Today’s scrupulosity story comes from Jae Dakota*, an aspiring blogger from Minnesota who writes about faith and mental health.
Jae, thank you for being willing to share your story today! You’ve definitely come a long way in your journey with OCD. Can you tell our readers how your scrupulosity story began?
I started having intrusive thoughts back when I was in high school, about ten years ago. These uncomfortable thoughts started bothering me more and more, so it turned into a form of OCD. Then, about six years ago, my OCD developed into another form involving my faith.
Six years ago, my mom was sick for a few months and almost passed away during that time. This was also about a year and a half after my dad died, so my anxiety was already amplified. I’m sure I was upset with God for a brief moment while all of this was happening, so my OCD decided to grab onto that and attack my faith. I started having intrusive blasphemous thoughts towards God and they made me extremely uncomfortable to the point where I would be praying constantly asking for forgiveness. This became a vicious cycle which is where my scrupulosity story began.
How did you eventually figure out that you had OCD?
I figured out I had OCD when I went to a therapist and described to her the thoughts I was having. I explained that I would have these random thoughts pop into my head about God that made me uncomfortable, usually including something blasphemous, and how my anxiety would spike each time I had one. My anxiety increased because I started worrying that God wouldn’t forgive me for my thoughts, so I decided to pray. Unfortunately, these prayers eventually turned into a compulsion, instead of meaningful prayer. The fear I had of God’s unforgiveness was something that was on my mind constantly, which made me feel on edge a lot.
My therapist decided to give me a book that defined what OCD was. This book was helpful to explain the different types of intrusive thoughts people can have and what common compulsions are associated. It was very eye opening to know this was a common disorder and made me feel less alone and less crazy, because usually when people talk about OCD, it involves cleaning or order, but I had never heard of an OCD that involved random, disturbing thoughts. Eventually when I was reading about the common forms of obsessions and compulsions people have, I realized that not only had I developed religious OCD, but also I had been experiencing other forms of OCD for years without even realizing it. I knew I had intrusive thoughts and I knew I would do actions to try to get rid of them, but I didn’t understand that is what OCD was until I went to this therapist. It helped me put a puzzle piece together of something I didn’t understand for a long time.
What would you say was the darkest moment of your scrupulosity story?
My darkest moment with this OCD was about a month or two ago. I was feeling down and stressed about some things going on in my personal life and when I am stressed or anxious, my OCD amplifies tremendously, which means my scrupulosity was at an all time high. These blasphemous thoughts towards God starting happening so often that I started questioning if I actually meant them and if He could even love or forgive me. I felt very unloving and that I didn’t deserve to be happy because of these thoughts towards Him. I also became afraid of Him, worrying that he would punish me for these thoughts. Eventually I became afraid to be happy, because I was worried that either I would be punished by God or I just didn’t deserve it in general, so I became very sad. Every time I would have an event coming up, I would start to get more and more anxious and not allow myself to get excited about it.
It was my darkest moment with OCD because it pulled me away from God and I started self-punishing myself because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. I became a totally different person and started fearing God for the wrong reasons. It was a very dark place for a while. This was probably the worst moment in my scrupulosity story.
Now you’re blogging about your experience with scrupulosity and trying to encourage others, which is awesome. How did that happen? Was there a turning point? Tell us a bit about that.
When I started developing mental health issues back in high school, it wasn’t well talked about back then. Mental health was somewhat of a foreign concept to me and my family, so I felt very alone and scared not knowing what was going on inside of my mind. Eventually, I read others’ stories on their experiences with anxiety and OCD and I related to them. This helped me feel less alone and made me feel understood.
I decided that I wanted to share my scrupulosity story because I told myself if I could even reach one person who felt less alone after reading one of my posts, then I would be very grateful. I want mental health to be more talked about, so that is another reason I started my blog. I wanted to be able to help others in the way others helped me. Although, I used to be so afraid to talk about my mental health, I decided that the only way for it to get better is to talk about it, so I decided to share my thoughts and experiences and I am very grateful I decided to. It also is like a form of therapy for me because I am such an external processor. Writing out my thoughts helps me make sense of what is going on in my mind and if someone else can relate to that as well, then it can be a beautiful thing.
You mentioned to me that you feel like scrupulosity is so much more difficult to treat than other forms of OCD. Can you tell me a bit about why you feel that way?
For me, scrupulosity is harder to treat than other forms of OCD and that reason is because of the close relationship with God we have in our faith. I can’t speak for everyone with OCD, but mine involves intrusive thoughts that can be related to anything disturbing. I had learned through therapy that the way to treat this kind of OCD was to “let go” of the thought and not attach a feeling of anxiety or fear to it. Before I knew I had scrupulosity, I used to have those thoughts about random people. When this would happen, it was disturbing to me and my anxiety would rise, but I was able to kind of let the thought go, per se, because I knew I didn’t mean it, and because if it was someone random, I usually didn’t have any feelings towards them.
When I started having these thoughts towards God, my therapist told me the treatment is the same where you have to “let go” of the thought and not attach meaning to them. However, in my faith, we learn that if you sin in any way, you should pray for forgiveness, even though I know that God forgives me already. In my mind, if I was to have a blasphemous thought about God, which felt like a sin, and I was to just let it go, that was like saying, “it’s okay that I had that thought and I don’t need to ask for forgiveness,” so I would continue to pray, which turned into a compulsion. The only way I could treat scrupulosity was by letting go of the thought, which felt like a sin, so it can be a vicious cycle that is very difficult to work with. Having a thought like that towards God, who is such a strong part of my life, was a new level of uncomfortableness I can’t begin to explain. That’s why it is so much harder to treat for me than other forms.
What is something that you felt like was key to getting to a better place emotionally?
Going back to my faith was the key to being in a better place emotionally. I have this sheet on my phone full of coping statements that I read when I am caught up in my OCD. They say things like, “even though they feel real, intrusive thoughts say nothing about my true character” or “God understands that I don’t understand” and that helps me ground myself and remember my faith. It helps remind me that God is loving and is fighting along side of me, even though sometimes scrupulosity can make me feel like it’s me against God, when in reality, it is God and me against my OCD.
What is your relationship with God like today?
My relationship with God is a lot better. I know He has been fighting alongside of me while I have been working on my OCD as I can feel his presence through it. I just remember that He is a loving, caring God who forgives me and understands my OCD better than I ever will, and I find comfort in that. I’m very thankful that He never abandoned me when I felt like I didn’t deserve His love. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we have a loving God.
Thank you so much for sharing your scrupulosity story! Is there something you can say to encourage others with the same struggle?
If you are struggling with scrupulosity and your relationship with God, just remember His grace and that you are not alone in this. The love and forgiveness He has for all is unexplainable, and He understands OCD better than we do, so He understands that the things we say or feel aren’t true. He knows better than anyone. One thing I have thought in the past that has really helped me through my scrupulosity and relationship with God is I picture Him sitting next to me and simply saying, “Ignore what’s in your head, because I know what’s in your heart.”
Jae Dakota (a pen name) is an aspiring writer from Minnesota who likes to share her experiences with mental health and faith through stories and poetry. She aspires to reach people who may be struggling and make sure they know they are not alone. She has a blog called “Confessions of the Anxious Girl“ where she shares her experiences of how mental health can affect different aspects of life and how she has used faith and other insights to combat it. She can also be found sharing inspiring quotes about OCD on Instagram.