My birthday this year was lovely. Wonderful friends came to a party that had everything I wanted (namely, costumes, cocktails, karaoke). The next morning, I woke up to candles and Vivaldi and lovely, thoughtful presents. I’m grateful for the year ahead, grateful that it started in such a sweet way.
But I couldn’t get past this birthday without realizing that it’s been ten years. A whole decade since the fabric of my life began to unravel. A decade since OCD, which had always lurked, always tormented me in fits and starts, burst into the foreground. On the eve of my twentieth birthday, I had the worst OCD attack of my life to that point. The doubts were not a trickle any more. The dams burst, and this was a veritable flood. It felt like the gates of hell broke lose in my mind, doubts about God and blasphemies roaring relentlessly into my mind. I don’t remember much about that night, but I remember sobbing, I remember the awful pain, I remember praying and begging for the thoughts to stop.
That night was important, not because it was the first time OCD hurt me, but because it was the night the last shreds of certainty slipped away. When I look at my life, that is the part that begins the after.
It’s hard to look back in many ways, because some of those fears came true. I am not a Christian anymore. But I want to be clear: OCD is not the reason I left the Christian faith.
OCD is not about how true a doubt or worry may be; it is about attacking what makes you feel safe, and making you chase that certainty.
I will tell you: the loss of certainty is a painful but necessary and rich gift. I still want certainty. But I am learning that something more valuable comes in its place: convictions.
There is something terrifying in the difference between “I know” and “I believe.” Knowing is safe, solid, secure. Belief is fragile, flexible, as fine and strong as a spider’s silk. It’s anchored to reality, but it changes and grows and moves.
It’s taken me a long time, but I’m beginning to see the beauty and freedom in belief.