This & That

First of all, the winner of the Rupi Kaur book is … Brienna! Congrats!

I know I have a lot of advantages. But right now, they all feel diffused by the failed negotiations I have occurring with my uterus. CRAMPS SUCK.

I have had so many fun opportunities to speak lately: spoke at a high school where students were reading Truest; spoke at a local university for a group of lovely journalism students; spoke at the 20th anniversary of Inkstone, the literary magazine whose staff I was on in my undergrad years. I was able to share a few scenes from Salt Novel, and they went over GREAT, to my joy and relief!

Remember how Truest is coming out in Germany? I saw the German cover!

Don’t you just love that mouthful of a title?! It means something akin to “Fortune or Whatever May Come.”
I have so much to do. Alas, I am curled up in the fetal position, waiting for my Ibuprofen to kick in. TMI, maybe. Sorry if so. Thanks for letting me be real in this space.

Guest Post: My ERP Experience

With her permission, I am sharing a comment from ashley1234567890, one I found particularly insightful.

And here she is …

I went through ERP and had fantastic results. It was a huge blessing for me, and I thank God that he gave me the courage to try it.

I am no expert, but i did have a really bad case of OCD, which got a lot better after ERP, so here are my recomendations, that in hindsight, were key to my success.

NOTE: my ocd did not get worse with ERP (it got so much better) even though the treatment was very intense!

If you qualify for ERP therapy, and you are considering it, then do not let fear keep you from going. The only caveat is to make sure you find an expert who treats ERP because it is specialized therapy. For example, my therapist was willing to meet me outside of their office for exposures, because my ocd spiked at a particular place. I also recommend finding someone who has experience with whatever ocd you are facing. For example, my therapist had experience with germ ocd, harm ocd, religious ocd, sexual oreintation ocd, etc… so i knew they were highly qualified. they should also give you exercises so you can do your own exposures.

As for ERP, It seems counterintuitive at first, since the patient will go through exercises and narrations that are asking them to run towards their fears (instead of running away from them), which in turn causes anxiety to spike, and while super anxious the patient will be asked to temporaily stay in that state while resisting compulsions that are normally used to reduce the anxiety. If you face the obsession and not give in to the compulsion, then the cycle breaks, which in turn makes you less anxious. That is where “exposure and response prevention” comes from.

My treatment was gradual at first (small fears first then you move onto bigger ones) also, my initial exposures were designed so that anxiety was moderate so I could handle it, and then over additional sessions, they were changed to more intense ones.

For me, it took me about 12 sessions to complete treatment. I noticed some big gains after the first couple of sessions so i knew it was helping. After treatment i am a new person. I still have the ocd, triggers, and the spikes, but it does not cause much distress anymore. Before ERP my distress level was a 10 and it was constant. My life sucked.

So heres an example of what what ERP might look like. let’s say you have germ OCD. You may be asked to touch a door knob and not wash your hands afterwards for 5 minutes. As the sessions go on, and you grow stronger, you may be asked to do the same excercise, then refrain from washing for 15 minutes. Eventually, beloeve it or not, you will be able to do the excercise then not wash at all! Or, one exposure may be a narrative, where you write a short story, and in this story you get a little dirty, or exposed to germs, etc… over the treatments, the story may get more and more disgusting and intense, so you will be in a situation that gets really dirty, and theres no place to wash up etc…

As the sessions and exposures go on, the anxiety for each trigger gets weaker, which in turn makes the spikes less intense. Consequently for me, the ocd got better over time.

Again, the key is to find a qualified expert who has a lot of experience in OCD and ERP, because you will be asked to do things that will make you feel temporarily uncomfortable and the therapist will need to work with you at the right pace so that you are not overwhelmed. They should be willing to leave their office to do an exposure where you need it. So for example, if you are afraid of heights they should be up for going with you to a balcony etc… to face that fear.

Like some of the previous comments, I was anxious before starting too, and I was scared that it would make my condition worse. But i was wrong! that’s just the ocd trying to keep you in the bad place.

In fact thats how i first came across this blog. Jackie had wrote some content on ERP and it gave me the confidence to try it. Thank you jackie you are such a blessing from the Lord! Hopefully this post will do the same for someone else!

Everything

I was going to post today about the resurrection and what it means to me, but I hardly know where to start. How can I summarize “everything” into a blog post?

It’s an answer I try to show every day, in my choices, my speech, my words. 

Thank You, Jesus. Let my life praise You.  

Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

Screenshot_20170414-191853
Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?

……………………………………

Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.

……………………………………

Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.

……………………………………

This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

Maundy Thursday

Thinking of the passion this morning.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hematidrosis (also called hematohidrosis) is a very rare condition in which a human being sweatsblood. It may occur when a person is suffering extreme levels of stress, for example, facing his or her own death. Several historical references have been described; notably by Leonardo da Vinci: describing a soldier who sweated blood before battle, men unexpectedly given a death sentence, as well as descriptions in the Bible, that Jesus experienced hematidrosis when he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44).

Cutaneous hemorrhage
According to Dr. Frederick Zugibe (former Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York) it is well-known, and there have been many cases of it. The clinical term is hematohidrosis. “Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form. Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict…

View original post 202 more words

Preparing for ERP Therapy

I find myself constantly coming back to the basics: exposure therapy works; it is hard but not harder than life with OCD; prepare your support system.

Blessings to everyone who tonight is battling this enslaving disorder. I think of you all the time. Today I had multiple opportunities to share about the freedom I have found. It is always good for me to remember what I have come through and how much joy was on the other side.

It was worth walking through the fire. I have NEVER regretted ERP.

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

Lately, I’ve been talking to some brave, amazing people who are planning to tackle cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP).  I know it’s the right next step, they tell me.  Any advice?

Glad you asked.  Here are my suggestions as you prepare for ERP.

1. Read and research!  Don’t go into this (incredible but difficult) therapy with your eyes closed.  I believe that the more you know about what ERP entails and what will be expected of you, the better.  In fact, I have a friend who had done enough research on it that he realized only one or two sessions in that he knew more about ERP than the therapist did– instead of wasting time, my friend was able to stop meeting with that therapist and find an expert in ERP.

2. Have an open heart.  ERP is not the same…

View original post 212 more words

Rupi Kaur’s Milk & Honey, Empowerment, & a Giveaway

In some ways, 2017 has come at me hard. I’ve had less motivation and time to write than I’ve had in years. Online dating is like a battlefield. I’m still figuring out my sleep patterns.

But then again, I’ve been made stronger: I am figuring out how I work best, experimenting with different schedules, reading a book every week, learning so much about writing and otherwise. I am taking control of online dating, and I am treating myself well. I am learning how to honor myself, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t.

Let’s just say that this week was intense. So many tears, so much persuasion from men. I have cried with shame because of how weak men have made me feel, but I have also cried with celebration because– in spite of their best efforts– I have made my own decisions. I have respected myself even when I’ve not been respected by men– and then I have actually turned around and demanded respect.

I’m becoming empowered.

rupi kaurLast week, I read Rupi Kaur’s incredible collection of poetry, Milk and Honey. I read it in one sitting– just breezed through so many pages letting them administer to my heart– and when the book was over, I felt so much stronger because of it that I bought a second copy.

For you.

Ladies, if you need some strength, please comment below. You don’t have to tell me details, but please tell me how I can encourage you, pray for you, support you, etc. One of you will win my second copy of Milk and Honey.

Please remember:

dragon rupi kaur

I Will Say This

I read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur today in one shot. I adored it. It was raw and empowering.

Online dating is still happening. My squad of new friends is incredibly eclectic, and honestly, they are making me love the internet. I adore my new friend J, who rocks awesome wheels; my friend S from Kashmir; my friend J2, two weeks sober. Where else can you talk to some guy online and then see him in your local Chipotle a few days later? I have met a BDSM master, a Universalist, a man whose parents were rebel fighters against Fidel Castro, and the funniest single dad, who also understands my anxiety.

I’ve also met a ton of creeps. (Click here ONLY if you are willing to see men become feminist mince-meat.)

I’ve read a handful of great books– reviews to come soon.

Novel revisions: I needed a new approach, especially in the past week, when I was basically smacking my head against a wall over and over and over … and then feeling guilty about it. I decided to not write on weeknights and to tackle revisions on the weekends, at least for this precise season.

In fact, that is what I am off to do now! Send creative energy and good thoughts my way!!

xoxo Jackie

 

Question & Dancer: What is “Normal” with OCD?

question-and-dancerI’m an artist not an expert, one who is learning to embrace questions more than answers.

These are some questions I got last month. Ask yours here.

My question is this.. I have hocd but whatever I do it just seems like I get afraid or concerned when a guy comes around me.. it’s like sometimes I look just to check if im attracted to them.. and it’s annoying because the action is becoming involuntary and it’s scary because people read what you send them .. and people are starting to think that I’m gay! And thats very false! What should I do to combat that?

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, which I’ve written about extensively on this blog: check out http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD, friend. Educate yourself on ERP; then seek out an ERP specialist or track down one of the books I recommend so that you can do ERP on your own. Either way, ERP is the solution.

Please read here about Self-Directed ERP.

i’ve met we a psychologist- but she doest seem to have any experience with HOCD and thus has not really been catching it’s symptoms/mentioned it, she does think i have an anxiety disorder and excessive worry- but not specifically anything on OCD. Note she is relatively inexperienced psychologist, as i’m a student and needed to find someone low cost. Not the psychologist has little experience as i’m a student and need a low cost specialist. She has mentioned CBT and ERP as helping methods though. so, what i wanted to ask is form what i have described do i sound like i have HOCD or an i in denial. I am not trying to seek reassurance but guidance, I don’t have anyone to turn to (from a very backwards society in asia) – should i be looking for an OCD specialist or a general psychologist to help me come to term with who i am?

Hi dear! You need an OCD specialist, specifically an ERP specialist. If you can’t afford to meet with one in person, then definitely track down a book (I list four on my website) that will guide you through doing ERP on your own! And kudos to you for being ultra-aware of seeking reassurance. That is one of the primary compulsions for many who suffer from HOCD– the more you are aware of it and resist it, the better! Click here to read more about the Problem with Reassurance.

Hi Jackie. I was wondering if you have any strategies to just letting the thoughts be thoughts in your head. On the web (when I looking for reassurance yes I know its sooooo bad but I can’t help it), people say to let those intrusive thoughts wonder in your mind, but do I just sit there and think nothing as those thoughts wreak havoc on my emotions? Do I just try to calmly breathe through it when my heart is beating super hard? It’s also so hard to not check for reassurance online! How did you have the strength to not reassure yourself? What did you say or think to yourself to prevent it? (I can’t afford a diagnosis, much less ERP so I’m scared that my HOCD may be actually be in denial, but I do know that I’ve had many obessions and compulsions in the past and when the professor talked about OCD, my first thought was THATS ME but then it’s also never been severe to the point where it has disrupted too much of my life. I would just cry myself to sleep most of the time when I’m obsessing)

When I read questions like this, it takes me back to specific memories– horrible, manic ones where I could not calm down, could not do much of anything except to cry and ask for reassurance. It feels so helpless and hopeless in those moments, but I promise it’s not! First of all, since you can’t afford an ERP therapist, please track down one of the books I recommend on my site so that it can guide you through ERP at home. For me, I had a set amount of time when I was intentionally practicing ERP– for me, it was about 40 minutes, twice a day (total of 80 minutes). In the grand scheme of the day, that’s under an hour and a half of putting myself through these exercises (which sometimes felt like torture). Although I did try to avoid compulsions throughout the day, it was only during these 80 minutes that I was specifically triggering myself (exposure) and resisting compulsions (response prevention). It is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It’s hard and exhausting and feels masochistic. But for me– and for many others– it worked. And it was worth 80 minutes a day for 12 weeks in order to experience this freedom– I’m coming up on nine years of it.

Hi! I’ve been having what I (hope)think is HOCD for two months now and it’s been an intense hell for me. I’ve always been confident that I’m straight and I’ve even intensely championed for gay rights and everything. I used to read articles about gay people and watch videos about people coming out and be fine. But now I avoid all of those and even romance novels because I’m basically terrified of being aroused for the wrong reasons (like if I read a love scene from a guy’s point of view that means I want to do that to a woman when I dont!??!?!?!?). I’ve been trying to do self-ERP and I’ve read that I’m suppose to embrace those “you are gay” “you are turned on because you actually want to do that to a woman” thoughts and the arousal that comes with it. My question is, if I embrace these thoughts for 10-12 weeks, will I really be healed? I JUST WANT THIS HOCD THING TO END.

I don’t think I or anyone can guarantee that 12 weeks of ERP will work for you. But it is an evidence-based treatment, meaning that the statistics of ERP working are in your favor. One thing I can almost for sure guarantee is that if you don’t do ERP, then your OCD will not go away on its own. I suppose it’s possible; miracles do happen. But, for 99% of us in the OCD community, we had to do the hard work of ERP.

Hi Jackie! I’m doing self-ERP for my HOCD right now and although I feel like it would be best with a therapist, I can’t afford it 😦 (maybe one day!) But anyways, my question is that I know when I’m doing ERP, I’m suppose to accept and AGREE with those thoughts of “Yes, you’re probably a lesbian” (gosh it was hard to even type that), but when I’m not doing ERP, do I still have to agree with my intrusive thoughts or should I just let it float around in my head? I know for my past OCD fears (earthquake, breast cancer, blackholes, intersex, death, etc) I would just stop checking and doing my compulsions and would let the thought float around in my head (never did ERP for those things) and a couple hellish months later it would disappear, but HOCD is taking my anxiety to another level (especially since I’m 20 and never been in a relationship with a guy because I’m soooooo shy so now my HOCD is using it as ammunition). Also when I have those OCD-free moments, can I go back to thinking about my crush and the imaginary life we may have one day (wow I’m so weird, I can’t believe I confessed this on the internet) or is that counter-productive to my ERP?

No, I don’t think that’s counter-productive to your ERP. That’s the goal! But during the moments where you are doing your ERP exercises, then yes– you will want to be all in: experiencing the anxiety completely, resisting the compulsions as completely as you’re able. One thing that you wrote specifically interests me: “I would just stop checking and doing my compulsions and would let the thought float around in my head (never did ERP for those things)” … this sounds like it was ERP, friend. Letting thoughts come and not doing compulsions to alleviate the anxiety … that is what ERP is. You can do this.

Hi Jackie, I’ve recently stumbled upon your blog because I am suffering from hocd. I’ve been dealing with it for around 9 months now. I feel so lost because it’s the worst time to really be dealing with all of this. I am a sophomore in high school and all around me people are questioning their sexualites or coming out etc. I line up with all hocd symptoms and anxiety runs in my family. The intrusive thoughts just popped out of no where one afternoon. All my life I’ve liked boys! I talked to my therapist about ERP but she’s not a specialist and I’m scared to even try it. My psychiatrist prescribed medicine that ended up making me worse. Like you I am an avid Christian, but I have always been doubtful and indecisive with everything. I FEEL SO LOST. I’ve lost my hope and feel like nothing is gonna work. I have a hard time believing this could be a disorder. I feel like I should just accept my intrusive thoughts are real but that just depresses me further. What do you think?

Hi honey. If your intrusive thoughts were real, I don’t think they would be intrusive or cause this intense anxiety. For a short time, just suspend your concern that you are dealing with anything other than OCD and tell yourself, “Yes, it IS OCD, and I will treat it.” There is no harm to doing ERP even if you didn’t actually have OCD. Be kind to yourself: accept your self-diagnosis at least for three months while you do ERP on your own with a book to guide you. “Doubtful,” “indecisive,” “so lost,” “lost my hope and feel like nothing is gonna work” … all of these described ME. For nearly 20 years, this is how I would have categorized myself. And, for whatever it’s worth, my sophomore year of high school was HELL, one of the worst and hardest years of my entire life, as I dealt with all of this while undiagnosed. When I was your age, I still faced another 12 years of clawing my way through this alone before I found and did ERP. Please don’t wait as long as I did.

These three questions all reminded me of each other:

1. I have been diagnosed with OCD (HOCD) and have been doing CBT and ERP. I feel as though I am getting better and the intensity of my obsessions and compulsions has reduced but I have this strange feeling of sowmhing not being right and as whole as it use to be? My attraction and desire for relationships and such seems very reduced. It just doesn’t seem to feel or come authentically – is that normal?

2. Is it normal to feel no attraction or interest in romantic relationships when suffering with HOCD, even when recovering (reduced obsessions and compulsions, but the feeling of not knowing your sexuality and not being attracted to the gender you always have been attracted to?

3. Is it normal to become hypersensitive to the looks of your same sex with the onset of HOCD? even if you’ve known and seen the person before they just appear a lot more attractive now? Is that a symptom of a change in sexuality or another Possible HOCD Symptom?

Yes, my dear ones, all of this is normal for someone with HOCD. Please don’t give up. ERP can help.

Hi Jackie, Did you ever feel like your hocd would never end? As a current hocd sufferer, I feel a lot that it’s never going to be over. I question and doubt even the most logic of facts I’ve been told to use in order to help cope with the intrusive thoughts. Everyday it’s a new “what if” question and it makes me terrified and sad.

Hello sweetie, YES. I felt that way about all of my OCD themes … that things would always be this way and that, to me, was probably the scariest thing about it. We can go through any pain so long as we see an end in sight, don’t you think? But OCD lies to us, makes us believe there is no end in sight, and that robs us of hope and joy. Please read this blog post I wrote back in 2014: THINGS WILL NEVER BE OKAY AGAIN [& other lies I sometimes still believe].

I am 54 years old recently my ocd has become worse for last 6 months since i changed my job and because of ocd anxiety i am not able to work at present. My ocd is mostly god related i have to pray and touch god photos everytime i pass through them and think i have not prayed properly and become anxious. Also there are lots of thoughts coming and going in my head always about touching god photos etc and i am not satisfied with my praying i tried medicines and they made my condition worst,Please help me Sir

Hello friend, have you heard of ERP therapy? My OCD was also based primarily around religious obsessions; I battled this for 20 years before undergoing ERP, and just 12 weeks of ERP therapy snapped my OCD in half. The last nine years have been so peaceful, so free. Here are a few posts that might help:

OCD & Christianity
(or other religious scrupulosity)
OCD, ERP, and Christianity
I’m a Christian and Take Meds!
Unashamed of my OCD
Is the thought from OCD … or God?

God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, & His Purposes
Is Mental Illness a Spiritual Issue?
Is ERP Sinful?
OCD & Faith (or Lack Thereof): a Double Interview

Hi Jackie, I have been suffering from hocd for a while now. One of my biggest problems besides the intrusive thoughts and fear I can’t shake off is the EXTREME SADNESS I have. I feel like I get sucked into this dark hole where I can’t get rid of feeling hopeless and sad. I lose all motivation to do my homework and just feel angry at god. Have you ever felt this way? If so, what did you do to help yourself?

My gosh, YES. 100% yes. I am guessing that you have depression comorbid (alongside) OCD, as I did. For me, the OCD was the root issue and what was causing the depression, so when I treated the OCD, the depression alleviated as well. I talk about my anger at God a little bit in this post. Ultimately, I got so sad and felt so lost that I hit rock bottom– and God was there. He looked like a Korean psychiatrist who gave me hope, a prescription, and a phone number for a local ERP therapist.

Hi Jackie, I finally realized my problem is OCD. My question is, do people with this “doubting disease” have the capacity to have faith? I’m so worried I might lose faith altogether, because of what’s wrong with me.

Yes, absolutely! In Yes Novel (my work in progress that has been temporarily set aside), the main character has this interaction with his professor:

He nodded, headed toward the door. But before he left, he turned around and asked, “What you teach us in class, do you really believe it?”

Dr. Morgant pursed his lips thoughtfully. “On my worst days and my best days, yes. But not every day. There’s only one thing in I believe every day.”

“Doubt,” said Asa, as his teacher said, “Faith.”

“Same thing,” said Dr. Morgant with a smile.

Anne Lamott has said it best:

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

Thanks for all the questions, folks! If you have questions for me about anything (but especially faith, creativity, and mental illness), add yours here.

As I said, I’m an artist not an expert. I will leave you with these, some of my favorite questions in one of my favorite poems, “Questions about Angels.” Click here to hear Billy Collins himself read it. (P.S. It starts with questions, ends with a dancer.)