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  • Writer's pictureThe OCD Catholic

My Story

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

Deciding how to start a story about your own life is tricky. Especially when it doesn’t start at the beginning. This is my story of OCD/scrupulosity. This is a very raw retelling of it, so it won’t be perfect. Feel free to ask me questions. I may post another version of this in parts that goes more in depth; if that is something you are interested in, let me know. I don’t know what else to say besides that, really. Let’s jump in I guess.

I grew up in a Catholic family. I was baptized, went to Mass with my family on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and to the occasional daily Mass with my mom. I learned about the Faith and was taught relatively well. We were a relatively active family in our parishes, so church wasn’t an unfamiliar place.

When I was in second grade, I began to prepare to make my first Confession and receive my first Holy Communion. I was excited and nervous about the milestone. We learned about the differences between venial and mortal sins, and practiced going to Confession before the big day.

Finally it arrived. And to say I was nervous was an understatement. As I waited in line with my CCD classmates, I grew more and more scared. Finally it was my turn. I was crying and refused to go in the confessional because I was so frightened. The Director of Religious Education was soon on the case and talking to the pastor, telling him that I was nervous and would he please help. She and my CCD teacher took me over to the other side of the church to the pastor’s confessional and got me to go inside. I am confident that God will reward them quite well for that in Heaven when they arrive. So I made my first Confession in fear and trembling, and went on to receive my first Holy Communion a few months later. After my first Holy Communion, a few months had passed and I began to become scrupulous. I don’t remember what would trigger the scruples in particular or what they were all about, but I do remember being very scared of sin and going to Hell. To some degree, a healthy fear. If I prayed a decade of the Rosary, I would say more than 10 Hail Mary’s in case some of them didn’t count. I would say my prayers before bed over and over. It was a mild beginning, but still unhealthy. Looking back, I can see now that everything from my first Confession to my first scruples were the beginning of what I am sure will be a lifelong battle dealing with this cross.

Those early scruples lapsed over time, and would come and go as the years went on. It was an unpredictable and unwelcome change every time they would reappear. Sometimes the scruples would be more mild, and other times more severe. Sometimes the OCD was just checking and cleaning in addition to scrupulosity, and other times it would be just one or another type of OCD. But let’s fast forward to just a few years ago, 2017, when my scrupulosity and other manifestations of OCD hit an all-time high, resulting in panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, and eventually a diagnosis.

Wouldn’t it be so mean if I stopped here and said “to be continued”? I could be one of those people, but I’m not mean like that. Aren’t you so lucky?

I joke because as the saying goes, “you gotta laugh to keep from crying”.

In 2017 I was working a high-stress summer internship. The details of that aren’t important, but it got the OCD ball rolling again. As the school year started up again, I began having bad anxiety, and minor OCD symptoms that got worse and worse and worse.

By the time the spring semester had rolled around, I had been in a car accident that shook me up badly. My anxiety skyrocketed. I began to think that I was sinning if I left Adoration after only a few moments, or that if I didn’t go to Mass daily I was a terrible sinner who must not love God as much as I claimed to. I dreaded going to confession. I would go and pray in the church at night before my priests locked it up because then I wouldn’t feel guilty for not spending all my time there.

The semester wore on and by the end of it I had three term papers due that I never turned in, exams that I didn’t try to pass, and would be so depressed at times that I wouldn’t even bother going to class. And every time I tried to sit down to write those term papers, I would panic that because I knew “I would be plagiarizing” if I wrote down something I knew from just existing. I would purposely circle wrong answers on exams because “I had seen my neighbors paper” when in reality I hadn’t. Or because it must be cheating to know the answer already, or if the teacher told us in a class review session. I knew cheating is a sin, and so convinced I was that I had cheated on my assignments, I’m pretty sure I confessed to cheating in the confessional when that wasn’t the reality. But I was so sure I had. But I didn’t. But hadn’t I? It was crippling.

Finally- after a panic attack at 3 AM while writing a paper that left me feeling like my throat had closed up, and a morning of depression so severe that I couldn’t get out of bed, I decided I’d had enough. I went to noon Mass and talked to a trusted priest afterward, who told me I should be in therapy, and maybe on medication. Okay. I needed to be in therapy again. I’d been in therapy before for other things, but never for OCD. At the very tail end of the semester, I tried one therapist that wasn’t a good fit, and then another that diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I had suspected OCD was the culprit, but to have an official diagnosis was a huge relief. Often people think it is bad news to have a diagnosis, whether it is for a physical or mental illness. I didn’t. I was thrilled. My suffering had a name, and there was help for me.

It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine after that. It hardly ever is. I was at one point so depressed that I had suicidal thoughts, and continued to struggle throughout the summer of 2018 and into the fall of 2018 semester. Confession continued to be a battle I rarely, if ever, won. There were multiple occasions that in the line to go into the confessional, I had panic attacks and was the next person in line when I decided I couldn’t do it and would run to the car or a pew to try and catch my breath and cry. The pressure was just too much.

Finally, at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, my therapist suggested going on medication. When I had started therapy with her, I had said that I only wanted to use medication as a last resort, to make sure I really needed it. After a few months of therapy, it was clear that we’d reached that point. I was hesitant but agreed because anything would be better than the Hell I was living. I felt like a failure for having to be medicated. I should be able to control myself better than this. I had a consultation with a psychiatrist and he suggested a medication that he thought would be a good fit for me, and I am so grateful that it was. That’s not to say that life was suddenly easy. I continued to do poorly in school and to avoid going to Confession. But it was absolutely a turning point where progress was made for the better.

Since then, I have slowly begun to heal. Some days are better than others. I have since returned to Holy Communion, and am receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation more frequently. I have found a regular confessor whom I love immensely, and continue to be medicated, as I probably will be for the rest of my life.

But this isn’t where the story ends. The story continues every day as the struggle continues. That’s why I started this blog, so that others with OCD/scrupulosity can journey with me, as well as bring awareness to the struggle that so many of us endure in silence. The Enemy wants us to feel isolated and alone. He thrives in the one on one, man to man combat of self-doubt, isolation, loneliness, and ignorance. The more that we feel alone as individuals, the more we turn away from God and His mercy as a society and collective human race. So the remedy for that is community, solidarity, hope, and awareness. That’s my mission here, is that the story continues for me and for you with community, solidarity, hope, and awareness.

I am praying for you all, please pray for me.

St. Therese, pray for us.

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