In this episode, Carrie shares Pierre’s courageous journey with OCD, exploring how childhood fears and religious teachings shaped his mental health struggles and eventual path to healing through counseling and faith.

  • Pierre’s journey through OCD and the compulsion to replay past events.
  • The role of forgiveness in freeing Pierre from resentment and anger.
  • Pierre’s discovery of peace through trusting in God’s promises during anxious moments.
  • The power of grace in liberating from perfectionism and fear.
  • Insights into how faith and forgiveness can lead to personal and spiritual growth.

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Transcript:

Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD episode 131. I am your host, Carrie Bock, a licensed professional counselor in Tennessee. On today’s show, we have a personal story of OCD from someone named Pierre. We’re not saying his full name on the podcast or sharing any images of him. For ministry reasons, I wanted to bring you this powerful testimony.

Pierre emailed me a while back about his story, and I thought, this is just It’s so powerful. People need to hear what God has done in his life.

Carrie: Pierre, tell me a little bit about your childhood experience and how OCD showed up for you. What did that look like? How did it all start?

Pierre: I don’t know where to start. I wasn’t a fearful child. I wasn’t really somebody who hid in the bed. I was a bit adventurous and I loved the outdoors and I wanted to play every kind of game, but where is when it started really as a child, we had a nanny, a family friend who just came when my parents were out and she would babysit. My brother and I, for bedtime, she would read the Bible to us, and I didn’t even know that it was not the same to do to read the adult Bible to kids.

She would read out of the page, and one night she just read along, and it came to the story of the sin against the Holy Spirit, which at the time, maybe I was eight or nine, I didn’t understand what was it about I just realized that something was off with those stories. Something I didn’t understand. 

I remember when the next day I left by my schoolmates going to school before me. A few seconds in the corridor before the teacher realized, and she grabbed me. I gave my life to Jesus just in case because having heard a story like this, that you can be in danger of hell, even as a child.

Carrie: So you were scared of God after hearing that story?

Pierre: I didn’t understand. What it was about, I just know it was bad. If I found myself in that situation, it was bad. So I wanted to be safe. I had the sense that I could potentially sleep or fall or lose my salvation or something like that, even at that age. I think that was something I carried with me. I had no idea that I could go to my parents and talk about it.

Carrie: Why was that? Were you afraid you’d get in trouble or you weren’t sure that they would understand what you were afraid of?

Pierre: They would not understand. They would not realize it was serious for me. And I had no idea that it would be just a thing to do. When you’re scared, you go to your parents because they’re important people in your life.

They would reassure you. They would explain things. That’s what I do with my own children now. Anything that scares them, I want to talk it over and make sure we’re on the same page. We understand exactly what’s going on and I don’t let it happen again.

Carrie: But there was some teaching in your church that you had told me, like, about emotions and therapy. So maybe there wasn’t this freedom to be anxious or be depressed or have other certain emotions.

Pierre: I grew up in a Christian family, so that’s absolutely fantastic. I even had the privilege of having my parents, my dad is a pastor, and his dad before him was a pastor, so that’s very good. And the flip side is also, I think, the sense that I had very young that I had to be very careful about my behavior in church and elsewhere.

I wasn’t really allowed to be rough and to keep the honor of the family. I would say, something like that. I was very serious about things I heard in church. That was always my belief that He’s a God and we need to be careful not to offend Him. So we don’t sin, we don’t do bad stuff, we don’t use bad language.

Things I discovered later on in life that I never knew, but that’s things you don’t do either. I would say my church has a Pentecostal background. I grew up in the older generation. When I was a kid, these people were still around. I understand now that they came out of the Great Depression and the Second World War period of time, when maybe there was an upbringing of not showing up emotions.

The phrase I heard a lot was put up a smile on your face. Whenever there is some problem in your life, you don’t talk about it, at least openly. You don’t share your struggles.

Carrie: So that makes sense, probably why you wouldn’t share things with your parents if you felt like it.

Pierre: Yes. I can’t really translate that in English, but something I heard is that a sad Christian is a liability to the church. You’re not sad. If you’re a Christian, you have to be joyful. You have to be crazy about God and everything goes well for you. Because the faithful are blessed or something like that.

Carrie: I think a lot of people still believe that today. Like if I’m a Christian, I’m supposed to have joy, I’m not supposed to be angry, that’s another one.

I’m not supposed to be mad, and I’m not supposed to be sad, just supposed to be happy, joy, joy, joy all the time, and that’s just not reality. Thankfully, we have a lot of Christians in the Bible who weren’t happy all the time and who did cry and who did express emotions and thinking, just thinking about David and the Psalms.

I don’t know how people justify those types of beliefs with scripture. When you shifted some of your beliefs on this later in life, I imagine, was that comforting to you to find those places in scripture where Elijah was depressed and David was really sad? I mean, was that kind of comforting like, Oh, you can be sad and be a believer?

Pierre: Now I know, but there was a time when maybe I was starting to develop what later became a full-blown depression. When I was reading the Bible, only the bad bits would jump at me from the page. I would read condemning verses or things that I wasn’t really expecting. And because I would read the Bible as if God is speaking to me, while he’s speaking bad stuff to me.

Apparently, something must be wrong, I must sin somehow and still have that background of, I can lose my salvation, I can fall from grace, you know, I must be very careful. So if I read something in the pages of the Bible that speaks negatively. Therefore, there is a chance that I need to check my track record of going to church, especially being on time.

That was a big thing. At the time, it was all about what you wear. You are a man, you have a suit and a tie. And if you’re a woman for some time, it would be head covering. A lot has changed in my church for the better, but until maybe 20 years ago, I still remember those things being strongly imposed.

Carrie: Did it feel like there were just when it came to God, there were just a lot of rules? Maybe you’re going to mess something up.

Pierre: One thing I also want to emphasize, it’s me, it’s my own understanding of things. Other people might have not viewed the same Bible. Versus the same way. And I changed my views over time also. And then I remember, and when it all started for me, I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to go to therapy if it was not an extra scene on top of all the others.

So my dad was the pastor. He was very. Open for therapy. So I learned later on to really go to him and speak. That was a process.

Carrie: Sure. How old were you at that time where your dad encouraged you to go to therapy?

Pierre: I was 30 years old, nearly. If you remember from the beginning of my story, about 20 years, I had carried that basically fear in me.

Maybe going back that we can change that little timing there. I remember because in the church where you talk a lot about Jesus, about the return of Jesus, that’s what you expect in the church. I was taught about the rapture. So as a consequence, even very in my teenage years, if I could not sleep at night, I would go down and check on my parents to see if there was in their rooms. If I hear them snore, that’s okay. The rapture has not opened. I’m okay. I can go back to bed. But nearly every night I would do that. It became sort of a ritual for me.

Carrie: Yes. A lot of checking.

Pierre: I needed to be sure that Jesus had not left me out. That’s one little episode also. What happened to me was about 22 years old. I got married very early and this marriage didn’t turn out well at all. My wife just left me after one year. I came home to my parents a bit like a prodigal son. I’m thankful to them that they didn’t shame me at all, or they didn’t really blame me for anything that happened, as it was before. And so on top of everything else, I would carry that as a label on me that, you know, I’m done again.

I would read everything I can get my hands on about those two things. The big subject would be the Holy Spirit that Jesus talks about, and divorce and remarriage, that is ever a thing that we talk about in church. I’ve gone through every bit of literature in French, in English, in everything, really.

Carrie: Just trying to seek that reassurance that it would be okay for you to get remarried.

Pierre: Every visiting pastor, you know, about his opinion, one got really fed up and told me to just stop. Oh, man. It was too much. That’s the setting because when God allowed me to meet this girl, she is a British lady, and now we’ve been married for about 12 years.

We have two children together and she’s fantastic. I hope she hears that, but when I was considering talking about my feelings about what I really, I wanted to invite her out and we went to McDonald’s the very first thing. So what about me? I’m divorced. I’m the son of a pastor, and I’m not that poster child of a pastor child.

Thankfully, someone in the youth group got her first, and she was away somehow. She told me, I know your story. That was out of the way, and we could just start talking, and we decided that we liked each other. We started to have tea. She came to France to be an English language assistant, and she wouldn’t find a house.

A mom just suggested that she would write the church, the nearest church to her job. They knew someone who could provide accommodation. The email landed at the pastor’s desk and he said, I have two grown-up sons and they’re out. The bedroom is available. Just come. She ended up in my bedroom.

We find out that we have some of the way to work and back in common, we would share that length of a journey on a Tuesday evening and get to know each other a little bit. When I was considering whether we could go further, get engaged, because I was serious about these things, the thought was ever can I, should I, is that something that’s allowed at all?

I would go back and forth. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. I think that broke my brain over it.

Carrie: This whole time you didn’t know that. I mean, this is kind of classic relationship, OCD mixed with scrupulosity, it sounds like. You didn’t know you had OCD at all?

Pierre: No. It’s actually my wife who found out several years later because when she has a question. She Google’s everything and she found OCD scrupulosity symptoms be like this and this and that. And she said, “Oh, that sounds like Pierre”, but I’m ahead of myself. What happened was that I started to have those thoughts in my head and it was an actualization of my fear that I would blaspheme the spirits.

Just as the Bible describes really a flaming arrow, like a shooting star in my head.  I just couldn’t or I didn’t know what to do with that and they became even more present. I think it lasted about two weeks and on the 31st of May 2010.

I remember the day.  I remember the moment it just broke out. It was just us as a damn. A dam had broken in my head and I was in that panic attack that just could not stop. I was in my own flat. I was grown up. I was independent. I was having my life. I ran back to my parents and eat under the bed. I just couldn’t say anything because I just thought, you know, if I speak it, it will become true.

It would become a true blasphemy. So it was unspeakable. In the real sense of the word, I was feeling like I was burning inside of me. My chest was so tight and I was completely shocked. That’s something I wanted to avoid by all means. Something I’m not something I just wouldn’t dream of and it was all happening again.

I’m describing it from the perspective of somebody who’s read every single verse about it. I just couldn’t sleep at night and I just wouldn’t be awake during the day. So to me, that’s a description of hell.

Carrie: That was anxious all

Pierre: The time for no particular reason and I wasn’t about to blame God because the thing just happened in my head.

The very first reaction of my father was to get an appointment with a Christian counselor. I learned that these guys exist. He gave me something to sleep, and we started talking about my story and everything I shared my fears and I shared everything I could remember about my difficult moments, the divorce, the different hurts that I lived as a teenager or young adult, the difficulty about working in the workplace. I had some difficulty keeping a job.

I think everything feeds the anxiety. Every little rejection, whether it’s true or just perceived, it’s all added. And then when it’s completely, when the hole is full, it explodes and,

Carrie: So how did you come to like that realization that this was a mental health issue versus a spiritual issue?

I think that’s something that a lot of people dealing with OCD wrestle with. Is this a spiritual issue? Is this a mental health issue? Is this both?

Pierre: To me, if it’s a spiritual issue, it needs a spiritual answer. In my case, because I thought the sin was too big to be even forgiven. Just read about what Jesus says himself. If truly this is the case, there is no forgiveness, so there’s no need to go to a spiritual answer. 

Carrie: Makes sense.

Pierre: I had to go around the short circuit, the anxiety to be able to deal with it, to really understand what it is all about. When I realized that it’s not a sin issue because I haven’t actually proceeded to blaspheme the spirit because that’s not what I wanted to do in the first place.

That’s through the reading of all the material that I came across. I realized what Jesus is really talking about. I’m able to initiate my own understanding of what’s happening. I receive a lot of help. Other people’s point of view. But that’s particularly important that people just speak into your life at this very moment, then bring hope and bring comfort that no, you’re not actually seeing the problem, whether it’s mental, whether it’s a disturbance in the brain.

I have no idea. I just know that something happened. And so therefore. There must be a problem, but it has others, and God is not angry at you for thinking whatever comes through the brain.

Carrie: You found counseling really helpful, kind of getting that objective point of view on everything and some clarification?

Pierre: What really kept the balance when I got married to my wife, we moved to the UK and someone in the church just grabbed me and took me to a discipleship program called Freedom in Christ, which really helped me a lot.

It takes really the fundamentals of the Bible in a way that engages the person to see themselves as really, they are saved. They are redeemed, they are new, and they can renew their mind, they can change what they believe about God and other people, especially themselves. They can fight those thoughts that come into their heads, and just not believe them as if they were themselves thinking these things.

It might be the enemy just poisoning their minds, and they can just stand up and say, “No, I don’t want to think these things. They’re not me. They’re not what God wants me to think about renewing your mind.”

I remember one of the sessions was about forgiveness. What they ask you to do is to take a piece of paper and on the column, you write the name of a person and next to it, what they did or what they said to you.

The very fact, and next to it, what you felt about it and what it made you believe about yourself, about God or something like that. And when you decide to forgive this person, you realize that you’re not holding what they did against them at all anymore. 

I have a story about this, if I may. I was working for an old Christian lady. She has a big house, plenty of rooms. She needed a cleaner, but it was a particular kind of lady because she had very strong ideas about how she wanted the cleaning done. We always found ourselves at odds about my hoovering the whole thing at once versus her wanting one room at a time.

I grew very stressed and intense, even as far as spraying every morning that would be okay and that we don’t have that sort of, an argument over how the dusting is done or how the beds are made or something like that, which I find ridiculous. 

One time I was working for her and it all became very, just too much. In my head, I kept just thinking about the past. A lot of things just came up from very long ago. What I used to do to deal with these things was to replay the whole story in my head and try to get myself in a different outcome or be able to say, finally, 10 years after the fact, what I should have said or what I wanted to say to that person who’s now dead, maybe, or gone. I didn’t realize that it had no effect. It just feeds the problem.

Carrie: Yes. It’s a compulsion essentially to replay things in your mind.

Pierre: Basically in the same week, I went through this session on forgiveness. This lady’s name was on the list. The next week, I went back to work and the same story again, and she was not happy about the way I cleaned the room.

I remember just looking at her and thinking, what’s going on? I should be in tears now. I should be completely overwhelmed. And it’s just as if, It’s okay. He’s just speaking what she wants to say. I’m here and we can start talking about these things. I said, “You know what? You’re my employer. Yes, but I’m also your brother in Christ, and you have no right to speak to me like that.”  That was one element, one story when I was really at that moment, taking things. Biblically, I could handle things that I was never able to do before.

Carrie: That forgiveness piece is really powerful. Then almost like it freed you up to be assertive and communicate healthily instead of just holding all of that anger inside.

Pierre: I realized that a lot of what I was afraid of were lies. Lies that I pick up very early about not sharing my problems, about being a good boy, not making a mess, not making a fuss about anything. Things that I picked up wrongly from church. I’m sure that nobody ever taught these things from the pulpit, but that was what I received.

Carrie: You just felt like you had to be perfect. That was part of your conscientiousness.

Pierre: I realized also that I can trust God when he says that he loves me.

Carrie: That’s huge. How did you get to that point? Like, you can trust God when he says he loves me.

Pierre: Well, I want to say I’ve come a long way. I was reading the book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments. When I was in that state of really being fearful about being very anxious. So it’s, it’s a long time ago, but I remember I read it in French. I don’t know exactly how you read it in English. It jumped at me that this phrase is not written as a commandment is written as a promise. So in English, it’s, it does say, you shall not insert the comment, you shall not have other gods, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not, in my French Bible, it’s written as a future tense, and it changed everything, saying that, by the grace of God, I shall not do these things. 

Of course not. Why on earth would I go and murder somebody? Why would I even dream about cheating on my wife or something like that? Of course, it’s not me, my own self that’s able to do these things. It’s the power of God in me. But the way you read the Bible also informs the way you live.

I remember and, I’m still able to share it with people that came to free us from the rules and to give us life. It’s not about being perfect and checking all the marks so we can actually have a true relationship with God, brothers.

Carrie: I think that’s awesome. What would you want to say to somebody who feels like they’ve been going through this for a long time and they don’t feel like they have a lot of hope or that things can get better or maybe they feel like they’re beyond help? What would you say to that person?

Pierre: I’d be very careful saying, it’s okay, you’ll get over it. You know, I’ve been there before. I know what you feel. Those things are very dangerous to say. But just encourage people to talk about it, to open up, not to keep things inside as a prison. In my notes, I’ve written, uh, OCD is slavery.

It’s like, we chain ourselves with different fears that we have, the lies that we believe. We give the devil an opportunity to keep us down, but in fact, Jesus wants us to be free and to free others. So I love the song, “I’m No Longer a Slave to Fear.”

Carrie: Yes. that’s a good one.

Pierre: Every time I sing it, I change the chorus a little bit. I’m no longer a slave to anger. I’m no longer a slave to lust. No longer a slave to procrastination, anything. I have found those things about myself. Every time I think, every time I worship, every time I meet other people and we start talking about these things, I just jump on the opportunity.

I was those emotions, I was anxiety, and I was in bondage. I’m not perfect. I’m still on the way. I have moments where my wife reminds me that I’m going on a rant and it’s not healthy, but I’m definitely better than I was even a year ago.

Carrie: Yes. That’s awesome.

Pierre: Jesus loves you and he went all the way to die on the cross so that the fear and the anxiety would be dealt with. 

Carrie: The love of God is so powerful for us to focus on in terms of talking about being free, and you’re not the first person that said OCD is like a prison, I’ve definitely heard that from many people, or it’s like slavery, and when we truly understand and can rest and trust in the love of God, that changes things just dramatically in our lives, I’ve seen that in my life, just knowing like, okay, I’m going through suffering, I’m going through a hard time, there’s difficulties, but I know God loves me, and I know that I can rest in that, and if he loves me, and he’s my father, then he knows what’s best for me, and I can trust him that this isn’t the end of the story yet.

I think your story has so many redemptive pieces, even just talking about your wife, there’s probably somebody listening to this thinking, oh I’m never going to be able to get remarried again. I definitely went through that when I felt like I had the scarlet letter of divorce all over me after I got divorced from my first husband.

I just kind of wanted to say I didn’t want this. This wasn’t even something that I wanted. It happened. God brought you another spouse and God brought me another spouse. There’s hope out there too, for people who are struggling to find love and to find compassionate people that understand struggles. That piece is beautiful in itself as well. Your wife’s being patient with you and walking you through some of those challenges that you were struggling with. 

Do you still have some of the thoughts about the obsessions about blasphemy coming back and are those easier to shake off now?

Pierre: I think that this is dismantled right now. I’m not thinking in any shape or form at all about actually blaspheming. That would be a different story if I did. But anything else that really comes and scares me, any thought about finances, for example, anything that Price to tell me that I’m not going to make it I can’t handle the same way why God would let me down is rescued me from so much can take my little person and carry it to something I never dreamt about I would never have known that I would be married and have two beautiful children and if you’ve told me when it happened.

When we got married, we had nothing no money in the bank that itself is a story that I could also share. how God provided everything and also the fact that we are two in the boat so we can remind each other when one of us has a down moment. We can help each other and pray for each other. So it’s not always my wife who shakes me up. Sometimes it’s me. It’s my turn to say, I’ve been sad before. I’ve been there. I know what you feel, but it’s not the end of the story.

Carrie: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I think it’s going to be encouraging to some other people who are struggling. I know it can be challenging sometimes speaking in your non-native language.

I appreciate you working through the English with us. We have people who listen all over the world, so I know that we have people that listen in the UK and Australia and other places. It’s always nice to hear from people outside the US too, and their stories.

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 Are you struggling in your OCD journey right now? Are you tired of that endless cycle of obsessions and compulsions? I know some of you are dealing with mental compulsions like rumination that just seem so hard to get out of. Please come join me for the Freedom from Mental Compulsions Challenge. It’s a free webinar that I’m putting on. August the 5th at noon central time.

You can sign up at hopeforanxietyandocd.com/challenge. I’m going to be talking with you about how inference-based cognitive behavioral therapy may be able to help you. I’m Super excited to bring the 12 modules of ICBT to you in mid-August. 

Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling. Our show is hosted by me, Carrie Bock. A licensed Professional Counselor in Tennessee. Opinions given by our guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of myself or By the Will Counseling. Our original music is by Brandon Mangum. Until next time, may you be comforted by God’s great love for you.