A Fourth Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer

“Hannah” is a former HOCD sufferer who has graciously appeared on my blog multiple other times. If you’re just joining the conversation now, I recommend you read her other interviews first.

Interview #1
Interview #2
Interview #3

A while ago, I opened up a survey so that people could leave their anonymous HOCD questions there. It’s still open here, so please feel free to leave your questions for Hannah there so she can address them in the future.

If you’re unfamiliar with HOCD, you can get a primer here. Please note that HOCD affects both straight and gay people. Since nearly 97% of people (statistics for the US only) identify as straight, the number of gay people who have HOCD is also likely to be much less than the number of straight people who do.

Let’s get started!

Hannah mentions that ERP is the best and only way to go. Can she provide more specific examples of the techniques she used or statements/phrases that resonated the most with her to accept the uncertainty? She mentions she goes back to ERP as needed and I’m curious to know her go-tos are for this.

Hannah: This is a great question, but unfortunately, what worked for me might not be exactly what would work for another HOCD sufferer. Everyone’s exposure regime might be a little bit different. For me, I listen to an audio recording that makes me visualize what I fear. For others, they read LGBT literature or look through a Victoria’s Secret catalog. Your ERP therapist will help you to come up with exposures that will work for you based off of what your obsessions are. I wish that I could be more specific with this, but I think that might not be in your best interest. I don’t want someone to simply copy my ERP because that’s not quite how this works, though, of course, there are some general exposures that tend to be used for HOCD. For me, it was an audio recording primarily.

Does watching lesbian porn as a girl mean you’re gay?

Hannah: No. I mean, I could go on about this, but why? The answer is blatantly no.

Is it possible to have HOCD while not previously being diagnosed for OCD?

Hannah: Sure! HOCD might be the way your OCD manifests itself and the first thing that signals to you that you might be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, if you are asking if you can have HOCD without having OCD, that’s like asking if you can wear a blue dress without wearing a dress. Is it possible to have HOCD without any other OCD themes? Probably. For me, HOCD was just one (major) theme of my OCD, but I also experienced a lot of other obsessive thoughts– but I don’t think that means that you would have to. (Reminder: I’m not a therapist, just a former sufferer, so please make sure to ask your ERP therapist this!) But as to your question, maybe you haven’t experienced anything else that seems like OCD before and then– wham!– you’re experiencing HOCD. Is that possible? I hear from people all the time who describe it this way, yes. But I think that many of them, when they start to peel back the layers, start to see other obsessions that have bothered them before– but maybe not as much as the HOCD, and so they never sought treatment before the HOCD hit. I hope I’m making sense.

1. If you are okay with disclosing this, about how long did you suffer with hocd? 2. Was their anything that helped you remember your true identity? 3. Would you say that there is a way to overcome hocd without therapy? If so what would you reccomend? 4. Did you ever feel like you were in a tireless cycle, that it was never going to end? How did you remain hopeful?

Hannah: 1) Hmmm. The HOCD theme, for me, was an intense hell for probably under six months. My themes hopped around and changed a lot throughout the years before I went through treatment. 2) ERP therapy cemented my identity for me! 3) For most people, no. Miracles can happen, but ERP is a better option than waiting for a miracle. Meds help some people significantly, but in my opinion and experience, it’s better to pair meds with ERP. 4) Yes. And the truth of the matter is that I didn’t remain hopeful. OCD took me to some of the darkest places I’ve ever been. When I was at my lowest and there were really no other options, I started ERP– and that gave me back my life and my hope.


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Happy Birthday, Deetie!

Today my baby sister Kristin turns 31! She is the greatest sister in the history of sisters, and I love her to pieces. We have so many memories, and we continue making new ones all the time. I’m so blessed to have a sister who is also a dear friend.

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Reflection on my 2-Year Anniversary of My Book Deal

So, today is not actually the anniversary of my book deal. That was two days ago. But today is the day that I announced it on social media. And while congratulations and accolades were pouring in from all over, I was experiencing my first panic attack.

I’m still not sure if I should call those experiences in late 2013 panic attacks. They were certainly brought on by panic. And they were certainly extremely physical. If there’s a better way for me to label it, please let me know.

It’s weird to look back on it now. On this day in 2013, I talked to my beloved editor for the first time. It was a wonderful call. She told me how much she loved my characters and my story, how excited she was to work with me. And then, she mentioned– almost in passing– such a significant change to my story that, later that night, I experienced the most visceral, physical reaction I’ve maybe ever gone through.

Just another reminder how much social media lies. In my memory, I was replying to comments about how excited I was– while I was sobbing in my apartment, praying my guts out, my heart racing, my mind racing, everything racing.

This pattern would unfortunately continue for a few months. Finally, I talked to my psychiatrist about the panic, about how I wanted something– anything– that would reduce the physical reaction. That’s when I first got my prescription for Ativan (Lorezapam). I continue to take this very sparingly, usually just a few times a month, though sometimes more than once in a day.

This also prompted me to go back into therapy. I started meeting with Amanda, my darling therapist, who has been a voice of reason, a true supporter, and– best yet– someone who legitimately likes me. I am still meeting with her, although now it’s about once a month, whereas we used to meet once a week.

And here’s the thing: I survived. I learned how to communicate with my editor. I learned how we are partners. I took nearly all of her suggestions– but I held out on that one, the one thing that caused that first night of extreme panic. And in the end, I can truly say that I love my novel. I’m so happy with how it turned out, so proud of it.

I’ve learned such a tremendous amount about publishing and writing and myself over the last two years. And I’m not ashamed of the Ativan or of the therapy; how could I be ashamed of getting myself help when I recognized I needed it? I’ve learned how to partner with an editor. I’ve learned how and when to disagree with an editor. I’m a better, smarter person and a better, cleverer writer and have a better, clearer understanding of my emotional and chemical make-up.

The last two years were some of the hardest of my life. But some of the best.

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Queued Up: Books on My Radar

I liked telling you what books I was about to read. It kinda helped keep me accountable to reading them! So I’m posting again. Here are the next ones up for me:

queued up 2

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Review: Another Day by David Levithan

another daySo. Another Day. It’s the companion novel to Every Day, which I reviewed here almost two years ago.

Both tell the story of Rhiannon and A– Rhiannon, an insecure girl in an abusive relationship, and A, who wakes up in a new body every morning. The first novel was written from A’s perspective, and as you might imagine, it was fascinating to read about a character whose appearance– and even gender!– changed daily.

Now it’s Rhiannon’s turn to tell their story.

Levithan did a great job of making it into Rhiannon’s story; he’s a masterful writer, and just like with the first book, he raised so many important questions in this novel. I even thought he did a better job in this second novel of leaving those questions unanswered for the readers, whereas in Every Day, I got the impression that Levithan was trying to shoehorn his own answers into the text.

Now, here’s the thing.

This is what I wrote about the end of Every Day: “The ending was PERFECT and unexpected, but I can’t tell you how it made me feel because I want you to experience it for yourself.”

That said, Another Day ended a little bit differently.

I’m not going to drop any spoilers here, no worries. I just want to say that when I finished Another Day, my jaw dropped and I think I said aloud to the darkness of my room, “Wait– what?” It was absolutely not what I was expecting from having read the companion novel, which was difficult for me because that was my favorite part!

It was one in the morning, but I emailed my friend Alison at Hardcovers & Heroines anyway. 1) I knew she had read and reviewed it. 2) David Levithan is one of her instructors. We emailed back and forth a little bit, and she let me know that he is actually writing a third book for this series. That makes the ending of Another Day make more sense. That said, it sort of diminishes the perfection of Every Day’s ending. I’m torn.

I will just have to wait for book #3!!



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Holidays are Hard for Some of Us

This time of year– i.e., “the hap-happiest season of all”– is difficult for many people, including me. It has been since I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. That’s over half of my life spent wishing that Thanksgiving and Christmas and even New Years would just hurry up and be over already.

It’s not that I don’t love family. I do.

It’s not that I don’t love what the holidays represent. I do.

It’s not that I’m some bah-humbug Scrooge who is annoyed with it all. I’m not.

I think it mostly has to do with the dark. It’s so much, so suffocating. It’s waking up in blackness and having it already be dark when you leave work.

But it also has to do with the light– that is, the cheer, the general good tidings, the comfortable coziness that seems to accompany the holidays for most people. For some of us, that sense of feeling that things are supposed to be good sometimes highlights that they’re not.

I feel so grateful for how far I’ve come– to be honest, I’ve spent Thanksgivings and Christmases of the past sobbing on the floor or feeling dead and hopeless inside. And I haven’t had a weepy or hopeless Thanksgiving or Christmas in many years, for which I’m so glad. (Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, ERP!) But even still, I get this feeling that I’m not quite feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling, and I have this strong desire inside of me to just get it all behind me for another year.

I know I’m not the only one.

So, for those of you out there who are struggling this holiday season, I want you to know that I’m thinking of you. I’ve been there. I’ve spent this hopeful, joyous time feeling hopeless and joyless, and I know how stark the contrast is in these winter months, how much it hurts, how hard it can be for others to get it. I get it. This prayer is for you:

Jesus, I celebrate You– I celebrate Your marvelous incarnation, the Word becoming flesh.  Tonight, Lord, I lift up to You all those who are burdened with heavy, laboring hearts this season– whether from depression, anxiety, mental illness, or internal crisis.  YOU ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD US ALL.  Just as that first Christmas was the initiation of Your inexplicably great rescue plan, I pray that this Christmas will be the start of Your new rescue mission in the lives of these sufferers.  You are Love.  You are Truth.  You are the mighty redeemer.  I entrust my heart to You and ask that You would hold those for whom I’m praying– in a way that is felt.  Amen.

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So. Last night I found the first draft of Truest.

first draft of truest

It is 80 pages with the climax on page 75 and the whole shebang wraps up in just five pages. It has a non-ending. There are some SUUUUUPER cheesy parts that make my teeth hurt. There is virtually no conflict. It. is. terrible. TERRIBLE.

And it was the best thing I could have read this week.

What do I mean? Well, if that— that worthless drivel written by some talentless hack– could be made into a book that I’m proud of, then there’s great hope for Yes Novel. It’s already about ten times better than the first draft of Truest.

I’m not kidding: if someone else had handed me that first draft of Truest, I would have wanted to politely suggest to them that they should explore other careers. Yet, I remember being so proud of it back in the summer of 2012, when I wrapped up that first draft!

So– take heart! If you’re in a battle with your own manuscript, just know that there’s a possibility you BOTH might win!!


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