I started ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy in the Fall of 2009. My OCD was incredibly severe at that point, but I had no idea how bad until I stopped avoiding (everything) and started facing my fears through ERP. I was absolutely outraged that I had to go through the pain of ERP to get better from an agonizing illness that I never wanted or asked for. And I mean outraged. There were a few times when I would randomly explode in a fit of anger and scream at my poor husband, “This is not fair! I don’t deserve this! Other people don’t have to go through this type of torment to get better from an illness!!” (Uh, not exactly true...) And I would literally have a 2 year old’s temper tantrum. Fists pounding on the floor and all.
A blend of fury and feelings of abandonment led me to an extremely dark place. I could not begin to understand how He could let me, a longtime dedicated Christ follower, fall down such a deep hole of pain and loneliness. There was a period of a few weeks when the OCD was at its worst and I barely moved from the couch, paralyzed with anxious fear while begging God with each agonizing breath to, “Please, please take me!” Though I did start to see improvement with the OCD over the next couple of months, I was holding a grudge against God. It was not so easy to let go of the pain and the fact that I thought He just abandoned me to it. I considered walking away from Him and I seriously contemplated it for a few months. It scared me.
I knew I was spiritually in trouble, so I went to go see one of the pastors at my church who had suffered the loss of both of his children. You read that right-both of his precious children. His children were each born with Duchenne Muscular Distrophy and he and his wife watched their beautiful boys become less and less able to do things physically until their bodies finally gave out at young adulthood. Their bodies gave out but oh, their faith never did! Their dad was the person I needed to talk to.
So I did. And the first thing I said to him was, “I’m afraid to cause you more pain. But I have a question for you.” Without hesitation he said, “Go ahead. Ask your question.” Warily I asked, “How do you get up every day? How do you even possibly go on?” “Because I truly believe what the Bible says.” He went on to explain more about how God has helped his family though it all, but his first sentence is what stuck with me, even now, all these years later. Though he was certainly not accusing me of not having enough faith, I did start to wonder myself. But I think what I actually had was a misunderstanding of my God. After more discussion and lots of tears, my pastor sent me home with a book recommendation: If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn.
It was not an easy book to read, for a lot of reasons. But it opened my eyes to suffering in the world and the reasons that God allows it. The book talked about many people who have suffered and their perspective on God working in their lives both through and in spite, of their suffering. It was eye opening. In fact, it was a game changer for me.
I want to be clear-I am talking about my situation. My experience and what I feel that God has said to me. I’ve come to the conclusion that God allowed OCD in my life for a good purpose. First, I know that I have a tendency to wander from Him. And what I finally really came to fully understand in the Winter of 2016-17 (yes, I’m a very slow learner) is how incredibly deeply God loves me. Deep enough that He will use whatever He must, to keep me close. And I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for that. Yes, thankful (most of the time!). I also believe He allowed the OCD to give me sympathy and empathy for others in a way that I never would have had otherwise. He’s also allowed it in my life so that I could offer comfort, support, and hope to others. And I know there are more reasons.
After reading that book, I knew I had to stop sitting on the fence. I either had to walk away from God for good, or re-commit to Him and follow on despite what life threw at me. In the end, I couldn’t walk away. I just couldn’t. I decided that I was going to be in pain no matter what, and I thought it would be much better to walk in pain with the Lord at my side, than go through it without Him. And the following winter, about 9 months later, one of the most horrifying things possible did happen. I almost lost my husband to a devastating bout of Crohn's Disease. What a terrible time it was. I spent the month of December, 2010, walking around in a mental maze of fog. I literally did not know if I was coming or going. I didn't know if my husband would be permanently disabled or be able to work again, if he even lived. (Thankfully, he is in deep remission!)
There have continued to be painful situations since then. Because of a very difficult circumstance, I went through the deepest depression ever from 2015-17. Even today I still struggle with a milder form of that depression. Though, gratefully, I have quite a bit of control over the OCD. Not complaining about that! [I also want to mention that there is much hope for you if you suffer from severe OCD, anxiety, or depression. Things are much, much better than they used to be for me. I'm working almost full time hours at a challenging job and doing quite well. Like anything else, there is a learning curve to living with mental health issues. There really is tremendous hope.]
I'm at an interesting place in my life now. I feel like I've been through a war and have come out a bit tired and weary, but nonetheless victorious in a lot of ways. I'm definitely wiser. I've been humbled. I'm a bit more cynical about the world, if I'm honest. But I'm still holding on to Jesus. I know this is a forever relationship. I know He loves me. More than I can possibly understand. I know that the pain in my life has never been wasted. I also know that I'll never be the poster-child for Christian faith. I'm a "messy Christian." I don't pray as often as I should, or read the Bible like I should. There are a lot of "shoulds" that I don't do right. I make mistakes all the time. But I do understand a bit more. I understand that my relationship with God is only there because of Him. Not because of me.