Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where there is OCD, there is hope

At least in my life, this has been true. OCD issues are more or less disturbing aspects of my life that are liable to change with changing seasons in my life, with changing medication, with changing therapy participation and methods.

But before I get too far, I'd like to mention a conversation I recently had with a friend living with depression and anxiety but without the OCD label. I talked about having trouble making decisions at the store. She agreed with me, and labeled it depression. So I got more specific. I have trouble making decisions at the store, whether I should buy this or that, whether it is worth it to spend that much money on this, or would it be wasting my money and therefore a sin... And suddenly she was saying that that would be hard to deal with. And yeah, it is. So part of me was happy she respected that. And another part of me was thinking, yeah, but this is my life. This is my normal. Stressful? I guess so, but I don't always think about that, because sometimes I'm caught up in its being my normal.

Back to OCD and its changing nature inside me. And the hope I have if I can identify a problem as OCD. Because what I considered to be my most disturbing obsession (or at least up there among the worst) has faded into an occasional obsession that doesn't get much time to make me miserable any more.

Anyway, my counselor agreed that I seem to be having some OCD issues related to my church issues. As I started putting words to some of my fears, they looked more and more like OCD. Actually, she could probably have told me they were OCD years ago if I had put them into words like I was finally able to today. Scrupulosity and hyper-responsibility/harm fears swirled into one difficult recovery from a troubling church situation that happened over ten years ago. Once I figured out that I seem to have taken on some causal guilt for the church fiascos (a realization that made sense to her as well as to me), and along with that figured out how I was compulsively trying to avoid "causing" or being responsible for any future church problems, then the OCD reasoning just came falling out, simple and unique as you please, simultaneously being typical in form to any OCD obsession, especially of scrupulous and hyper-responsibility categories.

Here are a few lovely examples, in the imperfect English I've finally gotten them into.

"If I don't identify false teaching, confront the pastor, and leave, if the error so merrits, then I'm responsible for other people potentially going to hell."

Woe, there. What happened to me not having scrupulosity issues that had hell as the negative outcome?

"I was deceived before. If I hadn't have realized (or been shown) my error and changed, I could have gone to hell. But God didn't stop me from being deceived, so He might not stop me next time, either. So I've got to protect myself and better be super-super-super-vigilant in making sure pastors and Bible teachers are teaching me the truth, otherwise, I might go to hell."

Yay for catestrophic thinking, logic jumps, and just plain old struggling with complicated life issues.

Theologically/religously, I know something is wrong with my thinking when I think, "God didn't protect me, so I have too..." But I've sure thought it. In honesty, though, perhaps God does not stop us from being deceived (think about Eve), but maybe He doesn't let His people be deceived in such a way as to have them loose their salvation.

Speaking of which, I don't believe you can loose your salvation, but that is a whole big issue that I don't want to go into in detail.

In short, I've got some logic errors, some thinking errors, but apparently some OCD, too. And I know how to deal with OCD. Exposure response prevention (in my case, preferably backed up by helpful medications).

I've struggled with "getting over" what happened at that church when I was 15. I keep bringing it up, trying to figure it out, and letting it go to sleep again after I figure out all I know how. But if OCD is being a major hang up in sorting this out, then I feel hope. Because I can handle OCD.

And my counselor agrees that some of my thoughts (particularly the ones that would send me or others to hell, and the one about playing music - except for handbells, my magical thinking has that clause included - in a church potentially damaging the church and the people in it) look like OCD.

Now I'm annoyed. It isn't nicely wrapping up into ALL OCD. And I want it nice and neat, all OCD, so that I can clean it ALL up with some ERP and medication and sleep. But might that not be the OCD again, trying to oversimplify things? At least, it is a cognitive error, easily identifiable as "all or nothing thinking."

Anyway, I'm excited because some of what has been torturing me for years might be helped in the near future as I undertake some more ERP therapy. Down with the OCD!


  1. Down with the OCD, indeed! I'm excited for you, Abigail, as you've come to understand more about what happened years ago and why and how it's affecting you.

    1. Thanks, Tina, for the encouragement

  2. I love the lines: "But if OCD is being a major hang up in sorting this out, then I feel hope. Because I can handle OCD." What a great thing to be able to can handle OCD. Good luck as you continue your fight!