I came from a strong, successful family and have a wonderful family of my own. I have known God since I was a child and loved Him that long.
I also had a lot of trouble in my head. I was about 15 years old when I started becoming rabidly phobic about throwing up. I was so afraid of contamination that I would leave soap on my hands at night so I wouldn’t accidentally put dirty hands in my mouth while I slept. For years my hands were raw and bleeding from constant washing. I was diagnosed with OCD.
Right after I got married I developed panic disorder which then progressed to panic disorder with agoraphobia. And through it all, I had chronic anxiety. I used to wash my hands with bleach or Lysol or scalding hot water, leaving my hands constantly bleeding and swollen. I was afraid of getting Salmonella so I refused to have raw chicken or eggs in my house. My friend even started calling me “Salmonella Woman”.
But that still wasn’t enough because anxiety gets worse if you are not making it get better. Eventually, I couldn’t decide which plate in a cupboard was “clean” enough so I would spend hours in the kitchen just trying to find a “safe” plate, or I would just not eat at all.
The same thing happened with glasses, and many times I went thirsty since nothing was “safe”. When I was a teen, I was afraid of accidentally getting pregnant so I would only take showers, not baths, and my laundry had to be washed on the hottest water and, at one point, my underwear could only be touched by a woman and had to be sealed in plastic bags.
Right after I got married, I was riding in the car with my new husband and his father, and I felt terribly ill. It turned out to be an infection, but the fear of throwing up in someone’s car became overwhelming. Within days I had my first panic attack riding in a car. I used to think I was just “coming down with something”, but I always felt better when I got home. Then I learned what panic attacks are, but I didn’t know how to stop them. The panic disorder turned into panic disorder with agoraphobia. I would stay in my house for weeks at a time—even stepping onto the porch to get the mail would bring on a panic attack.
Meanwhile, the OCD continued. When I could go to the grocery store, I would buy cans of beans or some other food that I don’t even eat, and throw it away as soon as I got out of the store because it “felt” bad, and I didn’t want anyone else getting sick.
There were a million little “rituals” that I made up on the spot to keep “bad things” from happening. Because I was afraid of throwing up, I used to carry peppermints in my purse to ease nausea. Then the fear of throwing up came back, so I started carrying Tums “just in case”. Then that wasn’tt good enough so I carried prescription anti-nausea medication everywhere. However, I was still scared all the time.
My spiritual life was a mess. I was furious with God, and depressed in turns. I thought I must be faithless, or have done some awful thing to have this happen to me. My young daughter was becoming afraid to leave the house too, just because I was. My husband tried hard to both accommodate my fears and still keep a sense of normalcy for our family.
What do you do when you are so afraid that not even the fact that you are hurting those you love most will make you stop? You just die inside because all you want is to be normal, to be free, to just not be afraid for two seconds, to just have a regular life.
I cried a lot. I cried in frustration and hunger when I couldn’t find a “safe” plate to eat my dinner on. I cried in fear when my heart was racing and I was so panicked that I could only think of escape from that which frightened me. I cried in guilt when plans were ruined for my husband and child because “Mommy doesn’t feel good”. I cried in despair when people told me to just “stop worrying” or “get over it” because I couldn’t. I cried in loneliness when I could not find friends because I couldn’t leave my house. I cried in embarrassment when other people saw my weaknesses and had to work their plans around me. I cried in shame…because I am a Christian. I knew that this was wrong, and I knew I was failing.
I raged at God, I pleaded with Him. I tried to please Him and tried to guilt Him. I prayed that He would just take my life because I could not live this way, seeing what my ”issues” were doing to my family.
Praise Him, He didn’t take my life away! He made me heal, and in the process of healing, I also became stronger than I ever thought I would be. He did not send me my lightning bolt to zap the OCD out of me. He did not rearrange the world so that miraculously children were never hurt and husbands never had to go away so that I did not have to worry about something happening to my family. He did not even make a vaccine for Salmonella so that I did not have to be afraid of getting sick (yes, I prayed for that too!). Instead, He took me step by step toward spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing. Sometimes I didn’t see that anything was getting better, and sometimes things briefly got worse. There were no burning bushes, no miraculous signs, just a husband whom God had chosen for me, who was loving and patient, a few chance happenings, and a slow revelation of what to do next to heal.
I am not a psychologist or a counselor. What I am is a person who knows. I have been there, right where you are. I have gone through it and God led me out of it. I want to share what He taught me so that you may be free as well. The God of all comfort, comforted me so that I could comfort you with the comfort I have received (2 Cor 1:3-5) . This is not a magic bullet or a quick fix. God did not just make me better all of a sudden. This is a journey, a path. At the end is freedom for YOU from these diseases and a deeper faith than you would ever think possible. God has provided a path for you, but you must walk it.
I am you on the other side of that mountain. I am now what you can be, will be. I am you without fear. I am the example that God has sent for you because this is not His plan for you. He does not want you like this. He does not want you in bondage and afraid. If you let Him help you, He will take this tortured soul of yours and make it stronger, MORE faithful, MORE fearless than you can imagine. He will do it for you. The healing is there for you. He is so kind and good and loving and is working for your healing even as you read this!
Please believe that I know what you are going through. I was right there too. But the Lord is faithful beyond measure and has healing for you, just as He had for me. He has equal grace for all of His children, He plays no favorites. So these things that He led me to, He leads you to. The healing that I found is healing that is right there for you too. He gave this to me freely, He gives it to you freely.
This is the guidebook for the path God gave me. Healing was a long time coming, but my prayer is that this book will make the process much quicker for you than it was for me. We will discuss the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual issues that arise with obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and chronic anxiety. We will address each disorder and the ways to overcome the behaviors associated with them. We will talk about why this happened to us. We will work on building our faith and learning what God wants for us. We will learn changes to our daily live that will enable healing. We will give information to help your loved ones help you overcome.
Let me warn you again, this is not a magic book. This will take work from you. You did not develop these issues in a week and they will take time to be resolved. How much time it takes is up to you. If you rush through the basics, then you will not have a strong foundation for the more intense activities. If you get lazy about one part of this or another, then it will take longer. This is not just a reading book, it is a doing book and if you do not practice the activities that are given, then you will not reap the full rewards.
I ask you to suspend judgment, to not say “oh, this will never help” when you come across something. Frankly, that’s what I said when I just didn’t want to do something. However, sometimes things didn’t work because I didn’t have the foundation it needed, or because I didn’t try them long enough.
So try them again anyway. You have nothing to lose. Some things will seem silly, even useless, but they are ALL VITAL.
It is kind of like taking medicine: Let’s say that you have a raging case of bronchitis. The doctor give you a vile tasting antibiotic with strict instructions on when and how you should take it. You take the first dose and EWW! It is barely tolerable. You wait and take the second dose. Just as miserable tasting as the first dose and, worse, you still feel sick. You take it the next day and same thing—still do not see much improvement. Do you stop taking it? Or do you realize that deep inside the antibiotics are working against the bacteria that has invaded your lungs. You cannot see them but the bacteria are dying by the millions. What if you skip doses? Will the medicine work as well? Or will it take longer to achieve healing? This book is the same way. You can decide that it isn’t working and stop. Or that it’s too much trouble and stop. Or that you can skip this or that and be fine.
Let me tell you that it will not work that way. I ask you to trust God in this as He is the master of your healing. These are not “my” ideas at all. These ideas are what God gave me to overcome and empower me, and I’m just passing them on to you. I am simply the mailman.