Trials and Triumph: My journey with Relationship and Religious OCD

By Payton Cook
6 minute READ
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My OCD started when I was 15. One night I happened to be scrolling on Instagram and I saw a biblical scripture regarding the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. After I read the quote, my heart began to pound out of my chest. My thoughts became fixated on having upset God and committing the unforgivable sin. I sat up in my bed in distress. I could no longer think properly, nor could I find any peace of mind. I was operating in complete panic. 

For the next month, my mind tortured me. My thoughts were all blasphemous statements about God and Jesus Christ, stating that I was going to Hell and I would be punished for committing this sin because I was evil. All of these thoughts seemed to be out of my control. I felt like my mind was no longer my own, and the things I was thinking felt so real. I believed that if I was plagued with the guilt of having sinned against God — if I was having these blasphemous thoughts — then I must have committed a serious transgression without knowing it. 

Suffering, I went to the internet (the worst place to go when you’re mentally spiraling) and Googled “symptoms of having committed the unforgivable sin.” I was desperate for answers but only became more panicked. I prayed constantly whenever I was alone and couldn’t focus on anything but my sin. I felt like I was all alone, plagued with thoughts and feelings I didn’t understand. 

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My mom made an appointment with a family preacher who gave me context to the terrifying scripture I had read and reassured me that God still loved me. Slowly, the obsessive thoughts began to wear off and become quieter in my mind, and I was eventually able to return to everyday life. The bad thoughts became little whispers — but they never fully went away. Not sure what else to do, I accepted these unwanted thoughts as my new normal.

Things felt more or less normal for a while. I graduated high school with honors and went to an acclaimed university, and I felt like I had my whole life ahead of me. But when the scripture popped up this time, I went into an episode of panic that would last two months. I lost 15 pounds, and I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was barely functioning. I prayed all the time, asking God why I was being punished again and what I had done to deserve this torture. The thoughts got increasingly worse at night, to the point that I was going days without sleeping. Exhausted, I even started experiencing hallucinations. I thought I was a goner, beyond saving. It felt like I was drowning. Each day I was literally fighting myself for my own sanity. 

Praying and confessing to God that I was sorry for what I did hadn’t made me feel any better, and I didn’t know what else to do. I was lost and felt ashamed that I wasn’t strong enough to cope with my own thoughts, and that my mind was controlling me. I felt weak and unlovable because I was incapable of coping with these thoughts. 

One of the hardest parts was feeling like I let my parents down and that they were disappointed in me. My dad didn’t understand the extent of my distress, and he expressed frustration that I wasn’t able to handle my mental health. I could barely focus on my classes because I was too mentally disturbed to function. When my counselor at school saw how inconsolable I was, he got me in contact with a great on-campus therapist who was my saving grace. I still had no diagnosis, but I was going to therapy two times a week, unleashing my darkest unwanted thoughts to my therapist. 

Eventually, I began to research my experience with these unwanted religious thoughts, and I found that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I discovered a whole community of people online who felt just like me, and they had something called religious obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I saw myself in that diagnosis, and it felt good to know that I was not alone. I was able to return to my normal coursework schedule and finished my freshman year with a 3.4 GPA — not too bad considering what I went through with my mental health.

My most intense episode happened when I was 23 and lasted for two and a half months. My religious OCD became tangled into what became my relationship OCD. I met my boyfriend and fell for him hard. I thought I’d never come off of cloud nine, until relationship OCD hit me like a ton of bricks. One day I was reading a Christian faith-based relationship book and I got a thought in my head that my boyfriend was not the one for me. It was an unwanted thought, followed by extreme panic. My religious OCD was now intertwined with my relationship.

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The thoughts: “He will never call you again,” “He is not the one,” “You’re not pleasing God,” “You’re going to Hell,” “You don’t love him; you’re lying to yourself.” The thoughts kept growing louder, and it was becoming hard to get out of bed, let alone to eat and shower. I did not understand how I could be experiencing unwanted thoughts around a relationship that had been so positive. I became incredibly stressed, and I would tell myself over and over again, “I do love him, and he is right for me.” The religious OCD thoughts were getting stronger, and the certainty that I was going to Hell for upsetting God, both by committing the unforgivable sin and by being with my boyfriend was unbearable. I literally felt like I was dying. No matter how much I reassured myself, nothing brought me comfort. I began to Google, “How to know your boyfriend is the one,” “How to know you really love your boyfriend,” and “Signs that your boyfriend likes you.” I was searching for answers everywhere, and nothing was making me feel better. 

What was really difficult was trying to tell my boyfriend what was happening. I would tell him bits and pieces, showing him OCD forums and trying to get him to understand. He was being as supportive as he could be, but I was becoming unstable. The worst day of all was when I woke up and had to remind myself who my boyfriend was, because he suddenly felt like a stranger to me. I was disassociating from the extreme mental stress. I could no longer sleep in my bed. I was sleeping on the living room couch because I feared being alone.  

My boyfriend suggested that I take a break from the relationship so that I could get myself together mentally, but I couldn’t accept that. I thought that if I took a break that I would be proving that he was not the one. After weeks of this continued spiral I told him he was right. I did need to take a break from the relationship. It was the hardest conversation I ever had to have in my life. I felt suicidal because I couldn’t save myself, and I was hurting those I loved with my OCD behavior. 

The next day, my dad took me to a mental health partial-care facility after I made the decision that I was not able to get through the experience on my own. Partial care was an interesting experience. I was around people with all different kinds of mental illness, from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. Unfortunately, I was misdiagnosed and given medication that made me feel isolated and disconnected. I missed my boyfriend more and more each day, but knew I was not healthy enough to be with him. 

After a few weeks, I decided partial care was not the right environment for me. I was released and did telehealth two times a week. A few months later, I began to do OCD therapy through NOCD, where I received the correct diagnosis of OCD and was able to start my healing journey in the right direction.

NOCD has been a lifesaver for me. I was able to get an ocd therapist and I practice exposure and response therapy daily. I was able to return to a state of normalcy and my boyfriend and I rekindled our relationship because I was healthy enough to be in it. The religious and relationship OCD thoughts were still there, but not as loud. The relationship OCD stresses me out more some days than others, but I journal my mental discomfort and try to stay as busy as possible. My boyfriend and I are doing great, and I couldn’t ask for a more understanding and loving partner. I still have my tough days, but with the help of my NOCD therapist, ERP therapy, journaling, and support from my loved ones, my brighter days outweigh my darker ones.

Payton Cook

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