Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Back Issue 1: "I Kept Apologizing"

This is the first iteration of my new series titled "Looking Back." Each post will analyze an entry in my OCD journal from 1998 when I first received the diagnosis. In most cases I won't post the entire entry (they're pretty lengthy), but I'll highlight the major points.


"Today I apologized to Tom for the third time; I said I was sorry for criticizing him about how he could all of a sudden like a new band, when really, I had done the same thing a few times."

Tom, to my middle school self, seemed to follow the pack. Evidently he had found a new band that he liked, and I presumed it was because someone else liked it. Judging by the entry I could have said something like, "So you're all of a sudden an Everclear fan?"

Granted the subject matter is immature, my ability to express how I felt was, I feel, beyond that of most of my friends at age 13. But still, one theme is at work here that I can only understand now, looking back.

Craving Consistency
To some people with OCD, this manifests itself as a need for symmetry. For me it was consistency. I had to be sure that the way I represented myself was consistent across the board, or at least internally consistent.

Here's what that looked like to me then (pardon the insipid example, but I want to stay true to the subject matter): It was inconsistent of me to buy, on a whim, a Third Eye Blind CD and then say what I said to Tom. It was hypocritical. How could I criticize someone for something that I have done myself? The only way to set things straight was to apologize. If one time didn't feel right, or I didn't feel like he understood me, I'd do it two more times.

Questioning Understanding
Later on in the journal entry I described planning a trip to a theme park over the phone with Leah, one of my best friends. My family invited Leah, but she declined the offer.

"I hung up, but now I am compelled to keep asking her if she's able to go on Friday. Well, more like to reassure me that she's not going. I feel like there's something I misunderstood and that we'll get home Friday and there will be a message on the machine: 'I thought you were taking me to the park?!' I remember the whole conversation but I'm still afraid I made a mistake and misunderstood."

When I finished reading this entry I was amazed at the exact correlation between this second-guessing and any of the second-guessing I do now as an adult. Furthermore, I didn't realize the over-apologizing was present so early on, or the need for consistency so pervasive. But the more times I see the monster, the easier it is to recognize him.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, that would be really hard to have the obsessions attach themselves to interactions with other people, ie apologies and questioning! I feel relatively lucky that my obsessions don't involve that social aspect...that would be awful!

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  2. It's awsome you have the ability to reconize those "things." I think your attitude will be a big help in your recovery. Your an insperation.

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  3. I wish I had kept my journals throughout the years to look back on. I always threw them out after reading them over because I was so ashamed and embarassed of myself. I think it would repair alot of feelings if I had the opportunity to recognize my illnesses in those writings now.

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  4. Wow, I can really relate to the second guessing. I second guess the way I handle everything and analyze it. I second guess my remembrance of conversations and facts that I have heard or read. Second guessing is something I have to constantly fight. I never thought of this as a symptom of OCD, but now I see that it most certainly is.

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  5. Would you mind still posting about scrupulosity in a little more depth? I'm extremely intrigued.

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