Pure-O Compulsions

Media usually presents obsessive-compulsives with very obvious compulsions: hand-washing is a favorite but also extreme organization and hoarding, as well as checking and counting.  But not all compulsions are so easy to see.

In fact, some compulsions are so difficult to recognize that it lead to a misnomer– Pure Obsessional OCD.  The name Pure-O leads some to believe that this type of OCD can essentially drop the “C” from its acronym.  But that would be a mistake.

Pure-O’s still have compulsions– they are just harder for the public to notice.  They include mental rituations like repetition, avoidance, and seeking reassurance.

For example:
I would have an intrusive, blasphemous thought– which would cause me to question my salvation.  I would repeat a particular prayer over and over in my head to ward off this thought, and I would ask everyone if they thought I was going to go to hell (sometimes this would be active– “Do you think I’m going to hell?”– and sometimes passive, as in “I’m scared I’m going to go to hell” and waiting for that person to reassure me … “Why would you think that?!  No way!”).  I would also avoid certain things (Matthew 12 and Mark 3, for example, or movies with profanity, which would trigger my blasphemous thoughts).

Sometimes it was hard to really focus on a conversation I was having because there was another entire conversation happening in my head at the same time.  It’s like listening to two tracks at once.

I wrote a poem to demonstrate it:

So … yeah.  There are compulsions you would never know are there, except for the strange look in my eyes, the odd shake of my head as if I were erasing something dark and secret.

Did God give me OCD?

Q: But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” — Romans 9:20 (ESV)

A: Thanks for asking.  I’m Jackie Sommers.  I guess you could call me a sass-pot. 

Why do we get OCD?  Is it a punishment from God?  Is it a result of the fall of mankind?  Is it completely arbitrary?  Bad karma?  Simply genetic?  Strep throat gone awry?

I believe that my OCD is indeed from God, given to me for three reasons:
1) To drive me to Him.  The times that I have known most intensely my desperate need for Christ have been some of my most OCD-riddled seasons of life.  When I am given something impossible to handle, then I have to turn to Someone bigger who can take it from my weak hands.
2) So that I would use it to glorify Him.  I wrote a novel about an obsessive-compulsive, a book written for the Lord, to use my talents to honor Him.  I think it’s a beautiful picture of redemption to see the way God allowed me to turn my history of OCD into a creative and beautiful result.
2) To help others who are suffering.  Simply put, I would not be able to sympathize with other sufferers in the same way had I not crawled out of those same trenches.  God was with me every step of the way, and I know that it was He who guided me to cognitive-behavioral therapy, of which I am now a strong advocate.

So, what do you think?  Is OCD from God– or is it something else?  Would love to hear your thoughts!


I was on the phone with my mom yesterday; she called because she read my last blog post about re-taking the MMPI, so we were discussing that.  I’ve been stressed lately, and struggling with some different things, but the truth of the matter is, I feel lots of freedom and very healthy.  I think it’s because I can compare everything to OCD.

I said to my mom, “Compared to the hell I went through in the throes of OCD, I don’t believe that anything could be worse than hell itself.”








That surprised her.  She said, “You always seemed to be so well put together, seemed to cope so well.”

It made me laugh.  Facades can be so strong.  I was an absolute, total, complete wreck during that time.  I said to her, “I think what happens is that, with OCD, feeling awful just becomes the new norm, so it appears that way.”  Sad but so true.

Hillsong was in the Twin Cities, and Erica and I went to their concert/worship experience last evening.  The last time I went to a concert at Grace Church was in college … Audio Adrenaline and MercyMe … and last night we sat near where I sat all those years ago (would have been 2003).  I can remember that night, eight and a half years ago, and how I felt I was on such shaky ground with God.  Last night, I felt redeemed and free and grateful and healthy.

It just gives me so much hope for others who are in a bad place.  Please, Jesus, free those who are held captive by their own minds.  Work mightily through the means of Your choosing– miracles, medicines, therapies– to restore Your incredible freedom to obsessive-compulsives, and please draw all these rescued people’s eyes to You, to clearly see that You are, even now in 2011, in the business of redemption.


Eve Ensler writes, “I believe in the power and mystery of naming things. Language has the capacity to transform our cells, rearrange our learned patterns of behavior and redirect our thinking. I believe in naming what’s right in front of us because that is often what is most invisible. I believe freedom begins with naming things. Humanity is preserved by it.”

And I agree.

To me, naming an enemy steals away some of that enemy’s power, and that is why I believe diagnosis is so important.

For years, I didn’t know what was wrong with me– only that I thought and worried more than anyone I knew– enough to think myself into panicked circles from which escape was nearly impossible. I couldn’t see this behavior in any of my friends, this dizzying chasing-of-my-own-tail beginning the moment I woke up. I was the odd man out, always stressed to the max, always teetering on the edge of something HUGE– heresy, atheism, a change in direction or pursuit, a redefining of my entire worldview.

But how can you fight against an invisible enemy? Since you can’t see the enemy standing between you and the mirror, instead you see yourself and the fight becomes personal. All the while, the real culprit is standing right there … only it is unnamed.

And then, the diagnosis arrives. OCD is named. There is a transfer of power, even if only minute. And the real war begins.

Anonymous, you feasted on me like a silent maggot,
until I was weary of the ugly business of waking up.
You fed on my tears, licking the salt off of
your fingertips in a greedy appetite for sorrow that
backed me into a boxy corner of paranoia
where I first learned your name.
My move.

journal entry from 2008

i don’t think that people can really understand what it’s like to be tortured by your own mind for so long that the continuous agony of thinking becomes the new norm.  something kind of like i wonder if God is real then will i go to heaven but i don’t know what i believe and do i like that boy still is he even a good guy who are my real friends and are
people really people or are they really demons can i trust anybody if i don’t trust then what and if i think bad thoughts about the Savior then am i unsaved and what if those horrid things were right because it was something i felt inside but i need to not go with what i feel but with what i know what do i know do i really know anything is it even possible to really know anything will i be held accountable for the things i teach as fact when i don’t even know if i can even know and what if someone dies from doing something i knew was going on and i never said anything will i suffer with guilt my whole life will i suffer condemnation in the afterlife?

and to achieve respite only in the sweet hours of sleep each evening, waking to a morning that will begin it all again, as i lie in my bed, wondering where i left off the night before and where i should pick up again this morning. 

set up for failure? what’s your theology?

Once upon a time, I read a book called Perelandra, written by the amazing C.S. Lewis.

I happened to read it during a week when I was travelling in South Dakota, in a year before I discovered the joys of audiobooks.  It was engrossing– so much so that I may have been reading the paperback while driving down I-29.  This is not a confession. 🙂

Perelandra is Venus, and the protagonist of the book (Dr. Elwin Ransom) travels there, where he finds Venus’ version of pre-fallen Eden, including an Eve character.  There is also an evil character there (Dr. Weston/the Unman), and he and Ransom function as the good and bad angels on the shoulders of “Eve,” each trying to influence her either to commit that first sin or not to.

As you can well imagine, this “conversation” (especially in light of Earth/Eden/the fall of man) would be stimulating to the normal person– to an obsessive-compulsive, it was like sheer panic.  OCs want things to be solved/clear/understood NOW– and instead we are met with the panicked feeling that things will NEVER be that way.

I drove seven hours one day while I was still in the midst of reading that book.  By the time I got home, I screamed in my car.  No joke.

Here’s my question, as we consider Eden:

Did God set us up to fail?

For those in the free will/arminianist camp:
*Wasn’t giving humans free will setting them up to fail?  That is, if you give a created being an option to choose the wrong thing, aren’t you setting them up?

For those in the calvinist camp:
*Did God predestine humanity for failure?

There is also the thought that being set up for failure was perhaps exactly what He intended.

I’d like to generate some discussion on this, especially now that I can consider things without letting my brain blow up!  (Spattered gray matter all over just from obsessions was messy work! 😉 )

So, what do you think?
1) Did God set humanity up to fail?
2) Was His goal really that we would continue in perfection?
3) If He knew the cross would be necessary one day, then doesn’t that show that we were only pawns there in the Garden?