Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Lonely Pilgrim: The Isolation of Relationship OCD

Stricken with Self-doubt
Today I found a quote from the lyrics of Bruce Springtsteen's "Brilliant Disguise"
which encapsulated the sadness of the "Lonely Pilgrim's" voice:
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he is sure of.
I know this song, and have the album, but I haven't listened to it in awhile, and today it struck me as an achingly accurate description of OCD, particularly what some call Relationship OCD. The character in the song wants to make a real connection with the woman he loves, and yet cannot be certain of what is in her mind, or even in his own. He doesn't trust himself.

It is part of the human condition that we can't read minds, we can't really know what someone else is thinking, and this can be very lonely, but OCD grabs hold of it and intensifies the suffering with demands of knowing for sure what the other is thinking or feeling, or wanting to be sure of loving someone.

We are feeling creatures, but OCD has no mercy and erodes essential feelings of love and trust by putting the burden on the mind to figure it all out, get reassurance, guarantees, documentation and checking to make sure the feelings are still there. A quick way to lose connection with someone you love is to get lost in an OCD loop of verification within your own mind. I did this for many years in my marriage, wanting to know what physical connection "meant" and how it was supposed to feel, and compulsively going over any touch in my mind, trying to establish if it felt good, was I sure, how did I know, was I doing it right?

And when the circumstances and history of your life seem to confirm the OCD fears, that makes it even harder.
Well I've tried so hard baby
But I just can't see
What a woman like you
Is doing with me
I grew from girl into woman into the belief that no one would ever love me because I was essentially defective, and the OCD latched onto this with a vengeance, and ever increased the rumination and fear. A whole string of compulsive questions about what was wrong with me, and why couldn't I change it, and analyzing my every thought and sensation.

My husband and I actually were in a kind of "brilliant disguise," not really telling each other what we were thinking or feeling, but my OCD couldn't protect me from that, and in fact made us even farther apart. He could be in the room, right next to me, and I was far far away in my compulsing. We both found the courage to actually know each other, with the help of a therapist, and this helped immensely when I began Exposure Therapy for my OCD, since I could talk to him about how I was struggling, and at the same know that if he needed a break, he would tell me.

I've included a video of a cover of the song, done by the band The Reason. The lyrics are included. Are there any songs that are meaningful to you in dealing with your OCD?


  1. Actually yes! I am generally terrible with remembering songs and their lyrics, even the ones that I really like, but there is a song that always made me think of something that I now recognize as part of my struggle with OCD. Amidst the angry man-hating lyrics of old Alanis Morissette were a few in the song titled "All I Really Want" that made me go, "Hey! That's exactly how I feel!" They were...

    "Why are you so petrified of silence
    Here can you handle this? Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines
    Or when you think you're gonna die
    Or did you long for the next distraction?"

    When I was a kid (9-11ish) I struggled a lot with constantly thinking about death and dying, and I had a lot of intrusive thoughts surrounding this topic. I also fought with a lot of magical thinking, thought-action-fusion sort of stuff, believing that if I thought about death or about someone dying, it might happen. I spent a lot of time trying to block out these thoughts or neutralizing them...especially when I was alone. I really was afraid of the silence, of having to listen to my thoughts. Being alone with my mind was terrifying sometimes, and well, this song just seemed to capture that perfectly...I was terrified of silence and always looking for a distraction because when there was nothing to take my mind off things, my fears of death would just bear down on me, and the endless rumination and ritualizing would begin.

  2. I was thinking of this the other day. Great topic. For some reason the beginning of KC and the Sunshine band's I'm your Boogie man comes to mind

    I'm your boogie man that's what I am
    I'm here to do whatever I can
    Be it early mornin' late afternoon
    Or at midnight it's never too soon

    That is what I think of when I think of OCD!

  3. I like Jason Mraz's "The Remedy"

    I said something on the surface
    Well it kind of makes me nervous
    Who says that you deserve this
    And what kind of god would serve this?
    We will cure this dirty old disease
    If you've got the poison I've got the remedy

    The remedy is the experience.
    This is a dangerous liaison
    I say the comedy is that it's serious.
    This is a strange enough new play on words
    I say the tragedy is how you're gonna spend
    The rest of your nights with the light on
    So shine the light on all of your friends
    When it all amounts to nothing in the end.

    I won't worry my life away.

    I won't worry my life away.

    It's kinda my theme song.

  4. I appreciate the additional songs to add to my ocd soundtrack. . .I really like the "The remedy is the experience"--that sums up Exposure Therapy for me--doing what I fear rather than avoiding it and worrying my life away.

  5. Rocd has ruined our relationship. The doubt is overwhelming to the point that he thinks we are incompatable and says he dont trust me. He stopped calling and wont answer me. He is thinking of us I know it and I can feel it every minute of the day even without talking to him-my heart tells me so.He has asked me not to contact him as he is so sick. I am dying from longin to see him and comfort him. It seems the more I love him the more he pushes me away. The more he pushes me away the more I try to reach him which has never been my style. I am so confused as to what to do with this. I love him and have read everything about this illness so I can put myself in his place -so I can see this disease through his experience-so I can be part of his life. I want him to be happy so badly but he just backs up and pulls me back and forth-now he has just gone covert and hides. I know he misses me and is very lonely. I wonder if he feels better not having to worry so much about loving me -if he feels relief or deep sorrow over this sad ending. God we all need an answer. What can I do to make him trust himself and trust me? I want to see him finally happy knowing that he may always have some issues but there is "me" that understans and still loves him deeply without judgement - just acceptence for the wonderful man he is.

  6. I just found your blog and don't really know where to begin or what to say. Right now, I'll just say that I'm extremely grateful for finding it. I want to get help and want to reclaim my life. I want my life back. How did you use ERP to help with ROCD? Is it possible?

  7. Welcome Anon and Anon. Yes, ERP can help with ROCD. Please check out the list of resources on my sidebar, especially the International OCD Foundation for a list of therapists trained in ERP, and OCD support groups. OCD often latches onto what is important to a person, and exposure for ROCD thoughts could be making a recording of the thoughts and feared consequences and listening to it until it doesn't freak you out anymore. Having a therapist or group to help is very important for encouragement.