Although they have the potential to bring the most peace and strength to deal with mental illness, religion and spirituality are both really difficult when you have OCD or PTSD. Both disorders affect your ability to believe and to trust.
Here are just two descriptions about how these disorders affect trust: From the NAMI website: “OCD is often described as “a disease of doubt.” Individuals living with OCD experience “pathological doubt” because they are unable to distinguish between what is possible, what is probable and what is unlikely to happen.” http://www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=23035
From Helpguide.org website: Trauma alters the way a person sees the world, making it seem like a perpetually dangerous and frightening place. It also damages people’s ability to trust others and themselves. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-in-the-family.htm
Because I have both PTSD and OCD, its hard to tell which one is causing my difficulties with trusting when it comes to religion. My OCD has affected my practice of faith in others ways. I know its my OCD that used to make me pray for hours because I had to say each word perfectly, and that its my OCD that makes me hypervigilant for any slight moral imperfect that could cause God to condemn me to hell. PTSD has also affected my ability to practice my faith—the anxiety it causes often stops me from service to others I wish to give. And at times, panic attacks have prevented me from attending church meetings.
But I have other anxieties and difficulties—trust ones—related to spirituality and religion that I am unsure about whether they are caused by PTSD or OCD.
For example, I find myself constantly worrying that if I trust the writers of the scriptures or my religious leaders, that I might be deceived and not live the true way that God wants. Then, when I die, I’ll be told I lived a lie my whole life.
I constantly worry that Jesus was just a hoax, a fake, and to believe in Him is to be deceived. People say to trust in Jesus, but I worry that to do so is akin to trusting in a blanket or teddy bear—it can’t actually help you except as a placebo.
But then I also worry that He might be real and I’m being blasphemous to have the other worry, and that that will condemn me to hell. I worry that people are just deluding themselves when they think they “feel the Spirit”, and I worry about feeling something and mistakenly attributing it to the Holy Ghost too.
Despite all these worries, I am a deeply religious person who just genuinely wants to do what’s right and good and pleasing to God. I’m extremely imperfect, but I pray every day, study the scriptures, go to church every week, and serve others when I can. But the constant anxiety and mistrust I deal with can make religion excruciating at times, yet turning away from religion altogether would make me feel damned for sure. So at times it truly feels like “I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t”.
Its probably obvious to you, as it is to me, that my mental disorders are causing these religious issues, rather than just regular doubts and questions. It it likely a combination of both disorders, rather than exclusive to just one. I hope I’ll be able to find something to help, so that I can have peace in religious faith and living, rather than extreme anxiety and constant doubt.
Can anyone else relate at all to any of this?
P.S. Here is a really good article on religious OCD for any interested. They say that OCD attacks whatever is most important to you, and reading this helped me to see that it had attacked my spirituality: http://beyondocd.org/expert-perspectives/articles/let-he-who-is-without-sin-ocd-and-religion