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Fear of Inequality

November 16, 2009

Cut to upper elementary years.  8, 9 years old maybe?   I was an affectionate kid, but measured in my approach. 

The thought of the year(s) was:  What if I make one parent sad, because they think I love the other more? 

I had the thought.  Now I had to prevent it from coming true.  If I hugged my mom, you could be sure I would go and hug my dad.  If I kissed my dad on the cheek, mom could count on a smooch landing on hers.  They didn’t know this, only I did.  I never checked with someone for reassurance.  Well, that’s not totally true.  I did when I was 15, but by then the thought had morphed into something slightly different.

Because I had become so methodical in my doling out of affection, I started to wonder how sincere I was.  And so began the incessant questions and self-flagellation.

If I’m not sincere in showing them love, how do I know I love my parents? 

Oh God.  What if I don’t love my parents? 

Well, then, I’m just a terrible daughter.  Oh God, what if they ever found out what a fucking fraud I am?

Wait, maybe I should give my dad a hug and notice how I feel when I do.  (insert hug for Dad here) Shit!  I felt nothing.  What, am I dead inside?  I better go hug Mom before she feels rejected by me.  (insert hug for Mom here)  Still nothing.  And now I’m even more of a fraud because I keep doing this.  I feel so dishonest since they don’t really know the true me.  I’m a lying, cold, fraudulent daughter. 

(wash, rinse, repeat AD NAUSEAM)

At the age of 15, I went to a retreat for Confirmation students.  After listening to a gentle, thoughtful, humorous presentation from a priest, we were then supposed to confess our sins to him.  This was the first of a few intersections between my OCD and a Catholic confession. 

Priest:  What’s on your mind today?

Me: (Terrified, trembling) Sometimes I think I don’t love my parents.

Priest:  What makes you think that?

Me:  Well, I just don’t know for sure that I do love them.  When I hug them or tell them I love them, I don’t really feel it inside.

This was the fork in the road moment.  Thankfully, this confession landed me in a better place.  Unfortunately, not all of them did.

Priest:  (Full of compassion, looking right into my eyes)  You’re a good girl.  You are ok.  You have nothing to worry about.

The thoughts packed their bags.  I felt a sense of relief flood my body.   How could a simple 3 sentences ease years of worrying?     

  •  The reassurance came from a priest.  Clearly, religion held a lot of clout with me.  If someone who is that close to God could be so sure that I wasn’t a fraud, I must not be a fraud.
  • The worry never had to do with the content of my thoughts.  It never does with OCD.  It has to do with the fact that I was anxious about something, and this is the form it took.  Once the power is sucked out of a set of thoughts, OCD stops wasting its time and looks for another vulnerable area.

Another vulnerable area coming soon!






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