The connection between false memories, real memories, and thoughts...

This post has been thanked 2 times. 17 June 2016 - 3:52

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Hey all, I am new to the forum, but not new to OCD. I have had this diagnosis for about 6 years, and take medication, plus go to therapy. I still have ups and downs, but overall, feel a lot better about the condition than what I used to feel.

With OCD, as many of you know, one of the most tormenting things are these thoughts that appear in the form of doubts... "Did I (insert some awful thing)...." And then we think about it so much we wonder if it was an actual event we are remembering, and that's when the dread, the rumination, and the compulsions start. Does anyone have any tips or anything they have picked up on with how to distinguish a real memory from a thought or a false memory? Here is what I have picked up on......

So many times when we think of our OCD memories, we remember just OUR actions..... but for every action we do, there has to be another action by another person! And if we did this awful thing that we think we did, there would most certainly be another reaction from the person we think we offended. So many times in these "memories," I can't ever remember a response from the offended person. With a real memory, this would not be the case! Feel free to continue discussion on this topic, as I feel this is something that torments a lot of people with OCD.

This post has been thanked 1 time. 17 June 2016 - 8:17

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Carolina05,

Your words speak to me. When I was 14 and had been dealing with contamination/scrupulosity for some time, I started having the "what ifs" which would slowly (or quickly) turn into a memory. And of course they were almost always germy, sexual, violent, or ask of the above, but somehow for as much as I could think or "remember" them, there was never a reaction from another person who might have been involved nor evidence that I could find, which was odd considering how big these what-ifs were. I'm 23 now, and although I've been able to dismiss most of those obsessions as nonsense, there are some which persist in my mind.

Some things which i find helpful to remember when dealing with this sort of issue:
-If you question the idea of you doing something bad once (the what-if), you'll *never* be able to fully convince yourself that you have done this bad thing, no matter what your mind gives you in terms of thoughts, "memories", motives, etc.
-If it goes against your general morals or ethics, you probably didn't do it, regardless of a "memory"
-For the OCD mind, distinguishing a true from a false memory can become literally impossible owing to the fact that we obsess over an idea so much that our mind feels like has to take almost anything we think of at face value, as if it is a real memory, as if we actually did that horrible thing, got away with scott free, forgot about it, and are just now realizing it. Plenty were the times when I was 14 and sure I was remembering doing something gross or terrible years before because right away a visual appeared in my mind and I just had to assume it was a memory, no matter how weird, bizarre, or unlike me it might have been.
-Something that I've realized with my OCD is that when I get a horrible idea that I've done something terrible is that if I have to ask myself "Well, how did I do that and hide it/get away with it", if my mind provides me with multiple ways (or multiple images or phrases explaining it), it is almost certainly *not* a true memory, but when I revisit the obsession during a relapse, whichever ideas my mind settled on will come back all at once as if *that* is the narrative of how it happened and I have to remind myself that I didn't know these "facts" all along, I had to ask my OCD for the story (and even the OCD mind likes to change the story on occasion, I've noticed). To me, this is further indication that the thing I'm worried about having done is a load of bunk.
-Lastly, and this is the one which i struggle with lately, in the case of a "what if" that hypothetically happened ages ago, I find my mind making connections to *other* memories I have from ages ago. These are along the lines of "I was thinking about having done X then" or "I cried at this time because I was upset that I had done X". It's bizarre, because I can't quite believe those connections to be the case in the first place, and in the second place, as I run through my mind to every memory i have of that time period, my mind connects the "what if X" to EVERY SINGLE MEMORY (or near every one). In my opinion, that is ridiculous, and another indication that these are not fully true memories, they are partial memories which OCD is attaching to like a leach.
-As always, it's good to see a therapist, or at the very least someone you trust to talk through some of this, not in a reassurance-seeking way, but as a means of tracking your obsessions and "memories" so that you can see how they ebb, flow, change, escalate, and adapt. I found that as wised up to how OCD worked, my OCD wised up, too, and changed its "what if" tactics, so it's good to have another non-OCD mind with you to help you see that. Just make sure you're always honest with them.

Now these are just based on my experiences and no two OCDs are exactly the same, so my points might not apply to you or anyone specifically, and you or others may have heard some or all of them before. In any case, thank you for starting this thread, because this is largely what I've dealt with for the last few years and it is tremendous to know that I'm not the only one. And if anyone else can shed some light on this, PLEASE DO because I'd love some friendly advice and insight, too as this is my mental struggle.

I hope this is helpful and that you are continuing to do well!
medac

This post has been thanked 1 time. 17 June 2016 - 10:16

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Hi there... To err is human, forgive, divine. I remember getting apples out of a derelict garden. Was it wrong? Well, technically, yes, but it harmed no one. And we had some pretty amazing pies! I was about twelve at the time, and it was derelict land. I used to go after school. That's how far back my guilt goes, and I'm in my sixties now. None of us is perfect... And we don't need to be. Just look around, no one is perfect... Just looking at the celebrity gossip magazines, and newspapers... Celebrities pay a huge price for their fame. It is good to be able to go shopping without being pestered for attention. We're probably better people than many of those around us...

Wannabe

This post has been thanked 1 time. 17 June 2016 - 17:52

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Also, a video which I found somewhat helpful when I was worried about a discerning true from false memories:
https://youtu.be/prN6_Lt1VZg

Eventually, if you can't let the intrusive thought go, everything, true memories, false memories, the odd thoughts you have, will likely all smash together and it'll be pretty much be indiscernable in your mind what is a true memory and what is a false or tainted memory. At that point, I believe you have to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and say "I can't say for certain that this happened, and all the physical signs and the fact that I have OCD point to a no, so that's what I have to go with."

Hoping this helps anyone,
medac

17 June 2016 - 18:24

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Hi there, and welcome. That is really helpful point, and really well put. The video is good too, the guy is really interesting to listen to, and has other videos on youtube. Thank you for sharing.

Wannabe

This post has been thanked 1 time. 17 June 2016 - 22:52

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Thanks for the replies on this topic, guys!! I love discussing this because for those of us who struggle with this memory issue, it can be a REAL pain in the butt! Honestly though, I have to stop calling it a "memory issue" because I don't think any of us really have an issue with our memory. I remember things clear as day from YEARS ago.... I agree with medac.. if we doubt it at all... then that is already a sign it is OCD. When I think about going to the grocery store earlier.... I don't think... "did I go to the grocery store earlier?" That whole... "Did I... will I...." is a sign that it is OCD. I know without doubt I went to the store earlier. OCD automatically plays on the fact that the mind can't remember perfectly anyway.

And if you are currently struggling with a recurring obsession... some things to remember...

1.) Some reaction would have happened already because of your action. If it is that hurtful of a thing, it is not going to go unnoticed. 

2.) You wouldn't be on this forum if you actually did something wrong-- you would just know that you did it and instead of thinking about whether or not you actually did it, you would be thinking about what to do to deal with the issue.

3.) People are made up of countless relationships, feelings, personality traits, experiences, memories, etc...... this "bad" thing that any OCD person obsesses over doing is nothing that another human being cannot overcome. We live in a world where people try to be victims on purpose for whatever reason, and I believe that plays to the OCD brain. People are resilient, strong, and can triumph through struggle, even if another person is the one who causes that struggle. Every single person in this world has to make the choice to overcome some kind of pain -- that could be pain from themselves, from another person, from a physical illness, and the list goes on.....

19 June 2016 - 20:11

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Hello again,

I have something that I've struggled with that I'd like to ask about which relates to the memory topic.

I've sort of mentioned this before in this post and another post. Does anyone have it where they think of a memory from however long ago (a month, a year, 10 years), and you associate a terrible thought with it, like an ulterior motive or that in that moment you knew that you did something terrible (usually the obsession which got you anxious)?

An example of one I had when i was last in an anxious stage a couple years ago: I remembered a time I was hanging out with my twenty-something brother and his girlfriend at our childhood home and somewhere in there my mind was telling me that in that moment I either wanted them to die or knew that they were going to die soon.

The idea of that thought and memory terrified me. Of course I don't want either of them to die and I knew that there was nothing I was actively doing to try to kill them, so my mind went on to say that it was that I had done something a long time prior which would somehow ensure their deaths (at one point my mind suggested i had gotten a hitman or something). It scared me for a little while. Eventually, I got over it and have discounted it as part of my OCD/anxiety, but there are many, many other similar situations, some which have gotten much more "detaled" or which associate with many more memories or which I have had in my mind for YEARS. My therapist, my family, and my priest are all of the opinion that all of these are "phantom" occurrences, in that the crime/sin I worry about appears to have never happened but I imagine that I can remember thinking about it in times gone by, though I can't remember the crime or sin itself and I don't feel like I "know" it happened.

And as you can well imagine, the crimes and sins in question are violent and/or sexual and no, I've never been accused of any of them, which either means they none then happened or that I'm a psychotic master criminal at a very young age (and I don't use those terms lightly or to make this sound funny, it's genuinely how I feel when I'm in that funk). Which sounds a lot like OCD, but of course the feeling left by the "internal evidence (the thoughts and phantom memories)" become very convincing.

Amy thoughts? I would appreciate it. Thanks.
medac

12 January 2019 - 4:24

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Hey guys,

i first started experiencing ocd when i was probably 7 or 8 but at the time i had no idea that what i was experiencing was ocd. I always got 'bad thoughts' and felt the need to confess them to my mum. i went through a stage where i would get up every night, after ten minutes of lying in bed, go to the living room where my mother was still awake and confess these thoughts, crying on her lap. My thoughts at this age where often sexual in nature, which as you can imagine were disturbing for an 8 year old. They mainly involved thoughts about my family, which only made everything much worse for me. There was even a point where i was convinced members of my family might be attracted to me. I was constantly making up disturbing scenarios and thoughts in my head. Anyway, just recently i have worried that some of these thoughts or scenarios might have been memories, which is really freaking me out. I am not very close with my dad, and my thoughts have latched onto the idea that maybe he actually was or is attracted to me, and that maybe these thoughts and made up scenarios are actual memories, my thoughts have led me to believe that he might have actually done something sexual towards me. I believe i have had a pretty normal family life and my dad is a very gentle, caring, protective and respectful man, so that makes these new thoughts/ideas all the more disturbing. Before the past couple years and before my ocd spiked again, nothing like this had ever occured to me. It has been 11 years since my first encounter with ocd and sexual thoughts at the age of 7, so im not sure what is happening. I am also a hypochondria, and have read perks of being a wallflower, and since reading i have developed a mild fear that maybe i had experienced the same thing, but i just couldnt remember it, like charlie; and i have also taken to the idea that my knowledge of responses to trauma such as lack of , or complete periods of memory missing, may have also sparked this new fear. My memory has been very bad as of lately with all this anxiety over the past year, and i can hardly remember anything anymore, including my past. im not sure if this is normal, but it seems my old ocd has come back to haunt me, just as i was getting over my current state of ocd. please help.

12 January 2019 - 22:15

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When we forget about things it is a blissful way of letting go, living in the now, regardless of what we did or didn't do, other people will do the same. It just isn't possible to  be responsible for the thoughts of other people. We learn from our mistakes. How would we be able to experiment with life, without the odd mistake? Human and fallible is what we are.

Wannabe 

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