OCD and scrupulosity are tough things to deal with, probably the hardest I’ve ever dealt with. I’ve experienced many of the normal difficulties of life: breakups, sicknesses, and the like, but none have been as perplexing as OCD and scrupulosity.
My battles started in 2004. I had distressing thoughts of doing radical forms of evangelism such as preaching in malls and in restaurants that disturbed and perplexed me. I wrestled with whether or not it was the voice of God. I would be in a restaurant having a wonderful conversation with a good friend and all of a sudden have the thought that I need to approach another table and preach to them. I would be at the theater enjoying a movie when I’m suddenly hit with the thought that I need to preach to the audience after the movie. Each time this happened, I felt overwhelmed with anxiety and wrestled with whether or not it was the voice of God. Somehow I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head. On several occasions, I acted on these impulses and did some things which most normal people would think are crazy. I felt a sense of relief when I was done, but later that day or the next day I would have the impulse that I needed to do it again and I would be distressed all over again.
I constantly felt guilty with the sense that I had disobeyed God and He had turned His back on me. I talked to several friends and none of them encouraged me to act on these impulses. But they didn’t go away. I figured I could get some insight from a teacher of evangelism so I made an appointment with him. He gave me some advice about how God speaks. I then spoke to a teacher of spiritual formation. He also gave me some input about how God works in our lives. Finally, I asked a counseling professor. He referred me to a counselor, who, after hearing me describe my struggle, diagnosed me with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I had no idea what that was. However, knowing that it wasn’t God who was prompting me to do those things was a huge relief for me.
Over the next few years, I saw a handful of counselors and doctors who all said my struggle matched up with the symptoms of OCD. I started taking meds in 2005 despite feeling that I was going the way of the world and not seeking God for help. A few years later, I flew halfway across the country to attend a workshop which stressed healing prayer, God’s ability to heal miraculously, and freedom from sin. I sent out a call to friends and supporters to pray for me. At the gathering I took a “step of faith” and stopped taking my meds. A few months later I crashed. During church worship services, I would feel prompted to stand up during the worship when everyone else was seated. Those troubled me and I condemned myself as being “afraid of man” and thus losing God’s blessing and fellowship.
A few months later I started to fret over my salvation. I recalled a time of doubt when I walked away from the Lord and feared that I had lost my salvation, never to return. I agonized over the thought of going to hell. It was then that I sought help from a friend who helped me to get back on meds, and I’ve been on them ever since.
The last few years have not been easy, but I’m battling. There have been times when those evangelistic obsessions have returned; at other times I’ve agonized over my salvation–whether I’m a real Christian or not; I’ve also had my share of moral issues that I’ve agonized over. I’ve sought and gotten help and counsel from multitudes of folks, for whom I’m grateful.
For me, the fear and anxiety have mostly been related to public humiliation. I reasoned that I could conquer my fears if I just acted on them. However, the nature of the obsession would keep getting more and more extreme, pushing me to do crazier and crazier things. They also stem from a level of insecurity before God in which I am trying to earn His favor and prove myself to Him. If I would just be bold enough, courageous enough, then maybe He would accept me. They’re also rooted in my performance-oriented upbringing in which you were accepted and esteemed if you excelled above and beyond others.
I would not wish for anyone to have to deal with this kind of affliction. And yet it has brought me to my knees again and again. I know and believe–at least cognitively–that I’m saved and kept by grace. But while I’m in this body, I’ll probably continue to experience this “thorn in the flesh.” This site is dedicated to my journey with OCD and for anyone who identifies and wants to journey along with me.
That’s my story. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear yours!