No Shortcuts

When Jeff Bell, spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation, spoke for our OCD Twin Cities event, one of the things he said that really stood out to me was that there are no shortcuts in treating OCD.

Woman and maze

That’s true, or at least it was in my case. I wanted easy answers: for deep theological conversations to solve my problems, or for comfort and reassurance from friends to be enough, for an hour-long conversation with a therapist each week to take away the anxiety, for an easy prescription to fix everything.

I definitely did not want the hard answer: exposure and response prevention therapy.

My psychiatrist didn’t mince words in his description: “It will be hell.”

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, but one of the most necessary and most rewarding. For me, there was no shortcut to healing, and since I was already living in OCD hell, the best way out was to keep going.

So, believe me, friends: I get it. ERP therapy is hard, so hard. You might think you won’t survive it. You might think your loved ones won’t survive your going through it. You might think it’s sinful or disgusting, and your exposures are probably going to be loathsome and repellent to you.

If you need to, go ahead and look for shortcuts. I know I had to.

But in the end, there were none for me, and I’d only wasted time looking for them.

While experiencing it, ERP was hell. But on the other side? It was my rescue.


OCD Scrupulosity: Is ERP Sinful?

is ERP sinfulSometimes people with religious scrupulosity fear that ERP therapy itself is sinful. It’s true that ERP therapy will definitely ask you to do things outside of your comfort zone, things that will probably make you sick. (This is how ERP works, and it is crafted specifically around your own deepest anxieties.)

But once embarked on this ERP journey, I think it’s unwise and counterproductive to try to convince yourself (or convince others … or let others convince you …) that your therapy is not sinful. (After all, the whole point of this therapy is to embrace the uncertainty!)

If you are a Christian and concerned about ERP therapy, I suggest you say a prayer like this then dive in headfirst:

Lord, I am terrified about what I am being asked to do through this therapy, and I worry that it might be sinful.  But there is at least some part of me that believes this is connected to OCD, so please cover over all I have to do with your grace. I am doing these things in the hopes of restoring my right and healthy relationship with you. Please be honored by my therapy and my choice to fight for my freedom (which you won on the cross) and my relationship with you (again, made possible by the cross). Be glorified in my therapy, and cover anything sinful with your incredible grace. Make me strong enough to complete my exposures. Provide the strength I need to press through this scary therapy, and let these hard exposures and choices (that may sometimes seem wrong to me) glorify you. Amen.

There were definitely times when I (and others– wow, that was hard!) wondered if I was doing something wrong with my ERP exposures, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that this was my last and best chance at freedom and health and hope. I held onto that and pressed through, and I will tell you this: every. single. thing. in my life is better post-ERP, in particular, my spiritual life is now thriving and healthy. I am growing in my faith. I have the joy of salvation. I trust Christ more.
And I believe that ERP was God’s tool to bring me into this way of life.
To learn more about OCD, ERP therapy, religious scrupulosity, go to
Image credit: Fernando Rodriguez

OCD & Faith (or Lack Thereof): a Double Interview

faithI am so blessed to help lead OCD Twin Cities with Alison Dotson, a strong OCD awareness advocate and the author of Being Me with OCD, written for young people struggling with the disorder. Alison is brilliant, fun, a great friend, and a total sweetheart. She and I have been wanting to do something collaborative for a while now, and I’m so excited to be hosting her on my blog today.

Alison and I have both dealt with religious scrupulosity. While many of our struggles were the same (and in some places our stories quite similar), our roads eventually diverged. While Alison gave up her Christian faith and is now an agnostic, my faith has grown stronger.

Today, Alison and I will each answer several questions about OCD and faith– I hope that it will give readers a balanced view.

Did you grow up in a faith-based home and/or community?

Alison: Yes, I was raised Lutheran. We went to an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) church. “Evangelical” in the name throws me off a bit because we really weren’t about evangelizing. My pastors always stressed the idea of God’s grace, and I don’t remember even one sermon about sharing the “good news” with others; at least it wasn’t ever pushed in any organized way.

My family went to church every Sunday, without fail. I wasn’t allowed to stay overnight at friends’ houses on Saturday nights, or have friends stay at our house, because we had to get up for church in the morning. I went to Sunday School. I went to Wednesday School, which is a program we’d get out of school early for and meet at church. I went through First Communion, and as an eighth and ninth grader I went through Confirmation. I belonged to youth groups and sometimes attended a Bible study. One of my cousins was very devoted to her religion; as a Jehovah’s Witness she attended “meeting,” or church, three times a week. All of her friends were from her congregation, not her school. I thought that seemed really cool and I wanted to become more involved in my religious community, too.

At one point I decided I should read the Bible front to back, and I set a goal, something like 10 pages a night. One night I fell behind on my goal, which meant the next night I needed to do more than usual to catch up. I became overwhelmed, which in hindsight seems a little like an OCD symptom, and just stopped somewhere in Exodus.

I became very devoted to my faith and strived to be the best Christian I could be. I really wanted to be perfect and follow the Bible to a T, even though there are contradictions within the Bible that make that impossible! But I was very careful to follow the Ten Commandments. I think the hardest commandment for me to follow as a teenager was honoring my father and mother.

I didn’t just follow the Bible’s teachings; I subscribed to materials for young people, like weekly devotionals. My mom actually thought those reading materials were too conservative and expected too much of me. There was a lot of focus on remaining sexually pure, and the expectation that even my thoughts should be chaste was hard for me to deal with. I began to feel like I had to ask for forgiveness a lot, simply because of my normal teenage thoughts.

Jackie: Yes, I grew up in a Christian home, attended church each week. My parents were very clear that what they wanted most out of life was for their kids to love Jesus. All growing up, Christianity was a very strong theme throughout my life. I could clearly see how much God mattered to my parents, and I think the importance placed on faith is what triggered my OCD to react in themes regarding it (religious scrupulosity). Like Alison, I remember my upbringing advocating strongly for purity as well as good behavior (obedience to parents, not swearing, not lying, etc.), but also for really, truly loving God and knowing him personally. I’ll explain my obsessions in the next question, but I went through a lot of turmoil before my faith became my own at age 14.

Tell us about the onset of your OCD.

Alison: Gosh, when did it start? When I was diagnosed at age 26 I started to retrace my steps, if you will. I remember having what seemed to be OCD symptoms when I was as young as seven years old. As a child I mostly obsessed about my own health and safety. I feared I had cancer, or would be caught in a fire but survive with horrific burns. In middle school I had HOCD, which was particularly hard because I thought being gay was a sin. And I didn’t think I’d be redeemed by simply not acting on the obsessions; I thought God must be really upset with me for even doubting my sexuality. It was torture, complete torture. I figured no one else my age was going through something like that. It affected everything. I had to stop reading, which I loved, and watching TV was hard. I didn’t want to spend time with friends, because what if I had a “bad” thought about them?

This continued off and on in high school, along with other somewhat related obsessions. Many of my obsessions had to do with my body; I didn’t know how young women were “supposed” to look and I feared I might be distorted. I’d look at pictures of myself with my friends and pick them apart, thinking my friends looked so perfect and normal.

Jackie: My obsessions started when I was about seven years old– and they were centered around two of the big no-nos: lying and profanity. I would think of curse words in my head and feel so guilty that I’d have to go confess. I was also terrified of lying, so much so that I wouldn’t give answers to questions of preference, just in case my answer would later change. I thought that would have been the same as lying, and I knew that was bad and sinful. Everything centered around the idea of avoiding sin.

When I was a little older (5th grade), I wondered how I could love a God I couldn’t physically see. I figured this was sinful– to not love God– and I was very ashamed of these thoughts and so I needlessly suffered alone for three years. They were hard years, during a time of life that should not have been hard. I was so ashamed and tormented by this doubt that maybe I didn’t love God that I didn’t tell anyone about my doubts. I cried almost every single day for three years. Finally, when the shame and fear were too much for me to handle, I talked to my mom about it, and she was able to “reason things out” with me. I remember being so overjoyed and lighthearted after that conversation. I loved God. I became a Christian then at age 14 and was baptized at my church.

Soon after that, in 9th grade, I had the thought that maybe God wasn’t real, and again, this was accompanied by a lot of fear. Deep down, I really did believe God was real– and so if I was acting like I didn’t think he was, I was afraid I’d go to hell. It’s hard to explain the next 3-4 years of my life because I think most people entertain those thoughts. But for me, it was like a constant fear, a continual sadness, an obsessive dog-chasing-its-tail sort of rumination that was exhausting.

Later, in college, I worried about the unforgivable sin– worried that I had committed it and would be eternally locked out of heaven. By this point, I loved God and believed he was real, and so it was torture to feel so separated from him. This obsession was my OCD’s crowning glory and plagued me all the way up until I got effective treatment for my OCD.

How did your OCD interact or interfere with your faith?

Alison: Later in high school, probably in my senior year, I started to doubt my faith. I have a very distinct memory of standing in the shower and thinking about people in remote African villages who had never heard of Jesus. I wondered if they were destined for hell just because they weren’t born somewhere like America, and I started to cry. It seemed very unfair, and I really hated the idea. But it was the doubt that had entered my mind that took the biggest toll: I had been led to believe that the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ, and if you didn’t believe in him and accept him, you would go to hell. Now, there are several things I could say about this (surely there’s an exception for someone in Africa who’s never even heard of Jesus), but at the time it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had just questioned God. I had just doubted my belief.

From there life became torture again, like it had been when I was really struggling with HOCD. This time, though, it was worse. This time the consequences could be far more dire: I could go to hell for my thoughts. I’d heard somewhere that the only unforgivable sin was rejecting the Holy Spirit. So of course that’s all I could think about, day and night. I tried to ward off any blasphemous thoughts, and anyone with OCD knows that’s the exact opposite of what we should do! Anytime a doubt crept in, I prayed for forgiveness. I didn’t want to go to hell. An eternity of torture because I couldn’t stop thoughts I didn’t want there in the first place.

I went to a private Lutheran college. We were required to take a class on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. One of my classmates was an atheist who openly questioned everything the professor talked about. She voiced my doubts, and I despised her. I attached my tiny baptism cross to a bracelet, and during class I’d rub my thumb over it, pinching it when this classmate spoke up. I felt that I needed it to get me through life; I wanted a constant reminder of Jesus.

Then one day the cross fell off. It could have happened anywhere on campus; I didn’t know where to begin looking. And this was tiny, made for an infant. It was lost, gone forever. What a sign.

I threw myself into my faith, deciding I would just believe everything the Bible said, even the contradictory stuff. I couldn’t cherry-pick what I wanted to believe just because it sounded nice. I read passages in which Jesus said he was the way, the truth, the light. The only way to God was through him. And I hated that because I had begun to have so many doubts about who Jesus really was, and one of my best friends was agnostic.

I wanted to die, but I was afraid of where I’d end up. I imagined leaving civilization, moving to an island or a mountain, where I could be alone with God. I know now that would have driven me mad. One day I went to the new version of Psycho with a friend, and all I could think about was how the man and woman at the beginning of the movie were going to hell because they’d had premarital sex and clearly didn’t think it was wrong.

There were moments of clarity, moments when I felt God’s grace and thought everything would be okay. I cried a lot, and prayed—a lot. I would go to church with friends only to have an unending stream of doubts and fears play through my head. I continued to go to church on Sundays and communion on campus on Wednesday nights, but I no longer believed what I was hearing there, as much as I wanted to, as much as I wanted to go back to a childlike faith. All through college I struggled, desperately grasping at threads of faith and denouncing every doubt. I wouldn’t let myself question God, even though it’s normal to do so!

After four years of religious obsessions, I was exhausted. I’d held on for so long, and tried so hard. In the end I had nothing left, no shred of faith. When I graduated and moved away I decided I was done with religion. I would never go to church again, and there were no Christian classmates around to question it. I didn’t tell friends or family members what was going on; I simply refused invitations to church. I felt a huge relief when I made that decision, like I could finally breathe again. At the time I didn’t realize I had OCD, and I didn’t know I wasn’t doing myself any favors by avoiding my fears. I may have sworn off church, but there would be more obsessions to come.

Jackie: All I wanted was Jesus– and I “knew” that I could not have him because of my sinful, obsessive thoughts. To be clear, the more I grew to love Jesus Christ, the more I feared hell just because it was a separation from him— not because, well, it was hell. Everything in my life had become centered around the person of Jesus Christ, and I was desperate to be accepted by him. So many of my friends and family members reassured me over and over again that I was saved, that God loved me, but I could not believe it. I became very, very depressed and at times even wanted to die– except that, of course, I was worried that that would mean hell for me.

How did you treat your OCD and did that have an impact on your faith?

Alison: I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me. I take medication, and in the beginning I read everything I could get my hands on so I felt less alone in my journey. My treatment didn’t have an impact on my faith because by the time I was diagnosed I hadn’t been to church for five years or so, and I had grown comfortable in being agnostic, at least privately. I didn’t tell anyone, really, except people who’d never known me as a religious person.

Jackie: I finally was put on the proper medication but even more importantly I underwent exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. I was terrified of ERP and what it was asking me to do. I felt confident that if I wasn’t already hell-bound that ERP would seal the deal. I had great friends and family who helped me through those 12 weeks, and there was a part of me that sort of knew that ERP was my last hope, so I pushed through– and found freedom on the other side.

Walk us through changes in your spiritual journey, including where you’re at currently (in regard to faith).  Were these changes connected to your OCD?

Alison: I’m happily agnostic. I actually don’t know if I would have ended up here even if I didn’t have OCD, but OCD did speed up the process. If I didn’t have the type of brain that makes me overreact to doubt, I may still be Christian. But I simply could not handle my own questions, and every doubt spurred another and another. I think I had very common doubts about Christianity, but OCD magnified them. They’re pretty reasonable, and if I had had them in a different state of mind I might still have ended up agnostic eventually. But I also had obsessions I still can’t talk about, involving Jesus. I was so inundated with ungodly thoughts I didn’t think I could ever get back to where I had been. The possible repercussions of having such thoughts (i.e., hell) terrified me so much I couldn’t handle thinking about religion anymore. Even though I know OCD is to blame for what happened to me, I can’t help but feel resentful toward religious leaders as well. Being told that even thoughts are sinful was one of the worst things that ever happened to me, because I have OCD. I was a very obedient child, and I still do follow rules and strive to treat people as I’d like to be treated. None of that mattered, though, because my thoughts were so terrible. They made everything feel so pointless; I was doomed because of them, and I couldn’t stop them. Just a terrible cycle.

Jackie: I’m a Christian and I love Jesus Christ more and more every single day. I absolutely abhor OCD, but one thing it did was make my priorities painfully clear to me: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Now that the chains of OCD are broken, I can actually focus on Christ and on my faith, instead of on fear and anxiety connected to my faith. I have an incredible freedom in Christ and am so grateful for the way that he never gave up on me.

Anything else you’d like to add in regard to faith and OCD?

Alison: I couldn’t have overcome OCD if I hadn’t been able to embrace doubt. At the time, when I decided to simply stop thinking about religion and to stop attending church, I didn’t know I had OCD and wasn’t treating it properly. But now I know that OCD is a disorder of doubt and that I can’t get through my days without saying, “I can’t control what will happen, and worry changes nothing.” I had to embrace the idea that I can’t possibly know what God really wants. I will never know, in this lifetime, what happens after we die, if Jesus really rose from the dead, if there is any “right” religion. I’ve made peace with those doubts right along with all the others; I had to in order to live my life relatively obsession-free.

Jackie: I agree with what Alison said: I had to embrace doubt in order to defeat my OCD. I had to say to myself, “Maybe God isn’t real” or “Maybe you actually will go to hell,” and in those acknowledgements came freedom. I know it sounds backward. I would have never believed that it could work except that it does, and ERP has opened OCD prison doors for people left and right. Even today, I am comfortable with saying, “I don’t know everything regarding my faith, and that’s okay.” I don’t have to know everything with 100% certainty. That’s where faith comes in!

For more about OCD and religious scrupulosity, go to

Image credit: Joe Wolf

In the Moment: the Flipside

I have blogged before about talking to people when they’re in the midst of an obsession.  Other people.  In their obsessions.

Tonight, that’s me.

It feels surreal, friends.  I am reading over my own words of hope and trying to take comfort in the fact that I have tasted freedom and that, while it has slipped from my hands tonight, it has not left the room.  I feel (mostly) confident that I’ll corner it soon and snatch it back.

My OCD has been so well-controlled for the past four years that I’ve almost forgotten what these moments feel like.  It is different to remember the trench from the ledge above.  It is strange and sad and scary to remember the trench from inside it.

I hate it.

I had some intrusive thoughts tonight– blasphemous thoughts.  They don’t come very often anymore, and when they do, I am usually able to use the tools I’ve learned in ERP to walk myself calmly back out of the storm.  But tonight, there was a hitch, a pause, this tiny moment that started to grow.  I wonder if I’m going to hell.

Stop, I tell myself.  You can’t know.  You might go to hell, but it’s not likely.  Not when you love Christ the way that you do, not when you’ve devoted your entire life to him.

But maybe, I think.

I also think, No way.  Can. Not. Go. Back.  I won’t.  I can’t live that way anymore.

Talked to Mom on the phone.  She said, “You sound like you’re somewhere else.  Your mind is occupied.”  It is.

I feel this weird disconnect from reality.  I haven’t let myself slip into hysteria or full-on terror yet.  Just trying to tiptoe past it.

If I was smart, I’d put in a load of laundry and go listen to my ugly old ERP recording.

I think I will.  Wish me luck.

P.S. I’m glad I can be honest on this blog.  And with four years of freedom under my belt, I have such high hopes that it will be back in the morning.  I’m sorry for those of you who can hardly imagine such an easy out.

Christian Culture’s (Sad) Response to Mental Illness

It’s in the Title: Mental Illness is an Illness

Salads and sandwiches and a shared mental illness, all of it on the tiny table between us.

“There is help for OCD,” I told her.  “The most effective treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Between that and my medication, I got my life back.  I know you can too.”  (The evangelical zeal I have for this particular therapy reminds me of the way I love Jesus: both took me from darkness into light, both make me want to throw parades in their honor.)

“Oh, I don’t know,” said my friend, poking at her salad with a fork, sounding hesitant.  “I think before I take any extreme methods, I want to just pray about it more.  I know that God can bring me through this.”

I wanted to say, But you have been praying about this for years!  I also believe God can bring you through this—and I am telling you how.

There is a pervasive and unhealthy attitude in the Christian culture toward mental illness.  Many believe that one should be able to “pray away” a disorder.  Some think that mental illness is, quite simply, spiritual warfare; some think it’s the result of unresolved sin issues.  One of my friends has said before that a real Christian can’t be clinically depressed.  I saw a Facebook status once that read, “Depression is a choice.”

These sentiments light a fire in me, especially for the way that they marginalize a group of people that are often already more susceptible to guilt.  I know that in my OCD hey-day, I felt continual guilt and severe shame; for someone to intimate to me that these feelings were the appropriate ones would only mean that my Christian brothers and sisters were siding with my disorder—and against me.

Mental illnesses are just that: illnesses. 

friendsGod and Satan can work through them just the same way as they could through, say, cancer or diabetes.  All issues are spiritual issues, simply because we are spiritual beings, but it is not helpful to label a chemical issue with a giant term like spiritual warfare.  To say that a Christian cannot be depressed is like saying a real Christian can’t get the flu.  To say that depression is a choice is like saying strep throat is a choice.

If you break a bone, do you get it set in a cast?  If you learn you’re diabetic, do you take insulin?  If cancer steps into your body, do you pursue chemotherapy?

The answer is usually yes.  Yes—and pray.  (Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for prayer!  And for medical innovation!)

That is why I am unashamed of my OCD, my depression.  Instead, I am proud of my God for seeing me through a therapy as difficult as CBT and for being my strength through five years of side effects in the search for the right medication.

Unfortunately, my friend left the sandwich shop that evening feeling obligated to “pray away” a spiritual flaw instead of feeling empowered to fight illness, in spite of my best efforts.  My voice is being drowned out by the multitude of louder voices of the Christian culture, a culture that should be supporting this demographic, not alienating it.

OCD, ERP, and Christianity

ocd and christianityI often hear from obsessive-compulsive Christians asking, “If my OCD is centered around my faith, will ERP still work even if my therapist is not a Christian?”

I’ve written elsewhere about how OCD is an arsonist, setting fires (obsessions) in our minds and how our compulsions are like shortsidedly trying to put out the fires instead of going for the arsonist directly.  You don’t need a Christian cognitive-behavioral therapist.  You just need someone who knows ERP and knows it well.  In other words, you need an OCD assassin.

If you are obsessing about the unforgivable sin or something else faith-related, you don’t need a great theologian to dialogue with you about it.  (In fact, chances are that you’ve already discussed this with all your Christian friends and maybe even a respected pastor.)  After that conversation with the theologian, you’re probably just going to start obsessing again, either about the same thing or something else.  You need someone who can take out the OCD, and yes, I mean “take out” in a sniper kind of way.

“But I’m worried that ERP is just going to cover up my real issues.  I don’t want to just forget about these things.  I want to solve them.”

First of all, you’re misunderstanding ERP.  It doesn’t sweep issues under a rug.  It’s not like you’re brainwashed into believing that life is now perfect.  Not at all!  It rewires your brain so that you can think the way “normal” people do– less circularly.

Secondly, you’re misunderstanding life and faith.  These things aren’t “solvable”– at least, not generally.  Sure, you might be the one person in a million who has God audibly speak to you one day– but probably not.  Life is full of uncertainty.  It’s a FACT.  And faith is about TRUSTING God even in uncertainty.

You need to get it out of your head that you will ever be rid of uncertainty in this life.

Back to the original question …

Your ERP therapist is not going to talk you through theological issues.  That’s not his/her job, and actually, it would be counterproductive to what ERP is all about.

If you can find an incredible cognitive-behavioral therapist who is also a follower of Christ, then yes, by all means, go to that person!  But if healing and health are your goals, then your first order of business is finding someone who knows how to do Exposure and Response Prevention.  You are looking for an OCD assassin, not someone to have tea and Bible study with.

Thoughts?  Further questions?


Satan is the accuser; Christ is our defender.

Recently, one of my blog readers asked me how I could tell when a thought came from OCD or from God, especially because one of my formerly intrusive thoughts was of a Bible verse that seemed to condemn me.  She wrote, “I keep reading that Bible verses spontaneously popping into one’s head is a prime way God speaks to people.”

What a great question.  One I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to tackle, although I do know that the more I learn about and understand my OCD, the easier and easier it is for me to spot it.  I can recognize its tell-tale voice from a mile away now.  And while I don’t think that OCD = Satan (at all), they are both my enemies and they are both accusers.

Here is the (in flux) conclusion (is that an oxymoron?) I’ve come to:

I guess the big thing is this: when OCD would bring up that Bible verse, it worked like an intrusive thought and brought deep anxiety to me, but with God … his kindness leads us to repentance, not to shame.  The voice of God showers me with kindness, grace, conviction that leads to change … but I don’t think God’s voice is one of shame and accusation. In fact, scripture even tells us that SATAN is the accuser and CHRIST is the one who defends us.

Remember, Satan used and twisted scripture when Christ was going through his temptations, so we know that it’s part of the devil’s arsenal.

frustration4My friend Erica told me something fascinating she’d once heard: “The Holy Spirit does not motivate with guilt.”  Likewise, my incredibly wise writing professor Judy said, “I know the voice of God because that voice invites me to move closer without shame while the voice of Satan fills me with an electric dread that makes me want to hide.”

As always, I encouraged this blog reader to explore Exposure and Response Prevention therapy.  In the four years since my ERP, the voice of OCD has become so easy to recognize.  I finally know my enemy’s voice.

And better yet, I know my savior’s.


When Thinking Hurts


I remember days when my brain worked like a manic assembly line, working, working, always working– and not in a good way.  Those days, I’d carve out time reserved for obsessions, for list-making, for mental reassurances.  Car rides were killer– especially those long stretches on boring I-90– and could throw me into panic mode.  At night, I’d lie awake in bed, drowning in circular thought.

And that was the thing: my mind was racing, but it never got anywhere.  Ten minutes or an hour or a week later, I’d still be chewing on the same things, exerting so much effort for no gain.

I was programmed.  When there was a moment, a pause, a hesitation, my head would fly to a dark place.  And then it would battle its way back out.  Over and over and over (and over and over and over and over and over …).  So useless, so fruitless, and so much energy spent, so much time wasted.

The by-products of OCD are not worth the efforts.

These days, my mind is still working hard– but in a good, healthy, productive way.  I listen to audiobooks while I get ready in the morning, in my car, while I exercise, as I fall asleep.  I let the wonder of literature engage my mind and thoughts, and it feels healthy, like solving a difficult puzzle or marveling at philosophy.  I write every day– blogging, poetry, my novel– and it’s like climbing a mountain.  My brain is a muscle, flexing and growing stronger.  My conversations with friends are deep and meaningful and far more important than just seeking out temporary comfort.  

When thinking hurts in a bad way, you need to re-wire your brain.

Dark Promises

One of the worst bouts of intrusive thoughts I’ve had occurred for me in high school.  For a time, my intrusive thoughts were “God, I promise that I will …”

It could be something stupid.  Touch this lamp.  Not eat toast.  

But more often, it was something more difficult, a much bigger deal.  The one that kept forcing its way into my mind was, “God, I promise that I will go to hell.”

Well, that was a conundrum, eh?

I was a wreck.  I kept picturing myself getting to heaven’s gate and once I stepped inside those pearly gates– well, just doing so would then be breaking a promise to God (i.e., sinning), and then, wouldn’t I then get thrown out of heaven for my sin?

I was screwed either way.

Or so I thought.

But you can’t believe everything you think.  AMEN.

Has anyone else had intrusive thoughts similar to these?

dark promise