OCD and the Unpardonable Sin

Scrupulosity: OCD centered around religious themes.

The story of my life.

The obsession: for many years, my head would repeat blasphemous things over and over, sometimes triggered by certain sounds and sometimes by non-specific phrases about hell, demons, souls, the devil.

The compulsion: I began to repeat one particular phrase– “Father God, I love You”– over and over in my head as a way to stem the other thoughts.

It became very difficult to handle everything that was going on: these blasphemous thoughts would crowd me– I mean, really crowd me (the image I have is of these thoughts bumping and grinding on me like dirty brutes at a dance club), and I’d be warding them off by repeating this repetitive prayer over and over (and over and over and over).  And on the outside, it didn’t look like anything.

Those who were closest to me (dear friends and roommates and family members) knew that I was going through hell, but they couldn’t see the battle that was taking place.  They only knew of it when I told them or on nights when I broke down sobbing in fear of eternal damnation.

It is hard to describe exactly what it feels like to feel as though you’re wearing a sentence of hell on your shoulders.  Here’s a shot:

Condemnation (or supposed condemnation) is like being in a tank of water with only inches of air at the top.  You have to lean your head back to put your lips to the air, and the whole while you must keep treading water.  There is no opportunity for distraction.  It consumes every moment of your life.

Anyone reading this understand me?

If so, please read this sermon.  I think it might help.  My heart aches for you, but there is hope.  Lovers of Jesus Christ don’t belong in hell.  Let’s talk.

OCD resurgence

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  Interestingly, in the past week or two I have actually been experiencinglessfreedom from my OCD than I have in the last two years.

The curse words, the blasphemy are coming back … jumping to the front of my mind, just as they used to.  Not sure quite what set me off again.

No worries, I am not freaking out.  Much.  I am employing the lessons I learned from cognitive-behavioral therapy, using my self-learned narrative therapy, praying about it, and managing.  I have just felt so utterly free from it for so long that it is strange to have it all rushing back.  I hate it, but this time I know how to handle it.

An excerpt that is very similar to what life has been like:

I was distracted from thoughts of Matt by the responsibility of “managing” my OCD for two weeks on my own.  It felt as if Dr. Foster had noticed I had a garden hoe and then asked me to plow a ten-acre field with it.

I grabbed my iPod, threw on a sweatshirt, and walked around the neighborhood, treading the sidewalk with purpose as I re-exposed myself to the audio track and whatever muddy thought was slopping at the corners of my mind.  I felt like a new teenaged driver borrowing the keys for the evening, entrusted with my own mind and eager to show myself competent.  “Fuck,” I muttered under my breath when there were no other pedestrians near me.  “It’s just a word.” 

“My OCD wants me to think that thought,” I’d spell out in my head as I continued through the neighborhood, realizing that autumn’s chill had definitely hit Minnesota at full force.  “It’s not actually my thought.  I’m just the messenger.”

It was an awkward dance, one where I sidled up to the thought and tried to hold its hand.  One foot in front of the other, a stealthy warrior on a tiptoed journey toward freedom.

“Oh, you’re along?” I said to the black dot that was jogging to keep up with my longer strides.  “Well, keep up, won’t ya?”  I “dressed” it in a child’s train conductor costume and laughed under my breath as it seethed in humiliation.  “Chugga-chugga-choo-chooooo!” I said, pulling a fake train whistle above my head.  “Aren’t you a cute little conductor?”  It glared at me.

Another day, another walk, this time my little black dot in a Scottish kilt and a tiny tam beret.  The day after, a doll-sized sailor suit and white sailor hat.  It had toddled behind me, trying to keep a low profile, which was just fine by me.  By the end of the week I’d landed on an outfit for keeps—a pink tutu with tights and ballet slippers, which my OCD hated worse than all the rest.  I was bullying my bully, and it felt powerful.  Whenever my mind started to race, I said to my OCD in its ballerina getup, “You there!  Start twirling!”  And so it would, even as it boiled with rage.  “Keep on twirling!” I said with a smile.  “I’ll tell you when you can stop … little one.”

I felt an odd sense of control that I’d never had before, not completely free of OCD, but like someone separate from it.  I didn’t need to get my toes wet; I could stand on the dry bank, command my orders, and get back to work.