A Friend’s Voice – Seth – Understanding Scrupulosity

I have been blessed with the friendship of fellow littles (AB/DL) in my journey to understand myself, and the journey my wife and I are on incorporating diapers into our lives.  The first, real connection and what I now consider a friendship comes from a friend we’ll call Seth. He helped me feel for the first time that I was not alone in my journey in diapers. Not just alone in the world as an ABDL, but also not alone as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has an affinity of some kind for diapers.

Seth has also bravely shared many aspects of his life which intertwine with his origins regarding diapers, and how they still plague him to this day.  I admire his willingness to share with me his history in an effort for me to better understand myself. It has been a great lesson in understanding the power behind vulnerability.  When we are able to open ourselves up in this way we can learn as much, if not more, from the experience ourselves. It affords us a place of growth as we are helping others to learn more about themselves.  Part of Seth’s journey relates to scrupulosity, so I’ve asked him to provide a guest post on his journey, including how it relates to scrupulosity. 

Hello everybody, and thank you to Aberrantly Me for this opportunity to share my experience with the world. Like Aberrantly Me, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m going to give you a quick history of my life and then tie that into the concept of scrupulosity at the end. 

My first memory of trying to find and use diapers was when I was four years old. Since I’m keeping this brief (ha, ha), I’ll just say that I felt a compulsion to wear and use diapers for as long as I can remember. But members of the Church of Jesus Christ tend to be quite conservative in their beliefs. My parents caught me a couple of times trying to use diapers, and I knew it was wrong. I knew I was a bad person. The problems started way back then, because I didn’t feel guilt for wearing, I felt shame. There is an important distinction that Brené Brown talks about in her books and talks. Guilt is the feeling that you’ve done something bad or wrong. Shame, on the other hand is the feeling that you are bad because of what you did. 

In our church, we teach that the “age of accountability” is eight years old. Children who die before they turn eight are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and need no baptism. However, at age eight, children know enough that they know when they are making good and bad choices, and they are now accountable for them. Thus people eight years and older, in our church, need to be baptized. This context is relevant because at age seven, I knew I was bad, and that I couldn’t be saved, and it was because of my diaper compulsion. I prayed to God asking him to let me die before I turned eight, because then I could be saved. But God didn’t answer that prayer, and on the day I turned eight, I woke up feeling terrible. Feeling that my life, my sin, my person was so shameful–so evil–that there was nothing I could do to overcome it, and I felt like God’s grace couldn’t even compensate for what I believed at the time to be my sin. 

Here we see the origins of my scrupulosity, or religious obsessive compulsive disorder. Scrupulosity is one flavor of obsessive compulsive disorder. Somebody with scrupulosity is officially diagnosed with OCD, but the flavor that the OCD takes relates to their religious observance, rather than something like germs, or other more traditionally recognized forms of OCD. (Though many people with scrupulosity also suffer from other flavors of OCD as well.) 

“For members of the Church with scrupulosity, obsessive-compulsive anxiety bullies its way into their religious life by relentlessly plaguing them with pathological, toxic guilt and inducing them to believe that this guilt comes from the Spirit.”

Understanding Scrupulosity (Religious OCD)

Generally speaking, people who experience this become more focused and dedicated to a more narrow religious practice. They focus on living the church’s teachings exactly, then obsess over the smallest things they have done, and assume they have sinned when in reality they have not. 

In our church culture, we talk about the Holy Ghost as the Spirit, and we believe He speaks to each of us, giving us guidance and direction on how to act and what to do. When we sin, it is the Spirit that nudges us toward repentance and a change of heart. The problem is that a person with scrupulosity starts to believe that the mental thoughts that come because of the anxiety of the OCD are the Spirit, telling them that they are evil, and they are bad, and everything they do is wrong. 

Since we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ focus so much on listening to and following the Spirit in our lives, when we can’t distinguish between anxiety’s lies and the feelings of the Spirit, we believe everything that the anxiety says is the Spirit talking to us with such devastating ideas. 

Thus, if the Spirit says we are evil and not worthy of God’s love or Jesus’s Redeeming power, we believe that we can’t be saved. The next thing we do that our anxiety tells us is wrong adds to our distress, and we can spiral down into a rabbit hole, searching, mentally screaming, reaching for a feeling we are no longer able to find. 

The Spirit, we believe, is a method where God shows us His love for us. When the anxiety takes over, we become unable to feel the Spirit, and thus cannot receive the blessings of comfort God wants to send us. It’s a terrible spiral. Often people with scrupulosity repeatedly confess to their religious leader over the smallest of things–things that aren’t even sins–but they feel compelled to confess. This momentarily relieves them of the anxiety, as the religious figure tells them that they are okay, and that God loves and forgives them. But soon after, the anxiety roars back with even more power, increasing its hold over thoughts and emotions. 

Scrupulosity, as a type of OCD is a pathological disorder, and most people who experience it require professional, clinical help to overcome it. Often well-meaning religious leaders will try to provide counsel and reassurance, but they are not equipped to treat a medical disorder like OCD, any more than they are equipped to treat a medical disorder like diabetes or cancer. You need professional help. 

In my life journey, I have come to a point where I have reached out in my soul, begging God to let me feel His love, and yet I feel nothing. I plead with Him, asking him to provide signs that He is watching out for me, or that He cares, and my eyes are clouded by my anxiety such that I miss the signs He sends. But my scrupulosity fills in the void, telling me I am evil. Telling me I am shameful. Telling me that because I like diapers, God can’t love me, and that I’m not worth of His love or grace.

The funny thing about scrupulosity is that most people who have it are very devout in their religious practice. They understand the doctrine. They could teach sermons on God’s love for everybody, and how His salvation is available to everybody. But they can’t feel it being possible for themselves. There is a distinct separation between what I know, and what I feel. I understand that in my religious faith, God loves all of His children. I understand that Jesus Christ’s infinite atonement covers everybody who ever lived. But every time I say, or hear, or think that, my anxiety says, “except for you, Seth.” I can’t even imagine a world where I don’t fundamentally believe I am evil and unworthy of God’s grace and love. 

Our own “little” version of scrupulosity

My journey is probably very different than most of your journeys. Many of you who are religious, or even members of the same church as me, but also like to wear diapers, or have a little side, might feel guilt or shame. You might be embarrassed about your quirk. Maybe you feel that because of your connection, urge, desire, or affinity to wear diapers and replicate the emotions and experiences of childhood, you are unworthy of salvation or the atonement of Jesus Christ. Maybe it’s not technically scrupulosity, but you can relate with some of the emotions and experiences I’ve shared in this post. 

I’m sure there are some who feel, or have felt, that self-imposed isolation, shame, and guilt. In these moments, we might remove ourselves from the light of Jesus Christ, but what you need to remember is that He isn’t stepping away from you. You are stepping away from Him, and it is incredibly hard to bring ourselves out of that hole. We resist the arm of Jesus Himself, reaching out to pick us up. We don’t believe that looking at the staff will heal us. It may take quite a journey for us to break free and feel the warm embrace of our Savior’s love.  

Perpetually Guilty

I can imagine that at some level, feelings of shame and guilt could the minds of many in the ABDL community, especially those of us who are religious believers, yet feel the compulsions, and try to find some middle ground of active membership in our religious community, and diapers. We assume that something is drastically wrong with us, and that we are all alone. We don’t understand it. If our parents found out while we were growing up, likely they didn’t understand it. We isolate ourselves and don’t tell anybody for fear of being labeled a pervert or worse. We know it is weird. We understand that it is not “normal” (whatever that means). Our inner dialog can lead to feelings of self hatred. Coupled with our faith, we feel inadequate, unworthy, and perpetually guilty, locked into a sin that we both don’t understand, but also can’t get away from. We wallow in a pit of anguish we don’t know how to get out of. Aberrently Me talked about this same idea in a post where he struggled with considering himself to be worthy in diapers.

I’m now in my fifth decade of life, and I have a handful of kids. My wife has been supportive in the extreme, though she has had her own journey through this process, a subject for maybe another guest post in the future. I have a family who loves me, and a wife who knows everything about me and loves me completely anyway. Why do I still feel such self-loathing, self-hatred, and so much pain?

Getting help

Your religious leader is there to help you through challenges in your life. In my church, it is the local Bishop or Branch President to whom we confess sins of a serious nature that might require some type of formal church discipline. If you are able to feel the Spirit, He will tell you if you need to talk to your religious leader. 

Your therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist is there to help you through the issues you have around mental illness. They are the medical professionals trained and ready to help you address whatever mental health issues you might have, including scrupulosity. 

If, after reading this post, you feel like you might be suffering from any form of OCD, please, find competent medical help. 

I do believe that lasting peace can only be obtained through the atonement and grace of the Savior Jesus Christ. I’m working with a licensed psychologist to help me work through the cognitive distortions that let my anxiety rise to the levels that cause the scrupulosity. I have hope that one day, maybe even sooner rather than later, I’ll be able to actually feel what I know. 

As I’ve talked with Aberrently Me and become his friend, it has been therapeutic for me. He doesn’t suffer from scrupulosity, and maybe even struggles to comprehend the level of distress that would cause a seven year old child to want to die before their eighth birthday, because they were so worried about their salvation. But I am glad I’ve been able to offer him my perspective and experience. I thank him, again, for the opportunity to share some of my experience here on his blog. 

My hope in posting this is not to assume or tell you that you suffer from scrupulosity, though if you do, my wish is that you will feel a sense of hope and feel less alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

I so appreciate blogs like this, where members of faith can talk together about the issues we face in a world–especially a religious world–that doesn’t understand our quirk.  I’m learning that there are many of us, suffering silently, but we can band together into a community of ABDL religious believers. If you want to join us, please reach out. We are trying to develop a community of ABDL Christian (especially LDS) believers, as well as family members. We have a Discord server for ABDLs and spouses, which is a safe place to talk about the issues we face as families, and gives spouses a safe place to ask questions to try to understand their ABDL partner better, as well as get support from each other. If you are interested, please reach out to Aberrently Me for more information.

Again, you are not alone. I love this adaptation of the song “You Are Not Alone” from Dear Evan Hansen. Let’s join together and become stronger together. 

Resources:

Understanding Scrupulosity (Religious OCD) – Ensign (Digital Only) – September 2019 – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2019/09/young-adults/understanding-scrupulosity-religious-ocd?lang=eng

Listen, Learn, and Love Podcast – Richard Ostler – Episode 191: Dr. Debra Theobald McClendon, Anxiety and Scrupulosity – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/listen-learn-love-hosted-by-richard-ostler/id1347971725?i=1000455455338

My Battle with Religious OCD – Ensign (Digital Only) – September 2019 – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2019/09/young-adults/my-battle-with-religious-ocd?lang=eng

Shame versus Guilt: Help for Discerning God’s Voice from Satan’s Lies – Ensign (Digital Only) – January 2020 – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/01/young-adults/shame-versus-guilt-help-for-discerning-gods-voice-from-satans-lies?lang=eng

Listen, Learn, and Love Podcast – Richard Ostler – Episode 204: David and Jordyn Johnson, Married and active LDS and scrupulosity – https://soundcloud.com/user-818501778/episode-204-david-and-jordyn-johnson-married-and-active-lds-scrupulosity

“Scrupulosity” – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrupulosity