OCD Does not define me...

My name is Tamna but my friends call me Tam. I attend a church called Holy Trinity, work as an Operations Manager for a charity and moved to London 3,5 years ago. I have OCD. In fact, I’ve got what they call Pure O which is just the obsession without the compulsion. I have very inappropriate intrusive thoughts that cause me a lot of distress, doubt and fear.

I had my first intrusive thought 5 years ago and did not understand what was happening. As most people I thought that OCD was “the hand washing” disorder and as I had no problems with germs I just thought I’d gone mental. I couldn’t stop all those images, urges and ideas from coming into my mind and the anxiety I felt was indescribable. For 5 years I suffered alone because I felt too embarrassed to share it with anyone. I simply didn’t know what was happening to me. I would pray and ask God to take those thoughts away and to be honest on some occasions I even prayed for Him to take my life away! I withdrew from society and could barely do my job. I just wanted to hide. I was so afraid! After one year I found a psychiatrist that prescribed me some drugs that calmed me down but he didn’t give me any sort of diagnose. The drugs made me feel much calmer but from time to time I would go into a crisis not sure how to deal with it or what was happening to me.

I moved to London in 2010 still without any proper diagnosis. In a couple of occasions I faced 2 major triggers of my OCD that led me into a crisis. I isolated. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I couldn’t stop those thoughts from coming into my mind. I felt ashamed of the things I was thinking.  It was after my third crisis that I  decided that it was time to find out what that was all about.  I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit for guidance because I had decided to do my own research. I prayed a quick simple prayer while sitting in front of my computer: “God, I don’t know if I’m crazy or if I’m this terrible, disgusting person that my thoughts are telling me I am but I want to find out. Please show me the way”. I googled “anxiety” and slowly God guided me from one website to another and that’s when I realised I might have OCD! I couldn’t believe that OCD is such a vast illness and the variety of intrusive thoughts can range from sexual or violent intrusive thoughts, religious blasphemy, fear of harming someone you love or losing someone you love, fear of getting a disease, you name it!

The prayer changed…I started praying for God to show me a good professional that could help me and confirm if I really had OCD…at that stage I still feared I’d gone mad or was a terrible person! I spoke to a few counsellors but didn’t like any of them…after a long painful search I found a lady who has a vast experience with OCD. I told her I wanted to involve God and work together in order for me to manage my illness. She gave me some breathing exercises, I stared running and my first target was to read a book called “Can Christianity cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?”  Through that book I realised that great men and women that made amazing impact in the world had OCD such as Luther, Bunyan, you name it! They all had their battles but were extremely used by God and through faith they learned how to manage their OCD. I learned to stop trying to get rid of my intrusive thoughts but instead every time a horrible thought pops into my mind I immediately say: “Maybe I’m that horrible person, or maybe I’m not, I’ll give myself the benefit of a doubt and leave this doubt in Jesus hand and let Him deal with it”.

Slowly my OCD is having less power over me. I still have intrusive thoughts, ideas, urges but I’ve learned that faith is not the absence of doubt but it’s believing instead of my doubts and fears and also I learned that it’s not for me to deal with my doubt, Jesus can do it much better than I can. He knows what’s real and what’s not, I’m not going to try and figure it out. I’ll live my life…the life He died for me to have. I’m now in a much better place and have begun to do “exposure and response prevention  therapy” where I put myself in situations that might trigger my OCD and slowly I’m becoming stronger and learning to manage my OCD.

I’ve learned that my mental illness doesn’t define me, it’s just a small part of me. I’ve recently been promoted, have got lots of friends, face the difficult situations in life just like anyone would, am involved in church and all of that in spite of suffering from mental illness. If I can, you can. Just take one step at a time and with Jesus’ help you can have hope for the future.
Tamna, 28/11/2013