The OCD Bully
I have lived with OCD for 21 years. Over that time it has tricked me, screamed at me, threatened to leave me, lied and twisted the truth, sulked for days on end, kept me awake fearing the future, night after night after night. It has kept me prisoner and sucked me into its tangled web of repetitive doubts until I am helpless and exhausted. The hardest thing is it looks at me through another man’s eyes – the eyes of the man I love. A good man, a gentle, talented man who loves Jesus and loves his family. A man who is an incredible priest with a passion for God and a love for people.
OCD - or ‘The Bully’ as it is better known in our house - thought it had finally beaten me 2 years ago. What it didn’t know was that I knew its name and I was not afraid. So as it spiralled and twisted viciously in my husband’s head, screaming ‘just let me check one more time’, I prayed a silent prayer and I said ‘No’.
No more checking, no more phoning, no more emailing for reassurance.
The Bully is a Liar
After 19 years, I had finally realised that when I co-operate with The Bully, I am actually colluding with him. I am telling him that he might actually be right- that my dear gentle husband might actually be the monster The Bully tells him he is. But I know one thing for sure. The Bully is a liar. With OCD, what is wrong is not the thinking itself but the thought process.
"A child sat on my lap, what if I hurt it?"
"What if I left the light on at work and burned the place down?"
"What if I bath my baby son and I hurt him?"
"What if I hit someone in my car and they are dead at the side of the road and I didn’t know?"
"What if I don’t lock the windows at work and someone gets in and steals our top secret designs?"
"What if I unwittingly perform a sham marriage?" (This one designed just for unsuspecting priests along with its sidekick ‘What if I bury the wrong body?’)
A different scenario each time, but identical faulty wiring. "What if…what if…what if…."
My husband’s brain is faulty. Like my son’s laptop that’s been playing too many first person shooters for its tiny memory, Adam’s brain experiences thought overload and then, just like my son’s computer, it gets stuck in a loop and the only way to fix it is to crash it and reboot it. Sadly, unlike my son’s computer, Adam’s brain is not under warranty: I can’t send it to a little man to get the frontal lobe changed and I certainly can’t take it back and get a replacement.
Time to Reboot
When I took the decision to force a reboot 2 years ago, it was really only the presence of God that gave me the courage, I had no real clue what would happen. So I sat on him in the middle of the night, holding him tight as he screamed and cried and pulled his hair out in clumps and I prayed and I prayed. I’m not sure how long it took, a couple of hours maybe, but he crashed – spent of all energy. 2 large whiskeys later and we all managed to get some sleep.
The following morning I realised we had indeed sent 'The Bully' packing, but that his friends Depression and Suicidal Thoughts had moved in instead. Bizarrely, I find them easier to live with. They somehow don’t seem quite as irrational or demanding as The Bully. They always outstay their welcome of course, but I find they can be soothed by love and kindness and as a family, we are pretty good at that.
Adam’s ‘breakdown’ lasted about 6 months. He tried to go back to work after 3, but for various reasons things just didn’t work out and he never returned to that particular place. However, God is good, and despite so much pain and trauma he has indeed brought beauty out of brokenness.
We realised as a family, that it would be best if we made space for The Bully in our lives. By that I don’t mean we set up a spare room for him – I’m not that hospitable! But that just like anyone who lives with a chronic condition, we had to adjust. Incredibly, that adjusting - which involved Adam working part time and me working full time - made space for God to work and for Adam to discover his true vocation as a pioneer minister and artist. (Revs Event and Art)
The Three P's
‘The Bully’ of course didn’t travel far. Some days it feels like he’s just round the corner, peddling his ‘what ifs’ like a dodgy market trader, kept at bay only by peace, prayer and Prozac. But those 3 P’s can be a formidable force if you’re not afraid to use them. And I’m certainly not.
For more help with the agressive, intrusive toughts propogated by OCD we recommend OCD ACTION.
Wife, mother, priest, ex-mental health nurse, Jesus follower...