I want to tell you about a manifestation of OCD that isn’t well known about, so that more people can understand it. I used to experience an obsession of constantly apologising to people, even for things that I hadn't done, things that were in my head. I would even apologise to random strangers.
Having that compulsion meant years of complete isolation, loneliness and misunderstanding from my parents and others around me. There was a lot of bad talk about me, and most people knew me as "creepy", “scary”, and, in basic terms, not a safe person to be around. I would spend most of my time by myself, staring at the wall, doing almost literally absolutely nothing, obsessing over the "sins" that I had committed on that day. I had no friends whatsoever during those years. I remember a moment when I was confronted by an authority because many people were seriously freaked out and concerned over my unusual behaviour. I could find no happiness during those years because I was enslaved by my OCD, and at the same time, I was completely misunderstood as a person.
It was bad for my parents as well as for me. Of course, I was a dreadful disappointment to them. They sadly had to explain to people sometimes about my condition, or when I would apologise to people they would ask, "Has she apologised to you?", and then show an expression of complete embarrassment. My parents are one of the best things in the world, but I was a complete embarrassment and disgrace to them. My world was so lonely. It would be hours and hours of frustration for them. Many hours of therapists, many arguments and discussions of what medications to take, so much embarrassment, anger, and frustration. They loved me to death, and they would do anything for me, but they just didn't know what to do. It was a constant spiral of these emotions, with the OCD ruining almost every aspect of my life.
Let me describe a bit more about my OCD. In my religion, one must apologise for one’s sins, in order for their sins to be forgiven by God. So, I thought that I had to apologise for EVERY sin that I had committed, in order to not pay for my sins in the afterlife. This includes making disgusting looks, eye rolling, saying something in an annoying voice, etc... So almost every day, my OCD would take over in my head, saying "you made a disgusting look at that stranger over there, she is probably offended, you are going to go to have to pay for your sins in the afterlife". I would have to make sure every second, that I didn't commit any sins. I would just be repeatedly apologising to people, for things that I haven't really done, these were just misconceptions in my OCD head. So I would apologise for saying something in an annoying voice when I really hadn't done anything at all. This also resulted in really ticks that I would constantly walk around with all day, ruining the aspect of walking normally.
Trying to describe what it is like to have the compulsion of apologising to random people, and what has been going on in my head, is difficult. But the lack of understanding of the illness, the misconception that I was just simply “crazy” meant that people behaved very negatively towards me. The fact that I was apologising to random people, for things that I haven't done, caused people to and negatively towards me, to think that I was “crazy”. OCD is a disease. It’s a disease where you feel the need for perfection in many situations (commonly related to fears concerning religion), and which can take over a person’s life.
I’m hoping that some people will recognise this manifestation of OCD having read this. If you’re wondering how you can change your own behaviour in response, here’s what you can do to help others like me:
- Be completely understanding of the mental illness. Do not gossip, or be mean to the person, by telling them that they are mentally sick. Constantly apologising is a common OCD/anxiety trait.
- Be a friend to the person experiencing it, and invite them to do activities with you. Distraction is great for OCD. Also (as a close friend): ask them not to apologise, even though they feel they did something wrong. Reinforcement usually makes the OCD worse, and it's important being exposed to the fact that they have not "committed a sin", and that everything will really be normal and okay. It will lessen the anxiety.
- If you see a person with a constant ritual of apologising, and others are reacting negatively remind them that the person is not a threat to society, it's just anxiety/OCD. Don't go to the authorities saying that the person is some sort of major concern – it will just make the situation MUCH worse for the person that is experiencing the OCD.
OCD in my life has shaped me over the years, drastically, and rapidly, with improvements, shining moments, failures, and growths. With that, I have decided to create a blog, called ocdtalk.com, which lists my stories, life-shaping experiences, and lessons facing OCD. Feel free to send me your stories and best tips that you use in facing OCD for my FAQ site. Hopefully we can learn and face through everyone's struggles, together.