Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. Consult a local OCD therapist for diagnosis or treatment.
I sat across from my therapist, furiously writing. I didn’t want to forget anything she said. When I got home, I copied every word into my diary, adding to my ever-growing collection of sermon notes, memories, and detailed records. By now I had teetering piles of diaries in my closet. I had over 50 pounds of tiny-print, double-sided pages--from just the last dozen years of my life.
There was no way I had time to review and reread all that information. Memories started slipping away--even though I'd written them down. Desperate, I started several new documents and books filled with just the most important insights.
I wanted to make sure I didn't lose anything.
Memory hoarding OCD fears that you must save diary records, biographical memories, photos, or memorized memories of every event that happens to you. You fear that if you forget something, you might lose yourself. Instead of a way to recall the joyful events of your life, remembering becomes an overwhelming burden.
My local therapist says that fear of forgetting someone or something is common in OCD. That’s what kept me up at night, panicking that I had forgotten someone important to me.
I always wanted to show people that I didn’t forget the anniversaries of their loved ones’ death. I even remembered people from my past who seem to have forgotten all about me.
I tell more about my roller coaster journey of losing, hoarding, and finding my identity in my upcoming memoir.
"I wanted to say what a profound effect your story had on me. It was so powerful and I didn't want to put it down."--Sarah from Faith, Me, and OCD
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Exposures for Memory Hoarding OCD
Rebecca Bilerio says an exposure for memory hoarding might look like "putting yourself in situations that bring up the urge to savor the moment or capture it precisely and then not doing compulsions. This means not mentally replaying it, not taking photos/videos, not taking notes, etc."
For me, exposures mean not printing my diaries at every urge. Letting it go a little longer. And realizing that nothing bad has happened!
Remembering the Right Things
We do need our memory. We do need to learn and grow from the insights, therapy sessions, and memories we encounter.
Rebecca Bilerio says, “Learning to manage [memory-hoarding] OCD usually involves a series of moments where the brain starts to grasp the treatment concepts and then it slips away, over and over, until eventually it becomes integrated.”
But the experiences that really stick in our minds and form our identity and our character and our future—those are the ones that really matter. Those are the ones we internalize and come back to, over and over--even if we don't write them down.
For further study:
See Rebecca Billerio-Riff, LMSW, “Remembering to Forget: OCD and Memory Hoarding”
See also “Mental Hoarding OCD,” OCD and Anxiety Counseling
See also Nathan Peterson, “Mental Hoarding OCD | I Have To Remember”