In the spring of 1975, something happened to me. It was triggered by a terrifying movie I saw and I became obsessed with keeping myself safe from the devil. I felt vulnerable, a wide open target, and so I made up rituals for protection. Counting rituals. Chanting in my head. At times I would be paralyzed and feel doomed. A hopeless condemnation to some evil fate.
A diagnosis of depression, anxiety and giftedness (they go together), plus a 6-month stint on antidepressants seemed to calm down my raging mind and the fears receded. I never, ever told the psychologist about those fears. I didn't have the words for them. (Aside: I have since read that the actual diagnosis of OCD didn't exist in 1975, though mine was a classic case.)
Fast forward to 2011. The Summer From Hell. My daughter had left home and left our family to live with her boyfriend and I was a failure as a mother. I was convinced that God hated me because I hadn't done it right. I hadn't trained her right. Hadn't taught her enough. Hadn't done the family devotions. Hadn't homeschooled her. Hadn't nurtured her appropriately. Hadn't made her sit still in church. Hadn't had one-on-one Bible studies with her. Hadn't taught her how to sew and cook and raise a garden. Hadn't made her memorize the catechism. Hadn't drilled into her the character traits she was to have to be a godly woman. Hadn't created in her more personal discipline by making her take piano beyond her interest. Hadn't followed the Ezzo Reign of Terror. Hadn't had enough family dinners and enough stimulating conversation. Hadn't gone camping enough. These were all things that I was told I had to do to be a good mother (Back then I was also supposed to grind my own wheat...seriously, it was all the rage). And I was not enough. I had not done them enough or at all. With her or with any of my 4 kids and I was convinced that God despised me for it.
I would sit in my car during church sob. I couldn't enter the building with those godly people who "did it right" when I was such a failure and an affront to God. I hated myself. I wanted to die. I thought that perhaps that would be the best option out there because then Matt could get a wife and the kids could get a mother who could "do it right."
Some people might say that motherhood was an idol to me. I will say right back that if that was the case, then it was an idol that I took down again and again only to have the Church raise that idol back up into my face. By that I mean that these messages were forever coming from the Christian culture that I lived in...church, Christian school, friends on Facebook, articles, etc. I don't know how many times I heard from Christian leaders "if you do it right, then.....," as if parenthood is a vending machine.
But somehow I knew there was something more to it. I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with OCD and the little bell in my head went ding, ding, ding. Of course! The rumination. The obsessive thinking. It all made sense. I remembered my 11 year-old self. It reared its ugly head again, made worse by my stress and my menopausal state. Later that day a friend mentioned the word scrupulosity. It was the piece of the puzzle complete the picture.
Scrupulosity is a form on OCD that obsesses over religious or moral issues. It is exactly what was going on back when I was 11, the average age of onset for OCD, by the way. It explains so much.
It explains why I am so sensitive to the "shoulds" out there and the wagging fingers and shaking heads and the culture where no matter what I do I am not "doing it right." Scrupulosity is particularly terrifying because your soul or favor with God depends upon your ability to perform your compulsions and live up to the highest of standards, much life a stereotypical OCD's health depends on his ability to keep his hands germ-free.
I have to fight every day for the truth. I have to fight hard. I have to fight against all of the things that our Christian culture throws at me that are nowhere required by Jesus who said that his "yoke is easy and his burden is light."
Martin Luther suffered from scrupulosity and much like Martin Luther, I find the additional requirements that the Church heaps upon its people to be an affront to God and a burden my soul cannot bear. This is why I speak so strongly about this. My life depends on it.
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