I don’t talk about my faith enough, considering how steeped in it I am in real life. I often feel bad about myself for it, like I’m letting the ball drop, not letting others know how much God has healed my mind over the years.
It was not a straight trajectory from broken teenager who experienced multiple traumas in my youth and adulthood, to healed adult who sought God and was healed though. As a teen, I sought God, I looked to Wicca, and I even bought the Satanic bible to see what the heck that was all about too (lies, selfishness, and evilness).
I was traumatized as a small child, raped as a teen, whereas then my mother didn’t handle that well and traumatized me over it because I had been somewhere I shouldn’t of been and had been drinking. Yelling and screaming and hitting, name calling that to this day are parts of my OCD compulsions. Apparently traumas do affect OCD.
I sought God in absolute earnest when I had my son at age 28. I was struggling horribly with alcohol and mental illness, undiagnosed bipolar, OCD, and PTSD. Unfortunately the church I chose was not the best choice. You can’t just randomly choose a church and think because it’s “church”, that it’s good.
This church preached a prosperity gospel, which is against what’s actually in the Bible. But this I did not know because I didn’t know my Bible well enough, despite being raised in the church and attending a Christian school from 5th grade on up.
What is the prosperity gospel, you ask?
The prosperity gospel is the idea that God blesses you if you follow His commandments/rules, He wants to bless you, and if you are sick or mentally ill, it’s because of sin in your life or maybe that you just don’t have enough faith. Or you don’t tithe (give 1/10th of all your earnings). That was one thing they said, if you tithe, God will bless you financially. 100% not Biblical, any of it!
The problem was, this theology can be cherry picked with some verses if you don’t consider the Bible as an entirety. That’s not how God intended scripture, and Jesus himself was proof of God’s love, mercy, and saving grace not based on our own actions.
However, at the time I was deeply troubled by my mental illnesses and I was very easily persuaded by such ideas. Gullible. This set a long hard road of me suffering from scrupulosity/religious OCD.
Over the years following, I constantly mentally searched to figure out where there was sin in my life and why God was mad at me. I made sure to tithe religiously, in fear that I would anger God by not giving. When life went well, I thought I was earning God’s approval. When life went badly, I was convinced I was being punished for sin and I would pray incessantly for forgiveness and attempt to right whatever wrongs I could come up with. The thing is, we’re sinful creatures by nature, so there was always some wrong thing I could find or perceive.
I ended up breaking after a some time at this church under this false doctrine. Not too long after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This led to my diagnosis of bipolar, because I had a very severe manic episode.
I left the church I was going to in search of a different one, sensing the sickness in the one I had chosen. It was very small and always struggled. A sick tree does not produce good fruit, I should have seen the evidence.
I ended up at a very large church (11,000+ active attendees weekly). An almost insane change for me considering the church I left was at most 25 people, on a holiday. But I needed that church. I needed to be an anonymous face amongst the crowd for the years I attended.
I went every single week like clockwork and just absorbed a new message. I did not hear a message about God blessing those who were sinless (impossible) or tithed, or a God who punished those who stepped outside the lines, so to speak. I heard about the true God of the Bible, the one who showed love and grace to all those who did not deserve it. Jesus’s death was the required sacrifice for our sin and God asked nothing else of me, but a true repentant heart and faith that Jesus was Lord.
I attended that church for many years and after suffering another trauma within my family, my husband started attending weekly with me, without me asking. He was as yet an agnostic, believing there was a higher power but not knowing what there was out there.
I was still broken inside, my most recent trauma causing me to seek further treatment and finally I received my OCD diagnosis – decades after I began suffering from my symptoms.
After about 8 months from my trauma, we moved out of state, which was the best thing that happened to us all. At the time though, it was a very hard road.
Things were not good within the household, especially because shortly after moving, the COVID-19 lockdown happened. Right beforehand, we had found a church to start attending and the pastor had friended us on Facebook.
When restrictions in my very oppressive state finally lifted and we were finally allowed to attend church again, it took my new pastor reaching out in order for us to start going again. My social anxiety and OCD were at a peak.
My new church, the one I now attend still today, was a Godsend. The Pastor is a man who is very clued in to mental health and the suffering of those of many people today.
I was struggling with something, something not in my normal nature – hatred. I normally am very meek and kind, with a huge heart and slow to anger. Yet there was someone in my past who had hurt me and I seethed with a deep hatred for them. My therapist at the time, when I told her, said it was ok because of what the person had done. This set off red flags to me, because this was unsound and un-Christian advice. I knew I needed to do something to get rid of this hatred, or deal with it before it consumed me.
I reached out and asked to meet with my Pastor. I told him my problem and he was extremely kind and understanding. He relayed a similar problem and told me how he dealt with it was praying for the person every time he was faced with them and felt the anger they caused.
His actual seemingly simple solution helped me tremendously. And I felt safe reaching out to him again in the future when I faced future troubles.
I corresponded many times after that with my Pastor through email. I also met with him once or twice in person, but I struggled greatly with going in person to the church triggering my anxiety and OCD.
Over the past couple of years listening to my Pastor speak, then joining groups within the church, and joining a regular Bible study with a few women I became comfortable with, my scrupulosity went away. The more I studied the Bible and learned about Jesus and surrounded myself with what I learned were true Christians, the easier I found it to accept the concept of God’s grace.
Now don’t get me wrong, I also saw someone to help me with my OCD, because it is an extremely complicated disorder that most trained professionals are actually clueless about unless they specifically are trained in OCD.
As a comparison, at the beginning of 2021, I was laying on the floor of my bathroom wracked with tears, sobbing because my thoughts tormented me constantly. My husband looked at me and yelled at me and told me to “just stop” and do something about it. Lack of empathy and understanding.
Almost 2 years later now and my husband has since found Jesus himself, and thus his own compassion and understanding. I currently do at home ketamine treatments for my mental health, weekly talk therapy, along with my weekly Bible study, regular church attendance, and as many church activities as I can manage.
My depression is well controlled. My OCD is much better managed – my intrusive thoughts are less and my compulsions are less. I used to walk around the house suffering from constant compulsions. But now my thoughts and compulsions are much less frequent, where I would actually be able to keep track of them now vs where they were enumerable before.
I do suffer from hardships and things that depress me still. The difference being, I don’t go into despair and spiral. I take comfort in knowing that I have Jesus and there is a purpose for everything beyond my understanding. I have a grateful heart for the blessings I have, instead of bemoaning “all that’s wrong in my life”.
I give all the glory to God. I would still be the puddle on the floor in my bathroom if not for the work He did in my life. Praise God for my years of suffering because it brought me to where I am and closer to Him. Though He didn’t just magically do so after a prayer or 2. It took action. I actively sought a relationship with Jesus and to know more about the God I worship. Regular church attendance at a biblical grace based church, Bible study, and surrounding myself with people who cared for me and prayed for me in earnest because they walk with Jesus too.
I wonder to myself after having written this, essentially my testimony, what will go through people’s minds. “Oh that’s great for her but religion isn’t my thing”, “God? Pfft, there is no such thing and she’s delusional”, “I wonder if that would work for me, but church is so boring, I can’t be bothered/I’m not giving up my Sundays.”
Sunday is my favorite day of the week because of hearing what new message God has in store for me every Sunday morning. I look forward to it more than when I have a Saturday off work, ready to learn what special wisdom is in store for me to apply to make my life even better.
I wish someone made some kind of Jesus challenge (remember the inane ice bucket challenge?). Try Jesus for one year and see what happens. Actively seek Him and just see what changes happen in your life. My guess is it would be quite a bit of good.
I feel that’s a pipe dream. For something so wholesome to become a thing. Anyone up for the challenge though? What if I double dog dare you?