January 26th, 2006

Your Brain: Use It

OCD and "the spirit"

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don't have it all that severely but it does cause some problems.

For a little while now I have been thinking about OCD and my experience with the LDS church. Since leaving the church I have slowly managed to lower my dosage of Zoloft (which I have taken for a long time mostly to help with the OCD) and I seem to be doing quite a bit better. I don't necessarily expect that I will ever be cured of my OCD but leaving the church has actually helped it. The mormon church was exploiting my OCD. Both OCD and the LDS church are enveloped in unhealthy "superstitions" that controlled my life.

LDS believe in what they call "promptings," that is, the holy ghost speaks to them. Like if an LDS person is driving and suddenly they feel like they should slow down and then they see a policeman...the story could be like "I was prompted by the spirit to slow down and I avoided a speeding ticket because I listened to the spirit!" or even "I got a speeding ticket today because I didn't listen when the spirit prompted me to slow down." Sometime the things are really trivial and sometimes they are bigger or more important. Basically any feeling about something, rational or irrational, could potentially be a prompting from the holy ghost. LDS feel it is important to listen to the promptings of the spirit. If the spirit prompted me to check if my door was locked and I obeyed that prompting I might never know what could have happened if I had not obeyed but I must obey the spirit to avoid something terrible from potentially happening.

When I, a sufferer of OCD, felt the need to check the lock on the door over and over to make sure it was locked, I often wasn't sure if this was my OCD or a prompting of the spirit. to me it felt the same. My strange little rituals took on another level. the feeling of needing to check a lock or do something a certain way might be the spirit. I had to listen to it. Many destructive OCD behaviors could be even more crucial to me because the spirit might be speaking to me. I might be actually being prompted by the holy ghost. In this way my OCD was exploited and worsened. I can't and don't blame the church for my OCD but I think it made it worse and reinforced my behavior.

It is amazing now how I do feel more power over my OCD with the LDS church and it's "promptings" out of the way. If I feel I need to check that the door is locked, even though I know it is, I can think to myself "It's only the OCD. I don't have to listen to it." instead of thinking "maybe this is a prompting from the holy ghost and if I don't do it something terrible could happen!" I have more control and I feel better. I still have some feelings that eat at me, telling me to do things, but it isn't as hard to reject them as before. The "spirit" is no longer involved. I can look at it more realistically instead of having to worry that some magical messenger from god is trying to tell me something.
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