I have been spending a lot time contemplating my “backstory”. My theory is, if I figure out the why, I can therefore figure out a solution and fix what was broken. That seems like a logical approach.
I’ll discuss the parts that I think are relevant and should go into my particular mental health cauldron.
Child of Divorce
Like many, many children these days, I am a child from a broken home. The circumstances surrounding my parent’s separation certainly affected me. My father was an elected public official and I was only about 6 or 7. I didn’t know at the time he was having an affair with a woman he created a job position for in his office. The divorce was not pretty, though I’m not sure very many are when there are children involved.
I put this in quotes, because for people reading the telling of this, for them it very well may sound like no big deal. For the little girl who went through it, it was horrible and it obviously had great impact on my mental health for my entire life.
After my parents divorce, I remember my most favorite and beloved uncle coming over to my home. I had a huge extended family and I always got lost in the mix, I was very shy as well, and this uncle always was the person I looked forward to seeing whenever possible. This time though he was so extremely angry. He screamed and yelled at my older sister and I, because apparently we had been giving my mother a hard time since the divorce. I remember clutching my sister and crying, not really knowing what exactly I had done wrong, why he was yelling at us. I didn’t want to make my mom’s life so hard. I didn’t want to disappoint my favorite uncle. But it felt like he just kept yelling and screaming and wouldn’t stop.
To this day I have no idea what we had been doing so wrong to make my mother’s life difficult. Perhaps he was just frustrated because she was struggling after the divorce and he needed to blame someone.
After this point, a raised voice was all it took to keep me in line (and make me cry).
Perfectionist Attitude, Encouraged
I didn’t know what it meant and didn’t realize it, probably until adulthood, but I was a perfectionist at a very young age. I remember being IQ tested at age 6 or 7 so that my school would know if they should put me in their “gifted” program or not. During my testing I was shown a picture of a nickel and I remember telling the person it was a dime. They moved on and I immediately knew I was wrong and had said the wrong thing. I was too terrified to correct myself, since we had moved on.
I obsessed about getting that one question wrong, for what felt like years. The fact that it sticks out in my mind, shows I have issues, because it was just a stupid test that honestly has no impact on my life now whatsoever.
That was just the start though. I had to have all A’s. At first it was because my mother put that pressure on me, because my testing showed I was gifted. Anything less wasn’t good enough…for me. It eventually led to a nervous breakdown and suicide attempt in the middle of High School Senior year. My need to over-perform and do everything finally just broke me.
Religious Upbringing and Schools
I am in no way, shape, or form, discouraging religious schools or going to church, or any type of religion in any form anyone chooses to practice it. That just needs to be said. I do believe how it was presented to me, added to my cook-pot of mental health issues – specifically scrupulosity/religious ocd.
I was raised Catholic for a good 10 years of my life. Lots of rituals in the Catholic faith, for those who are familiar with it. Lots of rituals. BUT, I converted to a more Baptist Christianity around 11, when my mom put my sister and I in a Christian school for the first time. I heard about the way to get to heaven, and that’s when the compulsive prayers started. Back then is also when I started with beginning my prayers over if I didn’t get them “right”. I would love to go talk to my younger self and tell her that God is listening and that there is no “wrong” way to pray.
I went to a Christian High School where I constantly felt not good enough. They did present the joy of salvation and Christ’s love, but much of the education at my school was focused on what not to do and what was wrong and bad. We had Chapel twice a week and I remember distinctly always being distraught when there were special speakers who spoke on certain emotional topics. Anything about God’s love and healing. I confided in a friend in 10th grade that I would pray to God to die. I know back then I felt he hated me.
I’ve never given much thought to the fact, but natural disasters very much shape a person’s psyche. I’m a moron for not counting the huge hurricane that wiped out half our house when I was 16/17. It caused over $50,000 worth of damage and we had to move out for a few months while our house was repaired. The whole area I lived in was devastated, schools were out for very long time, there was no power in many areas, some people even died due to flooding and being stranded.
This event sticks out to me because I remember sitting on our front porch just crying my eyes out, convinced that God had sent this horrific Hurricane (category 4) because I was a horrible person and deserved to be punished. He was punishing me (and subsequently thousands of surrounding people) because he hated me so much because I was just so awful.
I think I may have had a decent chance of retraining my brain to think positively about myself. Had I not gone through a second reinforcing traumatic experience. We’ll call this the disobedience trauma.
I made plans to go away with an ex-boyfriend to a mutual online friend’s house for some fun gaming things, because I was a super fun geeky girl back in the day (90’s, computers were finally picking up full steam!). I had promised my mom I was not going to be doing anything bad, no drinking, drugs, and just to this friend’s house, who happened to be this really cool blind guy, but I digress.
I did go to our friend’s house. We were supposed to stay 2 days. But my ex and our friend Y (X and Y, get it?) decided the next day they wanted to go somewhere else. So I agreed, because even back then I was a pushover. We ended up at their friend’s house with about 5-7 other people. And you guessed it, there was booze. Someone had the bright idea to play a drinking game. I honestly don’t understand drinking games. Do you WANT to drink, or NOT WANT to drink? Either way, I was even thinner than I am now, so I was a total light weight and got drunk very fast. Obviously, or this story would go nowhere.
What wasn’t so obvious because I was with 2 friends, people who I felt safe with, was I was then raped in the middle of the night by the 20 something year old guy who was there.
I did not tell anyone.
My ex took me to my sister’s house the next day, as I didn’t want to go home. I was scared to see my mom, as I was scared she would look at me and know something was wrong.
I immediately showered and showered and showered….forever. I’ve never before and not since have heard voices, but I did after my shower when I laid down on the bed and cried. I don’t know what I heard but I heard whispering. Him whispering. I can’t talk about it…it’s too upsetting. 22 years later.
I was 18. But I was actually a virgin, which even in the late 90’s was kinda surprising for a teen. Especially considering my friends (Christian school girls are most certainly not angels). I wanted my first time to be with my husband.
I think what was harder than having that taken from me, was not having someone who realized what exactly happened, and saw how I was responding, to come in and help me. When I finally broke down and confided in my friend and my mom did find out, her response really just broke what was already broken. But into much smaller pieces.
I felt my rape was my fault because I ended up someplace I wasn’t supposed to, then I disobeyed because I drank. I felt to blame and I felt horrible and stupid. Then when the person who was my world, who I looked up to the most, storms in with the wrath of God (you have no idea), and agrees with my assessment? She tells me how stupid I was for drinking and lying and going where I wasn’t supposed to. How could I be so stupid? I’m horrible, I should have known better! I’m so smart, how could I have done this?!
There are a few things I haven’t mentioned that I think contributed to my loveliness that is Scrupulosity/Religious OCD (plus I suppose the Bipolar).
I was sexually molested as a small child. That doesn’t have a heading and section of it’s own because I won’t talk about it, I refuse to talk about it, and I will never ever talk about it. I know that’s a very healthy stance to take (yes, that’s sarcasm), but I talked about it once in more detail with a psychologist and I hated how it made me feel and I never want to feel that way again. Ever. So I refuse to feel that way again. I am in control of my own self and no one can make me do what I don’t want anymore, ever. So everyone can just piss off. (Warning, don’t poke the bear) I don’t feel that “event” in childhood makes me a horrible/stupid person or that’s where my intrusive thoughts stem from, so I’m ok not delving into my feelings about that issue.
I know there is more that contributed. Genetics. My mom is a nutter. My grandma was a loon too. My dad is an alcoholic and otherwise I don’t know more, but I’m sure he has issues (affair, his choice in alcoholic younger women). My father’s alcoholism I think helps me along to being more prone towards obsessions, genetically. What are obsessions but addictions, really?
Recipe for OCD
There is no one recipe. Genetics + Trauma(s) + Perfectionism + Higher IQ + Creativity + Sensitivity. That’s my own personal recipe. Just like there are a hundred recipes to bake bread or even a pot of chili. Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and all the various counselors want to figure out the cause for the various mental health conditions. I get it. If you know the why, you can perhaps prevent such things in others, or if not, know what was broken and then fix it in your present subject.
Doing a deep analysis I used to think was a huge waste of time. Don’t live in the past. But when your psyche is shaped by the past (“I’m horrible and stupid”), you have to know what went on so you can hope to alter things for the better.