Monday, January 2, 2012

Does OCD have a purpose?

I remember a time when I didn’t obsess about sin, dirt, and danger, when I didn’t wash my hands until they were raw and pray constantly in attempts to rid myself of that sin, dirt, and danger.
According to current theories of the causes of this anxiety disorder, I was probably born with the tendency towards having it. So I in essence never lived a pre-OCD life. But memories from my early childhood remind me that I did live a short time without obsessions and compulsions.
Have you ever read articles about people who suffer from a particular disease, who seem to think they were meant to have the disease so they could help others with it?
I am fascinated with that idea.
Behind the idea that a person is meant to have a disease is the notion that there is a higher purpose, a higher power and a plan at work.
I’ve been obsessed with finding out my own purpose for years. I’ve written dozens of “mission statements” for myself. None satisfy me for long. None adequately address the part of me that identifies with OCD.
Though I have experienced many good things and many successes, OCD still plays a big role in my life, though sometimes it’s subtle.
I don’t know if I believe God or a higher power created me to have OCD. I believe in God, but I don’t understand Him to be a person-like figure who had me in mind when He gave out the OCD.
I’m comfortable with the mystery of not knowing for sure who God is, because I know I’ll never know for sure during my time on earth. It’s one of the few mysteries I’m comfortable with.
That comfort did not come easily, but that’s for another post.
Even if a higher power did not “give” me OCD, I have it and it has affected my life to the point I cannot easily imagine life without it.
So what am I supposed to do with it, and the depression and general anxiety that have been along for the ride for most of my life?
One of the quotes I included in my last post, the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, speaks to my belief about what I’m supposed to do with my life: serve others.
How I’m supposed to serve and help others is not always clear to me. And I definitely need to improve in how much and how I serve others.
But the meaning of my life will be in how I use what I have—OCD and all the rest—to help others and realize who I truly am, a creation of the Divine.
I treasure the memories of my pre-OCD life. For much of my life, I have washed and counted and checked and sought reassurance. I have wasted time and water and soap and talents. I have forgotten who I am and have identified with OCD strongly enough to push me to the brink of suicide.
But as a friend recently posted about herself, I am what I am.
Do you ever wonder about your purpose in life, and how your OCD, anxiety, depression or whatever your challenges may be fit in?


  1. This is something that has been brewing in my mind for the last few years. I think this is my purpose. Coincidentally, it has only been in the last couple weeks that I'm convinced that I have a calling to advocate for the mentally ill. Not quite sure what form it will take, but I'm working on it. I hate having OCD, but I don't hate what I've learned from it. I would never have any understanding of the pain of living w/this type of affliction w/out going thru it myself. I think you have to live thru it to truly understand. I too hate that I've wasted so much time on rituals, but you know, it's brought me to this place in time and made me what I am, here and now. And by the way, you are serving others through this wonderful blog and the encouragement you give to all of us. Thank you for that.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree that having problems like OCD, depression, etc. can make us more empathic with others. I hope you will find your way with your purpose as I work on mine.

  3. Yep, I wonder about all this stuff as well.

    I don't really remember a pre-OCD time in my life. I don't remember a pre-anxiety or pre-depression time either. I remember times when the symptoms of all of the above were more severe than other times but I've pretty much always had at least some symptoms.

    I do strongly believe my OCD, anxiety and depression have a higher purpose in God. I just don't know what that purpose is yet. However, I have faith that I'll know when the time is right. Perhaps I am even living out that purpose now... perhaps I always have. I just don't know what it is for sure.


  4. Your post and the comments made brought to mind this quote by Helen Keller, which I am hoping to use in an upcoming post......

    The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that although
    the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming
    of it.

    I do believe that all of my son's suffering with severe OCD, and my suffering as a parent (which I know does not compare to having the disorder), have brought about good things. Just like Helen said!


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