Even if you’ve never listened to a single episode of our show before, please go put your headphones on, take a walk, and listen to this episode. I am so much richer for these moments with Katie. I believe you will be too.
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As a little girl, Reverend Katie O’Dunne loved the color pink, but she didn’t let herself wear it because she didn’t believe that she deserved joy. She believed that the survival of the entire world was dependent on her selfless goodness. So, she did what was required of her.
I have navigated OCD since before I can remember. Some of my earliest memories, even as a seven or eight-year-old child, had to do with going throughout the room and touching things in a particular order as my compulsion to alleviate my intrusive thoughts, which, even as a kid, was being terrified that the earth was gonna get too close to the sun. I thought everyone on the planet was going to die and it was going to be my fault if I didn't do everything right. But if I do everything right, if I touch things right, if I do my homework right, then somehow I will save everyone.
It took Katie 20 years to recognize her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but when she sought treatment she was told to keep quiet and manage it alone, to preserve her career.
I wasn't sleeping because I was engaging in compulsions so frequently. I was driving back to churches that I was interning at in the middle of the night to make sure doors were locked, candles were blown out, and everyone was safe. I was spending upwards of 17 hours a day doing compulsions - a lot in my head - so that nobody knew. I confided at the time in a mentor and said, “I think I need to get treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” They said, “No, don't do that. You are up and coming in ministry. It'll mess up your psych evaluations for ordination. You need to keep this quiet.” So I did.
In this week’s episode, you’ll hear the extraordinarily moving, vital, and hope-filled story of her recovery from OCD, how it led her to her life’s purpose, and how she has cultivated abundant, rose-tinted meaning and joy in her life since.
I am willing to risk all of the scary stuff that OCD is telling me for a chance to do something meaningful with my life to help people.
If you think you might have OCD or love someone who does, Katie’s story is a must-listen. But, honestly, if you’ve ever tried to fit yourself into someone else’s box, or dimmed your bright shiny self, or wondered what your purpose is, please listen to this episode.
Lessons for every Uplifter:
Permitting ourselves to feel the full range of emotions is a crucial step toward healing.
Repeatedly facing the fears that limit our experience of life is the surest way to move through them.
Compassionate commitments invite us to grow without expecting perfection.
Sharing our stories is a powerful way to connect and find purpose.
Huge thanks to Leslie Shapiro for nominating Katie for The Uplifters.
Rev. Katie O'Dunne is the founder of Faith & Mental Health Integrative Services, an organization helping individuals with OCD and related disorders live into their faith traditions as they navigate evidence-based treatment. Before this, she spent 7 years serving as the Academy Chaplain and the Pauline and R.L. Brand Jr. '35 Chair of Religious Studies at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. While serving in this role, she also served as a consultant on interfaith programming for schools around the country. Katie is proud to be an IOCDF lead advocate, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and an endurance athlete tackling 50 ultra-marathons for OCD. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at Vanderbilt to continue with her focus on faith & mental health. She graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory with her Master of Divinity and Certificate of Religion & Health in May 2015.
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