When I had been in therapy regularly for a bit, doing my exposures and working hard with cognitive behavior therapy, I started to get my contamination OCD under control. From there, my doctor asked me what other things the OCD had influenced or how it had otherwise affected my life.
OCD’s Roots and Branches
We got into scrupulosity concerns, religious and moral. We got into hit and run OCD, etc. These “types” of OCD for me, at least, weren’t drastically affecting my life at that moment. They had caused trouble in the past, though, and my doctor wanted me to address them. While not as anxiety provoking as doing some of the contamination exposures, beginning to reopen some of these other OCD-sensitive areas was difficult and, at the same time, liberating.
Where am I?
I began to find myself again. For reasons related to not just OCD but also getting home from a mission, getting married, and having children in close secession, I had somewhat lost my “self.” As I went head to head with some of the fears I had (under the supervision and encouragement of my psychologist), I started to remember her—me. I became braver in finding and fulfilling my dreams. I began to feel worthy and able to do things because I wanted to do them rather than not doing them at all or being half-hearted. Gradually, I also gained the confidence to stand up for myself and decide what things I wanted to do, rather than simply doing things out of guilt or duty.
These attitudes that I’ve been developing and nurturing since that point have greatly affected my life. Taking steps to care for my “self”—rather than doing what was expected or what the OCD wanted me to do/not do—has led to a lot of changes in my life.
Practically, I’m not as afraid to simply be and exist. I park my car in between other cars. I drive, park, and walk without freaking out as much. In regards to the various types of scrupulosity, things are of course not perfect but I feel as if so much has changed.
For one, I am a published author. The OCD had me terrified to submit, let alone go through with publishing, a book. Simply deciding to submit books to publishers was a huge exposure for my moral scrupulosity—I was concerned about “honesty” and copyright and anything related to any of those things. Going through with having “The OCD Mormon” published found me in an OCD breakdown, feeling the stress and pressure of submitting the final edits and knowing I couldn’t change anything after that point—was I telling “the truth”? What if I misrepresented something or someone? What if….?
But I did it, and I’m so glad that I did. I am trying to get other books published and written. I hope to find an agent this year for my fiction/not religiously focused books. I don’t know if I would be at this point if I hadn’t decided to get help for my OCD.
When it comes to religion itself, working through scrupulosity has had some major consequences. Rather than feeling guilt or badly for not doing things, I have gradually allowed myself to feel okay with uncertainty. I’ve allowed and accepted the possibility of imperfection—and not only that, but of not making it to the “greatest degree of glory” in the afterlife. I am somehow fine with not being “the best” or being with the best. I will end up where I am comfortable, and I’ve accepted that there is a possibility that I might very well be comfortable somewhere else.
I’m not so worried about doing callings, serving, or going to the temple out of guilt and duty. I’m being more honest with myself and with my feelings and thoughts. I’m allowing myself to feel and think and to accept where those things lead. I feel as if my empathy and compassion has grown for others and for myself.
Over Doing It
My personality, combined with OCD, has often led me to a place where I feel like I must go and do and be 110%. I’ve been like that with school, church, and even exercise at some points. Going through OCD recovery (as well as being sick for most of the last month) has made me realize that it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to stop and reevaluate rather than maintaining break neck speeds. It’s okay to ask yourself what you actually want—not want Church leaders or parents or children or bosses or peers or whoever want—but what you want: to be, to do, to feel like.
I feel as if I’ve been gaining confidence in myself, allowing myself to be 80% or 60% rather than 100%. Maybe that sounds strange, but it’s simple things like taking the kids to school without wearing any makeup so that I can come home and exercise later because my body needed to sleep in that morning. Or it’s choosing not to exercise that day because I’m sore or don’t want to. Or choosing to exercise or dance or take a class that I wanted to try. It’s deciding to put off doing something that I “should” do because I want to read a novel instead. It’s taking a walk instead of cleaning something that can wait.
We need to take care of our selves, and our needs change over time and even day by day. I’m starting to understand this. I’m starting to understand that I change. My OCD changes. My motivation level changes. My attitude changes. We are not stagnant. And that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But with this, we also need to remember to change how we interact with our self—we need to be our own allies rather than taskmasters.
I’m still learning and working on this, but I think it’s one of the most valuable lessons to accept and internalize.