Obsessed by Allison Britz is a memoir covering a few months of OCD before being diagnosed and treated with Exposure Response Therapy (ERT).
This was a fascinating non-fiction read. Allison covers a portion of her sophomore year when her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) manifests and before she understood what was happening to her thoughts. The book starts off strong but then got a little repetitive. This isn’t a criticism because it was needed to show how her OCD controlled every thought and action during the day. It was sad to read how a 15-year-old girl’s life spiraled out of her control.
Allison wakes up from a nightmare about cancer and starts to have thoughts about what causes cancer and ways in which her parents will die. Her thoughts then tell her ways to avoid these scenarios, such as counting steps or avoiding everyday objects. Each day new ideas about preventing death come to her, and she MUST follow them. During this time, she has friends and even her parents that start to notice odd behaviors. When they reach out to her, she responds negatively or in anger. This pushes everyone away. Eventually, the rules get so complicated they immobilize her to the point of not being able to get dressed. It is at this point that she calls her mom and finally asks for help. Once she admits her weakness and accepts her mom’s offer to help, she can move forward.
I admire her because she didn’t use medication to treat OCD, but instead used Exposure Response Therapy.
Reading this book reminded me of my own struggle with trying to live a holy life and fighting concupiscence. I try to do this on my own. I think there is a part of me that wants to show God that I can live a life of sanctity, perseverance, and fidelity all on my own. He doesn’t need to worry about me. I am that good on my own. Of course, this is ridiculous, and I fail every single time. Jesus was very clear when He said:
There are other occasions the opposite happens. Times when I know I need God’s help. I ask Him for His graces, and yet I fail. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (CCC1996). When I continue to fail, I have to look to myself and ask why? God became like us so that we can become like God. We can partake in His divine nature, which was lost due to sin. God is always calling us back to participate in His divine nature.
Why when I ask for these graces, do I still fail?
I need to be rightly disposed to accept His free gift of grace. “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion. . . Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17). Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high” (CCC1989).
There can be times when God is moving in my life, but I am unable to recognize this due to my hardened heart: This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand (Mt 13:13).
How can I see? How can I listen? Interior repentance.
Please don’t misconstrue what I am saying. I don’t want you to think I am stating that Allison developed OCD because she had sinned or that she needed repentance. This is NOT what I am suggesting at all. Christ gives each of us our own sufferings. These sufferings are not tied to our sins.
The connection I am making is we still have work to do even if we ask for help in our lives. Allison asked for help, but she had to use ERT to live with her OCD. This was something only she could do. Even if I ask God for help, I need to have a conversion in my heart before I can accept His free gift of grace. I have to have repentance to be able to live God’s will in my life.
The only connection I am making is that even when we ask for help, we still have to make changes in our lives to accept the help. Be it from friends, family, medical people, and even from God.
What is repentance?
CCC1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace.
CCC1432 The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: “Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!” God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him.