Originally published on The Redeeming Things blog in September 2013. Edited only slightly here; note that where I talk about four years of freedom … it has now been nine. Amen.
Last week, while listening to an audiobook by Anne Lamott, she mentioned a line she tries to live by: “And may the free make others free.”
I had to rewind a few seconds and listen to it over again. And again, amazed at the stark and beautiful way these few words summarize the last four years of my life.
I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder that preyed on all I most value: faith, friendships, vocation. Forget all media has ever taught you about OCD—it is not a funny, quirky, bothersome nuisance. Instead, it is a hellish, tormenting thief and tyrant. OCD is slavery, and I was in bondage to it for over twenty years. I was a tormented pot that complained to the Potter, “Why-why-why did you make me this way?”
Four years ago, I stumbled, uncertain and afraid, through the door that led to freedom (labeled “Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy”). It was a tremulous victory, and I’ll admit I was shocked to discover things like peace and joy re-entering my life for the first time in years. Freedom gave me an exhilarating high that I have not yet come down from, even in four years.
These days, I am an OCD awareness advocate, a member of the OCD Network to Recovery, and a leader in OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. I communicate every week with people who are broken by anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses, my own OCD branding me as their war buddy, allowing me to move in closely and show them the way to health. I advocate for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, defend the right to and benefits of medication, and push back against the stigma of mental illness. I talk to parents who don’t know how to help their children, to people whose anxiety makes their own home a prison cell, to those who are needlessly ashamed that they have a brain disorder.
OCD, once the thorn in my side, has become my platform.
So the Potter finally answered my tormented question. I was given obsessive-compulsive disorder so that I, now the free, may make others free.