5 Things I Do To Stay Healthy

OCD and scrupulosity make life tough! Here are five things I find myself doing when things are going well.

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I’ve been doing incredibly well in the past few months. I’ve even come through the change of season in the fall which historically has been the time when I suffer the most. I can’t pinpoint one single reason why things have been going so well—most likely it’s a combination of factors. Here I’ve listed five things I do to get and stay healthy.

  1. I take medication. I’ve been taking meds for over 12 years and acknowledge that this is not a cure-all (I’ve had plenty of times in the valley while on meds). However, I know that it helps.
  2. I take care of my body. I exercise three times a week and eat healthily. I don’t go to extremes in dieting or exercising, but healthy living is a part of my life. In addition, I take a daily multi-vitamin and omega-3s (in the form of fish oil). I suspect that the omega-3’s help my brain and mood.
  3. I keep in contact with a counselor. We don’t talk all that often—perhaps once a month—but I do keep him in the loop. When I do struggle, I know I can talk to him.
  4. I work and keep myself busy. I always feel better after an honest day’s work. I think it’s important to stay engaged in something rather than being idle. Ironically, days off, weekends, and holidays can be times that I struggle the most. Often on days off I read. I read the Bible and lots of other Christian books. I keep my mind engaged. If I don’t have anything better to do or think about, I find myself become anxious and burdened.
  5. I stay involved in lots of relationships. I’m married, have prayer partners, have several close friends, and am part of a church and small group. My day job at the college also keeps me connected to other teachers and students.

There are other factors that I’m not consciously aware of: God’s sustaining grace, people praying for me, etc. For this post, I’ve chosen the ones that I have some degree of control over.

What about you? What’s most helpful for you?

The Elders Pray Over Me

I recently sought the elders of my church to pray for me regarding OCD/scrupulosity. Here’s my experience…

 

I recently acted on this verse. It took courage and I’m thankful for my wife for encouraging me to do this as I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own. I don’t really like to tell people about my struggle. My pride likes others to think that I have my act together.

We gathered on a Sunday afternoon—seven elders and my wife and me. They listened and asked a few questions. One of them called for a flask of oil and explained what they were about to do. They gathered around me and laid hands on me and prayed. I didn’t feel anything special—no sensation of warmth or jolt of lightning shoot through me. My wife wept quietly. After they prayed, I thanked them and we left.

A couple of days later, I was struggling again. And since that day, I haven’t noticed any difference in the degree or nature of my troubles.

However, one of the best things was receiving some wise input from them. They told me of others who had similar issues and whom God had used mightily throughout their lives. They said God might choose to heal me, and He might not. They made no guarantees and I appreciated that.

Frankly speaking, asking the elders to pray for me was like checking off a box. That was one thing that I had never done in my quest to get better. I wish that I had more faith and trusted God instead of some prescription for healing. Will God choose to heal me one day? Who knows. In some ways I wish He would—it would feel incredible to not have to deal with the anxiety and other obsessions. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself if I were free. That would be pretty scary in itself.

Although I’m back to “normal,” I’m thankful to God for some wonderful, wise elders and a supporting, encouraging wife.

I’ll keep battling.

Discernment and Decision Making

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a definite need among scrupulous people to make confident decisions regarding the will of God. This is especially true for those with OCD obsessions are they are frequently characterized by anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty. I read a helpful book on discernment by Timothy M. Gallagher called Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making. I will not attempt to articulate the complete process as laid out in the book, but will share a few of the key points.

Many times we have a difficult time making a choice when both options are good. Gallagher draws from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and gives a process of decision making when we’re faced with such a decision.

First of all, we need to have the right foundation and the right disposition. The right foundation is the love of God. Here’s a quote from the book: “Peter, Steven and Laura, Patricia, and Jeremy now have the foundation on which discernment can be built: they have experienced God’s love and desire to respond in communion of will with God—they seek, above all else, to do God’s will. All discernment must be built upon this foundation.”1

Second, we need to have the right disposition—openness to whatever God wills. Without this, the road to discernment is blocked.

Once these are in place, the discernment process can begin. The process involves three “modes.” The modes involve one’s spiritual state and how one should respond based upon this state. They function somewhat like a decision tree: if you’re in situation A, follow mode one; situation B, follow mode two; and so forth. The first mode is clarity from doubt; the second mode is when desolation and/or consolation are present; the third mode is when neither clarity, consolation, nor desolation are present. Each mode gives specific suggestions and steps for decision making. Within the third mode, there are an additional two “ways” of decision making. It is suggested that one go through the first “way” before going through the second “way.”

The last part of the book highlights the value and “fruit” of the discernment process. We may not like the discernment process, but there are definite benefits. These include surrender, peace, and enormous spiritual growth.

I found Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making to be a valuable contribution to the decision making process. Rather than mull and obsess over questions and decisions, we now have a way to have clarity and peace. This applies especially in tough decision in which both options are good.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Ch. 2 

OCD and Scrupulosity Explained Simply

 

What are OCD and scrupulosity? Many associate obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD) with its outward manifestations: checking, washing, or arranging items in a particular order. But underneath the seemingly harmless veneer lies a crippling anxiety which torments its host. The two components are obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are the thoughts or thought process in which the sufferer has in mind an extremely undesirable outcome which produces anxiety. These thoughts are not usually voluntary–they invade the mind like a most unwelcome guest. Compulsions are the behaviors (physical or mental) that reduce the anxiety.

Suppose that someone is terrified of catching a deadly disease. Perhaps it’s the thought of dying young; perhaps he had a friend or relative who did; perhaps an image he saw in a movie remains embedded in his mind. He might think that germs or bacteria could cause him to catch such a disease. So, when he is putting on his shoes in the morning, he has the thought that perhaps some germs have come in contact with his shoe. He then experiences great anxiety over this thought and broods over the possibility of disease. To remedy this, he goes and washes his hands. After feeling relieved for a while, he has another thought: “Maybe I didn’t wash all the germs off.” This again produces anxiety and he goes back to wash his hands a second time. This process continues over and over with the man having anxiety built up through a thought (the obsession) and then released through the act of washing his hands (the compulsion). The outward manifestation might seem harmless enough, but inside, this poor soul is plagued with the fear of contracting a disease and his life coming to a premature end.

Religious OCD, or “scrupulosity” as it is commonly called, involves the same process. Rather than fearing disease and death, the scrupulous person would fear something perceived as of eternal value: going to hell, offending or displeasing God, losing his salvation, not being savable, committing a heinous sin, and so on. He or she would obsess about such matters and would seek to assure or relieve himself or herself through compulsions. These can take many forms, and a few examples are confessing one’s sins, seeking out someone to provide assurance, repeating a prayer, or trying to do an extreme act of obedience to restore one’s relationship with God. Throughout the process, the sufferer lacks certainty regarding his concern. He can try to believe he is saved, but he can never quite be sure that he is. There is much anxiety-driven doubt in the process–which is why OCD and scrupulosity have been called the “doubting disease1.”

Featured Image: “Rocky Mountains – Mt. Evans-1” by F Delventhal on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


  1.  See The Doubting Disease by Joseph W. Ciarrocchi 

Thoughts on Decision Making When in the Shadow of OCD Doubt

 

Scrupulous people often get stuck and OCD sufferers can be hesitant, doubtful decision makers. They mull over decisions, not ever really having confidence about which path to take. They ask for input, read and study, over-analyze, and still never really feel good about what to do. One of the great needs is a solid basis for decision-making.

As any Christian should, I have a commitment to follow and obey the teachings of Jesus and Scripture. However, one of the most troublesome passages for me is Romans 14:23: “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating[^1] is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (NASB)

I have heard this principle summarized as, “When in doubt, don’t.” This is a helpful principle for those with healthy consciences. But anyone who’s battled with scrupulosity knows how doubt darkens so many important decisions. So how can you biblically make a decision when doubt is present? “I doubt whether or not I should take meds; therefore I shouldn’t take them.” “I doubt whether or not I should confess my sins; therefore I shouldn’t confess them.” “I doubt where or not God is really calling me; therefore I shouldn’t enter the ministry.” And so on. I’ve wrestled with these issues for many years.

One helpful insight came from Ian Osborn in a counseling session. He mentioned that we are also commanded to resist the enemy (James 4:7). If a doubt comes from the enemy, we must resist it(him). We can’t just consider Romans 14 without considering James 4. To know there is a bit of conflict on these decision-making principles actually  freed me up to resist doubt and make decisions when uncertainty and doubt are present.

In following posts, I’ll be adding content on the much needed topic of discernment and how it relates to decision making. Ignatius did much to help us in this area. Sign up to get updated when new posts are added.

Footnotes:

[^1]: Italics indicate that these words are not in the original language but were added for clarity by the translators.

Featured Image: “Which way to go ?” by J P on Flickr (CC by 2.0)

How OCD Completely Ruins Times of Worship

It’s true that for the OCD sufferer, one’s spiritual life can be joyless and oppressive. Instead of being occasions of joy and Christian fellowship, worship services can be times of torment and guilt. Often during times of worship, troubling thoughts enter my mind. While everyone is seated, I feel I must stand up. If I don’t, I’m not following the leading of the Holy Spirit. After such an experience, I will feel guilty and enter into a time of questioning whether I should have stood up or not. I might reason within: “I’m guilty because I didn’t stand up when God was prompting me to. It was nothing the fear of man and I let it keep me from worshiping God with my whole heart.” If I feel guilty enough, I will look for opportunities to “repent” and stand up the next time. But then worship becomes nothing more than feeling anxious about the next time I need to stand up. There have been times when I’ve completely avoid this situation by going to the back and standing up the entire time. That way, “God” can never prompt me to stand up and I won’t be guilty of disobeying Him. As you can imagine, it’s not a joyful experience to worship the Lord when you’re constantly dealing with such thoughts. It becomes an anxious test of pleasing Him or not, or in trying to discern His voice from the voice of the enemy or self. I’d love to be able to go to church and not have to deal with such intrusive thoughts, but that’s the way it is right now.