Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Got Guilt?

If you have OCD, odds are you’ve got lots of guilt. A soul crunching, mind-numbing, stomach twisting, bring-you-to-your-knees type of guilt. I’m well acquainted with this sick feeling. For many years, guilt was one of my closest companions. It taunted me at night. It followed me throughout the day, whispering it’s cruel accusations in my mind. “You’re a horrible person! What kind of Christian are you? You say you love Jesus?! Ha! You’re a joke. If everyone else finds out what you are, you’ll be abandoned and unloved, just like you deserve to be! Even God Himself must be disgusted by you.”

I would feel guilty about everything and anything. Maybe I was a little abrupt with the cashier at the store. Afterwards I would be tormented by thoughts like, “What if she’s deeply depressed? What if what I said is the very last straw and she kills herself? It’s all my fault!” One time, I was less than friendly with someone on the phone. I was so incredibly racked by guilt afterwards that I vomited. Oh, I don’t mean a little polite up-chuck. I mean, I vomited so violently that I was literally unable to breathe because I couldn’t stop heaving long enough to take a breath. It scared me.

I have mostly struggled with guilt when it comes to being a mom. Ann’s post about her sister got me thinking about my role as a parent. Being a mom with a mental illness is not exactly what most young ladies dream about becoming. It was my reality though, and it was my child’s reality. There are things I certainly could not control, like the fact that I had OCD. There were some things I could have controlled, like trying harder to get help, and doing what I needed to get better. I have terrible regrets about not working hard enough to improve my mental health. I can say though, that I actually don’t have too much guilt about it anymore. That’s not because I’ve convinced myself that it was no big deal. It was a big deal. It always will be a big deal and I sure wish I could change my past. It’s just that I finally understand that guilt is an often useless emotion.

Don’t get me wrong. As someone who follows God, I do believe guilt has its place. If I’ve truly done something wrong, then it’s probably a good thing that I feel some guilt about it. Of course, the guilt is only useful for making me aware I’ve done something wrong and in motivating me to change my behavior. However, someone with OCD has guilt that is so disproportionate to the level of their behavior that it can be paralyzing. Not only that, but there are times when a person with an anxiety disorder will feel guilt about imagined things. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt (and still occasionally do feel) deep guilt about something, only to be told that I didn’t even do anything wrong at all!

So how did I get over this horrible guilt? By finally believing my psychologist. It was as simple as that. Crazy, huh? She kept repeating, over and over again, that guilt changed absolutely nothing. Guilt was only serving to keep me ill. It was tying me down in such a way that I simply could not move forward with my life. Eventually, I made the conscious decision to let myself off the hook, despite the fact that I didn’t think I deserved it. Actually, I knew I didn't deserve it, but that was no longer the point. I had too much healing left to do and the guilt was blocking my recovery. I could think of no better way to honor my loved ones and to make up for the past, than with my recovery. I realized that even though my child was grown and out of the house, I continued to be a parent. I still had lessons to impart. The most important one being that change is possible and that we don’t have to be chained to who we were.

16 comments:

  1. I have felt guilty of being "less" of a mother than I could have been because of OCD, but I know my children don't want me to feel bad about an illness I was doing everything to fight..and living in the past with guilt is just going to rob them more of the happy mother I am now. I actually have a post half written now on emotions that occur in us as humans naturally, but really don't do us a lot of good and guilt is one of them. I think, like you, if guilt stirs us to consciousness of something we need to fix or apologize (or repent) for, then it is positive, but not if it keeps us in the dark and is paralyzing to our life. I am a Christian too and sometimes I have to remind myself of how guilt keeps me bound to sin, the sin that I can and am forgiven for. It is almost like I am refusing God's forgiveness when I can't free myself from guilt.
    Thanks for making me do some deep thinking today Sunny.

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    1. Krystal Lynn - yes - you are so right - living in the past just robs your kids of you today! I also wholeheartedly agree with you about God's forgiveness. I have begged Him for forgiveness for my failings as a person and as a mom. The Bible is clear that He will forgive us when we ask for it. Who am I to reject His forgiveness and hang on to the guilt? That's probably very insulting to Him. Great points.

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  2. Great post, Sunny! You make so many wonderful points. You are so right that guilt is only helpful if it spurs us to change our ways or repent. I have felt so much guilt in my own life. I would ask God for forgiveness for real and imagined things, but no matter how hard I prayed, I didn't believe that I was forgiven. The guilt was holding me back from accepting grace, which none of us deserves. I like what you said about letting yourself off the hook and moving on. I need to think about doing that too. Thank you.

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    1. Oh, it's so true, Tina - I have also struggled with believing I was forgiven. It almost seems too easy. But I guess that's what grace is all about - a free gift we sure don't deserve! I'm not really sure why people with OCD struggle so much with guilt. It's really strange to me. The tentacles of guilt seem to reach into every part of your life and your being. I can't begin to tell you what a relief letting go of guilt was. I sure hope you can do it to. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. "However, someone with OCD has guilt that is so disproportionate to the level of their behavior that it can be paralyzing." YES! This is me.

    I have always struggled with guilt. In fact, when I first began seeing my therapist and he asked me what symptom would I like to work on first... I said G.U.I.L.T.

    Is struggle so much with guilt and I could see so much of myself in this post.

    Great post!

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    1. Actually, Elizabeth, you were one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote the line you quoted! I have read so many times how you've struggled with guilt and it breaks my heart. I've also struggled terribly with it and it is the most awful feeling. You end up just hating yourself so much and the worst part is, it is totally for nothing. Ugh. It has been a slow process for me. Basically, when I start to feel guilt (especially about really old things I can do nothing about), I just keep reminding myself that it is done. I then make the specific decision to tell myself that today, right now, I'm not guilty of it anymore and I refuse to accept that burden any longer. It is a process though. Doesn't happen over night. I wish you much healing with this.

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    2. You are so sweet. Isn't that something how that sentence stood out to me and you wrote it with me in mind? Hugs.

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  4. Even without OCD, I have struggled with guilt in regards to raising my children (but most likely not to the extent of someone with OCD). I do think it's a "mother thing." But, as you say, it does no good, and we need to concentrate of the here and now. Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Janet, what mother in the world DOESN'T struggle with guilt?!? Like I mentioned in a comment in Ann's post, you just feel so responsible for this other person and you don't want to do anything to mess up his or her life. People with OCD definitely don't own the guilt thing, that is for sure. Although, I'm thinking we may have perfected it.

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  5. I'm a Christian, too, and I think one problem for me is confusing feelings with facts; I don't FEEL forgiven, so I think I either must not BE forgiven, or maybe I don't have enough faith, which MIGHT result in my not being forgiven - except I don't think I really believe that second one, or even the first. In my head, I know I am forgiven, but my feelings don't always catch on. I try to tell myself it's just a feeling. I also sometimes try not to ask forgiveness of things I'm pretty sure are just OCD worries, but that's hard to succeed in. I'm interested in how it sounds like by telling yourself you were letting go of guilt, the guilty feelings went away or lessened, too. Maybe I will try that.

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    1. Abigail, I also understand about not feeling forgiven. I struggled with that for many, many years. Sometimes I still do. You are right - it is just a feeling. It's just that feelings seem so real, like they are facts, not just emotions. It seems too simple, but yes, I just sort of allowed myself not to feel guilty for past stuff anymore. I decided that I could not go on any longer that way. Whenever the guilt comes, I tell myself that it's OK and that I don't need to punish myself any more. I hope you can find a way to get rid of the guilt too. It is unbelievably freeing.

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  6. I just feel guilty for not being a better wife and daughter. Loved your post.

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    1. I'm sorry. It's amazing how many things we can feel guilty about. The list just goes on and on.

      I'm glad you liked the post and I hope maybe it was a little helpful.

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  7. This is is not my exact feeling of guilt, but helps me understand the guilt does not do anything. My OCD has gotten worse....and any little bit of light helps me get through to the next day.

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    1. Oh I'm so sorry you are in so much pain right now. I've been there, I really get it. Please know there really is hope for you. I never thought there was for me. I thought my life would be one agonizing day after another. I can happily say that is no longer true. Yes, OCD is still part of my daily life, but I am in MUCH more control and the daily pain - well many days, there is little to no mental anguish at all!!! That is possible for you too. I cannot recommend CBT/ERP highly enough. Please write again. I'd love to hear from you. Hugs.

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