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Faith

Religious OCD

In The Midst

There is hope in the midst of brokenness

I try to resist, but the longer I last without giving in, the stronger the urge gets. As it has been throughout my life, my mind is relentless, perpetually bombarding me with thoughts, ideas, obsessions: darkness.

I try to let go but…

“Pack for next month’s trip… now”

“Work on your essay… now.”

“Exercise… now.”

Obsessive-compulsive disorder has been a reality for me as long as I can remember; every moment of every day filled with intrusion after intrusion, accusing me, threatening me, forcing fathomless anxiety upon my hopeless frame.

Waging war is one thing when the enemy is visible, defined, external. But when the enemy is inside?

One’s own mind is a formidable foe.

A feathery thought to the average person bears a weight of bricks in my mind. The only way to rid myself of the pressing anxiety it brings is to give in and do whatever it urges me to.

Resistance seems futile.

OCD first manifested in earnest in regards to self-image. As I began the turbulent years of high-school, mental whispers of inadequacy about my weight became more and more frequent.

“Face people head-on; don’t let them see your elephantine profile.”

“If you eat that chocolate bar, you’ll never be married.”

 “Do you think any girl could love you?”

I give in to the whispers, losing seventy pounds in the span of six months. Counting calories takes over. My parents try to intervene, telling me to simply stop my destructive habits. But they don’t see the battle being waged within, just the outer workings of it.

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Religious OCD

Learning in recovery from OCD

You may feel like your life will never go back to normal & that you will be stuck like this forever, but there is hope even in the storm.

I have been struggling with OCD since I was 16. It started with a bad thought about the bible. I never had a thought like that before, and I was basically traumatized. It felt like the world was turned upside-down, & all I could think about was that bad thought I had. I always grew up in a Christian family. We didn’t always go to church, read the bible, & we are definitely not perfect, but my parents did the best they can to teach us about Jesus & to go to church, pray, & read the holy bible. I remember crying & praying to God for forgiveness in my room for hours. Even though I prayed & asked for forgiveness, I didn’t fell like I was forgiven. I began to obsess over the thought & the more I tried to avoid having the thoughts, the worse they became. I started to think that I was this bad person & I continually ask god for forgiveness. It only grew worse from there. I began to avoid cursing (in music & language), and going to church triggered the bad thoughts.

I’ve talked to my parents & my pastor about it, but I wasn’t completely honest with them about the nature of my thoughts. I was afraid that I would be judged, especially by my parents. I thought I was alone & I felt like as a Christian I wasn’t suppose to have bad thoughts about God & Jesus. I quickly became depressed, & it felt like everyday was constantly not trying to think those thoughts again. I started having thoughts about harming babies, & just thinking bad things towards family, friends, & even strangers. I was always the person who wanted to make people happy, & do good things to make this world a better place.

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OCD

It all started when I was 3 years old

I am nowhere near completely recovered, and new compulsions arise as I treat the old ones, but I am certainly closer each day to being OCD-free.

It all started when I was three years old and my family was going on a three-day road trip. My older sister was eating a brownie, drinking apple juice, and reading all while the car was moving. So, she threw up. I had no idea that a person could do that, and I didn’t know if she would live. That was the first time I remember having a panic attack, and from that point onward I have been terrified of vomiting or having anyone vomit near me.

When I was younger, my main compulsion was to control what I and my family ate. I couldn’t eat chocolate at all, and my family could only have one dessert item each day. No one could eat more than one snack between lunch and dinner, and if anyone tried to break that rule, I would forcibly steal the food from their hands and put it in the garbage. I could not (and still struggle with) eating in any restaurant that is too dirty or dark, and I cannot go through a revolving door, drink a whole glass of water (especially after 8:00 pm), ride a roller coaster, or use a public restroom without anxiety and intrusive thoughts about vomiting.

As I got older, I became more aware of my surroundings, and I was introduced to the concept of alcohol. The idea of not having complete control over my executive function completely petrified me from the start, and as I had more experience being around drunk people, I decided that I would never drink alcohol. That, coupled with the reality that drinking too much often makes you throw up, caused a new obsession to surface for me. This obsession is with coming into contact with alcohol, getting drunk or addicted, having to interact with a drunk person, driving drunk myself, and being in the car with a drunk driver.

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Harm OCD

Postpartum OCD and Faith

Let me be clear: I believe that OCD will probably always be a part of my life here on earth, but it will not be a part of my life in heaven.

OCD has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.

As a kid, I was terrified of a burglar breaking in to our house or of a person close to me hurting me in some horrible way.  Both of these fears (as with most OCD obsessions) had absolutely zero ground to stand on.

My first bout of depression happened when I was 10 years old.  I remember thinking that I didn’t like myself much at all.  My mom, who has been a huge support to me through my journey, noticed that I was down and asked if I wanted to make sure that I was a Christian.  I did, and even though I’d said the sinner’s prayer as a preschooler, this was a significant part of my journey as a Christ-follower.

Compulsive checking became a major problem in middle school.  I was obsessed with the thought that maybe someone was hiding in my closet or under my bed.  Or maybe there was a bomb behind the bedroom door and it was up to me to make sure that everyone was safe.  What if I turned the light switch off with wet hands and that started an electrical fire?  Or maybe I’d sinned and hadn’t asked God for forgiveness.

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Contamination OCD

Exiting the Maze: A Spiritual Answer to Psychological Chaos

The lights were low, the band was playing, and people all around me were praying. My friends seemed to be experiencing God in powerful ways, but I sat in the pew, lost in confusion. I could not escape the mental torment that had become my reality. As I struggled through the endless twists and turns of delusional thinking, a friend of mine came and sat next to me. I shared my frustration with him: “I feel like I’m lost in a maze…a confusing maze of thoughts…and I cannot find the exit.” He responded in a reassuring voice: “Sometimes, Nathan, the only way out is up.”

*****

From early on, my childhood had been characterized by strong, stable Christian values. However, when I graduated from high school and went off to the University of Michigan, I began to fundamentally question everything about my beliefs. I had an endless stream of doubts, and as my spiritual foundation began to erode, I also found myself grappling increasingly with irrational, paralyzing fear.

As the zeal to “find the answers” was eventually replaced by disillusionment and despair, my thinking patterns and behaviors became increasingly obsessive. Before climbing into bed, I would turn off the light. Then I would turn it back on. Then off again. For some reason, I thought that I had to turn the light off the “right” way, and every time I got it wrong, I had to do it again. Other behaviors were equally strange. At times, I found myself jumping slightly off the ground whenever I had an immoral thought. I also began to cough or tense up my body repetitively as feelings of anxiety increased. Negative mental associations dominated my thinking, making daily tasks nearly impossible.

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