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Friday, October 28, 2005

Being Altruistic When You're Obsessive

I decided many months ago to give some money to a mental health charity. The decision was made, to pinpoint the exact time, when I finished my course of therapy. I was so incredibly grateful for the treatment I'd received - and so incredibly depressed by the notion that not everyone gets that quality of treatment - that I figured I should try and do something to change that situation. I always go on about the need for decent treatment for everyone with anxiety disorders, and so I figured I should try to do something to bring that about.

So, like a good little obsessive compulsive, I did some research and ultimately decided to donate some money to the Psychiatry Research Trust. The Trust funds research into mental health problems, specifically at the Institute of Psychiatry. The Institute of Psychiatry jointly runs the specialist centre at which I was treated so, y'know, I'm kind of fond of it.

The research of course wasn't over once I'd decided to which charity I was going to donate. Oh no. I contacted the organisation, asked whether it was possible for my donation to specifically fund research in anxiety disorders. Ensured that the charity would be able to claim the tax back on my donation, meaning that my money would go further. Sent a few e-mails back and forth. Received all the information I needed.

In fact, I've had all the information I've needed for a few weeks now. But I haven't quite got round to sending off a cheque. Here's why: how much money should I give? This apparently simple question has led to a whole load of rumination.

Whatever figure I come up with doesn't quite seem like enough. At first, I figured I'd donate my earnings from one day of work. That seemed reasonable. I would just mentally tell myself that one day of the week, I was working solely to benefit the Psychiatry Research Trust.

Then I got worried. I mean, only one day's wages? That's only one three hundredth and sixty fifth of my yearly earnings! That's nothing!

OK, so I figured maybe two days' earnings. But that's still next to nothing, relatively speaking. Maybe a week's earnings? But that's still only seven three hundredth and sixty fifths of my yearly wages. Seems a little pathetic.

This was starting to spiral out of control. OK, wait, maybe here's what I do: I think about how much I would have had to pay for my treatment had it not been on the NHS. I figure how much it would have cost to have the treatment privately, and then donate that money to the charity.

But, wait, that's gonna be loads of cash. I mean, I live comfortably, and I can afford to donate, but should I really be donating that much? Isn't that a little reckless?

I started to think to myself: what if, two years down the line, I have for some reason lost all my savings, and am living on the street. I'm gonna be sitting there thinking: "Dammit, why did I give that much money to the Psychiatry Research Trust? I could really do with that money now. To, y'know, buy me some food".

I mentioned all this rumination to my mum (meaning I have broken two Golden Rules of fighting OCD during this whole mess - do not ruminate, do not ask for reassurance) and she pointed out that in my hypothetical living on the street situation, I could regret any instance of spending money. I could be there thinking: "Dammit, why did I spend all that money on Sky Digital? I could have spent that money on food!"

That's a pretty good argument, but here's the thing: I know I wouldn't regret spending money on Sky. I'd be there thinking: "Well, yeah, I could have used that money on food. But, hey, back in the days when I wasn't on the street, I got hours of televisual entertainment! It was worth the cash!"

I mean, like to think I'm caring but, heck, I'm not that caring. The shameful truth is that if I was on the street, I know wouldn't regret purchases that had in some way directly benefited me. But charitable donations... I have a feeling I'd been thinking: "Yeah, well done, McReadie. It's great that you helped fund improved treatment for anxiety disorders. I'm sure you're going feel great about that as you sit here starving. You didn't think that food for yourself was perhaps a bigger priority? Idiot."

This whole process has made me realise that it's very tough to donate money when you're obsessive compulsive.

I realised I have to stop ruminating and just get on with it. So I'm gonna bite the bullet and send off a cheque this weekend.

Hopefully my money will help to make sure that everyone who gets nervous about how much money to give to charity will get the treatment we need to stop us from getting nervous about such things.

Kind of ironic, isn't it?


  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Fizzwhizz said…

    Why don't you set upo a standing order and donate a certain amount every month? that's what i do with my charidee donations (which, naturally, I don't like to talk about). The advantage is that you can decrease the amount when you're skint and raise it again when you get a bit more cashflow.

    btw check out this wicked website


  • At 5:49 PM, Blogger McReadie said…

    Yeah, I'd thought about setting up a standing order. For most conventional people, it would be a good idea. For me, however - who has an idiot bank, and is generally crap at dealing with creating and amending standing orders, I think it would lead to disaster.


    Thanks nonetheless for the suggesion, Ms F Whizz. I was amused by your comment that you don't like talking about your charity donations. I did actually have a good ol'obsessive worry about whether to even write on this subject :)

    Website - I'm on my way.

  • At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love your comments about your OCD. I am a psychiatric social worker in the U.S. and also have severe anxiety. It is great to hear how you except your ruminations and make fun of them. It made me smile. Your great!

  • At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry, my spelling was pretty bad in that last commment! Lisa


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