really crept up over the last couple of years. My uncanny ability to diagnose mental health problems triggered off the belief that once you were friends with me, you would be permitted to touch me, sort of, and then you’d be mental. That somewhere on my skin is this microbe of mental germs. There’s no hand sanitiser that kills this microbe.
I have several friends who have been diagnosed with some kind of high functioning mental illness at my insistance that there was something out-of-whack. Only to have my worst fears realised when I was either close to correct diagnosis or bang on the money. Now I know I sound all up myself. I do have fantasies of being the House of Psychological differential diagnosis. But will have to wait. These random events bought me too my knees. I think the movie “The Number 23” could be looked as away of conceptualising this kind of OCD. Even the main character is clearly mental for other reasons, but it serves well to illustrate what the compulsion drive that *makes* a person with OCD-R look for conformation biases and how devastating that conformation can be.
I have a feeling that this current evolution of my OCD-R stems from when I was a kid. I thought I could transfer thoughts to other people. I remember staring at my mother waiting for her say the “code word” that I had transfered to her, to confirm that she could receive my messages. I would be staring at her intensely and she would ask;
“Do you need the toilet? Is there something wrong with you?”
“No.” And begrudgingly accept that she didn’t receive the code word. I must have been about 6 or 7 at the time. I kept trying until discovered deadly diseases. That was it, I was obsessed with the Dickensian period.
With regards to my own experience, I try to manage by positively directing my excess energy into uni work or this blog or my beloved Twitter. The problem is, that if I don’t deal with it, it comes out in other ways. It usually goes something like this:
I have used CBT and Exposure therapy with the hope that I can squash my thoughts and get on with life. Sadly, nothing I have tried has really helped in the long term. Which is okay, you know, I get it, it’s about managing my thoughts and behaviours not extinguishing them. I can tell you from the inside, that it sucks, it’s hard to be OCD. It’s hard to feel wrong and uncomfortable with yourself all the time.
OCD-R and it’s cohorts are the unrecognised types of OCD. The blanket idea that CBT and Exposure therapies will work for all types and degrees of OCD is ridiculous. The current love affair that psychologists and psychiatrists are having with CBT is, I believe holding back the advancement of interventions for everyone, not just those with Pure OCD. I don’t discount the value that CBT and Exposure Therapies have for some, but to say that it is a cure-all is ridiculous.
I guess this is my answer to the question, “Twitter is not the right place for confessions…” For some it may not be the right place, but as Tim rightly pointed out, “It’s cyber-safety, no one is really looking”. That’s right and it’s cathartic.
Thanks for listening