I had scary, intrusive thoughts from a very young age. For a long time, I thought they meant something bad about me. I would try very hard not to think about them, but that only seemed to make them stronger. I didn’t feel safe with myself because I never knew when an upsetting, awful thought would occur to me and fill my mind. I would feel so guilty about these thoughts and ultimately blame myself for them.
These thoughts were usually about two themes — sexuality or religion. I decided to follow Jesus at a young age, and my relationship with God has always been very important to me. The Bible says that to know God is to have eternal life, and that has been true for me. God is kind, He’s creative and beautiful and He loves me. But for a long time, I had trouble believing those things because of my intrusive thoughts. Instead of experiencing God’s peace, I would worry that something was wrong with me. I felt so much shame and I didn’t know how to heal from it. I asked God for help and sometimes my intrusive thoughts would get better, but then they would get worse again.
As a hormonal teenager, I had a really hard time with sexually intrusive thoughts. Since then, I have learned that hormonal changes can impact OCD and make it worse! At the time, I battled constant intrusive thoughts that sexualized everything around me — from my friends to animals and even children. I never wanted to be with people because I was afraid of what would come into my mind. Deep down, I knew I would never act on these thoughts and that I didn’t actually want to. However, the ideas that came into my head were so horrible that I spent a lot of time feeling miserable and beating myself up about them. I did open up about my feelings with close friends and family, and that helped. However, I would always end up back in a spiral of intrusive thoughts, shame, and emotional exhaustion. I cried a lot.
Several things happened over the years that helped me to deal with intrusive thoughts and my anxiety over them. One morning before my devotional time, I had the phrase “In quietness, and confident trust is your strength” repeated in my head over and over and over. I knew it was God talking to me because it sounded like His still, small voice instead of my own thoughts. I remember thinking pretty impatiently, “Okay, I get it!”
In my devotional that morning, the Scripture was Isaiah 30:15: “In quietness and confident trust is your strength, in repentance and rest is your salvation.” I felt God was telling me that I could stop fighting with my awful thoughts — I could say I was sorry and then rest instead of compulsively saying sorry again or beating myself up over them. After that, I did better by choosing to be quiet instead of responding with so much stress.
In 2020, I stayed up late to watch a friend’s concert on Facebook. I was scrolling while I listened to the music, and an ad from NOCD about scrupulosity OCD caught my eye. I started crying because it described exactly what I had experienced inside my head for most of my life. I felt so much relief, and after that, I started praying about going to therapy.
I was nervous about letting someone else into my head — I wasn’t sure I could trust them to steer me in a good direction. Most of the people I knew who talked about therapy either left their faith or turned into totally different people. However, I decided to go for it after remembering what God says in Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory.” I already had the Holy Spirit to guide me, but I knew that God also uses other people to help us heal.
My family was very supportive and made sure I had privacy during my sessions with OCD. I liked my therapist immediately and felt like a different person after just the first session. She was able to relieve so much pressure just by telling me that my thoughts didn’t reflect my moral character and that many other people were experiencing the same upsetting intrusive thoughts.
I was able to tell her about every wacky, weird thing I had done or thought about related to my innermost fears. She told me that OCD often attaches to the things we care about most — so my thoughts about religion and relationships actually meant that I was a kind, loving person. OCD was a result of my reaction to thoughts that were abhorrent to me. Unfortunately, trying to force them out of my head only meant I thought about them more.
It was crazy how quickly my intrusive thoughts receded — I got to a point where I could remain calm and completely ignore these thoughts, even laugh at their absurdity, instead of being frightened by them. I still struggle with obsessive thought patterns and irrational fears. However, I’m equipped now to recognize OCD for what it is and respond to it in a healthy way. I’ve been able to de-escalate my thought patterns and choose joy even when I’m tired, hormonal, or lonely — all triggers for me. I’m so grateful to God for leading me to NOCD and helping me understand and overcome so much of my inner turmoil. Jesus came to give us abundant life, and He’s a healer. Without Him, I don’t know how I would have survived these years of intrusive thoughts. He was always a safe place for me, even when I lumped my faith in with OCD.
1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” I was afraid to bring my thoughts into the light, but opening up led to relational healing in my life — with myself, God, and others.
If you’re on the fence about seeking help, be courageous and do it. OCD is much more prevalent than I realized and it’s not something you have to suffer from for the rest of your life. Regardless of any thoughts you’ve had or are having, you are worthy of love and fulfilling relationships with others. I know this because Jesus gave His life so you could be reconciled to God — you are worth that much to Him. God doesn’t want you to live in fear and He is never abusive or manipulative like intrusive thoughts are. If you ask Him for help, He’ll hear you and He’ll help you to heal — like He did for me!