Poker Face

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is a mental illness whereby distressing, intrusive thoughts enter my head and refuse to leave. These are known as obsessions. The only temporary reprieve is to perform a physical or mental routine, the compulsion, in an attempt to force the intrusive thought from my mind. It invariably returns, however, often stronger than before. The compulsive act reinforces the impulsive thought. It is an ever decreasing circle, a cycle of despair.

One of my earliest OCD memories as a young boy revolved around the fireplace in our family home. It was a coal fire and my mother kept a metal poker on the fireplace in order to rake the ashes. It was nothing. Just an insignificant piece of metal, an inanimate object which served little purpose other than as I have described above.

It was to become the centre of my universe.

I don’t know how or when it started. But unless the poker was in a certain position on the fireplace I would be overcome by wave upon wave of anxiety and worry. Like a boulder sitting on my chest. I was consumed by it. I could think of nothing else and would wait until the living room was empty before scurrying over to the fireplace and setting the poker in exactly the position I needed it to be in. This would alleviate my distress.

Until the next time.

I was embarrassed at having to do this so did everything in my power to ensure that nobody became aware of my fixation. Because it was insane right? But my mother had been watching and one day asked me why I was doing it. I was mortified and had no real answer. Why was I doing it? I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember the feelings of guilt and shame that followed.

I didn’t know what OCD was back then. I felt like I was a freak, a weirdo, an outsider. Something inside me was not right. I was broken and could not be fixed. My obsessions and the resulting compulsions dominated my life. They became my idols and I was brought to my knees time and time again at their altars. I was powerless to resist.

They made me the man I am today. The man I have been working so hard to change. This blog is part of that transformation. I am a work in progress but there has been progress. My OCD is largely under control now thanks to a combination of medication, education and a supportive and loving family. I still display OCD traits and have bad days but the good days outnumber them.

I have slain my idols.

Is your life being controlled by a false idol? It could be a toxic relationship, an addictive behaviour or a mental illness. It is the centre of your universe and try as you might you cannot kick it. To do so would cause your world to shatter into a million pieces. You are paralysed by fear, alone and confused. I see hundreds of posts a day about these false idols. Good people consumed by despair and depression.

You are not alone. I might not comment on your posts because sometimes I don’t know what to say. But I pray for you. There are thousands of us like you. Open your eyes. Be brave. Reach out and ask for help. Do not let your situation dictate the direction of your life. Grab the steering wheel now. Get off that road you are on. You can do this. If I can then so can you.

I believe in a God. You may or may not. But even if you do not share my beliefs do not allow false gods to ruin your life. Drugs, alcohol, sex, money, people. They do not control your destiny. You do. Turn your back on their altars of anarchy. Walk away. I am walking with you. For we are many and this path is well travelled.

Walk away. I know you can.

Have you allowed false idols to enter your life?

How are you coping with this?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

39 thoughts on “Poker Face

  1. Authentic and heartfelt, as are you.
    I have been through difficult paths in my life. And I am still struggling and learning. To not be swallowed by others. To not be carried away by the world. And often it is like standing against a storm. But, as you said. We’re stronger now. And we’ll go on.
    Best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I am walking with you.”
    Makes me want to stand up and shout… I am walking with you too! We’re all in this together” …as if to join your group.
    The old song says… “Who is on the Lord’s side? Savior, we are thine.”


  3. Very relatable unfortunately. I think it started for me at the age of 7.
    I had a little alarm clock on my desk and if it wasn’t positioned the “right” way, I would get out of bed several times which prevented me of a good night of sleep.
    From there on it got worse. I became obsessed with numbers, routines and cleaning.

    I did therapy for this. Didn’t help.
    The only thing I did notice is that time fixes everything. Something during a panic in attack I don’t do my routine. I do something I like instead and eventually, the anxiety will go away.


  4. Ever since I was nine yrs old I’ve battled depression, was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at 16 and was told I had OCD during my thirties. After suffering unacceptable side effects from medication i did my own research and now manage my symptoms by taking a single St. John’s Wort capsule in the morning. Once I learned that depression and OCD is caused by the misfiring of the synapses in the brain from the lack of a chemical that acts as a Neuro transmitter I stoped considering depression and OCD as mental illnesses because in reality they


    1. Arise from the organic structure of the brain. When my grandfather had bypass surgery one of the effects was an inability to control his emotions as he’d been able to do before his surgery. That certainly didn’t sudden make him mentally ill. The brain suffering from Depression and OCD is like a car that needs a tune up because it isn’t firing on all cylinders. Mental illness can’t be cured or managed by a pill but an organic brain illness can. That is my own humble opinion based on my own research.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have so much better understanding of what OCD means to those who suffer as a result of reading your courageous and honest post. Thank you. My heart breaks for you and all those who fight the OCD monsters. Prayers for you. And I am inspired by your courage and perseverance in your ongoing battle!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Its so interesting how even when we don’t know we have a mental illness, someone we know we should hide it, like you did here as a kid. Even not knowing what it is, we feel a lot of shame about it. I’m glad you were able to get help and get stable. Thanks for your blog and the insights and understanding you share.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This post points to a lot of the self-examination I’ve been having to do over the last couple months going through the Old Testament and seeing how idolatry completely destroyed God’s people over and over again. I wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Liebster award because of your creative, courageous, and honest writing as well as your near-daily support of my blog πŸ™‚ Thank You for just being you!


      1. Thanks and yes I’ve had to readjust a lot of my priorities this year. I realized that I was putting a lot of things before God that obviously did not belong there like my anxiety over my future be it relationships, money, education, job, etc… I’m really good at worrying and not very good at looking to God for help and direction even though I know He’s more than capable and willing to give both 😦 the struggle is real and it hurts to know it and acknowledge it especially when I really do desire to follow God with my whole heart!


  8. Your honesty is heartfelt. Not many will go “out there” with it. Mental illness is definitely the proverbial elephant in the room with many people. The brain is an organ as is the heart, liver, pancreas, etc., but for some reason when things go haywire with it it triggers some sort of Twilight Zone-like thinking in people.

    It must be the mystery surrounding the mind and the fact that little is still known in the medical field about its functioning. One thing boss, know that man (mankind) can transplant a heart, a liver, or bone marrow, but only God can transplant (transform) a mind. He can if we let him. I know. Blessings!


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