Tablet’s running my essay about the weirdest thing that happened to me due to my OCD, which is so freaky that it’s taken years for me to write about. The only reason I finally did so was because I’ve seen some talk about these symptoms in Orthodox magazines, but none in mainstream media, and almost all of it was written either anonymously or by a non-sufferer. It became important to me that people know they are not alone, not losing their minds, and that they get help and understanding that they need.
I’m getting incredible, supportive feedback, thank G-d. A couple people have reached out to me because they or a relative have scrupulosity or OCD in general, so I thought it might be good to share a few more resources. Heads up: while the first three bullets are friendly even for those who are Hareidi, the final items contain some “racy” topics that sensitive readers may choose to avoid.
- I mentioned Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski in my article, and several of his books (as well as his column in HaModia‘s Inyan) address intrusive thinking. Here’s a list of his books.
- While I was writing this article, my editor — the lovely Wayne Hoffman — shared two articles with me on the topic. The first is in Jewish Action. The second is in The Jewish Week.
- For those in the NY/NJ/CT area, a friend just recommended to me a doctor who specializes in OCD in general and specifically in Orthodox patients. His name is Dr. Steven Brodsky. I cannot vouch for him myself here in L.A., but he’s widely quoted online. Interestingly, he’s also an expert on a related illness — hoarding — which comes up in my current serial in Binah BeTween.
- Rivki Silver pointed me towards this audio bit with David Adam, interviewed on Fresh Air about his new book about OCD. The interview is quite long, but so good that it’s worth spending a half-hour or so listening.
- I also thought I should mention that Dr. Norman Doidge mentions OCD in his well-known book The Brain that Changes Itself, and he often refers to this book, which is very helpful: Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD.
And a final message: The events I detailed in my essay happened about 14 years ago, and I’ve needed periodic help since then, particularly after the births of two of my children (because OCD can worsen while pregnant or in the period following delivery). I also had to combat a related phobia of driving (which I’ve previously written about in Binah). The single most helpful tools have been support groups and therapists who have employed CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Don’t be afraid to get help! And never feel alone!
2 thoughts on “My OCD confession in Tablet and more resources about OCD”
Rebecca, how do you interpret this problem from your emuna’s point view? Have you found why did He sent you this mess in the first place?
That’s an interesting question…I can only guess at His motive, but looking at the results of my struggle suggest a few things that are reasonable.
Dealing with the intrusive thinking really changed about how I prayed. I was always the type to liked to pray in synagogue, and since childhood I’d almost chat with G-d throughout the day, but these are very me-directed activities. It was like I thought of G-d exclusively as the Big Daddy in the sky who could grant me wishes if I deserved it. The focus of my prayers tended to be MY needs, MY wants, that kind of thing. This is not the most mature way to view G-d or to view prayer. (And since I was still in my mid-20s at the time, I’m going to cut myself some slack.)
While G-d is certainly Our Father in Heaven (Avinu Shebashayim) and all that, He is also our King, and deserves respect. Because I suddenly had to prepare for prayer, to practice mindfulness exercises, and the like, and to pray even when I didn’t want to (because if I gave into the fears and obsessions of OCD, they just got stronger), that respect/awe aspect of my relationship with G-d definitely improved.
With OCD in general, I have to say it’s really built me into a more resilient and less controlling person, too. Because I’m frequently assaulted by troubling thoughts and impulses, yet have to plow through them, I’ve learned to favor doing the hard thing over the comfortable thing. I used to avoid hard things in life or let them grind me down. And I’ve learned that trying to control everything in my life will just blow up in my face (and exacerbate my symptoms). It’s better to make “normal” effort (hishtadlus), and to trust in the Almighty — and also in the people He’s sent to help me in life, like my husband or therapists or teachers.