December 7, 2020 at 9:38 am #370580
I will start by saying that I have always been extremely sensitive, anxious and emotionally fragile. Despite my medical knowledge I only realized last week I have suffered with OCD and OCD tendencies most of my life. After I had suffered a minor injury a few weeks ago and stayed at home, I started obsessing with my past and mistakes from my childhood. I feel such an intense sense of anxiety, compulsion to confess and „figure it out“. My memories are very blurry and have morphed into complete different events throughout couple last days. I have gone through several obsessions and I can clearly see those were completely unreasonable. Now I am stuck on this childhood memory and again I feel my life can never go back to normal. I am aware it can be viewed as a form of „confessing“ but I really feel the need to vent. When I was probably 13 years old a kid in my school who was one year older committed suicide. He was a bit weird and was being constantly bullied. I never knew him or have been in close contact to him, but I do remember witnessing an episode where he was being publicly attacked and also the moment (I suspect many months later) I learned he has died. I did cry and I remember feeling guilty. I cannot remember why however. I have no distinct recollection of ever saying anything mean to him, but because my memories are so distorted I do not trust myself one bit. I probably laughed with everyone else and definitely did not do anything to protect him. Maybe something worse. This memory came up a few days ago and I have been obsessing about it. I feel I am (at least partially) the reason he committed suicide. I have this burning urge to „figure it out“. I have been contacting my school friends and they have zero recollection of us/me doing anything to this kid. Despite that my obsession has only been growing. I feel I do not deserve to be happy. In the past I noticed I had similar flare ups whenever my mind has no distractions. I would like another perspective on this. Much appreciated.December 7, 2020 at 2:25 pm #370671
You shared that you’ve always been “extremely sensitive, anxious and emotionally fragile”, and that you realized only last week that you’ve been suffering from OCD/ OCD tendencies most of your life. After suffering a minor injury a few weeks ago, staying at home, you started obsessing about your past, and mistakes from your childhood, feeling “an intense sense of anxiety, compulsion to confess and.. figure it out”.
You are currently “stuck on this childhood memory”- when you were 13, a 14 year old kid in your school who was “constantly bullied” committed suicide. You now remember having witnessed one of the episodes when he was bullied/ “publicly attacked”. You remember that when you found out that he died, you felt guilty. You do not remember “ever saying anything mean to him”, and the school friends you contacted don’t remember you (or themselves) bullying him.
But you do not trust yourself (“I do not trust myself one bit”). You figure that you probably laughed with everyone else when he was bullied and did not protect him, “maybe something worse”. “I feel I am (at least partially) the reason he committed suicide. I have this burning urge to.. figure it out”.
I need to take a break and will be back to your thread in a few hours to reply further. If you can add, before I return, anything about your childhood experience that may be relevant to you being as anxious as you’ve been- please do.
anitaDecember 7, 2020 at 4:36 pm #370684
I will be back to your thread and reply further in about 14 hours from now.
anitaDecember 7, 2020 at 9:16 pm #370689
thank your for your reply.
Just a bit of added information – I am married 30 yo female.
I remember having an extreme separation anxiety as a child. For example, my mother was usually late to pick me up from kindergarten (age 5) so I would cry every single convinced she would not come. Another curious episode from when I was aber eight or so – my parents wanted to by a bigger TV and it was so scary to me that they would spend so much money on this one item and our financial future was doomed. I remember crying a lot that day. I felt enormous responsibility as a kid. I would go to school a few hours early. I would do my homework with coat and shoes still on. Being late would cause me extreme anxiety. Not that these tendencies were not recognized by my parents – they were but they were seen as quirks of my personality and rather celebrated, as I was trust-worthy and academically achieved. My maternal grandfather had similar tendencies.
During puberty I relaxed a lot and did a lot of stupid things teenagers do (occasionally skipping classes, smoking cigarettes etc.) – mostly without guilt.
My relationship with my mother has always been tense. She has what I refer as an „unripe personality“. She could be pretty savage at times and a master of giving me guilty feelings (for example for breaking a lamp accidentally, let alone something bigger).
In later years I developed severe hypochondriac tendencies and checking behavior related to my work.
I hope this helps.December 8, 2020 at 7:19 am #370691
You are welcome. The post you added helps me understand better.
* Here is what I believe did not happen: you were not born with an unusual amount of anxiety, and/ or with OCD, or with “quirks of personality” that caused you to experience (a) “extreme separation anxiety as a child”, (b) “extreme anxiety” about being late to school, (c) it being “so scary” when your parents bought a bigger TV, (d) “enormous responsibility as a child”, etc.
“My maternal grandfather had similar tendencies”- but so do many people not related to you, so many people suffer from separation anxiety etc., all over the world, and those people do not share your family’s genes. For example, I suffered from extreme anxiety as a child and was diagnosed with OCD. I also felt enormous responsibility as a child, and yet.. you and I are not related and never met.
* Here is what I believe did happen: a young child, such as a 5 year old and younger, cannot feel safe unless her mother is present. It is the same not only for humans, but for many other animals.
When first going to kindergarten, the mother should stay with the child all day (shorter days) for about a week, reassuring the child, seeing to it that the adults in charge are competent, and that the child feels comfortable with them. After a week, the mother should stay with the child part of the day and leave for a few hours, then return on time to pick up the child. This way, the child can gradually adjust to spend time away from her mother without excessive anxiety.
When you were left at kindergarten to spend what felt like an eternity (that’s how time feels for a child when anxious) without your mother- you were not ready for that separation, and no child in your exact situation would have been ready. The fact that your mother was usually late to pick you up significantly added to your anxiety, as you witnessed other parents picking up their children, but .. your mother was not among them.
Children who are left in kindergarten before they are ready- they cry a lot, day after day, but after crying a whole lot, some stop crying- they dissociate. They feel detached so to not feel that distressing, severe anxiety. Observing those kids may make you think that they are okay with the separation, but it is not true: they only appear okay, and their anxiety will express itself elsewhere, in ways other than crying.
When you were at home with your mother, she was “pretty savage at times and a master of giving me guilty feelings (for example for breaking a lamp accidently..”- a savage adult woman would scare anyone, but she would scare her dependent, young child the most. Your mother’s savage behavior caused a lot of your extreme anxiety. And, you learned that making any mistake is very scary because of her overreaction to it. Because she overreacted to your small mistakes, you came to believe that all of your mistakes are big.
When your mother made you feel a lot of guilt- that feeling of guilt in itself is a painful feeling and we are all scared of pain. So, you when you felt guilty, you were afraid to feel it again.
When you (8) heard that your parents wanted to buy a bigger TV, you felt so scared that the family financial future was doomed. You referred to that happening as a “curious episode”. I don’t see it as a curious episode: what happened was probably that being already anxious, you repeatedly heard your parents express their financial fears, such as perhaps saying how much this costs and how much that costs, and not having enough money. Maybe (?) they complained that it costs too much to raise children- so when you heard them planning on buying an expensive item, you may have thought something like: if they buy that TV, maybe they will not have money to raise me!
Being late to school caused you “extreme anxiety” because, I am guessing, already anxious, one time you were late to school and a teacher screamed at you, or you were left to stand outside in the cold because the gates were closed.. or maybe your mother made you feel very guilty about having been late to school.
“During puberty I relaxed a lot and did a lot of stupid things teenagers do (occasionally skipping classes, smoking cigarettes, etc.)- mostly without guilt”- young children are solely focused on their parents as a source of safety; teenagers shift some of their focus to their peers, able to feel safety in the company of other teenagers.
“In later years, I developed severe hypochondriac tendencies and checking behavior related to my work”- the severe anxiety at 5, and throughout your childhood.. that anxiety doesn’t just disappear because we grow older, it stays and expresses itself in a variety of contexts, over the years.
Here are some of the contexts you detailed: (1) separating from your mother in kindergarten and her being usually late to pick you up, (2) your mother’s savage reactions to you making mistakes, (3) being late to school, (4) worrying about your family’s financial doom, (5) worrying about your health (“hypochondriac tendencies”), (6) worrying that you bullied the 14 year old and caused him to commit suicide- the most recent context.
“I started obsessing with my past and mistakes from my childhood”- that originated by your mother overreacting to small mistakes that you made (including making you feel so guilty about making mistakes).
“I feel such an intense sense of anxiety, compulsion to confess and .. figure it out”- naturally, your thinking brain is trying to resolve the anxiety and guilt, to figure out what happened and in figuring it out- and/ or confessing- to no longer feel that fear and guilt regarding the boy who committed suicide.
“I learned he has died. I did cry and I remember feeling guilty. I cannot remember why however”- feeling guilty about his death is not evidence of your guilt. It is evidence that you tend to feel guilty for almost anything that goes wrong around you, ever since your mother overreacted/ savagely reacted to small, accidental mistakes you made. Because of her severe reaction, you learned that your mistakes are equally as severe as her reactions.
So, let’s say, you witnessed a bullying incident involving the boy and you smiled. In your mind- that smile alone might be so powerful as to lead the boy to suicide. Your mistakes, in your mind, are automatically magnified because your mother magnified your mistakes in the ways she reacted.
I hope you take your time reading this post, which took me 2.5 hours to put together and let me know what you think. I was also wondering what you meant by “unripe personality” (She has what I refer as an.. unripe personality”).
anitaDecember 8, 2020 at 8:57 am #370696
I am amazed at the amount of thought, compassion and effort you put in your response. Thank you.
I must agree with most points and conclusions you made. I do think that the time in kindergarten was extremely traumatic for me. My mother told me that the teachers there would put my jacket and shoes on and would let me stand there alone awaiting my ever late mother to pick me up as they themselves were getting ready to go home. I find it interesting though that even with this knowledge my mother kept on being late.
Most of the interactions I had or still have with my mother end up in some sort of conflict. She sees bad intention everywhere and feels attacked, disappointed or attacks herself for no reason. As a child I often felt I needed to be „the bigger person“ in interactions with my mother in order to prevent or end conflict. So I would say sorry even if she was the one who hurt my feelings.
My niece is 2 years old and every time she (basically still a baby!) chooses to show affection to someone else or new instead of my mother when she is present she is automatically hurt and makes my sister feel guilty for her daughter does not appreciate everything her grandma (my mother) has done for her and is so disloyal! This is what I mean with unripe – huge ego problems. I do honestly see the connection between my anxiety and my childhood. I do believe I had some genetic predisposition and suffered many triggering events leading to my extreme guilt and learned OCD tendencies.
I do have an extreme fear of making mistakes and especially causing someone harm. I do also believe I have this black and white form of thinking when it comes to myself and I hold myself to some higher standard than everyone else. I have this subconscious belief I need to have this perfectly clear conscience to be allowed to be happy. That is probably why my OCD latches on these blurry memories where I may have caused some enormous harm to someone – and until it is figured out I must hold my breath.
I do love my mother and have forgiven her many years ago for I think she knows no better and is probably fighting her own demons.
The previous two days I could feel the latest obsession slowly fade away. I have never ever experienced my anxiety at this intensity before though and I truly believed that I was doomed. Through some distraction through work and common OCD techniques I found online I could slowly distance myself from this obsessive thinking about the the suicide of this boy and what (important) role I might have played in his decision and started to see a bit clearer. I am not out of the woods yet and what I fear is the next „episode“. But I will continue to just hang in there – and wait for this wave to further fade.
Your comment that feeling guilty does not equal guilt hit me deeply.
If there was one thing you could tell me what you learned from your OCD journey what would it be?
Thank you loads.December 8, 2020 at 9:34 am #370695KTParticipant
Hello. I feel you – I had very bad OCD and separation anxiety as a child, up until my adult years.
It turns out I had something called PANDAS/PANS. (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Strep/ Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) Please look this up and consider if it matches your experience with OCD and separation anxiety. My OCD/religiosity/separation anxiety got suddenly much worse after I had chicken pox. Turns out it was an autoimmune reaction in my brain. It was nice to know that it was not my fault. It was also nice to know better strategies for changing my OCD – I’ve had better results from treating it like an autoimmune disorder, than I’ve had with CBT. (Although CBT has helped with the traumatic effects of having OCD.) Knowing that it was a physical process in my brain helped me forgive myself… I used to beat myself up so much for having this disorder. I thought it was my fault, that it made me unlovable. What a traumatic thing to happen to a child!!
SSRIs (including Celexa) helped me through the worst. I highly recommend them. Also, altering my diet helped me the rest of the way. Leafy greens and bananas in a smoothie everyday helps a LOT!! Deciding to eat meat helped – the worst of my OCD came when I was vegetarian. Avoiding processed foods (low fiber/high sugar/high sodium) helped me.
Also, avoiding high arginine foods like nuts and nut-based oils helps me. (Why? OCD is associated with high nitric oxide levels. Arginine contributes to nitric oxide production. Eating high arginine foods, at least for me, worsens my OCD and anxiety. So I try to eat mostly low arginine/high lysine foods) Diet had an even bigger impact than the prescription, to be honest.
I am not the only one who has experienced an improvement in OCD from diet change. It turns out our microbiome affects our brain chemistry, including OCD; eating healthier food helps our microbiome.
(However, do not try over the counter probiotics! Bacteria self-replicate, and are hard to get rid of once you have them. And science isn’t sure which kinds are best for which individuals. I messed up my gastrointestinal tract for a good two years after taking Vitamin Shoppe probiotics for a week!)
You don’t have to be perfect with trying to improve your health with food, though. Any little bit seems to help. And SSRIs were really wonderful for me when I used them. They didn’t get rid of it completely, but they let me feel like myself again! Many doctors are happy to prescribe them. But be sure to ask for something else if one doesn’t work for you. I tried 2 other kinds before I got to Celexa.
It also sounds like you have been through a really hard time emotionally. Hard times in childhood can cause complex PTSD. Some books that changed me life were Pete Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, Susan Anderson’s Taming your Outer Child, and Jeffrey Young’s Reinventing Your Life.
OCD sucks. But you are a wonderful person just the way you are. Your conditions are not your fault. OCD is a physical disorder that leaves a traumatizing emotional impact. OCD is not who you are – it’s something that happened to you. Hoping for the best for you <3December 8, 2020 at 9:53 am #370701
You are welcome and thank you for expressing your appreciation.
“I do honestly see the connection between my anxiety and my childhood”- I am glad to read this, because there is a huge connection.
“I do believe I had some genetic predisposition and suffered many triggering events leading to my extreme guilt and learned OCD tendencies”- yes, I learned that certain disorders, like OCD, happens more in some families than in other families, but what I also learned is that every single child (no exceptions) is predisposed to be physically/ neurologically harmed by prolonged, overwhelming anxiety.
What kind of harm may depend partially on genetics, some predisposed to OCD, others to psychosis perhaps, but every child is predisposed to harm in some form.
“If there was one thing you could tell me what you learned from your OCD journey, what would it be?”-
1. I ended all contact with my mother back in 2013. I had to remove from my life the person who repeatedly inflicted that overwhelming anxiety on me and who abused me- because every time I saw her or heard her voice or interacted with her – my excessive anxiety was maintained and my OCD fueled.
Notice what happens with your sister: as an adult, she visits your mother with her innocent, loving toddler. The two year old shows affection to someone, and your mother is “automatically hurt and makes (your) sister feel guilty for her daughter does not appreciate everything her grandma has done for her and is so disloyal”- how can your sister possibly heal if she is re-exposed to the same abuse (and exposing the next generation to the same abuse)?
And how can you heal when you are exposed to your sister and your niece being currently mistreated by your mother.. (?)
You wrote: “Most of my interactions I had or still have with my mother end up in some sort of conflict”- this ongoing conflict is maintaining the harm done to you in childhood. In other words, your abusive childhood is.. still happening.
2. I attended a few years of quality Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps a whole lot with “this black and white form of thinking” that you mentioned. I learned how to not “hold myself to some higher standard than anyone else”, in other words: I accepted that I am not perfect, that no one is and no one will ever be perfect. I finally accepted my past mistakes, poor judgement and .. I even accepted that I was unfair and hurtful to others, that I have harmed others- the latter was the most difficult thing to accept. I was able to come to peace regarding hurting/ harming others because I am and have been doing my best to be the imperfectly best person I can be, for so very long. And I finally learned to direct my empathy to myself, no less than to any other person.
3. I was introduced to Mindfulness during that CBT therapy. Through mindful meditations and exercise I was able to become more and more aware of how I operate: cognitively (thinking), emotionally (feeling) and physically (bodily sensations), being better able to take care of myself and over a long period of time, I became able to feel less fear than I felt before.
There is more, of course, but you are welcome to continue our communication and we can talk about much more.
anitaDecember 8, 2020 at 1:39 pm #370718
you hit the nail on the head again. After reading your response I cried on my bathroom floor for one hour. It was one of those good, cathartic cries, though peppered with feeling just so so so sad for myself as a child, for my sister as a child and her daughter, and all potentially traumatic, unfair experiences she may face in near future through contact with my mother. I have been living abroad for 5 years now and contact with my mother comes in short, controlled bursts, which is good. Because I was able to forgive her (she doesn’t know this because she never apologized or did anything wrong as far as she is concerned) and no longer held grudge for those experiences I thought it “was over” and no longer had lasting effects on me. Your replies and your similar personal experiences made me think again.
Thank you for sharing your experience. Your story truly resonates with me. Unlearning is very hard, especially because the lines are so blurry now – many OCD behaviors like extreme sense of responsibility, being very organized and oh so reliable etc. have been a strong part of my identity. I love what you said about perfection, self-compassion and being human. Thank you. I have plenty food for thought and need some time to digest. I would love to post an update here some time later.
Stay safe!December 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm #370719
it is very kind of you to post such a long, informative reply. I actually am familiar with PANDAS as I work in Neurology. As much as I can tell there was no sudden onset of my symptoms. I remember being anxious as early as my memories start -maybe at 3 yo – this ever pending doom. I thought it was normal.
Thank you so much for your kind encouraging words. I will look into your suggestions. I hope you are and stay well.December 8, 2020 at 2:11 pm #370720
You are welcome. I am glad you had a good cry. Please take your time to digest and do post an update when you are ready, I am here to communicate with you for as long as you want. Stay safe yourself!