Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Suffering and Surrender

My special-needs son put a huge hole in his wall today because OCD made him frustrated and angry and he just didn't know what to do with his angst.

Though he possesses expert knowledge about how to handle OCD thoughts--he could teach a class on it, in fact--he isn't ready to heed his own advice. The thoughts are too strong and controlling and scary and it just seem easier to do the rituals (not that holes in the wall are a ritual--that was anger at his plight in life).

The rituals, if continued, get worse and they steal away every moment, until there's no life left. Just pain.

It's like the self-aware drug addicts who know quitting will involve a long, painful withdrawal process, so they put it off. It just seems impossible to muster up the courage.

Only those with OCD can understand, and the rest of us just scratch our heads.

You mean you drove around the block ten times, looking for someone you ran over, even though you know you really didn't run anyone over? Yes, they try to explain. They have to be sure.

You mean you were an hour late to your next class because you washed your hands over and over in the student bathroom, in tears the whole time, knowing they weren't really dirty? Yes, they try to explain. They have to be sure.

You mean you can't go near children because you are afraid you are a pedophile, even though the whole idea is repulsive and evil to you, and you know you would never act in such a way? Or you won't go near the same sex because you are afraid you are gay, even though you are not attracted to the same sex, and you know deep down you are not gay? Yes...but I don't feel sure.

Yes, OCD sufferers do all these things and more (though my son doesn't have any of these obsessions, yet, and perhaps won't ever. But they are among the most common). OCD people are of average or above-average intelligence, and very sensitive, kind, gentle people. The things they find most repulsive or disturbing become their obsessions. It's a horrid, cruel brain disorder.

None of it makes one iota of sense and they know it, but they can't stop avoiding, or ritualizing, or going over and over things in their heads (ruminating is done instead of rituals, for some sufferers--called Pure-O OCD, meaning pure obsession, but no compulsions).

OCD is a disease of uncertainty. They can't handle any uncertainty and the battle to be sure of something becomes their downfall.

They have to learn to say..."Well, maybe I did run someone over. So what?"

"Maybe I really do love Satan..so what?"

"Maybe one of Satan's angels really is coming at me...so what?"

"Maybe I really will stab my husband with a knife...so what?"

"Maybe I really am gay,..so what?"

"Maybe I really am going to die (or throw up) (or a family member is going to die) from germs on my hands...so what?"

"Maybe I really did leave the burner on and the house is going to blow up...so what?"

They have to neutralize the thoughts so they can stop reacting to them, but even thinking of these neutralizing sentences fills them with horror and shame. They can't bring themselves to do it, so they get worse and keep reacting with flight or fight mode. Medication sometimes, for some of them, makes the thoughts less powerful, so they can begin to think about their therapy techniques.

In adolescence, when fear is very hard to fight for hormonal reasons, therapy is difficult at best.

Sufferers have to accept that there is a buzzing bee (bad thoughts) in the room with them. Accept is good, to fight or run or panic is bad. 

"The bad thought doesn't have anything to do with who I am. It's just a brain glitch."

While this statement sounds easy to us, it's terribly difficult for them to believe...even though they know it's true.

There is no cure for OCD and even when the vicious cycle gets broken, and they are leading normal lives again, there will always be, in times of stress, buzzing bees in the room that they have to continue to ignore to stay well. The minute they give in and do a ritual, they're possibly in trouble again.

Experts did a study and found that all people have similar thoughts occasionally, but our normal brains know right away to file the thoughts away as nonsense. We don't react to nonsense thoughts.

But the OCD sufferers? The thought-filter in their brain doesn't work. The thoughts come in with a DANGER sign..an ALERT sign. Their body reacts in flight or fight mode, with high adrenaline and fear, which are so powerful their brain compels them to do a crazy ritual, that for some reason temporarily decreases the anxiety. But the more rituals they do, the less the rituals work to decrease anxiety, and then a full-blown life-crisis exists. They can't fulfill their responsibilities on time or with ease because their rituals eat up the day and drive them insane.

Right now there is nothing I can do except pray and continue to counsel, until God see fit to heal my son or give him the courage he needs to absorb the discomfort of not doing a ritual, long enough to stop the chain reaction--obsession, anxiety, ritual, relief. Obsession, anxiety, ritual, relief.

Absorbing discomfort and pain is hard.

When I get a migraine, I take something for it because if I don't, I eventually have to lie very still in a dark room with no noise or interaction, and at some point I usually vomit, too.

What the OCD sufferer has to do to get better is stop taking the "medicine", so to speak (stop doing the ritual that temporarily relieves the anxiety). They have to, in essence, allow the throbbing headache and nausea to come, unhindered. They have to suffer to get better...and who wants to suffer? It's human nature to run kicking and screaming away from suffering.

God allows life to break us and that is so hard to fathom, isn't it? If you're broken, you know you're ready for heaven. Your mindset has ceased to be on earthly things and you just want to go Home.

Peter, husband, and I? We just want to see Jesus. The rest of the family isn't broken...yet. They have big plans.

And plans are good, but we can't ever assume we accomplish anything through our own intelligence or our own strength. The minute we gloat, God takes us down a peg or two. He allows suffering to refine us. To humble us. He works for our good, even when life seems like a big disaster.

I have to go to an AWANA meeting this Wednesday to become a Cubbies (preschool) leader. Oh, I tried to get out of it at first, but I prayed about it and then told the director that if she didn't get another Cubbies leader during the summer, than I would do it. I will be among three Cubbies leaders in a large class, taking turns with the various duties.

Do you know what I hoped? That God would realize my son's disorders are too taxing on me and my family, and that someone else could surely do it instead.

But God didn't agree. It's me who loves preschoolers, and me who loves teaching God's word.

If God wants me to work for Him with vigor and cheerfulness, why does he allow such sorrow in my life? I feel too weak and sorrowful today to even make that meeting, much less show up and do a good job at Cubbies on September 2nd.

Do you wonder these things, too? Do you want to crawl under a barrel and let everyone else--the ones with normal lives--do all the work for God?

Let me tell you a secret.

Surrender it all to God. Hopes, dreams, plans, ego, pride...the right to stay home and wallow.

And just show up.

Every single day, no matter how hard your trials are, just show up.

Show up to hug your boy--even though he's made you a wreck--to say you're so terribly sorry he's suffering, and that you'll be praying for him all day, and that Jesus loves him, and that he is fearfully and wonderfully made by a glorious God who knows every hair on his head.

Realize that it's the sin curse you're battling, not your son or daughter. 

If the problem is with your marriage, realize it's the sin curse you're battling, not your spouse.

God doesn't ask us to carry our own burdens. We attempt to carry them all the time, but it's sin--it's not obedience to his will.

If we show up, he is faithful to teach the Cubbies through us.

If we show up, he is faithful to give us the gentleness and patience we need to work with a sick or troubled child.

If we show up, he is faithful to give us a listening, quiet spirit to win our husband's love.

He will walk us through our hardest parenting days...our hardest marriage days...our hardest personal suffering days.

We don't have any answers--but he has them all. We don't have any insight--but he has it all planned out. We don't have any stamina or strength--but he's omnipotent and omniscient. 

Omnipotence means God is all-powerful. He has supreme power and no limitations. Omniscience means God is all-knowing. He knows everything--past, present, and future. There is nothing about which he's unaware.

So take that huge load off your back...whatever it is. Let your Heavenly Father soothe you and quiet you by his love. You don't have to understand. You just have to get filled up (prayer, Bible, worship), and show up, ready to be used for his glory

The more broken we are, the more desperately and humbly we go for our filling. The more filled we are, the more eagerly we show up to let him shine...knowing full well that on our own, we are nothing.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

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