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I acted racist and uncomfortable around people, and now many people at my college know. How do I become a better person again?


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I am very sorry for this post. I know that I’m writing the worst post that has ever been on this forum. If you feel like you are in a very vulnerable state, please do not read this post. After I get advice, I plan to delete this post. 

 

 I remember kind of fearing that I would mess up passing black people when walking out in public and be a racist. I was afraid that I would get many people on the campus to hate me when I was in college. Sadly, I managed to do that in my later years of college, but I think that it is rare for such an event to occur. This happened under a stressful period of time, with more public awareness and feelings of distress about racism, especially police brutality. Also, it happened on a college campus, where people are generally more aware of and dedicated to stopping racism. It is much more often than black people are hated for the color of their skin, and black people are forced to live knowing that racism can happen to them at any moment.

 

I think my first memory about worrying was when I was watching a movie during my last year of high school. I remember watching a movie that was about notable black figures in the past who accomplished great feats through intelligence, persistence and bravery, despite the racism of the times. I remember really enjoying the movie and thinking that it was very uplifting! And I shouldn’t sound super proud or thankful about this, but when watching the movie I was not uncomfortable when watching the black characters. But one scene that I became uncomfortable was this part where a white person looked very uncomfortable when walking past the black person in the movie. I felt worried because I thought “what if I did that”? I would be extremely racist and I would harm that black person’s self esteem. I could screw up passing by a black person in public and be a racist. I don’t think the thought stuck for a while, but it made me unnerved. I remember visiting my sibling’s campus, and while walking to the dorm

 

I remember also visiting my sibling at college around this time. When walking to their dorm I would see students walking around, but when I saw black students I would sometimes get a racist thought. I would think “hey they look kind of like a thug”. Thankfully, I would notice that this thought was racist, but then I would get nervous. I would get scared that I would do the same racist thing that the white person in the movie I watched did. I also come from a mostly white town, and around that time I still had a “colorblind” ideology. I wasn’t aware that everyone has racist biases, so I thought that I must have been unusually racist for having such a thought come into my head. I remember kind of fearing that I would mess up passing black people when walking out in public and be a racist. I was afraid that I would get many people on the campus to hate me when I was in college. 

 

I remember on one of the first college visit days for my own school having this strange moment . I remember being afraid of acting racist when talking to a black person at the desk. As they were giving me information about something (perhaps college finances or dorms?) all I could think of was the fear of looking like a racist while listening to them. Was I nodding wrong? Was I giving off nervous energy? As crazy as it sounds, I remember not making complete eye contact because I was afraid that if I made eye contact, I was going to do it wrong and be racist.

 

I got over this anxiety pretty quickly over my first year. I walked to class normally, and talked to people of different races without even thinking of the anxiety about being a racist. I think that the only other time when this fear popped up again that year was during an outdoors event with some of my friends. I remember one of the people giving instructions for a game was a man, but when I heard his voice, for some weird reason I thought it sounded like he was gay. So I remember being slightly afraid of saying or acting homophobic. I think I even remember saying “come out” somewhere in my wording when I was asking a question. I felt slightly embarrassed! But the anxiety about being discriminatory during that first year was very light, especially compared to the anxiety I felt over it during my later years at college.

 

I think my intrusive thoughts (not sure if they’re intrusive thoughts or not) become more intense and varied in content during my second year of school. My most gross intrusive thoughts are ones that imagine black people as an inferior race, or imagine black people looking like animals, imagining black people are thug caricatures, or imagining black people being more aggressive in personality. I think I remember seeing a racist comment on youtube and I was afraid that I would type out some of the words in that comment when I typed in the password to my computer. I remember also occasionally thinking of old racist advertisements when I see a black person, but this one didn’t seem to happen as often. At that time I also had thoughts that were less about “think about this racist thing” and more about “what if you do something that is racist”. Like what if I have a racist thought, what if I am naturally more inclined to racist reactions than most people are, or what if I look worried or uncomfortable when I see a black person on the screen, what if I flinch or twitch or eventually start panicking because I am looking at this advertisement with a black person on it for too long?

 

I remember become even more stressed and afraid of looking like I was racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or disciminatory in any way. I was scared about my gross intrusive thoughts and I was scared of other people seeing these intrusive thoughts. I would get tense, hyperventillate, feel a little fatigued, sometimes stare at them for too long, if I got nervous about being portrayed as racist, homophobic or ableist. It was getting to the point where people would notice my discomfort (they would have varied reactions) but I was in denial that people would notice my discomfort. I remember one time seeing a black person sitting at a table in my peripheral, and I got very nervous that I was going to look racist. I probably started breathing unusually, and walking a little more strangely. They asked me how I was doing, and when I turned to talk to them, I realized that they were a friend that I knew. I didn’t feel that fear anymore (I did feel embarrassed that I panicked the way that I did) and I had a normal conversation with them before going on with my day.

 

 If the person reacted to my discomfort by starting a conversation with me, I would tell myself “they were just checking up on me or being friendly”. If they had a negative reaction to my discomfort, I would tell myself, “they just are mean or think that I am weird”. I remember also around that time convincing myself that these nervous reactions that I am having were natural discriminatory biases that I had all along, and that I just needed to hide it. At that time, I’ve read that people could become aware of their biases, but not actually get rid of them. I felt like **** because I thought that meant that I was going to have this discomfort forever, and that I always was going to be super discriminatory. I also remember at this time struggling to hide a fear that random men I’ve seen across the hallways would think that I am sexually into them even though I’ve just met them. So I might hyperventilate and struggle to walk at a decent rhythm when I passed by random guys in the hallway.

 

I remember that I secretly liked going home for quarantine because I did not have to go through the shame of going out in public, getting fearful of looking discriminatory or creepy, and then going through the shame of someone’s reaction, and then trying to deny that the reaction was because of me. Staying at home was simply easier for me. Lots of the reactions towards my panic were understandably negative, which made me feel more negative about going out in public.

 

At the end of my summer, I remember feeling dread about the idea of going back to college for my third year, which was pretty unusual to me. I just felt like people were out to get me or something. When I first went back on campus for the year, I just remember feeling my fear of being a racist was higher than ever before. It was all that I could think about, but at least I realized that this was a problem that I needed to solve. I would try to read anti racism articles. I would try to read about how to walk out in public like a normal person. I even wrote quite bluntly on a search query “why am I acting uncomfortable around black people?” “Why am I acting uncomfortable around gay people?” quora forums asking the same questions would pop up. While some of the answers were understandably angry at the asker, other answerers mentioned that it may be from intrusive thoughts. At the time I thought that for my problem to be intrusive thoughts, that I would have to have my brain constantly telling me “say the n word to a black person” even if I did not want to do that, so I thought that I probably did not have intrusive thoughts.

 

 I also remember around that phase of my life I saw someone wearing a gay pride t-shirt and I started panicking when I passed by them because I was afraid of acting homophobic. I also remember signing in at a desk and first feeling somewhat casual (or as casual as my anxious self at the time could be) but then I realized that the person at the desk was a person of color (not black, but a different type of racial minority, I don’t completely remember) and my face blushed at that moment. It was embarrassing and I felt super racist at that moment.

 

One microaggression I remember reading about at that time was the one where a white person instinctively clutches their purse when they see a black person. This happens because the white person holds a racist stereotype of a black person being a criminal. Through the microaggression, the white person is communicating to the black person that they think that the black person is a criminal. This definitely is hurtful for the black person’s well-being.

 

 So I remember this period of time where I would get fearful that I would hold onto my purse in that racist way, but I was still committing that racist act? I think I remember 3 to 4 instances where I saw a black person, my brain said “don’t touch your purse”, and I still touched my purse. I knew that they were not going to steal from me, and I didn’t feel afraid of them stealing from me (unless I unconsciously had that fear). My purse has a long strap that goes around the shoulder, so for the most part I do not hold the straps of my purse or even touch it. So I would be walking, with my hands towards my side and with the hand that is closest to my purse I would move that hand (not reaching up or down) closer to me and softly tap on my purse for a second before lifting my hand from my purse. I would feel even more panic and guilt after I did this.

 

 One truly awful time I did this I ran into someone I knew (they are black) and we started a casual conversation. I remember worrying about acting racist and then touching my purse and then feeling really bad about it. I’m not sure exactly what method I used to stop doing the purse thing or if the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy towards my anxiety did all of the work for me. I remember the purse thing being less of a worry over time though and instead I would worry about twitching my hand or moving it differently if I saw any sort of minority. I made it a habit to put my hands in my pocket, although I might need to find a better trick for when I go to the supermarket.

 

But then people at school started actually seeing me as a racist, and honestly I can see why. I would get really nervous about getting “found out” as a racist, so I would basically panic whenever I saw any black person. I would breathe strangely, my walking would become uneven, I think I would stare at them for too long too. And one time that I am extremely ashamed of was when I was running late to a class there were lots of people walking on the pavement, so I was fast walking to be polite towards them. I realized that if I walked through the grass, I could get to my destination in less time. There weren’t people on the grass too so I could save even more time and run without worrying about bumping into people. But I was racist at that moment because there was a black person standing there on the grass near the pavement, and I did my racist panic reaction where I stared at him, started breathing really weirdly. When I was on the grass and I knew that I wasn’t going to bump into him I ran across the grass. So it basically looked like I was running away from him out of fear! He was understandably angry and called for me, but I just kept going because at that moment I was in denial that I angered someone. That’s the person who I wish that I could apologize to the most, but I do not know who they are. At the end of that day I came to terms with the fact that I was wrong, and I tried writing in my notes what I could do next time so I don’t do something so racist. My ideas: don’t run when I’m late to class? I didn’t realize that it was my panic that ultimately made my action racist. If I didn’t stare at that person strangely and start panicking and breathing strangely, then me running across the grass would have been interpreted as me being class and not me being a racist.

 

But yeah I’m about 99% sure that people figured out that I was a racist. I don’t think I hallucinated any of the scenarios, because I never have done that before. Lots of random people that I didn't know were just acting more hostile towards me. I started even taking indoor routes and avoiding going to the dining rooms when lots of people were there because some people would shout at me or try to get my attention. I also remember people would turn to look at me and talk about me. Over time I think it got less bad, but I am not sure because of my avoidance strategies.

 

I remember also at that time hearing black people saying to their friends that I looked at them strangely, that I glanced at them or looked at them funny. When I started hearing this, I would spend lots of my free time googling how exactly I was staring at them so I could stop doing so. I now know that If you glance at someone for anytime longer than 1.5 seconds that people will think that you are staring at them, they may think that your racist/homophobic/ableist, or they may think that you are a pervert, or they may think that you think they are weird. So that’s how I finally learned that my staring thing was actually pretty racist. I’m ashamed of myself because I’ve been doing it for a while consistently to people, and I hate knowing that I was the person who gave others more racism and homophobia and basically ruined their day.

 

I think another thing that has helped me out a lot especially back then was learning (through Google) that I could smile or nod at people I passed through the hallway as a polite way of acknowledgement. This made me feel much better because even if my body language was the most ****** up thing in the world I could smile at them to signify to them that I wanted to be friendly to them, and that I perceive them as a friendly person. I still probably looked really racist/homophobic/etc., but it was an improvement from where I started. I remember at that time even occasionally greeting strangers across the hallways as a way for me to “come out of my shell”, and I even imagined it as a way to apologize to the people I’ve wronged. People thought I was loony when I did the greeting thing, so I eventually dropped that and would just smile or nod.

 

One of the things that I would do to try to find and apologize to the people I’ve wronged, but I did this only a few times because it was terrifying to me. If I guessed that someone did not like me or was gossiping about me, I would tell them that I wronged lots of people earlier in the year (I was pretty vague with this), that I wanted to apologize, and if they knew anyone who was wronged by me. If I could, I would try to ask these people while they were on their work shift without many other people around. None of them knew anyone that I wronged.

 

I also thought I am seeing people as racist abstractions, that maybe by talking to them I could see them as normal people. I remember also thinking that talking to black people would make me have positive experiences with black people, and making me associate black people with positive experiences would be a good way to undo my racist biases. I also remember really wanting to amend my reputation, and if black people notice that I am trying to be kind to them then they might think that I am not racist. Also, for anyone I’ve wronged, going out of my way to try to be kind felt like the least I can do, and being friendly and talking to them might give them the courage to tell me that I need to apologize to them (this unfortunately didn’t happen, but expecting people to bring up something uncomfortable to talk about on the spot is an unrealistic expectation on my part). I have no idea who any of the people I’ve wronged are, so talking to random people was the only solution that I could think of. Also, I also felt very desperate for some sort of positive interaction with others during that time, so this gave me a way to have positive interactions. I also would try to talk to people of other races so it didn’t seem strange that I was only talking to people of a specific race, but my reasoning for all of this was to talk to black people to erase my racism.


 

I used to get very anxious about the interactions I had when talking to black people and other POC. At first, my voice would often be very quiet and my face would blush, but eventually I stopped having that problem. Also, my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aimed towards my anxiety has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve learned breathing exercises to help ease my anxiety. When I am out in public and I start to get nervous about the idea of doing something racist/sexist/homophobic/etc., I can use the exercises to center myself. The breathing exercises also help to establish a rhythm for me to breathe at, which helps to stop my panic about “breathing wrong”.

 

But overtime I then started thinking about how it is bizarre that I am going on such a long journey to undo my racism. Like, to act like a normal person to black people I suddenly have to talk to every black person I see, and intentionally listen to more black artists? My first year of college I never really thought of this and just was a normal person. I never felt a surge of discomfort from seeing a black person. I learned about racism, and would challenge my own trains of racist thought, but it wasn’t anything too dramatic. Last I checked, most people do not have to go out of their way and talk to every black person to not be racist. They just have to not be racist. Learn about acts of racism that happen (microaggressions, assumptions based off of stereotypes, etc.) and avoid doing them. Is it normal for white people to go through a phase in their lives where they consciously try to talk to black people to remove any sort of racist biases they have?

 

 Today my “intrusive thoughts” (if that’s what they are) are less strong and more benign, less about “think about this racist thing” and more about “what if you do something that is racist”. Like what if I have a racist thought, what if I am naturally more inclined to racist reactions than most people are, or what if I look worried or uncomfortable when I see a black person on the computer screen, what if I flinch or twitch or eventually start panicking because I am looking at this advertisement with a black person on it for too long? I seem much more relaxed while I am looking at images/videos and I see a minority by myself, but I feel like (but it could just be how I interpret my memories and not the truth) when I am watching images/videos and I see a minority when I am with other people I am more likely to feel anxious and “what if you’re being racist?” type thoughts.

 

 But I am not diagnosed, so I am not sure if these are actual intrusive thoughts or if they are me just self-diagnosing. Would these be intrusive thoughts? I noticed that if a black person and I are both waiting and next to each other (perhaps they are next to me in line or we are both in a waiting room) I feel a need to be friendly and talk to them somehow to “prove” that I am not hating them for being black. It can bring some genuinely good conversations sometimes, but other times it just makes me awkward. I’ve noticed that I do this a lot if I am waiting next to someone I think is gay, so I can avoid the possibility of looking homophobic to them.

 

If any of my friends or family knew any of this about me, they would never trust me again. I don’t think I could tell anyone about this. But what if they hear from someone else that I am a racist? If they ask me about it, then I would have to tell them the truth and I would lose them as a friend. How could anyone ever want to be my friend if they knew about this? What if I never get a job from this? What if everyone around me learns about this? It feels as if my life is over.

I am realizing that I was racist and homophobic, but especially racist.

 

 I want to apologize to the people I’ve wronged, but I do not know who they are. Also, I am afraid of apologizing and then hurting that person again, since while I have gotten much better with this problem it is not completely gone. With my smiling and nodding that I would do to acknowledge people I passed in the hallway, I sometimes would act strangely towards black people still. I remember when there was a group of people and one of them was black, I suddenly would get nervous about being racist towards the black person and nod specifically at the black person. Which is kind of like singling them out? I think I came off as weird. I am also not sure how I would even explain everything to them. Before I really started considering the intrusive thoughts thing, I would have probably talked about how I had racist biases and how I should have talked to black people to get rid of those biases. But now I am not even sure why I acted the way that I did, and why I think like I do, so how could I explain myself correctly? And if it is happening because of mental illness, I don’t think that I could explain myself because it would be me using it as an excuse to morally bad behavior that harmed people.

 

I know it is selfish for me to say this, but I think that I need to go to a new college. The right thing would be to apologize, but I don’t think that it could ever be pulled off correctly. I now feel too ashamed when I am walking on campus. I put myself through lots of stress the first semester of this year when trying to get good grades while trying to make everything right again, but this semester I just gave up on all of that. Most of my grades are bad due to my neglect of studying. I barely ever walk outside of my dorm room, and I skip going to my in-person classes. Instead of studying, I would spend my time looking at colleges to transfer to and trying to figure out why my problem behavior exists and how to solve it. I don’t think I can ever completely “fix” my reputation at this school. All I really care about is at this point is how I can completely fix my behavior. I started reading about intrusive thoughts and OCD, and I am starting to think that I might have intrusive thoughts. Maybe I have Social Anxiety? Do I have an irrational fear of minorities? Have I internalized racist biases? Whatever it is, I definitely need to get it treated. I don’t want to step onto another campus again until I am sure that I will not be acting racist or homophobic.

 

I think that I need a year off of school to get whatever I have treated. I don’t want to harm any more people at my school. Perhaps I can work at a small place in a diverse area? I would have to be sure the business is small enough so there’s less risk of me acting nonverbally racist or homophobic towards someone, but it might help me get rid of my racism while getting money for school. I seem fine for the most part when talking to minorities, because it’s easier for me to convey that I intend to be friendly through conversation. Once I get to a point where I fix this problem, perhaps I should go to a new school for a fresh start?. I would really like the idea of going to a new campus with more diversity, thriving and making new friends, proving to myself that I can be a decent nonracist person and grow from my mistakes. 

 

But even if I fix my malicious racist behavior, what if too many people know the old me? I don’t think I could ever explain my behavior, and as selfish as it is, the only solution I can think of is to try to avoid being recognized. Get a new hairstyle, and get my hair dyed. Probably also change my clothing and accessories. I hope my reputation wouldn’t be bad enough that I would have to move out of the state (I live in the U.S.). I just don’t think I can deal with people knowing me like this for the rest of my life.


What should I do to start getting the treatment I need? Should I get a psychological evaluation for any specific disorders? What disorders should I ask about? I’m thinking of trying to consult an OCD specialist. How do I get my life back together? Is it even possible at this point?

Thanks for reading, and I am sorry about all of the **** I posted here. I know that I messed up very badly.

Edited by Ashley
Removed Trigger Warning - not used here
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You did not commit any racial and malicious acts or display racist behaviour. You have OCD and therefore have obsessed and massively over thought your behaviour around black people resulting in how uncomfortable you therefore felt around them. Stop beating yourself up and address your OCD as that's your only issue.

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Hi MarieJo, ?

 

Thanks for being willing to respond to me and give me advice. Unfortunately, I think that there are people who did know that I was a racist. It's hard for me to describe in detail, but the way that people acted towards me was different than they did before. I also remember black people saying to their friends that I looked at them weirdly. There were lots of times I started acting uncomfortable once I saw a person of color or someone who I thought was LGBT. Even if I was acting that way because I was scared of being racist of homophobic, that person still saw me acting fearful and uncomfortable . Even if my intent was not malicious, my actions still were. I don't have a diagnosis of OCD, but should I try to get evaluated to see if I have OCD? I'm very sorry about all of this.

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Well, that was about the least worst confession I've seen on here. About the worst thing you've done is potentially looked at a few people weird. That's not a big deal.

OCD tends to take insignificant things and make you think they are huge deals. They're not. OCD always lies.

The thoughts you get about people of color and LGBT people could well be obsessions.

This may well be OCD and nothing more. To that end, a diagnosis from a qualified professional would likely help.

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Hello PolarBear, ?

 

Thanks for reaching out! I hope that I didn't do anything too harmful. I want to let everything go and just focus on treating myself, but I feel as if I would be blissfully ignorant of what I've done to other people and how they truly perceive me. I just feel like if people are talking about me and acting more hostile than me than they used to, I must have done something seriously bad. This year, I remember hearing several strangers say to their friends that I was weird. And those times when I heard black people saying to their friends that I looked at them strangely, they sounded frustrated and upset. I think that they did perceive me as racist. Perhaps I should take a break from school, focus on getting OCD treatment, and go to a different school when I know that I will be able to properly interact with people again? It feels like that would be the easiest path to recovery, because trying to find the people I need to apologize to seems impossible and I gave it a try last semester. But at the same time, it feels selfish and immature of me to runaway from a problem that I created without apologizing or explaining my actions. Once again, thanks for your help, and sorry for all of the trouble.

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Hello Caramoole, ?

 

Thanks for the support! Unfortunately the problem isn't all in my head. Being outed as a racist to at least part of the school is what most likely happened. I write about the other people's reactions to my behavior euphemistically, and I use "I think" and "probably" because I don't want to completely admit that there are people that know me as a racist on the campus. I don't remember black people expressing negative reactions to me until I constantly started to think that I was going to be racist and panicked around them. Most likely my nervousness was noticeable and very offensive or at least bizarrely comical. I don't specifically remember people saying that I was weird to their friends until my third year of college. My guess is that people started talking about me because my panic really spiked my third year? Perhaps the panicked emotions look very obvious and borderline theatrical? My mom once told me that I wore my heart on my sleeve, and that it is easy to tell how I am feeling. There were three times when I remember hearing black people telling their friends that I looked strangely at them. I remember one of those times I heard the person say "see the person over there?" and the other friend said "you mean the one wearing the..." she then said something that I was wearing at the time. The person proceeded and said "they stared at me", but I could feel in the person's voice that my staring was hurtful and disrespectful to them. This person probably was hurt by me and wanted their friend to know that I've wronged them, or maybe they just needed to talk about it with someone. So even if I didn't want to be racist, I was still racist. My concern is even if I do become treated and stay at college, I still have harmed all of those people and people might still talk about me or confront me for my past racist behavior. Whatever I do to try to improve as a person, I will have to keep all of these facts in consideration, no matter how ugly they are. I messed up pretty badly, and I'm sorry about all of this.

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I think your mind has blown this all out of proportion and your perception is royally screwed.

You have written at length here, yet you really haven't provided any evidence that people think you are racist.

In any event, concentrate on getting well.

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Yes, maybe people did see odd behaviour.  It still doesn't make you racist or even for other people to think so.....they might just think your behaviour odd.  You can't change that now anyway.  You can understand the source of your fear though now, accept how OCD ramps it up and make changes based on your new knowledge.

One thing we'll never do on the forum is enter Into debate with an OCD  conversation/rumination which is what would be happening here.  Your fears seem real & valid but OCD always does.  One way to keep it well & truly alive is to feed it's demands.  :no: No

You're here on an OCD forum because at some level you recognise similarities....build on that now and try your best to make some of the necessary changes :)

 

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So even in the worst case scenario where have interpreted my behavior as racist and many people know me as one I should get treated for OCD? In this scenario would I be okay if I seek treatment, take a break from college for a year, and then change my appearance and go to a new college? Would I be safe from people going after me and knowing me as a racist? I think that it is possible that I have created a misunderstanding.

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I know that in that worst case scenario that it would be irresponsible of me to do something racist and run away, but I don't think there would be any possible way for me to apologize and explain it all to them properly. I've read how people with OCD have lost friends after they told their friends about their Harm themed OCD, or POCD. If I'm telling strangers about Racism themed OCD, I would not stand a chance! They would think that I was using my mental illness to excuse poor moral decisions. And I am not sure if it is normal for racists to have to consciously talk to more black people to try to stop acting racist towards them? So if I tried to tell them how I tried to correct my behavior, I'm not sure how they would react.

 

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1 hour ago, throwawayacount477 said:

So even in the worst case scenario where have interpreted my behavior as racist and many people know me as one I should get treated for OCD?

Yes, regardless of anything else you should get treated for OCD.  

If you did something offensive and had asthma, you should get treated for asthma.
If you did something hurtful and had a broken leg, you should get treated for a broken leg.
If you did something shameful and got in a car accident, you should get treated for the car accident.

OCD is no different.  You should get treated because OCD should be treated, thats the only consideration.
 

1 hour ago, throwawayacount477 said:

In this scenario would I be okay if I seek treatment, take a break from college for a year, and then change my appearance and go to a new college?

Honestly the best thing you can do is to simply continue to go to the same college.  I understand why you feel like changing your appearance and going to a new college would seem easier, unfortunately that type of behavior is called avoidance, and when it comes to OCD, avoidance tends to make things worse, not better.  Confronting our anxieties and facing them down helps us to move forward.  Running and hiding from them makes our brains treat them as important, which makes them stronger.  

Would you feel uncomfortable staying at the same college?  Probably at first, and that would be unfortunate and difficult, but sometimes we need to do difficult things to make a change.

If, for treatment reasons you need to take some time off, thats ok, but that should be a decision you make with your doctor/therapist.  Many people receive treatment and get better while also continuing to go through their daily life, going to school, working at their job, etc.  Only some treatment requires taking time off, generally for the most severe cases or for short, intense inpatient therapy, likely not an entire years worth.  Continuing to go about your regular life can be an important part of treatment, because facing down those fears and dealing with it on a day to day basis is helpful in your recovery.
 

1 hour ago, throwawayacount477 said:

Would I be safe from people going after me and knowing me as a racist? I think that it is possible that I have created a misunderstanding.

Its possible some people have misunderstood you, thats true.  Its also possible, and likely, that you are overexagerating the degree to which that is happening.  More than likely the things you think are obvious/a big deal, are less so for other people.

But worst case scenario, there are people who think you are a racist or likely a racist, its unlikely they will do anything about it other than not want to be around you or dislike you.  Being misunderstood or disliked happens, its an unavoidable part of life.  You can't control everything that happens or everything people think about you.  All you can do moving forward is to try and live your life as the type of person you want to be.

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I'm just scared that I am going to decide that all of it was in my head when it wasn't, and then it turns out that 90% of the campus thinks I am a racist. They would all gossip about me, make jokes about me and act hostile towards me. And while I can try to be nice to everyone, I don't think that I can ever honestly explain my behavior and how I started amending it because it is bizarre so people would think that I am lying. So I would be kind of stuck. I'm also really awkward and not very likable too so it probably makes it easier for people to hate me. And even though I'm getting better, I could still be very racist. I'm scared of hurting more people. At least if I work at a small place that makes it less likely for me to pull racist **** because I would be talking to customers and I could present myself as a kind person through conversation.

1 hour ago, dksea said:

If, for treatment reasons you need to take some time off, thats ok, but that should be a decision you make with your doctor/therapist.  Many people receive treatment and get better while also continuing to go through their daily life, going to school, working at their job, etc.  Only some treatment requires taking time off, generally for the most severe cases or for short, intense inpatient therapy, likely not an entire years worth.  Continuing to go about your regular life can be an important part of treatment, because facing down those fears and dealing with it on a day to day basis is helpful in your recovery.

Should I consult an OCD specialist about my problems, even about the racism reputation bit?

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The whole post above is what is called catastrophizing. You are taking a minor thing and making it out to be the end of the world. It's not.

90% of the campus does not think you are racist. 99% of the campus don't think anything about you. 

You do not have to explain anything to anyone. You are free to go on living your life without apologizing for anything.

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On 21/03/2021 at 06:21, throwawayacount477 said:

And one time that I am extremely ashamed of was when I was running late to a class there were lots of people walking on the pavement, so I was fast walking to be polite towards them. I realized that if I walked through the grass, I could get to my destination in less time. There weren’t people on the grass too so I could save even more time and run without worrying about bumping into people. But I was racist at that moment because there was a black person standing there on the grass near the pavement, and I did my racist panic reaction where I stared at him, started breathing really weirdly. When I was on the grass and I knew that I wasn’t going to bump into him I ran across the grass. So it basically looked like I was running away from him out of fear! He was understandably angry and called for me, but I just kept going because at that moment I was in denial that I angered someone. That’s the person who I wish that I could apologize to the most, but I do not know who they are. At the end of that day I came to terms with the fact that I was wrong, and I tried writing in my notes what I could do next time so I don’t do something so racist. My ideas: don’t run when I’m late to class? I didn’t realize that it was my panic that ultimately made my action racist. If I didn’t stare at that person strangely and start panicking and breathing strangely, then me running across the grass would have been interpreted as me being class and not me being a racist.

I basically ran away from a black person. That is extremely racist. I angered them and there was a friend with them at the time who was white. I know that the black person was angry because they shouted for me as I was taking my shortcut. I honestly can't blame them for being angry with me. I'm pretty sure that person has had to tell several people about how I was racist.

 

On 21/03/2021 at 06:21, throwawayacount477 said:

So I remember this period of time where I would get fearful that I would hold onto my purse in that racist way, but I was still committing that racist act? I think I remember 3 to 4 instances where I saw a black person, my brain said “don’t touch your purse”, and I still touched my purse. I knew that they were not going to steal from me, and I didn’t feel afraid of them stealing from me (unless I unconsciously had that fear). My purse has a long strap that goes around the shoulder, so for the most part I do not hold the straps of my purse or even touch it. So I would be walking, with my hands towards my side and with the hand that is closest to my purse I would move that hand (not reaching up or down) closer to me and softly tap on my purse for a second before lifting my hand from my purse. I would feel even more panic and guilt after I did this.

I also had this period of time where I found myself touching my purse around black people. That is a well-known microaggression. And honestly, how did I even pull that off? I thought people didn't act on their intrusive thoughts. I remember thinking "you better not touch your purse" and then my hand would move down and touched it. I don't worry worry about touching my purse, neither do I touch my purse anymore. How does that work?

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I'm not going to argue with all of your obsessions. Neither will an OCD specialist. It's pointless because there will always be another example. 

As I've said before, you haven't done anything I would deem bad. But I have a feeling you are doing loads of compulsions. You need to identify them and start working on slowing them down and stopping them.

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Good luck, throwaway. Racism OCD is such a difficult obsession, because we all want so deeply to be good people.

 

I have no advice because I don't want to feed into your compulsions or give you too much reassurance. But you will get through this, and you can trust what the people on this forum say.

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On 23/03/2021 at 15:59, throwawayacount477 said:

I'm just scared that I am going to decide that all of it was in my head when it wasn't, and then it turns out that 90% of the campus thinks I am a racist. They would all gossip about me, make jokes about me and act hostile towards me.

I can understand why that thought bothers you, it would bother me too.  And I know what its like to be scared because of OCD.  Let me share with you one very important lesson I have learned during my OCD journey:
Feeling fear does not mean there is an actual reason to be afraid.

Right now you are probably trapped in a loop of fear.  Part of the reason you are trapped is because, whether you realize it or not, the fact that you feel afraid makes you think you have a REASON to feel afraid.  I've been there, its hard to deal with, but you can learn to separate the fact you are feeling fear from the idea you have something to be afraid of.

Meanwhile, yes your worst case scenario would be quite unpleasant and could make your life difficult if it were true.  But its also possible (and I would say likely) that its NOT true.  As PolarBear said, 90% of the campus doesn't think you are racist.  99% of the campus probably doesn't even think about you.  So even if you have done some offensive or racist things, most people aren't going to know or care.  Now, telling you that isn't going to just make the fear stop, if it did you wouldn't be here, because it would mean you don't have OCD.  Its a bit of reassurance, and normally I would try not to give it to you.  The reason I'm doing so is part of a bigger lesson, which is this:  People, in general, are bad at judging risk.  Think about it, people are more afraid to fly than to ride in a car, despite the fact that objectively the plane is safer!  Cars are just more commonplace in our daily lives, we are used to them, so we treat them differently.  We are bad at evaluating actual risk.  And people with OCD are even worse when it comes to our obsessions.  Right now you are massively overrating the risk and danger of this situation.  It FEELS super scary to you, but that doesn't mean it actually is.  The likelihood of your worst case scenario is, in your mind, much much MUCH bigger than it actually is.  Thats part of the reason we struggle with OCD.  The good news is you can take that knowledge and use it to help change things.  You can remind yourself that even though you feel afraid (which sucks) it does not mean the risk is as bad as it seems.  Its hard at first to apply this knowledge, you'll want to panic, you'll want to give in to "yeah but what if...", you'll want to try and make the anxiety go away with compulsions.  I wish it were easier, but it is what is is.  However if you work at it, if you apply that knowledge, that fear != risk, that your brain is probably over exaggerating the risk, you can, in time, retrain your brain to respond more normally and overcome the OCD.  Thats what recovery is, training yourself to react differently when the OCD causes your brain to react poorly.  You have to do manually what most people do automatically.  But in time it because more automatic for you too.
 

On 23/03/2021 at 15:59, throwawayacount477 said:

And while I can try to be nice to everyone, I don't think that I can ever honestly explain my behavior and how I started amending it because it is bizarre so people would think that I am lying.

 Assuming the worst case scenario, that you really did do something that offended someone, intentionally or not, the thing is, life goes on.  Yes there may be unpleasant situations.  Yes some people may not like you or may misjudge you.  Yes some people may think you are lying.  None of those things are great, and I get that you don't want people to think that way.  But you don't have to explain your behavior, you don't have to convince them to like you, you don't have to make them realize you aren't bizarre.  Its perfectly ok to just go on with your life.  You are never going to be perfect.  People may not like you.  People may get the wrong idea about you.  I promise you life goes on.  Its happened to me, I've had people not like me.  I've had people get the wrong idea about me.  I've said or done things I latter regret.  Sometimes I've been able to make up for it, or resolve the misunderstanding, sometimes I haven't.  Life goes on.  Your brain is screaming at you that this is serious, you need to fix it, and its the most important thing in the world.  I promise you its not.  OCD lies.  Its lied to you in the past, its lying to you now, it'll lie to you in the future.  Its OK not to do what it wants, in fact its the best thing you can do.

You have to accept that things happen in life you can't control, that people might get the wrong impression of you, you might do something that gives people the wrong impression, even if you didn't mean to.  Sometimes you can make up for it, sometimes you can't.  But if you spend the rest of your life worrying about whether or not anyone has ever thought you might be racist, well, you'll find that you've spent your entire life worrying and none of it living.

As Polarbear said, you don't have to explain, you don't have to undo whatever misunderstanding happened.  But you SHOULD get help from a professional for your OCD.  More than anything else I encourage you to do that.

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  • 5 weeks later...
On 24/03/2021 at 07:23, hetty said:

Good luck, throwaway. Racism OCD is such a difficult obsession, because we all want so deeply to be good people.

 

I have no advice because I don't want to feed into your compulsions or give you too much reassurance. But you will get through this, and you can trust what the people on this forum say.

Thanks for messaging me, Hetty! I appreciate the support ?

 

@dksea, your words of advice mean a lot to me. They helped me to be more forgiving of myself. For this whole semester I have been avoiding eating out in public, only walking outside to buy food in bulk to eat in my dorm. But a few days after reading your advice, I planned out a time to meet with a friend in the cafeteria. I remember worrying about exactly when to leave my room, because I was afraid of what people might say to me if they saw me waiting in front of the cafeteria. When I met up with them, I actually enjoyed the experience a lot! I started eating in the cafeteria more often, and yesterday there was a celebration in the cafeteria, the place was super crowded, but I went there and I enjoyed it! I occasionally got nervous about being a racist, but overall my anxiety was lower than it had ever been before!

 

It's so bizarre, because people aren't saying anything about me, maybe they were talking about me but they moved on? But I do remember last semester I oftentimes would wear the same jacket almost all the time when I went out (I don't wear the jacket anymore), so maybe the people who remembered me as a racist recognized me by my jacket? I am also starting to accept the fact that I may never be completely sure if or how racist I was known to be. Also if I did do something racist, I can forgive myself and become a better person! 

 

I've also finally talked to an OCD specialist. I have an appointment scheduled for next month! ?

 

Unfortunately, my grades have been horrible. My parents believe that my ADHD medications are what hurt my grades, but I think it was really my OCD or this whole weird racism situation or a little of both. They've been telling me that they've noticed that I look more pale than usual. I do believe that maybe I need to consult my primary care provider and talk to them about the medication, but my parents told me that any doctor would be "on the side of pharma". How do I go about talking to them about this? I know that they have meta analyses that suggest the effectiveness of ADHD medications, but my parents will always then say that those studies must have been done or funded by pharma companies. It seems really hard though to try to find each and every scientific review supporting my medication that is not done or funded by "big pharma", but it almost seems like the only way to convince them? How do I talk to them about this? I told them that I think that I might have OCD, but they don't seem to believe me, and there's no way in hell that I can tell them about the racism stuff.

 

But slowly but surely, things have been getting better for me! Thanks to everyone here who has given me support, it really means a lot me! ?

 

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