By Erika McCoy
Note: IOCDF is not affiliated with any religious groups and is not a faith-based organization.
This blog is part of a series from our Faith and OCD Special Interest Group. In January, they focused on it's not about faith... it's OCD. Here, one of their members, Erika, shares her experience.
To get involved in advocating on this theme, check out the grassroots advocate email or join the Faith Special Interest Group.
You can also join Erika as she hosts the Rocking Your Values Event: Navigating Faith and OCD Together: Painting and creating as a Community on January 28th, at 7:30 pm Eastern Time. Register here!
My story begins all the way back in the mid 90's. Here was a little girl attending Lutheran parochial school with all the big dreams of the future with a strong love of Jesus. I would memorize all my Bible verses, chapel every Wednesday, church and Sunday school every Sunday, charitable endeavors, sports, choir, and musicals. I was catechized and confirmed into the Lutheran (LCMS) faith. Though my OCD was present through all this the Scrupulosity was at bay. I was in a very loving supportive environment spiritually speaking at my little Lutheran church and school.
When the Scrupulosity came to play
Life was just being life and things happened, most out of my control. I was just convinced these various events were a result of some sin I had committed or blasphemy against God, and thus where all punishments from Him, I rightly deserved. When I was 14 I was sent to a hHigh school that was a different faith tradition then Lutheran. I was told by a priest there I was going to Hell because of my faith. Which led to my first hospitalization, a total avoidance of church for 16 years, and a long road to diagnosis, treatment, recovery and advocacy.
During the 16 year break
There were so many things that had happened that were factually terrible. I had to become my father's caretaker, a man who had severely abused me for all of my life. My rock and foundation, my mother, has had several near death experiences. In 2011 a rare stroke, in 2021 a rare heart attack; while I was experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, and in 2022 a horrible GI bleed. My aunt went missing in May of 2015 the week after my husband and I returned from our honeymoon and her body wasn't found until December 2015 she was murdered (we still have no answers on her murder, talk about leaning into uncertainty). Her body was found 5 days after Ii had gotten out of the hospital for when my Scrupulosity had gotten to a point where my obsession and compulsions got so dark revolving around my son and God that the only solution I felt was left was to end it all. Which was so far away from what I wanted in life, what my values are and my belief system I knew things had to change and now.
Embracing uncertainty for a strong relationship with Jesus
It was a little over 2 years ago that I made the compassionate commitment to myself that I was going to enter back into the local church. I had all my ERP tools and was confident that I was finally in a place where no matter what would happen I can handle it, and my family and I deserve to have a value-driven worship experience that is fruitful and brings me closer to God. I found my way to a little local church that I felt safe in. I was upfront and honest with who I am and what I have been through. I am grateful to that church as it did teach me a lot of things. I was able to help with and engage in ways that really brought purpose to my life and meet some great people there, it was a good stepping stone for me. Did it end well, no, as unfortunately the stigma and misunderstanding of Religious Scrupulosity is still very strong, I encountered the same things I did 16+ years ago. I'm so thankful that little church offered me a space to do ERP and realize how to apply that to my faith Journey. As e
Even though my worst "what if"ended up happening there, I had a flame lit in my soul to keep going. In fact, iI'm so very happy I did not stop, after years of waiting, suffering, and avoidance, I finally found that local church that is the perfect fit for me and my family. The old me would have used the experiences at the previous church to get stuck in the never ending OCD loop. But because of where I am in my journey now I am proud to say I was able to continue on to a beautiful place of worship that brings value to my life and enriches my walk with Christ. Such a feeling of freedom!!
The tools of ERP really helped me understand the mystery of the works of God. There is nothing wrong with seeking answers that is part of the faith Journey. However, I've used my ERP to lean into uncertainty which has done nothing but given me a strong foundation, faith, and trust in God. It is OK, and perfectly acceptable to not know. As a Christian with all the things going on the only thing I am certain of is God and that brings me so much comfort and peace even when everything else around me is so uncertain. I never would have thought ERP would have been able to translate into such a steadfast faith in God but here I am trusting in God, leaning into uncertainty and advocating for faith and OCD.
That is the majorly beautiful part of the Ddivine is the mysterious nature of all things faith. I mean, if we could have all the answers and know with absolute certainty why all of God's creation is the way it is or why everything happens the way it happens there would be no need for God!. Life would be quite boring if you think about it. This my friends is how I've been able to apply accepting uncertainty/erp to my faith Journey and walk with Christ. When it comes to my past, present, and future I realize now God is in control. No matter how much I've tried to control my life in the past I've been on a very unique path that God paved just for me to go down. This is something I know I would never be able to see without full surrender to him, radical acceptance and embracing the uncertainty. I also have amazing hope now that whatever is to come I will be able to overcome and flourish. Rocking my values along the way!
It's OCD not faith
My one plea to all believers of the divine from whatever faith traditions you are from is it's OCD not Faith. I can't tell you how many believers, faith leaders, and clergy during my 16 years I reached out to for support, help, and care gave the worst advise . The responses I got I know now didn't come from a harmful place however, definitely did harm. Prevented me from seeking medical treatment sooner as I was given the presumption that what I was dealing with was a problem with my walk with Christ not an actual illness that needs medical intervention. Just like any physical illness would need.
I know we can all come together, clergy, laypeople, and believers to gain understanding, give all of God's Children a way to worship our Almighty Father as part of the Universal and local church in meaningful value-driven ways that is Glorifying Him. Let us all join in on this from an interfaith perspective with knowledge, love, care and compassion for all.