How pleased I am today to share a friend’s journey with you, one I personally haven’t discussed or was aware of until meeting her: Scrupulosity OCD.
This mental illness specifically hinders one’s abilities to feel spiritually grounded and healthy. What should be a place of peace and comfort becomes one ridden with anxiety, guilt, and doubt.
Having Zahra share her experiences will hopefully shed light for you, even if you don’t have OCD. The guilt often associated with religion can be detrimental to truly connecting with God. While we’re flawed humans that inevitably sin and make mistakes, that shouldn’t deter us from believing we’re worthy of receiving God’s love and mercy.
Our multifaceted wellness–mind, body, and soul–includes our mental health and spirituality. If one area is lacking, then another is likely following suit. This was the case for Zahra, but through treating herself well, she was able to work toward overcoming that mental turmoil and grow closer again to her faith.
about my guest.
Zahra Biabani of the Soulful Seeds Blog is someone who, if you enjoy my content, you’ll love her’s, too. She’s passionate about faith, holistic health, veganism, social justice, fitness…all the good things. A college student at Vanderbilt, her goal is to help nourish your soul so it blooms.
I first met her on Instagram, and it felt like our souls immediately clicked. Not only is her content awe-worthy (it certainly inspires me to step up my game!), but the person behind it all is genuine and lovely. She deserves all the love and support she receives, and I’d love for you to visit her.
Bonus: I was blessed enough to write a blog post for her, too! Check out her website to see what I discussed about the complicated relationship between religion and mental health.
I have suffered from a sub-type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder called Pure OCD since a young age.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the pattern of ruminating over obsessions and doing damage control through compulsions.
Pure OCD is characterized by obsessions that often manifest as intrusive, unwanted thoughts, impulses or “mental images” of committing an act they consider to be harmful, violent, immoral, sexually inappropriate, or sacrilegious followed by compulsions that attempt to block those thoughts.
Everyone has intrusive and unwanted thoughts. With upwards of 50,000 thoughts per day, and 70-80% of those negative, no one is immune to disturbing thoughts. But individuals with Pure O are plagued with guilt upon the arrival of even one unwanted thought.
People with this condition are so agonized and distressed by these thoughts which go against everything they believe in. In fact, those who suffer from Pure O are among the least likely to do anything bad or harm society. According to my counselor, patients of his dealing with Pure OCD have commonly included pastors, priests, and mission-driven people. Even Mother Theresa suffered with the scrupulosity based Pure OCD.
Like most OCD sufferers, I had different waves of obsession: two years with cleanliness and obsessive fear of germs, a year of Harm OCD- fear I would harm people, and two years of Scrupulosity OCD- fear of blasphemy.
Scrupulosity OCD affects individuals who are highly religious and value spirituality. Obsessions mirror an unrelenting fear of turning against one’s religion or god. And it can’t be prayed away.
I recall the darkest periods of my scrupulosity OCD when I would leave class to go into the bathroom and pray in the corner, convinced that I couldn’t pray in a stall (because germs, which would disqualify the prayer) and that I had to pray until the thoughts were quieted- spending sometimes upwards of 20 minutes out of class.
For as long as I kept up these compulsions, that time never came. The daily routine of relentless prayer only exacerbated my OCD and tarnished my relationship with God into one solely comprised of fear.
It was only when I got treatment in the form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and medication that I found relief from this debilitating disorder.
CBT was difficult. I had to address the intrusive thoughts and ALLOW them to flow through my mind. I had to accept that the mindless words meant nothing and that if God knows all of His creations fully and truly, He would know I am more than Pure O.
For so long, my disorder made me think I was Hell-bound. I did everything in my power to pray it away, but that honestly just affirmed my belief that I was bad and turned into a compulsion, feeding the disorder.
You know what did help?
Medicine. Structured therapy based on decades of research.
In this case, prayer didn’t help me get closer to God. It helped me get closer to my disease.
This is the first time I’m speaking about this publicly. Suffering with this has made me believe I am innately bad for SO LONG. But I’m ready to be done with that belief. I am not doomed because of it. I am loved. I have been created by a Creator who makes no mistakes.
If you think you are suffering with OCD, please seek help. Here are a few great resources to lead you to the help you need. You are not alone.
Has your mental health or any other factor prohibited your full ability to appreciate and reach out to God? How were you able to overcome that?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie