What I’m Into

* asking for help and not apologizing for needing it

isochronic tones (for headache relief, anxiety relief, help falling asleep)

* Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

* the new Rupi Kaur collection

* supportive coworkers/workplace

* girlfriends full of grace

* keeping in touch with faraway friends  (Cindy, Megs, Whit, Sam … looking at you guys!)

* Portlandia (I’m late to the party, I know)

* kitten videos on Instagram (I literally follow more foster kitten profiles than actual people I know) (I am waiting for a mama cat to give birth and check it every half hour … oh, who am I kidding? Every five minutes.)

* my house … I really do love it here

* looking forward to 2018

YOUR TURN!!! It will make me happy if you chime in with what you’re into lately. 🙂

Love,

Jackie

Can. Not. Wait.

Melina Marchetta

Apart from the release of the Tell the Truth, Shame the devil paperback in the US this month (press release below) I’ve been working on my new novel, The House That Seb Built (working title).  Some of you read my short story When Rosie met Jim which was published online by the Review of Australian fiction, and know that it will serve as the first chapter. I’m hoping to have the novel finished before the end of the year.

I’ve said a thousand times over that the novel isn’t about the Saving Francesca/Piper’s Son gang and that readers will be disappointed if they expect to see more than a glimpse of them. It’s mostly about Rosie and Martha and Jimmy and a whole cast of new characters.  But his friends are present in Jimmy’s life, so I thought I’d share with you his opening chapter.

He’s home, and he knows…

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OCD & a Career? You Bet.

Yesterday, I got this question from a blog reader:

Do you think people with OCD can have a successful career? Do you know people who have OCD but also got a great career? Thank you very much Jackie. You’re the best 🙂

careerHello dear, thanks for the question and compliment!

In a nutshell: yes, absolutely!

I am actually enjoying two careers right now: I recruit for a university and write novels. This is such a dream for me because I love-love-love getting to work with high school and college students who are so passionate and in such a wild time of life and transition. And, of course, writing is my calling. I am so grateful to be able to write for a publisher I deeply respect.

In addition:

My friend A is an author and editor.

My friends C and E are therapists.

My friend L is a teacher.

Do we have days where OCD flares up and makes things difficult? Absolutely. But everyone I have mentioned has taken their OCD diagnosis seriously and pursued treatment, which has allowed each of us to continue to thrive in our careers. 

 

Healed Not Cured: OCD Remission & Relapses

I got an email this past weekend from a lovely blog reader who has found victory over obsessive-compulsive disorder through exposure therapy. It’s such a joy any time someone shares a story of freedom, and it does my heart so much good. It reminds me of the reason I preach the benefits of ERP therapy. It reminds me of when I first went into OCD remission back in 2008.

But I also find it important to mention that while the person with OCD has experienced healing, it does not mean that they are cured. In the vast majority of cases, OCD is never cured; it is treated and maintained. What does this mean?

First of all, it’s definitely something to celebrate. I revel in my remission, and in fact, after eight years of this freedom, sometimes I even find myself taking it for granted. It’s a victory to come out of exposure therapy with a new tolerance for uncertainty. It’s a joy and a relief and, for me, at least, a whole new life.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have OCD. 

not you again

There are days of intense stress where I buckle a bit and find myself having some obsessive thought patterns or even resorting to old compulsions. This disorder is mostly dormant in me … but it is still in me. And it can wake when I am stressed or fearful. Every once in a while, there is something that will trigger my OCD, and it’s like there’s a CLICK in the way my brain works, a little BLIP in the new system.

But, usually

  1. I recognize it for what it is. I am able to do this because of ERP.
  2. I do not beat myself up over it or assume “all is lost.” It’s merely a step back. I don’t have to start the race over.
  3. I refuse compulsions. (Notably, I allow myself to ask a group of people [usually my coworkers] ONE TIME for what they would deem the appropriate response, and then I DO IT, whatever they say. I know that when my OCD is triggered, I have a hard time understand what is or isn’t a valid response. So I give the decision to others.)
  4. If it’s particularly bad, I listen to my ERP audio track.
  5. I go to sleep, as early as I need to. It is–almost without fail–better in the morning.

I don’t mean this to be bad news–not at all; rather, it’s just something to take note of, something to have in the back of your mind for those stressful days, for those moments when your OCD wakes up and starts to whisper in your ear.

Here’s some anecdotal data about my remission and relapses:

  • In the first 1.5 years after completing ERP, I didn’t experience obsessions or practice compulsions at all.
  • In the years after that, I have had about 1-2 relapse incidents a year.
  • Each incident has lasted on average just a couple of hours. One lasted about two days.

This is nothing compared to my life before ERP. This is manageable. This is freedom. This is remission.

This is good news, people.

If you want to learn more about the exposure therapy that got me to this point, you might want to check out the following links:

jackieleasommers.com/OCD: a collection of my posts about all things OCD
jackieleasommers.com/OCD-help: a letter from me to OCD sufferers, along with a list of next steps
jackieleasommers.com/twin-cities-OCD: resources for OCD sufferers living in or around Minneapolis and St. Paul

PANDAS

Did you know that in addition to it being OCD Awareness Week, today is PANDAS Awareness Day?

Learn more about PANDAS/PANS at https://kids.iocdf.org/what-is-ocd/pandas!

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

The PANDAS that I’m talking about has nothing to do with these guys …

… and everything to do with childhood strep throat.

PANDAS = Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections

Say what???

PANDAS describes a set of children in whom an ordinary bacterial strep infection can turn into a neuropsychiatric disorder.  The strep seems to cause the body’s immune system to build up antibodies that – who knows why – turn traitor and attack the basal ganglia in the brain.

In other words, a simple case of strep throat gone to hell.

Sometimes a child gets strep throat, and the body gets confused– instead of fighting off the bacteria, it attacks the basal ganglia … which leads to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The first time I had an intake with a psychiatrist, she asked about my past medical issues.  “Ummm … I broke my elbow twice,” I said, thinking…

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Asking for Help

I was just going to write a post about asking for help and then wondered if I’d already written one. I had.

Here you go!

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

I battled with undiagnosed OCD for fifteen years before I finally sought help. Now, that just seems silly.

These days, when I encounter a problem, I open my mouth and ask for help. This isn’t weak. It’s smart.

I’m so over the ridiculous stigma attached to this. There is nothing shameful about identifying areas where I struggle and then seeking out solutions. I celebrate my enterprising, aggressive spirit and commitment to health.

This post is not to toot my own horn but to give my blog readers another way of framing the often humbling experience of asking for help. Doing so is a brave, intrepid, wise move– don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Vintage inscription made by old typewriter

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Online Dating Sites as Described to Harry Potter Fans

eHarmony
Here I paid serious cha-ching to get curated matches– so these people were basically me with different anatomy, except everyone was freakishly timid and on their best, most boring behavior. The closest matches to what I think I want– at least on paper– but IRL it looks more like monthly credit card charges so that I can shout into the void.

Bottom line: Dumbledore is setting you up, buuuuuuuut you have to destroy horcruxes for him in exchange. 

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Coffee Meets Bagel
Every day at noon, female users get sent one “bagel” (yes, that’s what a man/his profile is called on this site). If we like each other, a chat screen opens up. You only get one bagel a day unless you want to purchase another with “coffee beans” that you can earn or buy. I mean, I have friends who found love in this hopeless place, but unless you are ready to make it rain, this is the slowest possible method for finding breakfast. I mean, a partner.

Bottom line: this is like going to the Room of Requirement every day at noon, just hoping that some hottie will be there at the same time. 

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OkCupid
Okc has multiple search options but a pretty unfocused constituency, so be prepared for booty calls and marriage proposals in the same day. I find myself coming back to it over and over again though, since you never know who will show up.

Bottom line: keeping an eye out for love at the Three Broomsticks.

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POF
Plenty of Fish wins #1 Sketch City, and your profile picture is all that matters to most. In a weekend, you might get 99 inquiries for chill and 1 for Netflix.

Bottom line: Knockturn Alley. 

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Christian Mingle
If you’re picky (which I am– hence a specialized dating site), Christian Mingle might give you a killer selection like it gave me: two locals and one guy from Ohio. Cool.

Bottom line: seems like a great idea until you match with two Muggles and one wizard from Durmstrang.

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Bumble
Bumble is called the “feminist Tinder” because only women can initiate conversations. Bumble brings all the hotties to the yard, enough that it makes me wonder how many profiles are fake. It gives me a feeling of power over incredibly attractive men … who may or may not exist, so … win? Hard to say.

Bottom line: you and Professor McGonagal have a girlfriends night to drink wine and look at cute wizards, which kind of makes it fun even if you don’t find love.

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Zoosk
What the heck is going on here? This is a hot mess.

Bottom line: like apparating the first time. I got out before I got splinched.

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Half-Mast, a brief story

I wrote this five years ago. I wish it didn’t feel so real in 2017.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

We were thrilled, the whole crowd, as we giggled and whispered and whistled outside the school that day.  It was quarter to noon on Memorial Day, one of the most exciting days of the year. The American flag, with its crowded square of 64 stars, looked as if it housed a universe on that patch of blue.  It flew at half-staff, as usual, though there was not a breath of wind to spread the banner.

Betty was the littlest of our crew.  At only five years old, she couldn’t remember why we celebrated this day—the morning or the afternoon, my favorite part.  She kept taking Mom’s face into her hands and staring into Mom’s eyes, asking wordless questions.

“C’mon, Bets,” Jakey said.  “I’m only nine, and I know why we’re here today.”

“The flag?” she asked, showing she knew more than she was saying.

“Mmm hmmm,” I said, prompting her…

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A Poem for the Weekend

A Crazed Girl

    By William Butler Yeats


That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, “O sea-starved, hungry sea.’