I will write about a topic that I, and probably many of those who are like me, would rather not discuss with other people. I hope that what I say here will serve as peer support to those tormented by similar anxieties.
I suffer from an exceptionally sensitive conscience. That makes me feel I need to confess matters that do not normally bother people. When that oppressive feeling is very strong, I find myself in a vicious circle. Something bothers my mind. But I feel that as soon as I get that off my mind, something else will come up – and this seems to go on forever. It seems I can never reach a state of freedom.
I think this is related to a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also makes me check things endlessly. When leaving home, I feel a very strong need to check that I have turned off the stove and the water taps. It is perfectly normal to make those checks, but it is problematic when you feel a need to check and re-check again and again.
As a young father I thought this problem was exclusively mine. Now I know that my family have also been troubled by it. My wife may feel irritated by my tendency to go on and on about some minor detail. Fortunately, however, she also understands me and supports me when I am ridden with anxiety.
I know that I cannot properly understand the scale and significance of things. I may be bothered by a small thing that other people do not even notice. In the worst case I may feel I am stealing the sand that sticks to the soles of my shoes.
I seem to be thinking on dual tracks. On the one hand, I feel oppressed and anguished about something, while on the other, I am rationally aware of the absurdity of that feeling. Strangely, anguish seems to prevail over rationality.
I try to think that anxiety is like a good friend who tells me that I am tired. It is time to rest.
I am ashamed of my neurotic tendency. I try to act in ways that conceal this complication of my life from other people.
It is basically a question of feeling safe. I feel that if I do not act in line with my thoughts, something terrible will happen. By doing what I feel I have to do I probably try to gain control over my life.
I understand perfectly well that other people find my actions incomprehensible. Nor can I give a rational explanation for why I act like that. Obsession does not listen to the voice of reason.
A disorder of the mind may also affect one’s faith. Speakers often tell us about the abundance of grace and say that the possibility for confession is a special privilege and manifestation of grace for believers. I understand that the speaker thereby means a situation where one should put away a matter in confession. But in my mind that may cause a kind of anguish that the speaker does not mean to provoke. I may be worried that confessing one thing may trigger an endless succession of things that spring up and demand to be put away. Nevertheless, I want to believe that we do not need to confess our faults in perfect detail in order to be saved.
I try to console myself that all life is imperfect. Most people have one or more burdens that they struggle with. Maybe our Creator has given those burdens to us as a reminder that one day this imperfect life will come to an end.
Fortunately, both medicine and psychology recognize the obsessive-compulsive disorder, and there is help available that enables me to live a nearly normal life.
I think that God has given me this burden. Although I sometimes find it very hard to believe freely, I know that He will take care of me. He will take me into heaven despite my shortcomings if I endeavor to believe.
Text: Heikki Honkala
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Kansainvälistä ja valtakunnallista muistiviikkoa vietetään ensi viikolla. Ihmisten eläessä yhä pidempään muistisairauksia sairastavien lukumäärä kasvaa joka puolella maailmaa. Muistisairaus liittyy myös yhä useamman suomalaisen elämään joko läheisen tai oman sairastumisen muodossa.