Faith and OCD: Part 1, What Not to Do

Shattered Dove

This is the post. This is the post I have been thinking about and turning over in my head again and again. This is the one I have been telling God I’m not ready for. This past week though, He has sent some amazing people my way to encourage me to attempt to write this. I doubt they would even give themselves any credit for helping me (or even know that they had inspired me to do this). So, I’m going to acknowledge them anyway. My best friend Joanne and I had dinner together this week and we talked a lot about how OCD has wreaked havoc on our relationships with God. Honestly, it made me sad. But then I got real mad about it. Sometimes OCD makes me so angry. It is just so unfair the way it tries to violate what is meant to be pure. Spending time with God should be joyous. When you have religious obsessions (scrupulosity), doing anything with God becomes an exposure and triggers a lot of anxiety. Sigh. I had even written in my journal this past week the following:

           “I wonder what it would be like to have a relationship with God unmarred by OCD?”

Interesting how God was already stirring this topic in my heart before I even had dinner with Joanne. Then, some lovely ladies stopped by my blog to let me know how excited they were to find another believer who has OCD and obsessions regarding God and moral choices. I appreciate their support and am excited to get to know them a little better on this journey together. I also e-mailed my good friend Ashley about this blog post. I expressed my concern about not really knowing what the solution is to this tricky problem of separating our relationship with God and OCD. And how I don’t have the answers. How I wished I could sum it up in 5 easy steps about how to keep OCD out of your relationship with God. Something like “try this and you too can enjoy unparalleled closeness with God and sunshine. And rainbows. Maybe even unicorns” I fear this is not the post for that. I also talked to my hero of a husband, Zack, about how much I wanted to write this post but I was afraid I wouldn’t have the answers anyone would need. He told me to go for it anyway and that God may use it to encourage someone else. He is just the best. So here goes.

 

Let me first begin with what not to do. I have a LOT of experience with that!!! Short background story, I began to love Jesus at a young age. I had experienced closeness with Him before. Which is why OCD was breaking my heart. It was attacking what I loved most.  no-signBefore I was diagnosed with OCD 3ish years ago, I heard a lot of things about anxiety. I don’t mean to get on a soapbox about this, because I know that the people who told me these things had the best of intentions. They just wanted to help a struggling sister. Probably I was such a mess, they didn’t know what to say. I’ve heard a ton of sermons in the church about worry being a sin. About how if you just have enough faith, you can move a mountain. Didn’t you know that God does not answer the prayer of the one who doubts? Boy was I in trouble. I doubted all the time! I doubted my sanity, my ability to make the right choices, if God even loved me anymore, if He had given up on me, if He was punishing me, if He was allowing Satan to sift me, if He was disappointed in me, etc. If I heard one more person say one more time, “Just stop worrying. Pray about it. Memorize some Scripture. Think about something else,” I may have just lost it on them. Again, these sweet people were not trying to hurt me. They just didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand myself, so I do not blame them at all. What I am saying is that sometimes the church doesn’t really understand mental illness and the things that are said out of love actually reinforced my compulsions. Again, not anyone’s fault. So what did I do? As the good girl Christian rule-follower, I did what they said. I prayed more. I read my Bible more, I wrote Scriptures on cards, memorized Bible verses, tried to think about “whatever was pure, whatever was lovely.” Not bad things in and of themselves. In the hands of OCD though, they are like a shark to blood in the water. Enter lots of compulsions. Including saying Jesus’ name aloud every time a “bad” thought entered my mind. Singing worship songs to drown out the thoughts in my head. At that point, I really thought I might be going crazy. Whatever that means. So I got to the point where I just got mad that these “Christian” things were not “working”. I got mad at God. I felt like He was just refusing to help me. I was drowning and He wasn’t even aware of it. I was tired of praying. I was tired of reading the Bible compulsively. I was tired of memorizing Scripture. It was not helping me get any better and was in fact making me feel worse. All I had in the words of Emily Freeman in her book, “Grace for the Good Girl”, was a whole lot of guilt. Guilt that I couldn’t be “normal”. Guilt that I had truly done something terrible so now God had given up on me. Guilt over feeling angry with God. Guilt over not having enough faith. So I just stopped. I would go to church and I would read my Bible and pray sometimes, but I just had to stop. I didn’t even know who God really was. I didn’t know anything about having a relationship with Him. All I knew was the voice of OCD criticizing me and making my life miserable. All I had were my compulsions. And actually, I think this is how it had to be for me to find God. I didn’t find God by memorizing Scripture. I didn’t find Him by going to church and doing the “right” things. I started to find Him when I began to strip away all that compulsive legalism. My whole view of Him shattered.

Enter Jesus. Just writing that makes me want to cry. I am that woman who was bleeding uncontrollably. Her desire to remain hidden because of her shame was my heartbeat. I am the woman who is about to be stoned. Drowning in her sorrow and desperation. Laying in the sand with all her stupid legalistic rules that OCD tells her she has to follow to earn His love.

And then He stoops low.

To save me from myself.

Jesus Mary Magdalene

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley says:

    Kaitlin, this is beautiful!

    I also want to say that I can relate to so many of the things you have gone through with OCD attacking your walk with God. And I can relate to the spiritual compulsions. It is such a lost feeling to not find comfort in the scriptures because they’ve turned into compulsions.

    I can’t wait to read part 2! I love you and am so proud of you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ashley! I am so, so thankful for you! You have been a vital part of the process of these posts. Thanks for listening to me this morning! Love you!

      Like

  2. Zack Akvan says:

    Kaitlin I’m so proud to call you my wife! This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read! Thanks for being such a light to everyone around you who struggles with anxiety, especially OCD. Including me! I love you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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