Along with being perfect, I felt I had to be the good little Catholic girl that God and the world expected me to be.
I thought I was going straight to Hell if I had a sexual thought about anyone, especially someone who was “Holy.” In my world, priests and God (Jesus) were held as sacred, and certainly should not be looked at or thought of as sexual.The problem was, these types of thoughts came in to my head without my permission. I would be sitting in church having an unholy thought about our extremely good looking, intelligent, funny Priest, and I knew it was so wrong, so very wrong. These thoughts would pop in and out without notice, and I felt dirty, terrible, and did I mention wrong? On occasion I would even have these thoughts about Jesus himself as I gazed at his almost totally naked body as He hung on the cross. Did Jesus have sex when he was human? My mind could in an instant envision sexual acts including Him. How could I think these thoughts? All I knew was I was just an awful, unforgivable person for having these unclean thoughts. I was undoubtedly going to Hell!
As a good Catholic, I also believed I should never look at other guys in a sexual way. If I thought a guy had a nice butt, yep, I was going straight to Hell! I was a married woman and was not supposed to admire other men.
The Ten Commandments were, in my mind, THE LAW! I always referred to them as “The Big Ten,” and they ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT be broken. These were the rules intended by God, for us to live by. Then again, I felt like I could not break any rules or laws—ever. I had to always be perfect and do everything right. I even put change in the Brach’s candy container when I “helped” myself to a piece at the grocery store.
I HAD to attend church EVERY week or I thought I was a bad person. Believe me, there were weeks when I would have loved to stay home, but that was not an option. Eventually, I began attending church on Saturday evenings to allow myself one morning of not waking to the buzz of an alarm.
I would have voices in my head saying, “I love the devil,” and I would have to repeat at least two times, “I hate the devil, I love God,” to neutralize this unspeakable thought. Would God forgive me for this horrendous thinking in my head? How could I possibly be having these evil thoughts? I really did love God, so why would my thoughts contradict that? I believed I was a really bad person, but I could not control these thoughts. They just popped in, completely uninvited, and all I knew was that I had to get them out as quick as they arrived.
In the Catholic Church, we did the handshake of Peace right before receiving Communion. You would shake the hand of the parishioners near you or hug a family member, extending your wish for peace to them. I always wanted to sit in the last pew in church, so the number of hands I would have to shake would be cut in half. I was so afraid that the person may be wearing a class ring (at this point any class ring was contaminated), or they may in some way know the contaminant or his family. If the people in front of me were someone I knew, I would stay and shake hands. If they were someone I did not know, or made me feel uncomfortable, I would excuse myself to the restroom until the handshaking was complete. Eventually, I realized I could sit up in the balcony of the church and not have to shake anyone’s hands besides my own family. Again, I was secluding myself from the world. Forgive me Father for not extending my hand to others!
One of the contaminants’ friends from high school started attending church, and my attendance began to decline. What if he had a picture of The Guy in his wallet or what if he had his class ring? The odds of this being accurate were very unlikely, but I could not take any chance, so I avoided the situation altogether.
As long as I am talking about my connection with the church, I also worked at the Catholic school connected to our church. I was Director of the Before and After School Day Care Program. My children attended the school, so it was a perfect job.
I recall a time someone ordered pizza at the school and the delivery driver that came resembled the brother of The Guy (I am still not sure to this day if that is who he really was, but my OCD convinced me at the time that it was him). I sent him to where he needed to go, my heart sank, and I felt all energy drain from my being. He was in my school, a rare safe place where I knew everyone, and they were all “clean.” That weekend I had to go to the daycare and clean it top to bottom. I even washed the thousands of Legos—one strainer at a time. I soaked them, rinsed them, and lay them out to dry. I took the dress- up clothes to the Laundromat and washed them. I threw out many other items that I could not clean. My safe place had been invaded. It took a long while before I felt the school was clean again, especially the areas other than the daycare. Forgive me Father for wasting!
I went to a Kindergarten program at the school one fall morning to watch my friend’s son. I was dressed in a really cute outfit, complete with accessories. I arrived, took my seat, and began watching when…
Oh my Dear God…it couldn’t be…but it was! The Guy’s mother was in my school, watching one of the children in the program! This was the deciding factor in leaving my job. I could not work in the building that was now as contaminated as it could possibly get. I would have to leave my career as a Day Care Director, my fourteen year career—a career that I loved and a business that I started from the ground up—a business I made successful: and a place where I thought I would retire! My OCD was not only running my life, but ruining my life! All of the clothes I wore that day had to be washed…and washed…and washed, and some I still threw away. I could not get them clean enough to ever wear again.
It has been nearly nine years since then. I have stopped in to visit a couple of times and feel the building has been cleaned and painted enough times where I would feel okay inside. My granddaughters now attend school there, and I can be there without having to go home and immediately clean myself up.
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