The OCD Mormon. READ THIS BOOK!

Thanks to a recently acquired kindle and a lot of time nursing a newborn, I’ve read a lot of good books this summer, but none that I’ve recommended, referenced and been touched by more than Kari Ferguson’s new book, “The OCD Mormon: Finding healing and hope in the midst of anxiety” kari

If you have talked with me in the past three months you can probably attest that I have tried to get you to read this book. I do not have OCD, or any mental illness for that matter, and many of the people I’ve recommended the book to don’t either, but that is precisely the power of her writing—this is a book we all need to read if we are going to claim to lift up the hands that hang.

Ferguson is doing the work of bridging a too-large gap for people like me that for whatever reason have a great void in my knowledge and understanding of mental illness. Reading the OCD Mormon made me want to be an active participant in both the dialogue and support that is offered to people confronting mental illness in general, and also with the specifics that come with being a Mormon with a mental illness.

I simply had never thought about how difficult it is for someone with OCD to sit on a sacrament pew and think about the germs that must be there or that you might be spreading, or to take the sacrament when you worry about whose hands touched the bread and did they wash them and will you get someone sick if you accidentally touch a piece that isn’t the one you pick up?

I had not considered how attentively many people with mental illness must be when watching conference, reading the Ensign or listening to a talk on Sunday for inclusion, love, acknowledgement and support to be offered in this church we are all supposed to call home. Reading this book made me realize I need and want to be much better in actively knowing not only the sorrows, but the powerful strength and insight that comes from mental illness.

In candid, verbose honesty, Kari tells her story of living with OCD while being a student, missionary, worker, mother, wife, daughter, relief society president and friend. The book has stuck with me because in her willingness to be vulnerable and entirely honest, Kari showed me a life that I had not previously understood or even known about. By the end of the book I was completely struck and motivated by the bravery with which she confronts the darkest parts of her illness.

I’m embarrassed to admit how limited my knowledge is on the intricacies of living daily with a mental illness. Empathy, love and admiration grew each page and by the end I felt my heart had grown several sizes. This is the type of work the church needs—work that asks us to see outside of paradigms we’ve held for far too long. Writing and stories that move us first to empathy and then to action—OCD Mormon is just that, and I sincerely hope there are many more stories that are told and loved by people with mental illness.

The book is peppered with condensed boxes of Practical Tips and Tools if you have only time to flip through the pages. In reading over things again as I write this review, I find myself re-reading whole chapters, and re-committing myself to be more kind, understanding and gentle with everyone around me.

The chapters from the practicalities of finding the right doctors and medication, to discerning when religious counsel is well-meaning, but not the right thing for your disorder, to managing family relationships and finding hope in the atonement.

If we were speaking in person I would hand you a copy of this book and tell you to please, please read it.

If we are to do the work of Zion, we owe it to the people of Zion to better know their struggles, both the pain and the joy that make up our complex landscape.

You can read Kari’s blog: https://www.theocdmormon.com/

You can order the book here.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I read this book recently too, and resonated with a lot of it via my own experiences with anxiety. I came away from it thinking it would be a very valuable read for ecclesiastical leaders, ward and family members, and friends.

  2. Thanks so much for writing this. I’m looking forward to reading the book. My son suffers from a form of OCD. He is on a mission right now. The last three years have been pure hell seeing him struggle through and not having any clue on how to help him. It’s been a journey of discovery for us as parents and for my son. Every Pday as I get his emails I hold my breath. He is making it. It’s not easy.

  3. Victor Himmel says:

    Does this book address the scrupulosity subtype of OCD?

    One of the greatest and most lasting harms I experienced in mormonism was the interaction of doctrine and practice with my inherent scrupulosity. Whatever path they choose in adulthood, children and adolescents with scrupulosity being raised in mormonism need to be noticed and helped. And no, being encouraged to pray harder, study the scriptures more, and be more righteous is *not* helpful. A person with scrupulosity has already been doing that, and waiting for it to help, and feeling intense guilt and meta-guilt the whole time.

  4. Victor,
    Yes, the book definitely does address scrupulosity OCD, which I had not previously known about, but can now only imagine how difficult it must be combined with mormon guilt tendencies. Kari dealt with scrupulosity and does a great job of addressing her own experience with it.

  5. anon, Bless your son and his bravery and you and your bravery. This book would be great for both you and him (at some point).

  6. I struggled with scrupulosity until I got my OCD treated with medication. You are literally being told you are going to hell – all the time. I thought about killing myself because, hey, if your going to go to hell anyway why rack up more sins.

  7. Victor.

    Not sure if you follow Kari’s blog, but she has a few posts on scrupulosity as well:
    https://www.theocdmormon.com/2017/07/17/ocd-con-day-3/
    https://www.theocdmormon.com/category/scrupulosity/page/

    Hope that helps.

    I’ll also mention (as was mentioned in the review) that while the focus of the book is around Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, nearly all of the anecdotes and learnings can be applied to mental illness in mormonism in general!

  8. Victor Himmel says:

    Xen: your message is a deeply harmful one. The most charitable explanation for the sentiments you’ve expressed would, funny enough, be that you yourself are experiencing some mental illness (NB: this is not an insult; as I’ve stated in an earlier comment, I am mentally ill too!) Of course, it is also possible that you are just a callous, cruel person, but I hope that is not the case.

    ashmae, Lily, Jamund: I appreciated your replies. Thank you.

  9. I love the simple contact of a handshake as a means of expressing warmth and community. I especially like that today I can feel comfortable offering a hand to both men and women. Yet, having some sub-clinical degree of OCD, I cringe (particularly in norovirus season) at the number of hands I shake in my current calling, not to mention sticky high-fives with the younger set. Happily, at least we no longer have a communal sacrament cup! And no holy water at our doors. Definitely this book is on my reading list.

  10. Bryan Donsieders says:

    Is it bad that I was a bit anxious at the fact that squares appear to cover the whole cover, but you can’t see the borders of all of them?

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