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Religion

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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Symmetry OCD

A Mother’s Journey Helping Her Son Recover from OCD

The OCD Monster was still quietly slithering in the pathways of his brain, but the fight was now on.

Although I used to be a travel writer, I took my most frightening journey only recently, with my family, without ever leaving our small Quebec village.

After my father died in 2012, my son was so shattered that he transformed from a regular, bright, happy-go-lucky, soccer-loving ten-year-old into a near-stranger dominated by bizarre rules of magical thinking all designed to bring his grandpa back to life.

For such an even-keeled kid, my husband and I were alarmed that losing his grandpa would plunge our son into an existential crisis. Unable to grasp the finality of death, a tidal wave of grief was forever smashing him down and he couldn’t find his way to the surface. But as winter turned to spring, I started noticing his grief easing up a little. He was no longer crying into his pillow at night and had started laughing again. Except, now he was doing something else that I found peculiar.

One evening I was sitting beside him in our living room while he seemed to be unconsciously tapping each elbow onto the back of the couch. Four taps of the left elbow, four taps of the right. A few tapless minutes would pass and then he’d start the routine again. Over the coming weeks, what we called “making things even” became more complex, seemingly full of complicated rules. One day he started turning his head as far as it would go over his shoulder, then he’d turn his head to the other side over the other shoulder. But it didn’t stop there. He’d go back and twist his head twice on the first side, then twice again on the other side. It looked like an exercise for old people. “Do the kids in school notice you doing that?” I asked him one day while he was building a Downton Abbey-esque estate on Minecraft.

“Yeah, sometimes,” he said, not looking up from my iPad.

“Don’t they find it weird?”

He shrugged. “They just think I’m stretching my neck.”

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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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Intrusive Thoughts, OCD, Religious OCD

Learning to live

There is a lot of advice I could tell people who have OCD, but the main two pieces of advice are; you are never alone and there is hope.

I merely existed until I was 16 years old. Life for me was a string of anxieties and avoidance, making it impossible to live the life I wanted. The worst bringer of these anxieties was Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

At 15 years old, my general anxiety was declining and my depression had disappeared. I was becoming who I wanted to be in life. Then life brought me something new.

Intrusive thoughts and images of harm raced through my head constantly. In an attempt to escape, I would mentally repeat phrases until the thoughts went away. That didn’t last long. I turned to pinching myself and banging my head against a wall, yelling and screaming. Anything to get the horrible images out of my head.

I thought I had schizophrenia, if anything. That was the only solution I had to the voices in my head. No one told me OCD was about intrusive thoughts! No one told me OCD was anything more than a cleaning disorder. Not knowing what these thoughts were, I didn’t tell anyone what was going on. I had so much guilt. I didn’t fear that I would act on the thoughts, but the guilt I had for thinking them was immense.

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Religious OCD

Fighting The OCD Devil

I couldn’t even brush my teeth without hearing these things

Hello everyone, my name is Todd and I am a grad student at Clemson University. This is my story of my experience with Religious OCD (Scrupulosity). Thank you for listening. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Topics and advice that come up in the video:

  • Blasphemous thoughts
  • Worry of becoming schizophrenic
  • What is OCD
  • Compulsions as a way to combat intrusive thoughts

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