It was a beautiful fall day this past September. I looked at the clock, and I needed to get moving – I had things to do and places to be! I hurried my bulldog, Winston, into his crate, by luring (and rewarding) him with treats, and then I called out for my kitty, Jake, to ensure he was in the house (and not wandering in the backyard) before I left. And there little Jake was, waiting on the second step from the bottom of our stairway, looking up at me, waiting patiently to be given his treats for delighting me with his presence. All good, I thought, now I can get going.
I locked the house, got in my car, backed it up, put it into drive and headed on my way. As I took a left on my main street to head out into the city, I realized something, something spectacular, something miraculous. Had I been in the Eucharistic chapel at this moment, I surely would have fallen to my knees in praise and thanks to the Almighty for His Great Blessing and Miraculous Healing He had bestowed on me…
Struggling to Acceptance
Many people who know me well are aware I’ve struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder most of my life. The truth is, I’ve struggled with it in some form and varying degrees of intensity since I can remember, even as a child. For a long time, I didn’t know what it was. As a child, I had to keep papers straight on a desk, constantly straightening them, never quite being satisfied, and compulsively having to restack and restraighten – until I became so frustrated I had a mild breakdown, looked up to the heavens and said, “I can’t take this anymore” and hurried out of the room. I remember having to brush my teeth several times over, never feeling I quite got them clean enough. I would have to put on, take off, and then put clothes on again, because I kept feeling like the clothes were not on correctly, not straight or……I don’t know what! It is hard to explain these compulsions and intrusive thoughts I dealt with. These are not at all rational, they make no sense! I guess one may wonder, “even if you have these thoughts, why did you have to give into the compulsions?” Because, if I didn’t, I felt something bad would happen. I couldn’t explain it or why. But the feeling was intense enough that I felt I had no choice but to give into the compulsions.
At about the age of 14, I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down and talked with my mother. I explained to her what I was experiencing and that I believed I was going crazy; and she, I’m sure not knowing what to think, reached out to our priest.
Now it seems after knowing many priests throughout my life, I’ve come to learn they all have a special gift, a unique calling unto themselves. This priest had the gift of being a great counselor, a consoler – and a blessing to all who knew him. Amazingly, he understood what I was experiencing and was able to guide me through the most intense of these compulsions. He allowed me to contact him, day or night, and he would walk me through the moments of great torture I experienced daily.
Fast forward a few (okay, many) years. My OCD struggles have been something I’ve learned to cope with. I’ve sought therapy, take medication which assists with the intensity of these intrusive thoughts and compulsions and have learned coping skills and methods which have gotten me through some pretty tough times. The care I have and continue to have is excellent. I also have become aware that when my general anxiety is high, the intensity of these OCD struggles tend to increase. I’ve also noticed these struggles tend to decrease in intensity when at work or another area of my life I am consumed with stress about things I’m working on, events I plan, etc. – essentially, my mind is being occupied somewhere else. To say the least, there are days when using words such as “debilitating” and “disruption to normal functioning” cannot adequately express what I experience.
My OCD struggles have varied over the years, including (but certainly not limited to): obsessively washing my hands; having to obsessively check my medication each night (which I put in weekly pill containers) to make sure I haven’t missed or taken more than I should; when leaving the house having to take at least 10 minutes checking over and over making sure the stove is off, coffee maker and curling iron are unplugged, etc.; and when driving, being deathly afraid I’m going to run over somebody or something, constantly check behind and around me to make sure I haven’t (a small bump in the road becomes full on panic I’ve hit something or someone!). These have been but a few of my OCD struggles.
Up until recently, I would go about my day, accepting the 10 minutes extra I needed to get out of the house, extra time checking all around me before I put my car in drive and left for the day – just building that time into my day. And, thankfully, I have learned to laugh at myself regarding these OCD struggles. And, in the past few years, the one thing that has helped more than anything, has been inviting God into my OCD struggles – asking Him to help me get through them. Never once, though, did I ask Him to take them away. I accepted it as one of my crosses, and saw how God worked through my struggles to help others.
An Unexpected Healing
In all this flurry of writing on my OCD struggles, I haven’t begun to discuss the amazing blessings I’ve received and spiritual growth I’ve had throughout recent years (although you can find out more about this in the rest of my blog posts). Most importantly, I’ve learned to listen to His call, His voice, His peace to guide me. Back in August, I answered His call and gave up something extremely important to me, something which I felt defined me and I gained great satisfaction from (and in reflecting more on it, fed my desire for approval from others and increased my pride). However, the blessings from giving this up have been abundant. The control I had to let go of and release to Him to give this up was…well, something I didn’t feel I could ever do at one point. However, blessings flowed abundantly from this “yes” to the Lord, including, unexpected blessings.
Back to Past September
…this healing the Lord had given me was unexpected, and for someone who suffered with intense compulsions of OCD which I had suffered with my whole life, this was not something I would have ever dreamed to ask for.
I had just realized what had happened only a few minutes ago. After ensuring Winston and Jake were safe in the house, I locked up, got in my car, backed it up, put it into drive and headed on my way. At no time during this process did I spend the extra 10 minutes checking the stove was off, the coffee maker and the curling iron were unplugged. I did not spend any extra time – at all – checking all around me for things I might have run into as I backed up. It even occurred to me the night before I didn’t even once double check I had taken the right amount of medication. And the more I thought about, the more I hadn’t been doing these things for quite a few days. In fact, other OCD struggles had decreased significantly or seemed to have evaporated into thin air. But why, how is this possible?
Now, my first thought was, maybe I’ve been consumed with other things in life. However, this was not the case at all. In fact, with giving up what God had asked me to, there was more time and much less stress in my life, which normally would have provided ample opportunities to be consumed by my OCD struggles.
So how is it possible that all of a sudden, these OCD compulsions that I’ve always struggled with, been tormented by, and accepted as part of my life, were suddenly gone or reduced to such an insignificant degree that they almost didn’t exist at all and I had done nothing differently therapeutically or medically to change it?
I felt, as I was driving down my neighborhood street, God smiled down on me. He filled me with His love, and then, I knew. It was His healing, healing in only the way God can give it. It was a gift, and a blessing. I believe this healing directly correlated with the sacrifice I made in giving up something that was extremely important to me to follow His will. And it is a blessing I needed to share. I could go on (and on and on) about how amazed I am by this blessing, this gift, this healing.
I would be lying if I said, however, some of these OCD struggles never returned, but when they have, it has been to a very small degree and been when I wasn’t trusting in Him, when I wasn’t following His will. They are only minor even then, though, but serve as a reminder to trust in Him.
Please know I am extremely grateful for all the amazing support, therapy and care I’ve received over the years. It is a blessing from God when we receive support and care to help us with our struggles in life. I do not know why it was this cross God took from me, as opposed to others that I still continue to bear. The Lord, more than anyone, knows how undeserving I am of this gift, this healing. Yet, He healed me anyway. To this day, I am amazed at this gift, this healing. I continue to ponder it, and praise God for it. It is truly a blessing, and if you struggle at all from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to any degree, you understand why I call it “miraculous.”
Thank you for listening to this story of healing. May God, in His Goodness and Mercy, heal you where it will bring glory to Him, and give you His strength to continue to bear your crosses where it will bring others closer to Him. May we accept all freely, willingly – joys, blessings, suffering, crosses – as coming from Him. May we always turn to Him in gratitude for these gifts of healing and suffering in our lives, in order that we may abandon ourselves into His Merciful, Compassionate and Healing Heart. In all things, may God’s will be done.