Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Worst Therapist Appointment: Part 2

In my previous post, you learned what happened in the waiting room on an emergency visit to a new therapist. It was April '08, and I was in the midst of an OCD crisis. I thought it didn't matter who I talked to for OCD help. Boy was I wrong.

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When they called my name I had never been more ready to get out of a waiting room. I found my way through the narrow hallway (remember, this place was like a rent-a-shed) and into the therapist's office. We began to talk about me.

He was "nice" in the most general sense of the word. If not for the OCD and the events of the prior 15 minutes, on any other occasion I would have found him satisfactory. But of course since this was the re-opening of my case, we had to go through all the silly stuff. What do I like to do? Where do I work? Am I married? How do I feel about myself? You know, all of the typical cognitive behavioral treatment getting-to-know you prodding. I only had 45 minutes with this guy, I thought, so let's get on with it.

"What do you do to relax? You should try Yoga." He went on to some generic gibberish about yoga, mantras, etc. I wasn't listening. When there were only 15 minutes left on the clock, we finally talked about why I was there.

It's Me with Scrupulosity
My obsessions at this time in my life are key to the story. At times I have dealt with scrupulosity, and this was one of them. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, scrupulosity is OCD with a religious spin.

People who deal with scrupulosity often feel a sense of inadequacy before God, and apply OCD to their spiritual lives. For example, they may repeat prayers, never feeling like they were "done right" or they somehow "didn't count." Long story short, I am a Christian and I believe in salvation through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. But scrupulosity exists completely separate from strength of faith. (I will devote an upcoming blog post about scrupulosity in depth.)

My scrupulosity, at this time, was stronger than it had ever been. My grandfather had just passed away, and I guess you could say that stirred up some fears about the afterlife. I felt the need to ask God for forgiveness of a very personal sin. I did what the scrupulous do. I repeated prayers. I asked my husband to pray with me over and over. I even asked for reassurance, by seeking the advice of anyone I could trust to see if they thought God forgave me. It was different than "regular" OCD because I thought I could never really know if I was forgiven until I died.

Awkward Help
I thought my appointment with this new therapist would give me just enough reassurance to move on to another worry, or finally, to peace. He asked me about my worry, and I told him about it.

I think he said something like, "Everybody does that." So? That didn't matter to me. My OCD was still telling me that I hadn't really repented because I had inklings what I did was wrong when I did it. What did the therapist have to say about that, my OCD challenged him.

"Well, what does Jesus teach? Jesus teaches forgiveness." He was right. I knew it, of course, but thought, Ok, let's see what kind of a therapist we're working with here.

"Remember? In the Bible? The prostitute. Jesus said she didn't have to be stoned," he went on, making awkward allusions to one of the most (dare I say) widely-known, too-convenient pieces of scripture. People who don't know anything about the Bible know this story. And HE thought he could use this to fix ME?! It was the way he said it that got to me. Like I was supposed to believe that this new-agey guy really understood me. The moment he began misquoting scripture was the moment I checked out. For a second time that day, I had already mentally left the builiding.

Why This Matters
If I was going to be invested in this guy, and trust that he would be invested in me, I had to know that he understood me. He clearly did not. He didn't understand my beliefs, my faith, or what I hold dear. One on hand, I needed to talk to a Christian counselor. On the other, I needed someone who understood OCD and how it permeates everything that is important to me.

The moral? I needed to find a therapist who could meet me on my level. Since then, I have, and she is fantastic! Now my scrupulosity is at bay and I'm not struggling with it very often.

Even better, the healthy me knows that I don't have to die to know I'm forgiven. The Bible says, and I'm paraphrasing, "as far as the east is from the west, God will separate you from your sin." Period. Doubting God is distrusting God. It's the hardest lesson for an OCDer, but I'm working on it.


  1. I went through a period of that during a breakdown a couple of winters ago. I was absolutely frantic. I even went to a priest for absolution.

  2. Yeah blogger, doubt there are many people on your level. lol
    Me included of course!

  3. I'm agnostic now, but when I was religious my OCD was debilitating. I would also repeat things, not necessarily prayers, but just things that for some reason made me feel less anxious.

    To be honest, once I became honest to myself with religion and decided I was done taking advice from the bible my life became easier. Not to say that works for everyone, but it did for me.

    Best Wishes

  4. Would you consider telling me a little about what you did to finally get the guilt of your past mistake to subside? If it's too personal I understand.