Religion doesn’t cause OCD. OCD causes religion. Wait, before you hook the rope and tighten my noose, hear me out, I mean read me out (unless someone is reading this to you, then disregard the second sentence). What I refer to here (and will refer to in this post) as religion isn’t the moderate minding-my-own-business religion. It is not the moderate practice of religion. And by religion I don’t mean the widespread definition of religion that which worships a deity or several deities or none whatsoever. I actually mean the definition of the word which is “an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Basically religion in the sense that it is a way of life.
My OCD has been very loyal to me since a very young age, never leaving my side till this day. This is why I can be positive making the first statement I did; religion doesn’t cause OCD. I had OCD long before I started caring about religion, God, prayers, fasting, and other beliefs. I was raised by nominally Muslim parents (my father is Shia, Mom is Druze, so I’m half a Durzi; so when I die only my legs will come back. Got it? Reincarnation joke? And the Druze community hates me now). Both don’t practice. They have their own sets of beliefs. We were never raised on their beliefs. My brother and I were given the freedom to make our own beliefs. That’s how awesome my parents are.
My troubles started when I finished university and went to Switzerland. It was a totally new life, new people, new culture. I had to wash my own clothes, which I did after I ran out of things to wear; you might have seen me buying groceries in a Tuxedo, as I had nothing else to put on. In the land of the Swiss, I was all by myself. All the anxiety and issues I had in my head that had to do with my social life and friends was fading away gradually. My mind now had nothing substantial to obsess about. That is when I started having religious obsessions.
Mind you I wasn’t religious when I set foot in Switzerland. I did have my beliefs but religion wasn’t in my top priorities going forward. I started having thoughts that I should focus on my religion. I felt that I was being ungrateful. I felt something was missing. The thoughts were strong and wouldn’t subside until I read something that had to do with religion. I started reading, asking questions, going to websites, among other things. I would send emails and get replies. How to do this? What is this? Why is this like that? I had so many questions and got a flood of answers. Every question has so many different answers, and every answer creates so many obsessive thoughts.
I reached a phase where I would do things I wasn’t completely convinced with, but did them anyway to calm down my anxiety. It had nothing to do with heaven or hell. Nothing to do with reward or punishment. Basically it had nothing to do with God.
There was a time when I started considering not shaking hands with girls and even implemented that for a while. I am not saying it is wrong or right, I’m just saying that it is something I didn’t believe in and wasn’t convinced by. But I did it anyway in order to calm down the thoughts. God forbid I saw a hint of flesh on the TV, I would turn my head so quickly, it would almost fall off my shoulders. Going to the bathroom was my number one problem (got it? a poop joke?) My number two problem was…..also going to the bathroom (ok no more poop jokes). I would doubt the way I took a bath. Did I get enough water? Did it cover my whole body? I would spend tens of minutes in the bathroom just as a compulsive reaction to my obsessions. Then during prayer I would sometimes repeat the same thing several times maybe. I would doubt things I just did. Things I just said. I would start feeling heat in my chest, and a cold, shivering sensation all over my beautiful soft skin. I start feeling sweat form on my forehead. My heart starts beating faster. My breath becomes heavy. Overall it’s a slightly sucky feeling. I had no chance but to give in to the demands of my captors. So I would repeat, and doubt, and think, and say what if. Even after I finish from a certain practice I would revise what I have done and try to find calmness in answering my obsessions. All I can say – now that I am at this stage looking backwards – is that I lost a lot of time. I can clearly remember the things I used to doubt, and think to myself “how in the blue hell did I let this silly crappy thought control me, and how stupid was I to think that?”. But when one is in the middle of an obsession, good luck trying to think rationally, or even just think.
That was some time ago, I am now a different person. That took time and a lot of rational thinking, but that’s a topic for another day hopefully.
That was a piece of my mind, wishing a peace of mind to you all.