OCD and the need to confess things

I recently posted a poll to Twitter asking people what they most wanted to know about my OCD: The fear of contamination, checking things, health anxiety or obsessions of guilt.

I started writing a post about all, but it turns out people are most interest in the latter; guilt. And so, I thought I’d write a whole post about it.

Believe it or not, guilt is a big part of OCD. I know, it was news to me at first, too.

In an article on BeyondOCD, it explained that doubt and guilt are two of OCD’s main features.

It reads: ‘While it is not understood why this is so, these are considered hallmarks of the disorder.  Unless you understand these, you cannot understand OCD.’

The author adds: ‘In the 19th century, OCD was known as the “doubting disease.”  OCD can make a sufferer doubt even the most basic things about themselves, others, or the world they live in.

‘Doubt is one of OCDs more maddening qualities.  It can override even the keenest intelligence.  It is a doubt that cannot be quenched.  It is doubt raised to the highest power.’

Doubt comes in many forms within OCD, often we just don’t realise this. When it comes to OCD, people have their own ‘thing’. Some people wash their hands multiple times, others check the doors and ovens to make sure no harm comes to their home while they’re out. These aren’t just rituals, they’re doubts. Every time we re-check that door, we’re doubting whether it was really locked. Every time we wash our hands again, we’re doubting they were clean enough the first time we washed.

However, doubt doesn’t have to be about a physical thing – and occur emotionally, too. That’s where the guilt comes in.

A big part of OCD is feelings of intense guilt and the need to confess things. I didn’t realise this until recently. I’ve been struggling with guilt and I came across an OCD forum from people living with the same thing. When I put it all in place now, it makes sense.

When I was around seven or eight, I was on a family holiday and I was in a tent with a male family member – who was a year younger than me – playing mums and dads, as you do when you’re little. Half a year later, I broke down to my dad about it. I felt it was wrong. He was a boy, I was a girl, I was only little but I understood at the time that girls fancy boys. I worried whether playing mums and dads had meant there’d been something sexual in it. Of course, there hadn’t been – I was eight, for god’s sake. But that didn’t make it any better.

Even throughout my teenage years – and now – this is a memory that makes me feel uneasy because it’s one that made me feel so dirty at the time. Like I was bad.

The problem is, this is a memory I’d even as a little girl spent time obsessing over. I realise now that this is a symptom of OCD. We forget this because we spell ‘OCD’ out by its letters. We forget that it stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. ‘Obsessive’ being the most prominent word in this case.

Just recently, at age 22, my guilt has been triggered again. I won’t go into it, but something happened a while ago that was completely out of character for me and I’ve spent the last week playing it over and over in my head, thinking about what I’d done and what I could’ve done differently. I’ve played various scenarios over in my head and it’s got so bad that I’ve actually started to convince myself of things I haven’t actually done.

Seriously, I’ve spent the evening crying because my head is telling me I’ve done something that I have absolutely no recollection of. I know in my rational head it’s not real, but my irrational head says otherwise.

In a study by Italian researchers in the journal Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, published in September 2016, it suggests that those with OCD may perceive guilt to be more threatening than most people do – leading them to finding it totally intolerable.

Those who feel intolerable guilt get rid of it the only way they know how: by confessing. OCD confessing is like washing your hands twenty times in a row. It’s a short sense of relief each time.

This is something I’ve been trying to control recently. I’ve been confessing and confessing and confessing to things that make me feel guilty. The guilt goes for a little while, before it hits hard once again with yet another thought to feel guilty about.

It’s a vicious cycle, and one that’s predominant in OCD – it starts with an intrusive thought, it’s followed by a ritual and it’s eased with a short sense of relief.

It’s a cycle that’s not easily broken, either.

I wish I had some advice for others going through these overwhelming feelings of guilt. But the only advice I can offer is not mine – it belongs to some wise woman on an OCD forum.

When you have an awful sense of guilt over an uncontrollable thought, ask yourself these questions:

What do you have to feel guilty about?

Is the guilt ‘real’ or is it your anxiety talking? AKA, is this a new sense of guilt that’s come out of nowhere, or have you actually done physical wrong?

Why do you feel guilty?

Assess the guilt. It’s likely you feel guilty because you have OCD and you are giving importance to your intrusive thoughts.

Who benefits from you confessing?

It may seem like a relief to you to get it all out, but it’s only temporary. Is confessing going to help you, or the person you’re confessing to, long-term?

Remember, you have OCD. OCD does crazy things, and the only way we can control it is learning to cope. Coping with guilt is hard, but it can be done. At least, that’s what I’ve heard – and what I’m hoping.

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A friendship that made me forget my worth

I haven’t really blogged that much recently because I didn’t want it to be like my old blog, where I felt forced to write all of the time because it was what I was doing for a living.

With this blog, I just want to be able to write when I feel able to so that it doesn’t become tedious. But recently something happened that I feel I need to write not just for myself but for anyone going through a similar situation.

Last night, I had to step back and re-evaluate my worth. It may sound silly, but there was a sudden moment when I realised that I wasn’t happy with the way I was being treated by someone very close to me.

I realised that the person I was close to, I wasn’t close to for the right reasons. Our friendship was very one-sided, and to tell you the truth I was getting nothing out of it. I don’t want to go too into detail because I’d like to respect this person, but I feel this is something important I’d like to write about for myself.

I was in a friendship with someone for two years. We had a great time together, we were always very close and we could go months without talking and then pick things up again like we’d never been apart. There was only one problem. I was contributing most things to the friendship.

They gave me their time, their positivity and their entertainment – and in return, I funded it.

Now, a friendship should work equally. You should both be able to enjoy your time together without one person falling shorter than the other. But that wasn’t the case. I was often left with a hefty dent in my bank account from consistently footing the bill for this person. And at first I accepted it, after all my money was going towards memories with this person, and I was having fun – but it wasn’t so fun afterwards when I had to be a lot stricter over necessities, simply because I was never just paying for me, it was always for the both of us.

I excused it for so long, telling myself ‘it’s just what friends do’, but recently I realised that’s just not the case. Because it wasn’t just the aspect of paying for things. I read back through my messages and realised that every time we’d met up, we’d make plans only to be told just before they had no money. Most people, surely, would let a person know before making plans – but this person did it because they simply expected me to accept it, and continue with the plans despite them being unable to contribute to them themselves. As a one-off, this is fine. But as a regular occurrence? It’s not okay.

If I wasn’t able to pay for it, we wouldn’t hang out. And for most people that would be fine, but because I’d become so used to funding our time together I started feeling obligated to do so and would actually feel guilty about not being able to do something because I didn’t want to foot the bill.

It was like the friendship wasn’t free – I either bought it or I was left with nothing.

I’ll admit it, much of it was my own fault. I could’ve said no on so many occasions but as I mentioned above, it felt obligatory – as though we’d have no friendship if I didn’t just suck it up.

And for me, that was a big deal. As someone who’s chronically ill, I don’t get to go out much. I only see a few close friends because going out more publicly and meeting new people makes me nervous because I am constantly worrying about my stomach. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that immediately, before any plans commence, I will ensure we are close to home so that I can come back if needs be. That they’ll remind me to take my medication. That they’ll be there if I begin to feel poorly so I’m not left alone.

And that makes you feel like a burden.

So, to have someone around me who I could enjoy my time with, and felt 100% comfortable with, was a pretty big deal – even if it was taking a chunk out of my bank account.

But a recent occurrence showed that I couldn’t go on like that. I won’t go into detail but the gist of it is that I put a lot of effort into this person to get them through a bad couple of days, putting them first and leaving me having to take a chunk out of my savings.

Two weeks after I’d done so, and I hadn’t heard from this person. Not a peep. Not even a message of thanks.

And last night, I decided enough’s enough. Why should I constantly put effort into a friendship with someone who refuses to put effort in with me? Why should I feel it’s okay for someone to take and take and take from me when I’m getting nothing in return? It’s not an equal friendship. It’s relationship of power – one where I never had the upper-hand. And friendship shouldn’t be about that. You should never feel obligated to do things just to keep a friendship going. It should’t be one-sided. It should be a mutual agreement of respect and understanding – and you should never, ever feel taken advantage of by someone who is meant to be promising that.

As I mentioned above, I was naive, and I only wish I’d taken a step back to evaluate the situation sooner so I didn’t have to learn such an expensive lesson, but alas, here we are.

Of course, these feelings within a friendship won’t always occur for financial reasons – but they send the same message. If someone is repeatedly taking you for granted to the point you expect nothing less and come to expect it, put an end to it. Don’t be that person, like me, feeling guilty because you don’t want to give something to the friendship that your ‘friend’ isn’t giving you in return.

Take some time to evaluate your own feelings and ask yourself whether it’s worth it. Whether the friendship is worth it or whether that friendship will only last depending when you finally decide enough is enough.

Know when enough is enough.

Know your worth.

I only wish I’d known sooner.

Why people are so afraid to speak out about their mental health

Lots of people care about mental illness, I know that.

But it’s a sad truth that many of these people either suffer with mental illness themselves or care about someone who does.

Because really, if something doesn’t affect you or the people around you, you don’t understand it – and therefore you find it hard to empathise with.

But it’s not empathy people with mental health issues are looking for – it’s respect and understanding, which is completely lacking because of people who refuse to want to take time out of their day to believe that people can struggle mentally.

The issue is that so many people with mental illness are afraid to speak out because they’re worried they’ll face judgement. They worry that they won’t be believed or that they’ll have to attempt to justify their feelings just so that they’re acknowledged.

While it’s so easy to tell someone to ‘speak out’, seeing someone actually speaking out can be a whole other story.

Take Sinead O’Connor, for example. In a recent viral video, she sat in an empty motel room crying for help, screaming out for her family to look at how lost she was, struggling so badly that she’d even contemplated taking her own life.

Immediately, people commented on the video telling Sinead how wonderful she was and how they wanted to help – but alongside the copious amount of postitive messages lay the few comments from people who make those people struggling with mental illness afraid to speak out.

‘What have you got to cry about, you’re rich?’ seemed to be a common theme amongst the negative comments.

Apparently, people don’t quite understand that mental illness doesn’t only apply to those who may not be as financially stable.

People don’t choose mental illness, mental illness chooses you – rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.

But because of the common misunderstanding, people are actually afraid to talk about their illness because if they’re not homeless, living a bad home life or look okay from the outside, they should have ‘nothing to cry about’.

The funniest thing of all is that the world is full of a bunch of hypocrites.

If you go through your social media, most people are too busy posting selfies of themselves or tagging their friends in memes to step back and talk about mental health.

The odd post you do see about mental illness is often ignored, with people assuming that person must be ‘seeking attention’ to have posted it online for all to see. Yep, we assume they’re ‘seeking attention’ instead of ‘crying for help’.

But it’s a whole different story when someone actually takes their own life.

Take Chester Bennington for instance. He devastatingly took his own life and instantly people took to social media to share suicide hotline after suicide hotline.

While this was great and hopefully helped some people, I couldn’t help but ask why it took someone actually ending their own life to want to help.

Why had it taken something so extreme for people to want to do something about it?

Why don’t we realise how serious mental health is until it’s too late?

Most importantly: Why is it that it takes something visual to make people realise how dangerous mental health can be?

And this, this is exactly why people are too scared to speak out. Because they’re afraid of what people will say. Because they’re afraid that because people can’t see it, people won’t believe you’re sick.

Because they’re afraid that instead of receiving help, they’ll be mocked or judged.

Because people don’t realise. People don’t realise how badly mental illness can affect you.

How lonely it can make you feel. How empty you can become inside and ultimately how easy it is to lose yourself to feelings of nothing but negativity.

People don’t realise, because they don’t want to take the time to understand – even though understanding could make those living with mental illness so much more at ease in terms of seeking help from those around them.

Because, the bottom line is, the people who don’t want to understand would rather assume.

Because, sadly, it’s easier that way.