“OCD has been the gateway to God and grace for me.” Peyton Garland author of Not So By Myself shares her story of OCD and her journey of going to therapy.
After seeing a therapist, her mother and grandmother followed after her and sought professional help for themselves.
- Peyton’s experience of contamination OCD
- What it was like to go to therapy for the first time
- Getting help with brainspotting (type of therapy)
- Growing up in a strict church culture and how her faith changed over the years as she grew to know God.
- Growing up in home with a parent who has PTSD
- Ripple effect on her family after she decided to seek help
- How Peyton’s husband works with her on compulsions
- God breaks into lonely places. He works best in the mess.
Follow along with Peyton on Instagram @peytonmgarlandwrites
Book: Not so by Myself: A safe space where God doesn’t fix the loneliness, but sits with you instead
Transcript Of Episode 26
Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD. Episode 26. Our most popular episodes thus far have been personal experience stories. Peyton Garland shares her experience of struggling with OCD. How that’s impacted her faith, her journey of going to therapy. It’s really good stuff in here, guys. I hope that you enjoy the show today.
Carrie: Thank you for coming on the show, Peyton.
Peyton: Happy to be here.
Carrie: I’d love you to just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Peyton: Sure. I am Peyton Garland. My husband’s name is Josh. He and I live north of Atlanta in Alpharetta, Georgia. We have two of the most obnoxious but sweet puppies in the world, Alfie and Daisy. So we are dog parents and proud of it. My husband is a pilot and I’m an author. So we’re both finding the careers that we love and thriving in them.
Carrie: That’s awesome. Why did you want to be on the podcast and tell a little bit about your story today?
Peyton: I think mental health in this day and age is almost a buzzword. I think it’s something where people are finally willing to talk about it. They’re finally willing to listen, but I also think that the voices that need to be at the forefront of these conversations are people who do struggle with anxiety, who do struggle with OCD, who know what it’s like to be in a therapist’s office.
So this podcast just seemed to embody that ability to have real conversations with people who truly go through this stuff.
Carrie: At what point in your life did you start to notice like I’m starting to struggle here with my thought life?
Peyton: I had always been a worrier and I knew that, but the older I got the worst that got the more irrational the worrying became.
So like I said, my husband, is a pilot. When he first finished flight school, which was about two years ago, the only airport where he could get a job was in Indiana. So states away, hours away. He and I had just moved to a new town in Georgia for a new job for me. So new town, new job. I’m not near my family.
I’m not near my friends. Two weeks after we moved there, he moves to Indiana. I’m being by myself and being by yourself leaves lots of room for your headspace to just go crazy. And at that point, maybe two or three months into him being gone that’s when I said this worrying is not only irrational. It’s starting to impact me physically, too like I’m losing weight. I can’t put back on. I’m not sleeping. I eventually went to a therapist which in my small country town was not a welcomed thing. Therapy is almost seen as defeat like you couldn’t take it, you couldn’t handle it. Your faith in God wasn’t strong enough. I went to a therapist’s office, found out I have intrusive thought OCD.
And what I’ve learned with OCD is that often anxiety and depression are kind of buddies. They sit right beside OCD and they take turns. So I’m just on a big journey. Now I share a lot about that in my new book, Not So By Myself. Just how you’re not really by yourself in the quiet space, even when your brain is super loud.
Carrie: That’s so good. So it was a, you had a big stigma hurdle to even get in the therapy office coming from a small town, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Be the tough girl.
Peyton: Oh yeah. Well, I’m so glad you said that. In my book one of the chapters, I talk about how all three of my great uncles and my grandfather were drafted into the Vietnam war. All four gone at the same time and when they came home, they quickly learned that in order to not talk about everything they’d seen, they were just to keep quiet. That silence was strength. Those two just seem to parallel and they passed that idea down from generation to generation to generation.
So my generation about the third or fourth generation, we’re sitting in a culture now that saying, “Hey, it’s okay to say I’m not okay. It’s okay to go get help.” And I think I actually was the first person in my family to go to a therapist. And the beautiful thing is I had a parent to follow after that. [00:04:37] I had a grandmother follow after that, and that was a very beautiful thing to kind of see loved ones, say, “Hey, you know what? There’s some things I haven’t been okay with. I have a dad who has PTSD and traumatic brain injury from serving in the military. So lots of people now getting help for hard things they’ve been dealing with for decades.
Carrie: I love that ripple effect in your story. It’s like one person starts in the family starts to experience some relief and change and hope, and then other people say, “oh, hey, that sounds really good. I want to get on board with that and maybe I’ll try therapy out as well.”
Carrie: Do you remember that experience of just being so nerve-racked and were you super scared to start talking?
How was your therapist able to help you feel comfortable even sharing some of these things that you had? You’d really just rattled around in your head and maybe talked to your husband about.
Peyton: Sure. This is crazy. You’re literally outlining my book chapter by chapter.
Carrie: I haven’t read it either.
Peyton: One of the chapters is called green tea and therapy and it’s about my first time in a therapist’s office. Like I said I come from a good old country town. I walk in this therapist’s office and there’s like this spa music in the background. There’s bright but soft colors everywhere. I’m way out of my element.
I was not a yoga kind of girl. But my therapist just asks me a simple question. She’s like, “Hey, is there anything I can offer you to drink?” And I’m a green tea kind of girl. So I said, green tea, just give me some green tea. And I remember death gripping that green tea coffee the whole time.
I don’t even think I drank it. I just death gripped it because one thing I knew and this whole room of nothing I knew. My therapist started with the big question. She had to tell me about yourself like I got to know what goes on in your head. What’s going on in your heart and your spirit and your family.
When I left I had no mascara left on my face. I mean, I did, but it was like down to my chin on my neck. I still hadn’t touched the green tea. It was just an hour of me unearthing everything that had been there for over a decade, honestly. So it was a wild, uncomfortable, but relieving experience all at once. It was a whirlwind for sure.
Carrie: Was that when you got the diagnosis of OCD?
Peyton: Yes. So I have a dear friend, her name’s Wendy Nunnery. She’s an author too. She has it. And I had met her for coffee one day and we hadn’t been friends for long and she was just vulnerable enough to say, “Yeah, you know I struggle with intrusive thought OCD.
And she was telling me all the things she worries about. And I went, “oh my goodness.” Number one, I’m not by myself because I have been thinking some off-the-wall things and I can’t talk myself down from them. I’m always afraid of running people off the road. I overthink being near knives. I overthink changing a child’s diaper.
All of these things that I just thought I was literally psychotic, like there was some serious problem. This wonderful woman of faith is sitting in front of me, a mother, a thriving wife and she just lists everything that’s been rattling in my head for years. And so I sat back still wasn’t sure about therapy, but kind of a pin that had to be what I had. And once Josh left it was very, very unhealthy.
Like I was just in a place where I wasn’t functioning. I said we gotta get help and that’s exactly the diagnosis I received.
Carrie: So in some ways that was probably a little bit relieving to know what you were dealing with because when people don’t know what they’re dealing with, then they throw all kinds of vernacular labels on themselves.
Peyton: Right. My dad, you know, has PTSD and he had that when I was growing up. So I was around it. But PTSD almost stems from something very traumatic, which is what happened with him in the military in his line of work. But for me, nothing traumatic had actually happened to me and I couldn’t figure out why I was having a hard time.
As a good kid with good grades and a good family. I mean we had struggles with what my dad went through, but I must have been a bad person if I couldn’t control what was going on in my head. The level of relief and the pressure that just fell off me, that was a God thing. There was no way around that.
Carrie: Did you struggle spiritually during that time? Like why has God allowed me to struggle with this? And those kinds of questions, maybe that people with OCD face.
Peyton: Yeah, I’m just going to send you my book when this is over. My fourth chapter is called church games. And so again, I grew up and not hating by any means on denomination, on religion, but I went to a very small brick and mortar countryside church. Women were told not to speak. I was told it was King James, or it was literally not the Bible and how dare you touch it. Women cannot lead worship. I grew up in such a rigid church culture that when you combine that with OCD, you’re quite terrified of God.
I got a credit card in the mail or a debit card a few months ago and my security code, well, I guess I can’t say it, but it had lots of the apocalyptic kind of numbers going on and I literally almost sent that back in the mail. I was like, “no, we can’t use that like, I can’t touch that.” Wild, irrational thoughts OCD we’re paired with this very rigid church culture.
And I was afraid of God for years like he was just somebody that I was told to love, but I was scared of loving him because I was just scared of who he was or at least who he seemed to be. So yeah, I struggled spiritually for a long time.
Carrie: Like maybe tying into some of the obsessions, like is God mad at me or am I going to go to hell.
Peyton: Exactly. Very perfection-oriented. But like I said not just a perfectionist or perfectionist with OCD which can take on a completely different level of fear, anxiety, and all the like.
Carrie: So what you’re saying is that you have intrusive thoughts, but you don’t actually have any compulsions. Is that so?
Peyton: It’s funny. So there’s several different branches of OCD like intrusive thought OCD there’s harm OCD, contamination OCD. With me, I do have a form of contamination OCD. I always had. I washed my hands a lot as a child If I spilled anything on me like a chemical. Cleaning panics me. I was afraid to be near chemicals.
So when COVID hit, my contamination OCD, the compulsion went through the roof like I had always been a hand washer. I’d always been a clean person. I started keeping a chart of how often I washed my hands. When the world shut down and we went home, I washed my hands an average of 57 times a day and I spent two-plus hours a day following through on compulsions with cleaning, with mopping, with wiping everything down with wiping my hands down my phone down. Just putting Josh in a Clorox fog as soon as he came through the door.
So there are definitely compulsions, but I see them most with the contamination OCD.
Carrie: How has that affected your, your marriage, and your relationship there? Have you had to kind of train him on how to help you at times?
Peyton: He is very gracious and I’ve been very blessed with someone who’s willing to listen.
He has been mentally a very strong man which is fantastic. Obviously, he worries about things. There’s hard things for him, but he is very mentally stable, which is what I need. I’ll be honest when we first got married is when it really started kicking up. I’ve learned change kind of messes with my OCD like getting married, buying a house.
I had just gotten a new job. Just all the things. And bless his heart he just thought it was birth control. He thought maybe it was him. I thought it might’ve been him. We didn’t know. Maybe only a few months later is when the piloting thing happened and he was gone and I got help. So for us it’s funny, but for him it was a breath of relief when I found out I had OCD. He went, “oh, okay. It’s not me. It’s something else.” Not that we can fix OCD but we now have something we can work with. We have a name and a face to it and he has been so good. What I love about him is he respects when I’m having anxiety.
He respects when there’s a compulsion where I’m just like, I have to follow through with it. There’s no way around it. But he also calls me to work through compulsions. He calls me to say, “Hey, let’s take a step back and rationally talk yourself down from this like we don’t have to wash your hands five times in a row. We can do four and walk away.
It’s okay. So there’s been a little bit of training on his part, but he’s really been gracious and I’ve been very thankful for that.
Carrie: That’s awesome. We talked about kind of how to support your anxious spouse on a previous episode. So I’m curious about your experience on that.
What was that process like of finding tools and strategies and things to help you in therapy?
Was that really hard and what kind of therapy did you utilize?
Peyton: Yeah, so my therapist and I, we do brain spotting. I don’t know who all knows, but literally, I find a spot in the room where my brain just kind of seems to be at peace and attune. I like natural light, my brain and my eyes always go to a window where there’s natural light and my therapist just says, “Hey, let’s just start walking through what you’re feeling. Why you’re feeling this way.”
And every time brainspotting walks me back to what started a trigger, what started a compulsion, what started the anxiety that’s just built up and is now bottling over. So I love brainspotting because often my compulsion or my thought has nothing to do with what’s really bothering me. OCD is just really good at twisting stuff.
So I love brainspotting. It earths my head. It just brings it back to earth. But also we just learned really healthy techniques. Even things like social media can spike my OCD. Just because OCD can thrive off of just about anything it wants. I do 45 minutes of social media a day. I have a timer on my phone. That’s something she and I worked through. 45 minutes was a healthy number for me. When the timer goes off, I’m done with social media. Josh and I have what we call a contamination zone in my house. If there’s something that I just feel is completely contaminated and I don’t want to touch it. He puts it in a corner, in a room and we let it air out because in my brain letting it air out is safe. Just little things like that have made a huge difference for us.
Carrie: That’s awesome. I’m going to get somebody on the show to talk about brainspotting now. I think that that would be an interesting episode, too.
Peyton: That would be fantastic. I love it. I love brainspotting.
Carrie: Yeah. We have talked a little bit about EMDR on the show and it’s similar.
There’s some similarities in terms of just kind of like really tapping into that brain level response and the nervous system. And like you said, when you trace OCD back, it doesn’t make sense. You’re like, “wait a minute, this goes back to that time when I was this age and this experience happened.”
I love that it really gets down deep underneath the presenting issue. Because it’s not actually about the stuff or the cleanliness. It’s about that piece underneath it, whether it’s a lot of times like dealing with uncertainty or loss of control or those types of triggers can be really prominent
Peyton: Well, that’s what wild is. Every time we brain spot and we work it back, it is either a very harsh church experience I had, or it’s just growing up in a household with a dad with PTSD that was undiagnosed for years. Every time, my brain has trillions of off-the-wall thoughts, but every one of them works its way back to one of those two things.
Carrie: Wow. Do you feel like you were a particularly sensitive kid growing up, more sensitive to people’s emotions or kind of absorbing everything?
Peyton: I’ve taken a bunch of Christian spiritual gift tests and discernment comes back every time no matter which one I take. But my mom did say as a child, I tended to know without actually knowing, like if there was a relative who was going through a hard divorce or someone just lost someone.
My mom said as a child, I gravitated to them. She said I’d walk up and sit in their lap. I would sit and talk to them. I mean, maybe that had to have been just God. Just knowing who needed some extra love. My mom swears as a child I could just walk in a room and I just knew who needed even just a “hey” or a hug.
Carrie: That’s good. We had Mitzi Van Cleave on the show before, and she talked really about how OCD was a part of her sanctification process. That there was this process of growth through affliction is what she talked about it. Can you talk about a little bit about that in terms of your spiritual journey?
Do you feel like you have some similarities there?
Peyton: Sure. I’m so glad you asked that question. It’s one of those things where I think Paul mentions in the new testament that he had a thorn in his side. I think that’s a favorite thing to debate is what was the thorn in the side. But I think regardless, the reality is we each have a thorn in the side. I think on this side of heaven, we will eternally fight or struggle over, wrestle with and I think OCD is mine. There’s no magic pill for OCD. I’m not going to wake up one day and my brain is just going to be super chill.
The bittersweet thing that I love about this thorn in the side is it constantly calls me back to a place of grace. As a perfectionist with OCD, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact I cannot be perfect. The church is saying is you’re a human. You’re not perfect.
I always knew that, but that always wasn’t good enough. I was like, “no, I’m going to prove the church wrong. I’ve got this. I can do this.” OCD literally said “ha, no” like here’s something very irrational and very imperfect for you to imperfectly worry about. You know, go have fun, good luck. And so OCD quite forced me to accept that I’m not perfect. And because of that, growing up in a really harsh church culture and stepping away from it and wrestling with OCD, I can now look at God and say, “Hey, you know what not only am I not perfect, but you are.” And as churchy as that sounds, there’s so much grace in that because God has not put the standard of perfection on me.
And I know I can’t meet it, especially with the OCD. And so now it’s just grace and I had not lived under grace. I had not lived by grace. It was just a catchy phrase that at one point I thought would be a good tattoo on my wrist. But OCD has been the gateway to God and grace for me. And so for that I am always grateful.
Carrie: How did you make that perspective shift in terms of your view of God? Did that come through getting around like a healthier church environment?
Peyton: Sure. When I was about 16 or 17, I just told my family, I said look I’m out. Not out, like I’m not piecing Jesus out, but I’m not here. I finally started studying the Bible and the Bible and the guy behind the pulpit were not lining up.
[00:20:43] So I said, look, I can either believe a man who’s like everybody else or worse, or I can believe God. And so I’m just going to go with God. That sounds like a smart decision. That’s the Sunday school answer, but it’s one that I’m going to adopt for myself. And so I stepped away from that church. I found a much, much healthier church which made so much of a difference. Within that church, I found women my age who were also not afraid to mention that they struggled with mental health and that right there was probably the ultimate game-changer. I was being around women my age who had been perfectionists. I don’t know if you know the Enneagram, but I am in an Enneagram one on the personality chart.
We are reformers. We are the spearheads for all that is just and good and right. But I was blessed to find women just like that, who turned around and said that I’m not always good. And just and right. I do struggle with mental health. And even through all of that God still sees me as good because he loves me and because he’s good.
And so that was the revolution in my spiritual journey.
Carrie: I think finding the character of God. And I’m really connecting with the character of God who he says he is in the Bible and experiencing that in your life as absolutely a game-changer. I’m curious. This is a question for you from the trends of the podcast. Our podcast is for people with anxiety and OCD. But the most popular episodes that have been downloaded have been personal stories about people with OCD who have experienced that. Even more popular than our very first episode just like, Hey, this is the podcast. This is who Carrie is and all of that. What do you think? That’s because people just aren’t talking about OCD and the church.
Peyton: Oh, absolutely. When I wrote my book, not said by myself, my editor called me and she said, Hey, sweetheart, you got to lighten up on the church, just a smidge. You gotta pull back just a littlest. So I’ve talked about that with much more grace. Thanks to my editor. And my book, I think we talk about the soul in the church, but I also think if God created the soul, he created the body and he created the mind.
And we are called to honor all three of those. We are called to keep all three of those healthy to keep them in check. Iron sharpens iron, I think mind, body, and spirit. And I don’t know where the disconnect happened with the church and that aspect. I don’t have a clue, but nobody talks about your mind and your physical health either.
And if those two aren’t in check often the spirit’s not in check. And so we’re walking around almost wobbly like one-third of us is functioning like it’s supposed to in the church and we wonder why things still feel like they’re falling apart.
Carrie: And they’re not working. And this concept, which I’m still just wrapping my mind around is like the holy spirit lives in me like in my body that just really blows my mind.
So I’m like, does how I treat my body that has to interact with my spirit? I know it doesn’t change the holy spirit. I’m not saying that, but I mean how I interact with my body changes my spiritual health. It affects my spiritual health as well as my emotional health and physical health.
It’s just all interconnected. And I think you’re right, I think we do try to look at those things separately and don’t interact with each other. And if we want to be more healthy spiritually, we also have to be more healthy emotionally and physically. It just makes sense. I love that.
Talk with us about this concept in your book of not being alone that seems to be a big thing for you. Why did you title the book the way that you did and how does that incorporate with what you wrote about?
Peyton: I think OCD was probably one of the most isolating things in my life. Like I said, even growing up, I was a worrier. My friends called me the worrier.
I was the mom friend like I was always 45. I was always isolated because I was the mom. I was the worrying one. I was the one who can not just ever let loose and have fun now, not in the name of sinful pleasure, but I was just never relaxed. I can never breathe and that was one of the most isolating things for me.
And so as I got older, life got harder, stuff got more serious intrusive thoughts just have a field day with that. I mean, because there’s just so much more stake. Once I got married like sexual OCD stuff went through the roof because never had I ever had sex. And now I have, and my brain is like, “Oh, here’s 5 million things we can take and run with.”
So I continue to get lonelier and lonelier because all of these thoughts made me take a step back, take a step back. I was not like everyone else. Something was wrong with me. Should I call the sheriff on myself like what is going on? And so when Josh physically left and I was physically by myself, that was probably one of the darkest places in my life because I had always been mentally and even spiritually isolated just from the church I grew up in and struggling with OCD. And here I am not physically alone and it took therapy. It took God’s grace. It took two or three very dear friends that made you realize you literally cannot be alone. And it sounds so churchy. It sounds so cliche.
But like you said, if the holy spirit is truly embodying you then I am called to believe that he is embodying every lonely space I’m walking through. So he is quite literally paving the way and telling loneliness to just step aside like it doesn’t have a place here, not in my heart, not in my spirit, not in my physical body, not in my mind. And so that’s how I chose the title, Not So By Myself.
Carrie: So huge. I hope that as people hear this podcast and these stories that they recognize that within themselves too like I’m not alone. I’m not alone in my struggles and that God’s here with me and God can break into those lonely spaces. And I love that he just meets us where we’re at, you know, all of our mess.
Peyton: That’s what I say. He works best in the mess. That is where he thrives.
Carrie: So cool. Towards the end of the podcast, I like to ask our guests to share a story of hope, which is the time where you received hope from God or another person.
Peyton: Oh, that is such a good one. OCD is just so wild. So harm OCD for me, I’m always afraid of running people off the road. I’m always turning my car around to make sure I haven’t run anybody off the road. There was one day I was in my little black Chevy car that I had gotten in high school and I was driving home and I just had one of those intrusive thoughts of I tried to pick up my phone because someone was calling me and I thought, “oh my gosh.”
[00:28:00] like for those five split seconds, you have no idea if you were looking at the road, what could have happened? So I just hit the brakes. It’s a quiet country town, but I still hit the brakes in the middle of the road. And I went to go whip my car around and somebody sideswipes me because I’m irrationally flipping my car in the middle of the street.
And I thought, “oh, my word. I have just caused a wreck. I have no clue if this person is okay. I don’t know how I’m gonna tell a cop I have intrusive thought OCD and that’s why I’ve had a wreck. So I pull off on the side of the road and this woman pulls off and I see her and she’s older and I think she’s 85.
I have partially killed her. She’s going to need a hip replacement. This woman gets out of her car. I’ve damaged her car like this was on me. She comes over and she grabs my hand and she looks at me and, and even in a small town, this was one of those random chances where I didn’t know who this was.
She said, “I just want you to know that this is God’s providential hand, that you’re safe and I’m safe.” And she prayed over me and just left. And I’m sitting here going, ”my insurance is going to go through the roof.” I definitely just clipped the back end of her car. So no insurance going up. I didn’t pay anything for this woman’s car.
I swear she was an angel. So that was just hope because that was a hard thing. Mentally, I was in a bad place. I made a bad decision as a driver and this woman just prays over me, gives me grace, and just drives off. And I will never forget that day. I will never forget her face, the street name, any of it as long as I live. That was some serious hope that I will not forget.
Carrie: Wow. What a testimony of God’s grace. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. I think this has been great to talk about all the different things that you talked about and I’m sure it’ll be an encouragement to somebody.
I enjoy getting to have these guests on because it really reduces the stigma and shame surrounding being a Christian and struggling with OCD. Maybe you or someone you know have had an experience such as overcoming a phobia or working through social anxiety, I would love to feature some of those types of stories on the podcast.
If that’s you or someone you know, you don’t have to be an author to be on the show or a public speaker or a therapist. None of those are requirements. Just reach out to me via our contact form on the website at www.hopeforanxietyandocd.com I look forward to hearing from you and being able to share more stories of hope with you in the future.
Hope for anxiety and OCD is a production of By The Well Counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing completed by Benjamin Bynam.
Until next time. May you be comforted by God’s great love for you.