Memory, Trust, and OCD

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I have to start this article by mentioning it is purely anecdotal, and by no means scientific. In fact, for this I did no research. That’s bad, isn’t it? No, not really. This is more a journey into my own ticks and where I think some of them come from.

I’ve mentioned before that while I probably do not fully have Primarily Obsessional OCD (Pure O)—where one is almost fully stuck in obsessions, and compulsions exist in the mind—I do tend much more toward obsession than I do compulsion. Whereas many with the more standard forms of OCD, their compulsions are what you see in them. As I’ve mentioned: the stereotypical hand-washing, needing things to be in a certain numerical set, and so on.

But I do have compulsions, and I do act on them. I’ve missed the bus to work many times having to walk back a block to my apartment to make sure the door is locked. Twice. Or three times.

I do a lot of things like this. It annoys people, including myself. I would not classify it as that debilitating except when I am trapped not being able to check on something (for example, actually getting on the bus and going to work without checking when the obsession is in my mind. Day, ruined.)

So I wonder on both the surface level and deeper, how much memory plays into OCD. For one, it is clear that “checkers”—those who need to make sure things are turned off, safe, locked, and all of that—clearly are having issues with their memory. I would not at all use the word “forget” in this context, but more so “distrust.” I know for myself, I distrust almost everything. Yeah, I’m putting a full stop after “everything.” Most things and people around me, I do not trust. And turning inward I have equal distrust for my own brain. So it goes without saying I distrust my memory. Thus I must see a coloration between distrusting memory and “checking.”

Distrusting my brain is a major part of my mental illness. And it may—actually I am pretty sure it does—extend beyond OCD, as I also suffer from extreme anxiety. And the root of anxiety is distrust, for me. It is sometimes a rational distrust amplified, it is sometimes just an irrational distrust. But when I am in the fog of anxiety, I distrust everything around me. A careless (and most likely meaningless) word in an email triggers an obsession over the author of said email being out to get me. To screw me over. This is not the whole of anxiety1, but it is certainly part of the root.

So I think—when I am not in the fog of my obsessions, compulsions, and anxiety—where does this distrust come from? I don’t really have stories of abuse other than letting people walk all over me, which I can actually reconcile as mostly of my own doing. I’m extremely non-confrontational. That has been taken advantage of, for sure. To epic proportions. So for sure I am more guarded now at an older age. But distrust, seemingly unsystematic distrust?

This is where I think we move into the unknown. I clearly shade toward distrust as instinct. With everything. I start there, and sometimes very slowly allow trust to build. And even that trust lies on a creaky foundation. So I am wont to place it on the wiring of my brain. I am wired to distrust.

One of the fascinating issues I encounter, though, is I am often rewarded for my distrust. Because I am not an angry person, and I am a curious person, my distrust forces me to dig deeper into the meaning of everything. Because isn’t distrust really just a lack of knowledge of the meaning of things? By digging into the meaning of most everything around me—mostly to mitigate distrust—I gain knowledge. And that is a big reward for me. That is one of the very few things that makes me happy—gaining knowledge. Of any sort!

In the realm of Pavlov, I am rewarded for distrust. However, distrust is a basal part of the human condition. It is, from my analysis of just myself, something that can only exist everywhere, and not focused on specific things which would warrant distrust in any normal mind.

Thus, if my compulsions come from a distrust of my memory, I posit that these compulsions are an offshoot of positive reinforcement. And because of that whole spaghetti of wiring in my head, do I really wish to stop my distrust of most everything?

As I am writing this previous paragraph, I am sitting here and thinking quite intensely about this question.

I believe, though it is the root of so many issues that I would like to shed, I would at this point answer “no.”


1 If you want the whole of my anxiety, pull up a comfortable chair. It is going to take awhile. It is also for future articles, so you’ll be in the aforementioned chair for quite some time.    [BACK]