Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Evil?

 

The above video is one of the most memorable that I have seen in the discussion of God. And, the fact that it involves Einstein is just a wonderful thing.

I first saw this video a few months ago and I was completely taken aback by it. I loved the message it gives, but I also loved that it was a future scientist who believed. Einstein was known to believe in God, but not in a completely spiritual sense. He respected the fact that science and religion needed one another, as stated in his famous words: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

I believe this to be true. I believe in both science and God. I believe we have science because God made it so. Science is the study of what God has created, and it is a way for us to understand His creation. I am open to evolution, and find that if it is how we came to be as a human species, then that is due to it being a part of God’s plan. I don’t deny science, but I also don’t deny my God, my Father. I realize that not all people believe this, and that is ok. We all believe what we believe. I’m not trying to push my beliefs onto anyone, as I have never found that effective in having an intelligent and rational discussion. Respect for one another’s beliefs is essential in truly understanding both one another and the world around us.

So, what does this have to do with evil?

Found at Elizabeth Ficocelli’s Website

Well, a thought has been going through my mind a lot lately. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has to do with the fact that school is once again starting up for kids again… that August reflection I discussed in my last post. But, I’ve been remembering back to my childhood, and a very important experience in my Catholic life… Reconciliation.

I was in the second grade (seven years old) when I was to complete my Sacrament of Reconciliation. We were to complete this Sacrament about a month before our Sacrament of Holy Communion, due to us having to be cleansed of our sins prior to accepting the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t understand the significance of this Sacrament. I understood we were telling a priest our sins in a tiny little room, but I didn’t understand why it was so important. I was seven. Today, I look at my little cousin Alice, who is six. I was only a year older than she is now, when I made that Sacrament. She is very intelligent and articulate, but I see this child who is innocent. What sins could she possibly have to confess? But, as the Bible teaches us, we are all sinful individuals, and must ask for forgiveness. And, the age of seven is what is referred to as the ‘age of reason’, when kids begin to truly understand right from wrong. I don’t deny this, but it’s still hard to see this tiny child who must confess. But, I also know it is necessary (at least in my beliefs).

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate the Sacrament more, but I prefer to not use confessionals anymore. I confess my sins directly to the Lord and I do so in prayer and in the privacy of just the two of us. I do not like the idea of telling a stranger (a regular human being) my sins. To clarify, I do not put down that way of Reconciliation. Many of my family and friends still choose that way, and that is wonderful for them. I just feel that we all need to confess our sins in our own way. In a way that is most comfortable for us. Otherwise, if we are uncomfortable, we will not be completely honest. I know I wasn’t as a child.

The “Evil” OCD

This is when my fear of being evil began. I’ve discussed this before in my post, OCD and Me. I have suffered from OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) since I was at least five (as far back as I can recall the thoughts and rituals). It was distressing for me, as I was too young to understand what was making me think these awful visions, but I was old enough to know they were wrong. They made me feel bad. So, I remember the day when our teachers told us that our Sacrament of Reconciliation was approaching. They had us practice the ceremony many times, so that we would go through it appropriately.

As I rehearsed for the ceremony, I had an outward appearance of excitement. I mean what little kid doesn’t like the idea of being able to do something so significant (even if I didn’t fully understand that very significance), especially in front of parents and loved ones. But, inside, that excitement had a core of anxiety. I was so terrified. Here I was, faced with basically an order from God to confess my sins. I knew that my thoughts were ugly and evil (in my mind at the time), and I knew I had to confess them in order to truly be forgiven. But, how could I do that? I couldn’t possibly tell this grown man what I would think. Such bad thoughts would surely make him hate me. He would think I was as ugly a person, as the thoughts I revealed. I was frightened of my parents finding out, and that I’d be in trouble and they’d see me as this evil child. But, then I worried that if I didn’t tell these thoughts, then I’d go to hell. I was seven years old, and I worried that I’d go to hell. As a child, you don’t see yourself in the way that adults see you. But as I look at my cousin Alice, I see this child who would never go to hell. Yet, I thought, at just a year older than her, that I would go to hell, if I didn’t tell this stranger my thoughts.

So, as the night came when our Sacrament ceremony was to take place, I dreaded the moment. It was no longer exciting for me. It was terrifying. And, it’s probably the reason I screwed up in the ceremony. I made a mistake and switched some of the steps around that I was supposed to complete following my confession. It was obvious to everyone in the church, and extremely embarrassing. Now, I know that most adults wouldn’t hold that against a child, but at the time, I thought I was such an idiot.

However, although I messed up in the ceremony, I did complete the confession… or at least in the best way that I could. I came up with my own plan on how to do it. As I confessed, I told the priest that I have thought really bad thoughts… thoughts that I didn’t like. And, as I stated that to him, I immediately tried to recall the “evil” thoughts that I could remember at the time. I had hoped that God would see those thoughts flashing through my mind while confessing the general idea of “bad thoughts” to the priest.

By the time the ceremony was over, I felt ill. That evening, we all left the church and headed to the school’s auditorium. Cake, ice cream and punch were being served to all of us to celebrate, but I did not want any. I remember just hugging my mom tightly and feeling like I was going to throw up. I just wanted to go home and kept telling her and my dad. They tried to get me to sit down with the other kids, but I didn’t want to. I was an emotional and physical mess, so they took me home. I didn’t understand why I felt like that. I had messed up during the ceremony, but it was more than that. I know now that it was the anxiety that had built up over all those weeks leading up to the ceremony, and it was now finally just hitting me completely. I went home and straight to bed. I was a seven-year-old with no desire for cake, ice cream and punch… just a pillow to rest my sick head.

That was how I managed to make it through that Sacrament. I always felt as if I never truly completed it, though. That is, until I learned about silent confessing of sins, and how there wasn’t anything wrong with that. I was in my late teens when I realized this, and it was around the same time when the bipolar started to creep into my life, waiting for the right moment to strike me down. I am thankful that the worry of confessing my thoughts in private was taken away at this time; otherwise it would have been another stress on my shoulders.

It Didn’t Go Away

However, being able to confess these thoughts, did not take away my thoughts of their evilness. I hated that the thoughts presented themselves as they did. I did not want to be evil. I did not want to be a bad person. Growing up, I worried so much about it that I tried to be extra good. Having three extra sets of parental figures in my siblings helped that. I never wanted to make mistakes, but I of course still made plenty. But, no matter what I did as a typical kid, I still had those hidden wrong things going on inside my brain, that no one knew about. I learned at the age of five to hide them.

I can’t recall if I’ve discussed this experience before, so if I have, please bear with me. But, once I was in the kitchen with my mom while she did the dishes one night. I was five and telling her stories. I always loved telling stories as a kid, and when I got old enough to write, I started writing them down. But, at this age, it was all oral communication. So, I was sitting there at the kitchen table telling my mom a story about a man. He was trapped in a house that was on fire. Not exactly word for word, but this was the story.

There was a man.
He lived in a house in the woods.
There was a fire and he burned up.
He was screaming.

As you can imagine, this did not appease my mom. She immediately told me that it was wrong to tell those kinds of stories. Those were not good stories to tell. They were bad. I was five. I didn’t know it was bad yet. I was just telling the story of the vision in my head, but I learned right then and there, that it wasn’t the kind of story to tell her, or anyone else. I don’t blame my mom one bit. She had no way of knowing what was going on in her little girl’s head. And, at that point, I realized it was bad to think such things.

So, imagine my horror when I discovered that those very thoughts weren’t stopping. As I got older, the thoughts became worse, and I wondered what was happening to me. Why am I thinking such evil things? Why am I letting the devil (as I never referred to him as satan – I don’t like to capitalize his name – as a child), take over me? I was scared of what was going on inside of me, and why I couldn’t stop the thoughts. And, to make it worse, not only were the thoughts not leaving, but they were getting worse. That makes sense, of course. As we get older, we gain more life experiences. And for someone with OCD, those experiences are fuel for an overactive brain with torture of its host on its agenda.

Those Thoughts Continued to Follow Me

So, this fear of evil being inside of me continued all the way until I began therapy. I still believed that I was a horrible person inside, who was merely pretending to be good, so no one would see. I didn’t truly think that I was a good person. I thought I was just a fake who was lying to everyone through my “good” actions.

But, as I said, therapy finally changed my view. In the beginning, my therapist’s first recommendation to me was to stop referring to these thoughts as bad or evil. She said to just refer to them as “uncomfortable”. Uncomfortable thoughts… now that’s a new way of looking at them. She said that was all they were, and still are. They are not bad or evil, only uncomfortable because that is how they make me feel… uncomfortable. Then, she put it all in a new perspective in which I had never viewed them before.

Found on Stephen King’s Website

Stephen King. Mary Shelley. Bram Stoker. These are all famous authors, who have written some of the most horrifying classics of all time. My therapist was quick to point out to me, that I am a writer. She said, the way you classify yourself as a writer is by doing one thing: writing. It doesn’t matter what one writes, if they are writing what they have in their mind, then they are writers. She told me to try and use my thoughts in my writing more, rather than turning away from them. She said that if not for the wild imaginations of King, Shelley, Stoker, and many others, then we wouldn’t have their stories in our libraries today. In order for them to create such frightening masterpieces, they had to have a darker imagination than other individuals. If they didn’t have those darker imaginations, then their stories would not have had that quality that made them what they are today.

This thought began to make me look at my thoughts as not so bad. However, the idea of being “evil” was still present. Nevertheless, after much discussion on these thoughts – and my first two years of therapy – my views began to change once again. I’ve never been able to tell her, or anyone, the graphic nature of many of these thoughts, as they are too difficult to reveal. Maybe someday I will. But, from what I have been able to tell her thus far, she started making me see that they are indeed just thoughts.

Then came the day when probably the most profound realization in regard to these thoughts finally hit me. My therapist said that the very fact that the thoughts distressed me so much was proof that I was not evil. I do not enjoy them. I do not look forward to them intruding into my life without warning. I do not enjoy the emotional pain that I feel, that will often leave me weak and curled up on the couch in tears from the images they create in my mind. I hate them. I loathe them with every inch of my body and soul. She said that is proof that I’m not evil. Someone who is evil would do the complete opposite. They would enjoy the horrifying thoughts going through their head, and use them against others in some way. They would respond with pleasure, not anguish.

A Comforting Realization

So, after years of thinking that I was evil. I finally realized that I am not. After spending my childhood and early adulthood with the thought of my evilness being part of who I am, and constantly battling to keep it at bay, I finally learned otherwise. I am not evil. I am as good of a person as I can try to be in this world. My positive actions aren’t merely a massive cover-up for the horridness that I have hidden inside, because I no longer have anything to cover up. I hide my thoughts, but there is no longer an “evil” nature to them that I try to hide. It does not exist.

I continue to struggle with these thoughts, often daily, and they will continue to intrude on my life forever, I guess. But, with therapy and my medications, they have eased more now. And, best of all, when they enter into my mind, I now know that it’s not a sinful origin behind them, but rather my overactive brain that wants to torture me for its own pleasure. Although, I do acknowledge that I must never let my guard down. After all, I am a follower and believer in Christ. Therefore, I will always have evil trying to pull me away from my relationship with Jesus. And, satan will use any weakness he can find in order to do so. I must point out, though, that I do not see mental illness as a weakness, but it is something that causes suffering, and this is what my beliefs teach me can be used against me and others.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” ~Matthew 16:23 (NIV)

This scripture is from Matthews telling of Jesus’ revelation to his disciples. He has just informed them that He will be soon be crucified for His sacrifice. Peter then speaks up and tells Jesus that He shouldn’t do it. He thinks it’s a mistake. However, Jesus recognizes what is truly happening. He sees satan trying to use Peter’s weakness (his fear for losing Jesus from his life) in order to stop Jesus from completing what God has planned for Him. That is why Jesus directs his rebuke at Peter, but in reality He is speaking directly to satan, who he knows is present and using Peter.

I don’t believe my thoughts are evil anymore. I see them for what they are… basically a result of my illness. The bipolar doesn’t help my OCD, and vice versa. I realize that I can only handle them the best way I can. And, I pray through them often. Sometimes I don’t think about praying, as they become so intense, they make me forget such things. But, I do remember eventually, and I pray. I know I can’t pray it all away, and anyone who tells me that I can is truly misguided and uninformed. But, I do know that I can pray for comfort and strength to better handle the pain that both illnesses cause.

As I stated earlier in this post, not all people share my same beliefs, and that’s ok. I just write what I believe, but I never expect everyone to believe the same things. And, I especially would never look down on anyone who doesn’t share my same beliefs. We are all human beings, and we are all living together on this planet. If we are to truly continue to survive as a species, then we must respect one another. The moment we lose all respect for one another and our differences is when our world will crumble. We need to have love for one another. We don’t have to love everyone like we would our parents, spouses, children, family or friends. But, we should love one another enough so that each life in this world matters to one another.

As Einstein said in the above video, “Evil is what happens when man does not have the love of God in his heart.” No matter who your God is, spiritual, universal or otherwise.

OCD isn’t evil. It’s just a truly unfair misfiring in the brain. So, no, it’s not evil, but it sure is cruel.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Evil?

  1. I worry about what children get taught about religion. I was convinced that my family would all go to heaven and I would be left on earth alone. And then some of the messages I got from songs we sung as kids at church got me a bit screwed up too. I’m still unlearning some of those things.

    • Yeah, it can really do a number on us. I’m sorry you felt that same way too as a child. I think it’s something that was drilled into us so much as kids, that it will continue to be something we have to reverse. I guess the good thing is that we recognize that and as you say, are in the process of “unlearning” it.

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