medical or spiritual?

Discovered a website this weekend that is very disturbing to me as a Christian obsessive-compulsive.

At, you can read quotes like the following:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is not a mental disorder or disease… it is a spiritually rooted bondage in the person’s mind that needs to be uprooted.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is basically demonic torment brought on by a person’s bondages to fear and shame.

These ‘voices’ or compulsive thoughts are NOT caused because of a chemical imbalance (which the secular world cannot explain anyways); they are there because of a spiritual bondage in the person’s life.

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder has entered into this world due to SIN, yes, but to negate that OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance seems ridiculous to me.  As a Christian, I view ALL of life through a spiritual lens, but these quotes seem like the equivalent of saying, “Diabetes is not a problem with the pancreas– it’s a spiritual issue!!!”  To say that diabetes is not connected to the pancreas’s inability to produce insuliin would be silly, just as saying that OCD is not connected to a chemical inbalance (our bodies absorb serotonin too quickly … that’s why we take SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors … they SLOW DOWN the reuptake/reabsorbtion of serotonin]).

All issues are spiritual issues, but that does not mean that they are NOT also medical issues.  God is also the Author of Science and the Creator of our bodies.  To not combine the spiritual with the scientific is short-sighted, I believe.

What are your thoughts on these quotes?  I’d especially love to hear from obsessive-compulsive believers!

Guest blogger! What If?????

One incredibly common theme for obsessive-compulsives is to obsess about one’s sexual orientation.  A female OC could be attracted to men her whole life and have no real homosexual desires but she could still obsess like mad that she is secretly a lesbian … yes, in spite of having no feelings for women.  Those who suffer from HOCD (homosexual OCD) are tormented by continual questioning of their sexuality.  My blogger friend over at the Pure O Canuck Blog has written very honestly about this struggle.  Thanks for checking out her blog and subscribing!

 What if?????
by Pure O Canuck

 I’m back from my vacation, and amazingly – OCD gave me some much-needed reprieve.  The hardest parts from an anxiety perspective were “getting there” and “getting back”.  Don’t ask me why.
I was in Palm Springs with three friends.  One of them was my closest girlfriend who I’ve known for over 25 years.  We don’t live in the same city anymore, and she is married with kids, so it was a fantastic chance to re-connect, re-live old funny memories (we laughed so much!) and just relax.  The weather was fantastic, and I had a wonderful time.
While we were visiting Palm Springs one of the large events taking place was an event called The White Party, which is a HUGE gay party.  I laughed with my therapist that this would be a fantastic exposure for some of his male HOCD clients.  For me, not so much.  It was just a bunch of great looking athletic men walking around town.  I did have a few triggers while on holiday though.  One of them was reading one of the local tourist magazines – I read that Palm Springs has a large gay and lesbian population.  Estimates are that at least 40% of the population is gay or lesbian.  My mind said to me “With that large of population what are the odds that you’re not going to run into a lesbian???”  Amazingly though, it wasn’t on my mind continuously.  Another trigger was while we were at a restaurant.  I was just people watching, and I saw two women walking out of the restaurant with their arms around each other.  Then one of the women proceeded to grab the other’s bum.  A small surge of anxiety, but nothing much.
I’m struggling with my exposure.  And when I returned from my holiday, my therapist slammed me with reality.  He was pretty hard on me (well, as hard as he can be on me…..he’s really a very kind guy).  But he was realistic.  You see, my latest BIG fear is that someday, given my history (horrible father relationship, unsuccessful relationships with men), I will meet a lesbian woman, become friends with her, and then fall in love.  It’s along the same lines of my ROCD fear that I have when I’m in a relationship.  I avoid other men because I’m afraid that I’ll fall in love with someone else and have to leave my partner etc etc.  My therapists response to this was: “Would that be so horrible if for some reason you found yourself in love with a woman?”  (Of course then my OCD says “your therapist really thinks you’re bi-sexual and he’s now trying to help you come to terms with that”.)
I just really want to be able to let go of this fear.  And my OCD wants me to figure out WHY I have this fear.  Does it mean that I’m really afraid of my true self?  Does it mean that I won’t ever truly be able to be happy until I figure this out?  It’s so hard to find love these days, am I sacrificing my whole happiness by not opening myself up to being with a woman? Maybe I’m really bi-sexual?  All of these crazy thoughts go through my head.  It’s horrible.
(Just writing this blog post is an exposure for me, because my OCD is saying “These people are going to read this and think that I really DO sound like I might be bi-sexual.”)
Why can’t I just be like anyone else and live my life until something actually happens????
This theme is rampant in the lesbian community too.  I’ve watched three movies with this theme.  It goes something like this:  The woman is living happily with her male partner, thinking, feeling straight, and along comes a lesbian woman who woos her into her web and their life is perfect, and wonderful and fantastic forever more.  Learning to accept the fact that this might happen to me, and not avoiding is one BIG hurdle I have in order to overcome my OCD.  It scares the crap outta me.
Another big theme we’re working on at the moment is the wonderful “groinal” response and arousal etc.  For any of you who suffer from any kind of sexual obsession, you will understand the distress that this causes.  I watched one of those aforementioned lesbian movies a few weeks ago, and I actually thought the movie was pretty good!  (It was practically impossible for me to actually allow myself to like a lesbian movie by the way.)  And watching some of those sex scenes were pretty darn sensual.  Was I sexually aroused?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  My therapist explains to me that people can get aroused from watching many types of sex scenes.  But then my OCD says “You don’t get turned on when you watch heterosexual sex scenes.”.  Some times I feel like my OCD wants me to just throw my arms up in the air and say “I’m gay!”.  And be done with it all.  Anyway, this “groinal response” is another big hurdle for me to overcome in my recovery.  My therapist wants me to try and become sexually aroused while watching these lesbian movies.  And live with the consequences.  Right now I’m just trying not to figure it out one way or the other.

At the end of the day I have to accept that I COULD find myself falling in love with a woman someday.  I have to accept that watching lesbian porn MIGHT turn me on sexually.  But at this point COULD = WILL, and MIGHT = DOES.  My therapist says that I have to want to overcome my OCD more than avoiding this possibility.  When he puts it that way I find it SO HARD to commit.  It’s days/times like these that I feel like I haven’t made any progress AT ALL.

my littlest friends

Tracy is a dear friend from college, and these are her three little daughters, my favorites!

Emma (4), Ava (almost 2), Elsie (3 months) … I welcome you to gush about how adorable they are.  I can’t seem to stop doing it myself!  Em is SO SMART– she catches onto things so quickly, and she is always so excited to see me.  There is nothing quite like having a child make you feel like a rockstar.  Avie is the little sugar mouse!  If there is candy anywhere in the vicinity, Aves will sniff it out and you’ll find the wrappers in her wake.  At only three months, Elsie and I don’t know each other too well yet, but you’d better believe that Auntie Jackie can’t wait to watch her grow!

I feel so blessed to know these girlies!  If I go for over a week without seeing them, I have symptoms of withdrawal.  Aren’t they the cutest?!!

the pleasure of re-reading

I have friends who never re-read books, sometimes due to a lack of time and sometimes because the mystery/thrill has gone out of the story for them after the initial reading.  While I agree that there is nothing quite like that pioneer perusal, re-reading to me is like returning to a precious memory, rejoining a conversation.

Books I re-read most often:
The Chronicles of Narnia (I re-read these almost continually, sometimes up to a dozen times a year!)
The Book Thief
Deathly Hallows
The Last Unicorn
Peace Like a River
poetry by Billy Collins

Sometimes I re-visit old favorites that I’ve not picked up in years, and this is delightful too.  I just finished re-reading Anne of Green Gables, a book I haven’t read in over ten years but which used to be my absolute favorite.  What a joy to listen to Anne’s imaginations, to run over to Orchard Slope to see Diana, to crack that slate over Gilbert’s head, to delight in puffed sleeves, and to watch Marilla soften over the years!  I think I’ll start in on Anne of Avonlea next.

Do you ever re-read books?  If so, which are your favorites to revisit time and again?

dressing up

As a reminder, I recruit high school students, many of whom are my Facebook friends.  These days, when I log into FB, my newsfeed is positively littered with photos from … what else … PROM!

I never went to prom!  I had this idea that if I went to prom it needed to be with a boy I really, really liked– now that I’m 30, I see that I should have just gone with a friend.  It would have been a great excuse to dress up and have fun.  I can’t say that I regret not going to prom– trust me, I don’t waste a lot of energy on re-imagining high school– but seeing all these pictures makes me wish I had an opportunity to get all dolled up.

So– don’t judge me, ha!– I went online this week and looked at prom dresses.  Here are my favorites.  What do you think?

Guest Blogger! Checking OCD: Never Quite Sure

Happy Monday, friends!  I wanted to introduce you to some other types of OCD, outside of the Pure-O that I have suffered from.  Today’s post about checking OCD comes from Tina Fariss Barbour of the Bringing Along OCD Blog.  I encourage you all to visit her blog and subscribe to her!  Thank you, Tina, for today’s insightful post!

Checking OCD: Never quite sure
By Tina Fariss Barbour

I’m cooking a simple meal of pasta and sauce. I can heat the sauce in the microwave. But I need to use the electric stove to boil the pasta.

The water boils and I cook the pasta until it’s done.

Then I reach over to turn off the stove.

I carefully and slowly turn the knob towards the off label. Slowly, slowly. I’m waiting for the click that tells me I’ve reached my destination.

I hear the click and stop turning. It’s off.

Or is it?

I squint at the off label. Does the line on the knob match up with it enough? Is it supposed to be exactly in the middle of the label, or can it be off-center?

And did I really hear the click? Was it the right click? Was it something else in the kitchen that made a clicking sound?

I reach over and turn the knob so that the stove is back on. The pan with the pasta is still on the stovetop.

I turn the knob off again. But I turn it too fast, I think. The click sounded different, and I didn’t feel the slight vibration under my fingers that the click usually makes.

Even though the line on the knob looks like it’s right under the off label, the click didn’t sound right.

I turn the knob again. The stove is on. I say that out loud.

“The stove is on.”

I turn the knob carefully, concentrating. I hear the click.

It’s off. I say that out loud.

“The stove is off.”

I’ll just look at the off label one more time.

Looking straight at the label, it looks like it’s lined up with the knob. But when I look from an angle, it doesn’t appear to be right under it. Which perspective is correct?

And the knob moved a tiny bit once I took my hand off of it. Does that mean it moved back into an on position?

I turn the knob on again. On. Turn. Listen. Off. Stare. Turn. On. Turn. Listen. Off. Stare.

Two hours later, I drain the water from the pasta.

That scene depicts a ritual that I have carried out, in different places, with different foods on the stove, for different lengths of time, many times.

The scenery may have changed over time, but the underlying fear has been the same: if I don’t properly turn off the stove, it will ignite something, there will be a fire, and people will die.

That fear of harming others is the basis for my checking. It makes checking one of the most challenging of my symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Before I was diagnosed with OCD at age 26, I didn’t know there was a name for the actions I felt compelled to perform everyday. I thought of the actions as a way to “just make sure everything’s all right.”

Besides my obsessions with stoves, I’ve checked to make sure lights are turned off, the water faucets have been turned off, there are no clothes dropped behind the dryer, the dryer filter is properly free of lint, soap is completely rinsed from dishes I’m washing, and on and on.

Checking takes up a lot of time. And when I stand and stare at a light bulb, trying to convince myself that it is dark, not lit, I can feel the anxiety invade my body: I get hyper, my legs and arms feel numb, and I want to scream and run away.

When I started taking medication for my OCD, my checking compulsions lessened quite a bit. But I still find that the compulsion to check comes around, especially when I’m particularly stressed.

Lately, I’ve been using a form of the therapy that Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz writes about in his book “Brain Lock.” My therapist has modified it a bit.

Basically, when I turn off the light, or turn off the faucet, and feel the urge to check it, I tell myself, it’s the OCD that wants me to check. My brain is different because of OCD.

Then I refocus on something else, which many times, means walking away from the light fixture, shower faucet, or whatever it is that I want to check.

My goal is to accept that I will have anxiety during these times, but I will not give in to the compulsive urge to check. Every time I resist the urge, it makes it a little easier the next time.

Checking is all about looking for certainty, certainty that nothing bad will happen because I haven’t done something dangerous like leave the stove on.

But none of us—those of us with OCD and those without—can ever truly know certainty as long as we live as humans here on earth. We must learn to accept and even embrace the uncertainty and live life anyway.

compulsions become monsters

“Compulsions are a lousy solution to the problem of having obsessions.”  Fred Penzel

Some of you don’t know just how true this quote is!  I was explaining OCD to a group of student workers in my office the other day, and here’s what I had to say about compulsions:

They start as a way to provide temporary relief to the stress/terror/anxiety/disturbing nature of obsessions, but after a while, the compulsions get out of control and become monsters themselves.

For example, maybe an OC will worry that a room is contaminated and therefore, she is going to get sick herself and die.  So she washes her hands to forestall any illness, and for a moment, it relieves that anxiety.  But after awhile, she is washing her hands all the time to try to keep that anxiety at bay, and now her hands are bleached, raw, bleeding and she can’t stop.

Which is worse– the obsession or the compulsion?  I know different OCs have different answers.  I’d like to hear yours!

adult fiction

So, last week, I posted about my favorite YA lit titles, and it was fun to see others’ reactions and suggestions, both in the comments and on Facebook.  This week, I thought I’d post my top ten fiction books that fall outside of YA.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, but especially That Hideous Strength
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Rosie by Anne Lamott
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Which ones have you read and enjoyed?  Which of your all-time favorites did I miss?