I have OCD, but along with that—and I often wonder if this is always part of the package or unique to only some—I have a pretty massive anxiety disorder. The diagnoses combined aside, one of the ways all of this mixes together in my mind is my fear of being in trouble.
This may find its roots in having a father who was, while I would not use the term “abusive,” reckless with handing out punishment and the reasons for such. I grew up with that fear, as many people did of my age, but I always knew I was extra sensitive to it—as I intrinsically knew that no one should feel unsure in their own surroundings. Not a kid! That didn’t seem right. But then again, most everything was fear as a child—so I suppose that was my worldview, which obviously manifests itself in the simple at that age.
Growing up and becoming more social1, that ongoing fear never subsided. If socialization is akin to a stratum of emotions and mechanisms—fear was always there as the bottom layer—the foundation. Generally fear of being in trouble.
“Being in trouble” is a fear of many facets. I obsess over rules in all situations, and never want to cross over into breaking any rules. It doesn’t just involve simple things we all consider wrong. That which I could consider wrong goes as far as possibly saying something that I—important viewpoint, “I”—assume the person I am socializing with finds offensive of off-putting.
This found its way into relationships with significant others as well. There is something to be said for one subconsciously seeking out the worst people to be close to them. Is that something everyone does? Often or sometimes? Or just something I’ve done? Well, regardless, I did for most of my life.
I’m a rather kind person to be in love with. I absolutely come with baggage—I think this site lends credence and more to that! I am not easy to deal with, but I do not possess anything close to characteristics like abusiveness, manipulation, and anything in that ugly arena. Oh, and I know how ugly it is—because that is what I sought out subconsciously for decades. As well, I stayed within these relationships—almost every relationship I’ve been in would be characterized as “long-term.”
There’s no need for me to give a litany of abuses I suffered, it would do no one any good to read them. They existed, they don’t at this moment, they probably won’t again. Reason being I’ve learned a lot of things, though it took me the aforesaid decades.
So trouble. Me, in trouble. I worry about this constantly. I obsess over it by every definition of the term “obsess.” That is to say, I seek out the potential for being in trouble when I may or may not be. I need to know, constantly, that I am not in trouble. I will go to great lengths to feel that—if we wish to insert a cliché here—the coast is clear. All is good.
“All is good?” is something I query of people close to me all the time. It annoys them. I know this, it has to. It would most likely annoy me if I didn’t relate so well!
So I bring my OCD to social situations, you see—it is never not there. It is a complicated set of gears and pulleys always going in my head, with every word sensed by my ears, it provides a wide range of filters and checkers before my brain properly processes those words. I hang on every word, as the saying goes. But that saying is usually reserved for words of great consequence like “guilty” or “not guilty.” Not for me, every word someone says to me contains the potential of ruining my moment, day, or life.
It is not rational, but I am not rational. I understand this but cannot stop it. Words people speak may be a passing conversation for others, but to me, every phrase is to be analyzed, in fear.
“Am I in trouble?”
This is a constant—almost as a rubber-stamp—question that I apply to each and every fraction of social interaction. It even gets applied to looks and non-word sounds. Everything. I need to be sure.
Now, I don’t come out and ask this question every time someone utters a word, I’d say that would be crazy—but I do ask this direct question enough to annoy those closest to me. “Is everything OK?” “Is it all good?” “Are we cool?” Constant variations of these, to my closest—those I should know the answer from on my own/
My OCD forces me to need to know. Why not check? Why not know for sure? If I am in trouble, if I did something bad—my social blindness would not know on its own most likely. Maybe sometimes, usually not.
I bring us back to past relationships I’ve had—I have been “in trouble” for things that to this day confound me. I’m not going to sit here, separated by these people for years or decades, and say I was not wrong or I was right. That’s not really fair in my own mind (I mean, you don’t know these people, I wouldn’t name them by name.) But constant being in trouble has gone back to my earliest senses of the outside world and had continued well late into my life—so there is indeed a rationale for thinking this. However it is one that comes from—I’ll say it, qualified—emotional abuse.
Does that excuse my current proclivity for obsessing over whether I am in trouble or not? I don’t know if that matters. What does matter is often times my being “wrong” or “in trouble” is such a slight part of the deeper conversation with another that I cannot get beyond. That is the frustrating part for all parties involved.
My OCD is paradoxical like that. On one hand, it delves deep into every facet of possibility. On the other hand, it stays steadfast at the surface, wondering if the whole is OK. Over. And. Over.
Every small phrase, passing to most, potentially life-altering to me.
1 Though with issues socializing in general, which is probably apart from the core of this article. [BACK]