In honour of #OCDWeek, I'm sharing my experience with OCD and disclosure.
Ten years ago I barely knew what hit-and-run OCD was when another subtype sprung up - scrupulously OCD.
I felt tormented about whether or not I was a morally good person. Anything I'd ever done that I deemed a mistake left me replaying the situation in my mind over and over and over. I had an unquenched need to know whether or not I was morally good. The more I analyzed past mistakes, the worse I felt. I wanted to confess but I was terrified of opening up to anyone. How could I? I was doubting my character, doubting my choices. I felt drenched in shame. Talking to someone was not an option: I would be judged, shunned.
I let the shame fester. I carried it with me, pushing it as far out of my mind as I could. But it was always just under the surface, anything that referenced right versus wrong could trigger it. Shows such as Prison Break were out of the question. I didn't want to think about it. I had to avoid thinking about it. Thinking about it hurt on such a deep level.
But there came a point where I needed to talk. It was gut wrenching to be feeling that level of shame. I decided I would give the counselling thing a try, with extreme caution.
But after enough rapport building, secrets begin spilling in counsellor's offices. Tissue boxes aren't at a hand's reach by coincidence. If you’re ever in a counsellor’s office without tissue, make sure you have your sleeve handy.
Even though I could feel the walls I had built cracking, I wasn’t ready to spill without knowing her documentation methods. I quizzed her on how much she’d record from our sessions. I wanted bare minimal. I requested not to be discussed in team meetings. This was supposed to be confidential. I wanted to take full advantage of the luxury.
Satisfied that she’d be vague in her notes, that I wouldn’t be a case study, I told her about what I was going through. Another oblivious disclosure. A disclosure for something I didn’t know existed. Sure, I had heard of hit-and-run OCD in my Abnormal Psych class, but other than that, I thought that people with OCD checked the stove, washed their hands a lot and needed to have things in order. Surely I didn't have OCD.
And the counsellor thought the same as I did. We assumed what many people still do -- the assumption that OCD is a quirk. Neither of us knew I wasn’t getting the help I needed. She reassured me multiple times. Great, right? Going to a counsellor to be told that you’re not in fact a bad person. I thought so. But reassurance is a temporary fix when it comes to OCD. Your mind then finds a loophole and anther confession is in high gear. I would re-word whatever mistake I thought I had made, try to trap her into saying, “yes ,Melanie, you are a horrible person and deserve the death sentence.”
The guilt from my mistakes was unbearable at times. Talking to the counsellor wasn’t cutting it. I had no context of what was happening. I just knew I was bad.
Disclosing is especially painful when you don't know you're doing it. Understanding your illness gives you an insight that’s not accessible without knowledge. Insight gives you some wiggle room. Insight offers a hint of relief when you’re knee deep in shame.
I was assigned what she coined “worry diaries.” I was allotted a set amount of time each day to obsess about my past mistakes. This included the parking lot incident that continued to haunt me. After all, maybe the guy I thought I may have hit with my vehicle had crawled into the bushes and died. Maybe no one ever found him. Why hadn’t I surveyed the bushes?
I diligently followed my homework instructions. The guilt started to come in waves, more of an ebb and flow than a never ending quicksand. I liked the hit of relief the counsellor gave me—the reassurance that I was a good person. I started to see her less regularly, just when I needed that fix. Until the day I called and was told the news.
The news that she no longer worked there.
What? Why hadn't she told me? I had let out the skeletons in my closet and they were left scattered in her office. That tissue box had been for me. That tissue box was there so I could cry and beg to be told that I’m good. This wasn’t happening. I had no one else to talk to.
Maybe I could still receive counselling from her. Please don’t tell me she’d moved onto a dream accountant job.
She had moved to a new city.
I felt abandoned, tossed aside.
She knew my secrets and was gone.