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Skirk_

Can anyone help?

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Hello, new here. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and guilt over past mistakes for a long time now and I’ve only recently realised that this could be a form of OCD.

When I was 17 I slapped a guy at a party after he insulted me and goaded me in front of a group of people. I know raising your hands is never acceptable but we were both young, drunk, stupid and I was hurt - he brought up several of my biggest insecurities and I just saw red.

The next day, I regretted it immediately and messaged him to apologise which he ignored - fair enough. I felt bad for a while then moved on and more or less forgot about it. 

I’m now 25, and over the past few years have suffered badly with feeling anxious and upset about specific events from my past. Not sure what triggered my fixation on this particular event (the slap,) but it has been an obsession for probably a year or more now. By obsession I mean I think about it endlessly, play it over in my mind, and constantly torture myself thinking how I could’ve dealt with it better. I try to justify it to myself and seek constant reassurance from friends and family. They always tell me it’s not that bad and honestly I think they think it’s crazy that I can’t let it go, but I can’t help it. Every day I panic that it’s going to somehow ruin my career or future, and even though it’s ridiculous, I stress endlessly that in future he’ll bring it up again and I’ll go to jail or something?? (I’m aware of how bizarre this sounds even as I type it.)

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone can a) tell me if this is likely OCD or not? I read online about real event OCD and it sounds pretty close to what I’m experiencing, but I feel like a fraud for suggesting I might have it.

Or b) any advice or next steps that might help me? It’s to the point now where it’s completely overtaken my life...any time I feel happy or relaxed, I’m instantly reminded of the slap and the fact I’m a bad person who doesn’t deserve to feel good. I want to enjoy my youth and my life but I feel like this is always going to be a dark cloud over me.

Sorry for the rambling post and thanks so much for any replies.

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Hi Skirk :)

What you describe does sound like OCD. There are quite a few sufferers on here with similar problems to you. Feeling like a fraud for thinking it is OCD is common i felt like that too and it prevented me from seeking help so good for you for reaching out. 

On the whole what maintains OCD is compulsions. Seeking reassurance, thinking about things over and over (rumination), thinking back to check are all compulsions it sounds like you do. Compulsions buy into the belief that what OCD is saying is true, that makes you worry and over time that worry/fear/anxiety builds, making you feel like you should do more and more compulsions. OCD hates uncertainty, so really pushes sufferers to find it.

Firstly before advice on what to do I just wanted to say that you can overcome this. This problem does not need to stick around. You can feel like you again, it's just going to take some time :)

The place to start is to see your gp. Explain to them what you are experiencing and that you think you have OCD. (I'm assuming you are in the UK, if you aren't then what services you can get may differ.) The aim is to get a referral for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), it's a taking therapy and the best treatment on offer for OCD. Your gp may also bring up medication. Some sufferers use medication others don't, it's a personal choice, so discuss it with your gp and go from there. 

I also recommend the book Break free from OCD. It's an excellent self-help book and will introduce you to what to expect in therapy. 

You will be ok. Hope some of this helps, if you have more questions there are lots of friendly and knowledgeable people here, so ask away :)

 

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Skirk, firstly, welcome to the forum. What you describe sounds like textbook OCD. The good news, it sounds as though you have a pretty good insight into the disorder's exaggeration/irrationality. That's a good start, but not a guarantee of beating it alone. As Gemma points out, it might be good to talk with your doctor. I concur that CBT is the way to go, with one proviso, CBT specifically for OCD. A very different variation from say, the same for depression, low self esteem etc. This might also be combined - once the groundwork's been done, with some ERP.  You might find here that some forumers have slightly different takes on the optimum treatment, but for the most part there's pretty much a general consensus. Best of luck, and don't let an admittedly painful, but inane disorder get the better of you.   

One last note ... I guess it's a bit of a mantra of mine, but re OCD's sometime tendency to create concerns about one being 'bad'. The cognitive approach is to drop the effort at being 'good' ... being human is good (no pun) enough. :)  

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Thank you both so much for your lovely replies and advice, I really appreciate it. Even just having people who understand makes the load feel a little lighter.

I have tried counselling before but had limited success - maybe because I (and they) didn’t really realise it was OCD that was the issue. I’ve always just assumed I had anxiety so even just realising these thoughts and feelings could be caused by OCD makes them feel slightly less real and scary and feels like a small step in the right direction. 

I always feel hesitant to go to my GP about these things but I know that’s probably the best next step. Gemma, I will definitely check out that book, thank you :) and Paradoxer, you make a really good point it being “good enough” just to be human. I always beat myself so badly for falling short of perfection so I will try to keep this in mind even though my brain is constantly screaming at me to do better! 

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Hi @Skirk_, welcome to the forums, I hope you find them helpful!  I agree with Gemma and Paradoxes that your description definitely sounds like OCD.  They gave great advice too.
 

2 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

Even just having people who understand makes the load feel a little lighter.

Doesn't it?  I remember finding out I wasn't alone, that what was happening to me wasn't unique.  It didn't make the problem go away, but it gave me so much hope!  And thats important, hope.  Because the good news is OCD is absolutely treatable, you can get better, so hang in there.
 

2 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

I have tried counselling before but had limited success

Counseling can be a very powerful and important part of recovery from OCD, but it has to be the right type of counseling (CBT) and the practitioner must be knowledgeable of CBT.  Its also important for the patient to be willing to do the work of CBT and for the patient and therapist to work together towards common goals.  Therapy might not be effective for any number of reasons, but just because it didn't work the first time doesn't mean a different approach, or a different therapist might not be just what you are looking for.  After all therapists aren't miracle workers or magicians.  They make mistakes or just don't fit will with some people too.  Traditional talk therapy for example does basically nothing for OCD, even if the therapist is the best at that technique in the whole world.  You need to find the right tool for the job so to speak.
 

4 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

I always feel hesitant to go to my GP about these things but I know that’s probably the best next step.

 

On 16/07/2019 at 06:42, Skirk_ said:

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone can a) tell me if this is likely OCD or not? I read online about real event OCD and it sounds pretty close to what I’m experiencing, but I feel like a fraud for suggesting I might have it.

Its perfectly normal to be nervous about discussing health issues, especially mental health issues with your doctor (or anyone).  Its also perfectly normal to doubt that OCD is OCD, you see it fairly frequently on these message boards.  Doubt, is after all, the core of OCD, so doubt about OCD is just another example of that.  Its no guarantee that talking to your doctor will lead directly to the results you want, but its generally the best step to take.  OCD sufferers often fall in to the trap of worrying about what could go wrong, they forget about what happens when things go right, and in these circumstances they probably will go right rather than wrong.
 

4 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

 I always beat myself so badly for falling short of perfection

This is another one of the traps OCD sets, demanding you meet an impossible standard.  Perfection is impossible.  The odds of you going through a week, let alone your life, without making a mistake are astronomical.  Going through life?  Basically impossible!  Don't fall for that trap! 

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@dksea thanks so much for your message. I feel so drained and exhausted from holding all this worry and constant stress and rumination inside, it’s nice to have a bit of a safe outlet. Amongst my friends I’m the “outgoing, bubbly” one and I feel it would be impossible for me to talk to them about this. I guess people have a narrow stereotype in their head of what OCD is and I maybe don’t fit that mold (I know a lot of people believe it’s solely about neatness and cleanliness which is obviously not the case at all.) I feel like I just want to be alone a lot of the time, because constantly acting as if everything’s fine is taking its toll.

You make an excellent point about the therapy. When I tried talking therapy, although it helped as a form of immediate relief, by the next day I was back in the same thought loops again. If I can get therapy to specifically target the obsessions and ruminations, with tools to use when they come up, I think it’ll be a massive help. 

I think I will take a while to feel comfortable with actually believing I have OCD - because I feel like I’m just trying to “justify” my behaviour with a diagnosis if that makes sense?? Also I’m sure other people have it “worse” than me and I feel like I’m attention-seeking when I say I’m struggling. I guess it’s quite a private thing in a lot of ways, and I feel ashamed even though I know I shouldn’t. 

You’re right about the perfection thing! I end up crying or angry at myself so frequently for anything from snapping at someone I love to driving badly - I can’t let myself do anything wrong! I need to remember it’s okay to be human.

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Hi skirk

I can hugely identify with this. I have been hung up on past incidents (either real or imagined) so many times and been utterly convinced I'm going to jail etc etc. Like you I was prompted to get help because of this theme (in my case I was hung up on the fact that I once drunkenly tried to kiss my friend and was rebuffed - I became TOTALLY convinced I was going to jail for sexual assault). I had also had therapy previously which didn't help because ocd hadn't been identified (and my therapist was useless). 

The advice others have given you is spot on so I don't have a lot to add. The only way I've moved on from these kinds of obsessions is to not engage with them and not give into the temptation to go over it in my head, Google, seek reassurance or whatever else. That awful feeling does go away in time. 

Gbg x 

Edited by gingerbreadgirl

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@gingerbreadgirl thanks so much for replying. I’ve honestly never realised other people are going through the exact same thing in terms of convincing yourself you’re going to jail, your life will be ruined etc. I have tried to gently redirect my thoughts each time they come up but it’s so difficult! Will keep working on it and it’s good to hear that the awful feeling does lift...at the minute I honestly can’t imagine feeling fully relaxed and happy again because it’s been so long since I was, which is a horrible thought! 

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15 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

I feel so drained and exhausted from holding all this worry and constant stress and rumination inside, it’s nice to have a bit of a safe outlet.

I bet!  People who don't have mental illness don't realize how hard it is just to function some days, and societally there is a lot less structural support in most places for getting extra help, compared to say wheel chair ramps for people who can't walk (though to be honest, they also face a lot of burdens society doesn't recognize).  I'm glad you feel like the forums are a good place to feel safe with your anxieties!  Something that I found helpful too was journaling.  I didn't do it every day, but if I was having a particular bad period I'd set aside a fixed time (its important its fixed, so it doesn't become a compulsion) and write out my anxieties and thoughts.  For me, putting it down on paper was a way of unloading it a bit, it seems like it wouldn't matter but it helps you process it in a different way than just going over it in your head.  Its not a miracle cure, but it helped me when I needed a little bit of extra relief.
 

15 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

Amongst my friends I’m the “outgoing, bubbly” one and I feel it would be impossible for me to talk to them about this. I guess people have a narrow stereotype in their head of what OCD is and I maybe don’t fit that mold (I know a lot of people believe it’s solely about neatness and cleanliness which is obviously not the case at all.) I feel like I just want to be alone a lot of the time, because constantly acting as if everything’s fine is taking its toll.

This is a great observation and I agree completely.  To most people OCD is a quirky condition, they just don't understand what its really like.  And in general we keep up our best appearance in front of others because thats what society has taught us to do.  It would be hard for almost anyone to "out" themselves so to speak as suffering from OCD to a large group of people, but hopefully you'll reach a point where you feel comfortable sharing it with a close friend or two.  It might take them some time to fully understand, but if they are a good friend they will want to be there for you.  It took me a long time to get to that point, so don't worry about doing it right away or anything, but don't write it off completely either would be my advice.  I am a naturally outgoing and optimistic person too, I genuinely enjoy socializing, but I also have come to greatly value my down time, alone time because sometimes you just need it to recharge and let down your boundaries.  While its important not to retreat completely (that would be avoidance, a classic OCD compulsion) its perfectly fine to take time to yourself to recharge, even if you don't have something like OCD.  I'm sure its part of your perfectionism, but remember that you don't have to perform for your friends 100% of the time, you don't owe them your perfect self :)
 

15 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

Also I’m sure other people have it “worse” than me and I feel like I’m attention-seeking when I say I’m struggling.

This is not an uncommon feeling among sufferers, but remember suffering is not a competition.  If you bruise your arm, it hurts.  It hurts even if someone else breaks their arm.  Another persons suffering doesn't negate your own, no matter how big or small either is.  You deserve to get better for no other reason than its unfair that any of us have to suffer from things like OCD, something we never asked for, it was just thrust upon us.  While its true there are circumstances in life where choices have to be made, say at a triage during a major tragedy, of who gets treated first, most of the time your getting help isn't depriving other people of also getting help.  In fact, you getting better means the burden for helping others is lightened, the world is a better place with one less person needing help right now!  One more person who maybe can help others in various ways, even if its something as simple as understanding what they are going through.  I would also say that people who are generally attention seeking don't typically worry about whether or not they are attention seeking ;)

 

15 hours ago, Skirk_ said:

I need to remember it’s okay to be human.

Not only is it ok to be human, its currently your only option!  Now maybe in the future there will be a way to turn you in to a robot, or you'll get bitten by a radio active spider and turn into a mutant, or you'll be reincarnated as a dolphin, but for now, you're human whether you like it or not ;-)



 

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@dksea I really appreciate all your advice! You make a good point about not owing people my “perfect self” - I find it hard to believe though! I do journal a lot and I definitely find it cathartic. Yea I feel like I’m already putting a lot of pressure on myself to “out myself” and “admit it” even though I’ve not had any time to process it myself yet. 

I actually saw THE guy in question (the one I slapped) on the train this morning and it kind of sent me spiralling...when I got to work I inexplicably (against my best judgement) decided to blurt out the whole situation and story to the new guy at work, obviously seeking reassurance. He stared at me horrified when I mentioned the slap and said “that’s really bad.” UGHHHH. Literally the worst thing that could’ve happened in that situation and made me feel a million times worse - even though I know his opinion shouldn’t matter, it just reinforced all the negative thoughts I already feel about myself 😩 I have his thing where I get the urge to tell anyone and everyone about all my flaws, so it’s not like I’m trying to “pretend” I’m perfect when I know I’m not...if that makes any sense. 

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1 hour ago, Skirk_ said:

I find it hard to believe though! 

Well if it was easy, none of us would be on this forum right ;-)

I like the saying that OCD recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.  Unfortunately we don't get better over night.  Instead its incremental progress over time.  Its ok that you aren't where you want to be right now in your recovery (I mean it would be great if you were).  Part of therapy and recovery is learning to set small goals and work towards those as part of a larger overall goal (true in life not just OCD!).  You don't have to be 100% in on changing your mindset right now, maybe you can go 1% in today, and in a few days go another 1% in on believing it.  Eventually you'll have changed your mindset enough for the new one to be dominant.  The pyramids weren't built in a day, simply dropped in place, complete.  They were built slowly, over time, stone by stone.  It would be awesome if OCD recovery were *BAM* and its done, but until someone invents that miracle cure (if ever) its ok to take the long way, and none of us expect you to be perfect doing it, because none of us were.

 

1 hour ago, Skirk_ said:

He stared at me horrified when I mentioned the slap and said “that’s really bad.” UGHHHH. Literally the worst thing that could’ve happened in that situation and made me feel a million times worse - even though I know his opinion shouldn’t matter, it just reinforced all the negative thoughts I already feel about myself 😩

I can definitely understand how that would make you feel uncomfortable!  But you can also take some lessons from it.  
First, you can make mistakes.  Slapping people is not usually the best course of action, but you did it and the world didn't end.  So thats lesson #1:  You don't have to be perfect.
Second, you will experience triggers in your life. Situations that remind you of your anxieties.  Situations directly related to your anxieties.  Trying to shut yourself away from all possible triggers is both impossible and debilitating.  So thats lesson #2:  You can't avoid triggers completely
Third, you confessed to someone, a compulsion, seeking relief from your anxiety about this particular worry.  Now in this case it went spectacularly wrong for you, he reacted in the way you feared, but even if your coworker had told you, "oh yeah, I'd have slapped him too", you'd almost certainly start worrying about it again even if you felt momentary relief.  So thats lesson #3: Compulsions don't work

We live in an imperfect world, no matter what you do you will make mistakes, you will feel anxiety, and bad things will happen sometimes.  OCD's game is to try and fight against this, to demand 100% perfection, and impossible goal.  Alone that would seem easy to resist, but OCD plays dirty.  It offers you quick fix relief in the form of compulsions, temporary happiness at a high cost, pulling you deeper in to the hole.  It's like a Las Vegas casino, offering you cheap food and drinks in exchange for slowly draining you of your money.  Except unlike a casino where there is at least some small chance you will win, when you play OCD's game, you always lose in the end.  The alternative is hard and unattractive, its embracing the anxiety, pushing through the fear, doing hard work.  Its not flashy like OCD, but its the way out. Its harder to take that path, but its the only way to be free of OCD.

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I wouldn't read too much into your colleague's reaction. He was maybe just responding to your telling of the story - I know if I'm being told an anecdote I'll sometimes respond in the way I think I'm "meant" to based on the person's telling. But whatever - his opinion is essentially unimportant. Trying to figure this out will always be a road to nowhere because it is subjective. If you ask a hundred people their opinion you will get a range from "you should have punched him too" right up to "that's awful" - and none of it will change anything because you will just keep going round and round. 

I remember when I had a similar theme I was prepared to try anything to get to the bottom of it. At a low point I seriously considered hiring a private detective. (Yeah, I don't know either). It went round and round my head. I Googled conditions in prison, sentencing guidelines, etc etc. But it all just made it worse. Eventually I found peace by just deciding to leave it unanswered. It was hell at first - how could I live my life when i had done something awful (in my mind)? But eventually the feeling faded and now I can see how silly it was. 

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