Rat in the Church Pew

by Bill Brenner on January 24, 2010

The author has written much about his Faith as a key to overcoming mental illness. But as this post illustrates, he still has a long way to go in his spiritual development.

The scene is the parking lot of All Saints Parish, just after today’s 9:30 Mass. Father Mike Harvey greets the Brenners and the conversation somehow turns to the kids listening to their mother and father.

Father Harvey: Remember kids, if your mother asks you to do something or tells you something, she is always right.

Me: Does that rule apply to me?

Father Mike: Yes. You always should answer her with “Yes Dear.”

Me: I’m an editor so I always try to make do with fewer words. So instead of “Yes Dear,” I shorten it to “Whatever.”

I have to be honest: While Sunday Mass is always a place for me to find peace and get closer to God, sometimes I ruin it for myself. I’m not a special case, because we all have our good days and bad days, but it’s worth noting here because it shows that while I’ve come far in conquering my demons, sometimes I backslide.

Case in point: I woke up cranky as all hell this morning, and as a result I went to church with a lousy attitude.

I didn’t hear the Homily, or the Gospel, or the Readings. I stood stone-faced during the Prayers of the Faithful. I got annoyed with the school principal sitting in the pew in front of us because her perfume was inflaming my allergies. I looked with disdain at a couple people who were reading the church bulletin during the Homily. It’s not my business, and I was as poorly-focused as they were. I was being judgmental, something I need to work on.

What’s this have to do with managing OCD? Let me explain:

Even though I’ve come a long way in managing my demons, there are still going to be days where I’m not as on top of things as I should be.

This is normal. Sliding back is part of the process.

It’s also easy to get caught up in parish politics and attitudes. Sometimes we get pissed because we feel someone is judging us. Yet we turn around and judge them back.

Today was a reminder that my mental tools are only going to remain effective if I keep working to perfect them. That includes the eating plan at the center of my recovery for binge eating.

The battle against the demons is never completely won. It’s a battle that continues until death.

I like to think of it as something more positive: a journey.

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