Scrupulosity OCD stories: Step on a crack, break Mother Mary's back

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This is a true story about growing up with Scrupulosity OCD. A highly distressing psychological disorder primarily characterized by pathological guilt or obsession associated with religious issues.

A child with scrupulosity OCD is praying at a window when it is raining outside.

Scrupulosity OCD stories

Step on a crack, break Mother Mary's back: Living with religious OCD

Check the locks twenty times before you go to bed at night. Check that the stove is off repeatedly. Flip a light switch ten times. I wish it was that simple, but my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder never allowed for simplicity. It doesn't cut me slack. It dislikes me too much.


For those obsessively and compulsively checking and counting, it's a nightmare. That much, I know. So, when I was seven years old, and I had my first intrusive thought, I never thought I would become aware of a world where I would know of a thing called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 


Let alone a type of OCD called Scrupulosity or also known as religious OCD. So, simply put, a person's obsessions revolve around religion. Be it obsessing about having committed a sin or worrying about walking down the street, getting hit by a bus, and then burning in hell for all eternity because you didn't flip a light switch repeatedly.

Growing up in a devout Christian household

Growing up in a devout Christian household came with church on Sundays, Sunday school, and a very well-instilled fear of God. I was seven years old. I was sitting in my bedroom, playing as kids do. Then, a random thought popped into my head. A thought that I never would have imagined would change my life forever. This foreign thought was just suddenly there. What was this thought? I needed to get up, go to my mom's bedroom where she was taking a nap, and tell her that there was a girl in my class at school who had called God a bad name. 


For a moment, there on the floor, I couldn't move. Where did that thought just come from? Shock and dismay overwhelmed my young brain. I didn't even know what shock and dismay were at the time, but everything just felt wrong. So feeling an immense sense of dread, I walked to my mother's bedroom. I stood at her bed for a moment, contemplating what I was about to do. I didn't want to, but fear and anxiety were growing. I woke up my mom. I told her about the girl in my class that called God a bad name. 


Of course, no girl did that. My mind told me I had to say those things or else something terrible would happen to me. I can't remember what, but by the fear I remember from that day, it couldn't have been something good. It was just one terrible thought, but one that would branch out and grow from there. I asked my mom a few years ago if she remembered that day. She couldn't. Lucky her. I wish I could forget it.


Read more: Cleanliness is next to Godliness


My intrusive thoughts were getting worse

As time passed and the years passed, the intrusive thoughts would keep coming. Always about God, intertwined with something bad. Constantly being bombarded by thoughts that I would go to hell if I didn't perform a ritual, like if I didn't rinse a plate twice, for example. Thoughts about if I prayed my prayers would go to the Devil instead of God. There are thousands of examples. 


My brain is on repeat. A constant loop. No hitting the pause button. Things even progressed to where it would become so out of control, that those blasphemous thoughts would now pop into my head.


So there I was, probably not even ten years old, sitting in church. Swearing at God. I was horrified. It didn't matter that I didn't mean these thoughts or that I had no control over them. They were coming from me, so I blamed myself. It would take me a long time to accept the fact that I was mentally ill and that I wouldn't be held accountable for what was happening to me. 


Unfortunately, that ten-year-old kid sitting terrified in the church pews listening to a reverend talk about sins and hellfire didn't know she was sick yet. Maybe if I knew at the time what was happening to me was because of faulty brain chemistry, life wouldn't have been so utterly terrifying.


Not only was I living with the OCD, but also the guilt that came along with it. Having these terrible thoughts about and towards God. I am a religious person. I believe in God. Where were these things coming from ?It didn't make sense, but I have come to find that mental illness seldomly makes sense.

Telling my mom about my intrusive thoughts

I became an expert at hiding what was happening. I never told a soul. How could I? No one would possibly understand. I stuck it out. I hoped every day that the next day would be better. That the intrusive thoughts would get better. That they would maybe even be gone. That never happened.


I had a stable, loving home. Great friends. I couldn't complain. Yet, the intrusive thoughts started coming at me even faster and more severe. It was only at sixteen years old that the weight of carrying the illness for nearly ten years would come crashing down. I would stay up for days on end, watching the sun rise and set. I yearned for sleep, for rest. My mind wouldn't allow it. 


In a moment of sleepless delirium, I did something that I never thought I would do. Tell someone what was happening in my head, as years before, I made my way to my mother's room. Sat down next to her and told her everything that had happened in my head up to that point. I held my breath as I studied her face, waiting for a horrified expression. It didn't come. Instead, I was met with sympathy and empathy. Relief flooded my body, and for a second, I had peace.

Telling the reverend about my intrusive thoughts

That peace, of course, would pass. By the next day, the thoughts were back in full force and there was a reverend in our living room. I was the one who had requested his presence. I wanted to know from a man of God what was wrong with me. What was happening to me? Why was it happening? I told him about the thoughts I had in the past as well as presently. Big mistake.


The man looked at me with judgment and confusion. Maybe even some fear. If this man were a priest, he would throw buckets of holy water on me. It was the wrong thing to have done at the time. A reverend could only see the religious side. Even though my illness tied in with religion and spirituality, it was just that, a mental illness. I needed medical treatment, not the judgment of a reverend who could never understand.

Getting a medical diagnosis for Scrupulosity OCD

The next step was a psychologist. The diagnosis was finally made. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Scrupulosity OCD.


What is Scrupulosity?


Scrupulosity is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine.  

Source: International OCD Foundation



After years I got an answer to a question. There was a sense of relief but also a bit of dread. I was mentally ill. What would become of me? Would I be okay? Would I be what ableists call a "crazy lady" sitting on the bus, talking to myself while strangers gawked at me? I would hope not the latter, but with how things were going, it was very much a possibility.


I would see the psychologist once a week and a psychiatrist once a month. I was put on antidepressants, anxiety medications, and sleeping pills. Once those entered my system for the first time, I felt fantastic. Yes, the thoughts were still there, but they were being drowned out by all those new chemicals. The thoughts were almost silent, even some of them gone for a while. I knew they were still there, beneath the surface, but for a bit, I felt fantastic. My mood improved. I could sleep. I could function. I thought this was it. I was going to be alright. I was very wrong.


My system would become used to the medication over time and would build up resistance. It was back to square one. Changes in my medication were made every few months. It wasn't an exact science. There were hits and misses. Once again, I started having more bad days than good. The scrupulosity OCD that was under the surface for a while came flooding back.

Years would follow with me being treated like a lab rat by doctors. Try this, try that. I didn't mind it entirely. I was hoping that soon they would find the right cocktail of pills, and I would have some control of my mind again. It was only four years ago that I was put on the right mixture of pills. Well, as close to right as they could come. I couldn't reach that place of serenity I had when I was first put on pills, but I could get through the day. I'm still at that place. I ask myself a lot, shouldn't there be more than that? Just moving from one day to the next in mental anguish. Unfortunately, this is the hand I was dealt. There is no way around that. Do I hope for rainbows and butterflies? Yes, and sometimes I even get them. Sometimes for a few seconds or minutes or even hours, but no longer than that.


Since that day in the bedroom, where my mind turned on me and became the enemy, I had started grieving. Through the years, I would experience the five stages of grief. I was grieving the loss of a normal mind. The loss of a normal life. Denial came early on before I was diagnosed. Telling myself each day that tomorrow would be different. Tomorrow the OCD would be gone. Then there was the denial after my official diagnosis. I was a mentally ill individual. Anger followed. At God, at life. Sometimes I would just take it out on anyone in my way. Bargaining came next. I begged God to make it stop. I would do anything if He made the OCD just go away. He didn't make it go away, so I moved on to the depression part. The all hope is gone moment. That one lasted for a while and almost became as bad as the OCD itself. I did leave the depression behind, but sometimes I revisit it. 

People know about the garden variety OCD. I don't have that kind. I have Scrupulosity OCD. A highly distressing psychological disorder primarily characterized by pathological guilt or obsession associated with religious issues.

Acceptance of scrupulosity, OCD and mental illness

Then, the last one. Acceptance. That one was the hardest and bitterest pill to swallow. 


Accepting it meant there was no turning back. 


That I was mentally ill and would be living with a psychiatric illness until the day I die. It was a sad thought, but I would rather accept my fate than spend time in a grief-stricken state. 


Scrupulosity OCD or religious OCD, whatever you want to call it, almost made me give up more than once. With my head full of repulsive, problematic thoughts, how could it not have crossed my mind? 


In death, there would be silence. Something I long for. The thing is, OCD has taken so much from me I won't let it take my literal life. The illness may be powerful, but I also have strength. 


I get weary and tired of fighting it, and there are days that I desperately want to give up, but then I get a good day. Not a perfect day, but a good day. Those are the days worth living for. That's why I stay.


Do my scrupulosity OCD stories have a happy ending? I don't know. Maybe science discovers a way to cure psychiatric illness one day. Maybe the OCD just stops one day. Maybe I spend the rest of my life battling it. All I know is I will be sticking around to find out.

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Article by
Carla Bester

Carla Bester, author of "Scrupulosity OCD stories: Step on a crack, break Mother Mary's back," is an aspiring screenwriter. Branching out into different styles of writing. Scrupulosity OCD and depression sufferer. Studied film, TV and video production after high school. She is a bit of a dark and twisted one. Life has kicked the crap out of her, but she is still going. Carla likes her literature and films - dark, quirky and maybe even a bit disturbing.

Caption:

"People know about the garden variety OCD. I don't have that kind. I have Scrupulosity OCD. A highly distressing psychological disorder primarily characterized by pathological guilt or obsession associated with religious issues. This is one of my many scrupulosity OCD stories." | Photo ©Joa Souza/Adobe Stock

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