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.


  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!

  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.

  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.

  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.

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