If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.

Let’s be real here.  Almost everyone has a quirk or two.


Some people have to organize their shirts by color.  Some need to dot their i’s a certain way.  Some have to clean their kitchen in just a certain way.  Some always double-check the front door before they go to sleep.

Quirks.  Quirks, I tell you!

Unless …

You feel that a disorganized closet is going to ruin your day, your week, or even your life (and you will panic and feel sick over it until you fix it).  You think that if you don’t dot your i’s just so it might mean that something bad will happen to your family.  You think that if you don’t follow a particular routine in cleaning, you (or people you love) are going to get really sick and probably die.  You think that if you don’t check the front door, a murderer will certainly get inside, kill your entire family, and it will actually be all your fault.

Those are just some examples off the top of my head, but my point is this: if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.  

In fact, it’s built into the very definition: OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.

I was recently on a web forum that was asking “What minor OCD quirks do you have?” and the answers amounted primarily to superstitions and quirks:

* I feel naked without a pocketknife handy.
* I just have to snip or pull loose threads on clothes or buttons.
* I tap my pockets to make sure my keys are there.
* I fold my dollar bills face-in.
* I hate it when someone else uses my pillow.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  These may all very well be true for these people– but I didn’t get the impression from these forum users that if they didn’t do these things, they would spiral into tumultuous anxiety that makes you believe things will never be okay again.  That is OCD.

It’s fine to have quirks; they can even be funny!  But please call them quirks.

OCD is an anxiety disorder.  It ruins people’s lives.  It steals joy from them.  It gives them a sickening feeling of terror.

Please don’t feed into the misrepresentation.  You are not “so OCD” just because you organize your sock drawer.  If, on the other hand, you believe that something terrible will happen if you don’t organize it just right, and if the organization and reorganization of your drawer seems to be adding to your distress, well, that’s another story.

Be informed.  And compassionate.

Don’t label something cutesy and funny as “OCD” — OCD is anything but.

Does OCD go away?

Although I do know of a few cases where the OC seemed to be almost miraculously healed, OCD is almost always a lifelong disorder; however, if you learn how to put it under your heel, it is very manageable.

(Wow, I never, ever would have guessed that I would be able to say something like that.  I feel so unbelievably grateful that I can.)

This week, I was the guest speaker for an Abnormal Psychology class at the university where I am blessed to work.  The professor is a Facebook friend of mine and therefore knows that I’m very upfront about my OCD, so she asked if I’d be willing to come share with the students in her class.  She kindly allowed me to share for as long as I wanted in any format I wanted (a public speaker’s dream!).

I made a list of topics I wanted to touch on, and the list was LONG!  From my own personal story to common myths that need debunking, from OCD themes to effective treatment options, I filled the whole class period.  The students were wonderful; they stayed engaged and asked excellent questions (many of them were freshmen who are future therapists), and they were so respectful.  (I love Northwestern students so much!)

When I started to share what life was like with OCD, a true statement came boldly from my lips: “OCD is slavery,” I said, and I could feel myself starting to get emotional as I remembered the imprisonment, the guilt, the terror.  I don’t know why it surprised me to find that those awful memories would still nearly bring me to tears.

So, does OCD go away?

Yes– for a very, very small few.
Not really, but sort of– for those of us who have used CBT to master the disorder.
But then again, no– years of battle leave real scars.


Photo: Tuana Art, http://tuana.se

What I Want to Say, a poem

To Jason: What I Want To Say

What place is it you go when you recite
that faith’s eyes are sharp?
So far from this learner who would memorize your portraits
of stars and Sudan, poverty and salvation, to be like you,
to climb that stair.  Your eyes survey nature and science for order;
in perfect strokes you travel logic’s line, pressing it like wet shore
under your heels—across the earth and into space
until you stop on that slender stripe at the very throne of heaven,
where you seek reward for your catalog of answers.
Take me with you.  Say there is merit in exploration
and not merely in accuracy.  Relax your fist enough
to wrap your hand around mine: maybe logic isn’t a line but a web. 


Live OCD Free app: my review

I first learned of the Live OCD Free app when I was in Boston last October, attending an event hosted by the International OCD Foundation.  I was intrigued by the idea of a web app that could simulate or guide Exposure and Response Prevention, so I picked up some handouts to take back to my university, and that was that.

Until I had lunch with Faith, this incredible 9-year-old who is battling with OCD.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had stored the memory that this app had a children’s version to it, so I contacted the company and asked if I could have a free trial of the app so that– if I liked it– I could promote it on my blog.  I received a very kind email from Dr. Kristen Mulcahy, who also sent me a promo code.

Live OCD Free app

What it is: 
Billed as “your personal pocket therapist,” this web app allows you to undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), either on your own or with the help of a therapist.  With it, you create a hierarchy of exposures, practice your exposures, and record your progress.  You can even easily email your progress reports to your therapist!  There is an adult version and a child version (both available with just the one purchase).

Child version:
In the child version of the app, there is a video that shares the story of the “Worry Wizard” with the child– in the video, the Worry Wizard happens to be another person (a bad kid, ha!), which I kind of like.  It goes along with the idea of narrative therapy that YOU are NOT the problem, the PROBLEM is the PROBLEM.  By showing children that the Worry Wizard is a completely separate entity from themselves, they are able to treat OCD as the enemy and not themselves.

ERP is then made into a game of sorts.  Children (along with the help of an adult) create a list of exposures (with simple prompts to aid them).  They then can practice their exposure at the click of a button.  If there is a need for an imaginative exposure (creating a loop tape/recording), they can do that within this app as well.  There are also built-in timers to remind users to practice their exposures and to record their anxiety levels (for the progress reports).  It’s really easy to use, very self-explanatory.

Adult version:
The adult version is very similar to the child version except that it just tells it like it is. 🙂  

The secret weapons (child version)/toolbox (adult version).

Oh my goodness, I absolutely loved this feature*.  When you choose to practice an exposure, you set the timer for how long you’d like to do it.  While you are practicing an exposure, you can access the secret weapons/toolbox area, which includes:

1. Reasons for fighting (both versions).  A place where you can review and record your reasons for fighting OCD/the Worry Wizard.
2. Uncertainty agreement (adult version).  Where you acknowledge that you cannot know things with certainty.  This records the date that you “signed on” for this!
3. Relaxation (both versions).  Listen to an exercise in muscle relaxation.
4. Motivational messages and inspirational quotes.  You can even add your own!
5. Tips from other kids fighting the Worry Wizard.  Obviously, this is in the children’s version.  Loved it.  The quotes were so good and meaningful and encouraging without being enabling at all.
6. Songs (child version).  This included two songs for children (although there is a whole CD available on iTunes).  I have to admit, one of the songs– “Worry Wizard”– made me cry listening to the lyrics.  It just breaks my heart that children have to deal with this crippling disorder.  They are so brave!

*When I was doing my own exposures, I was told to focus intently on them … I wonder how this toolbox jives with that, or if that was only my therapist’s method.

Live OCD Free User’s Guide
This is wonderfully written, very clear.  If someone is choosing to do ERP on their own and without the guidance of a therapist, this user’s guide will be critical to their success.  Since I have undergone CBT, I now find it fairly easy to recognize obsessions and compulsions– and to identify appropriate exposures.  However, I would not have been able to do this if I hadn’t gone through ERP myself already.  The prompts are very helpful (and OCs often know what things bring them the most anxiety), but this user’s guide will be a huge help in sorting through obsessions, compulsions, and exposures.  I emailed with Dr. Mulcahy, and she said that sometimes people will meet once or twice with a cognitive-behavioral therapist just to set up their exposure hierarchy before attacking the actual exposures on their own.  Even if you don’t have health insurance, I can see where this would be very helpful.  If not, the user’s guide will assist in that matter.

Progress reports
This app makes it easy to see your progress.  I love that.  A visual reminder of how far you’ve come can go such a long way!

There are very, very few cons to this app.  The graphics in the video of the Worry Wizard were not my favorite, and (of course) being a writer, I thought the story could have used a little polishing, but all in all, this app is phenomenal.  

The cost is around $80, which at first seemed like a lot of money to me … but it’s really not.  Not for what you get.  An ERP experience for $80 is a bargain (even with awesome health insurance, I still probably paid about $300 out of pocket to meet with my cognitive-behavioral therapist).  And the freedom to be gained through this process is priceless.

I imagine that CBT without the guidance of a therapist would also be more difficult, especially as there is less accountability, but the truth of the matter is that CBT takes a lot of commitment, no matter what.  I have said it before and I will say it again, you know you are ready for CBT when the hell you’re experiencing daily is worse than the hell you’ll have to go through with CBT.

All said, I highly recommend this product.

I cannot say enough good about CBT/ERP and how it gave me back my life.  Whether someone chooses to go the traditional route of seeking out a cognitive-behavioral therapist (note: NOT a talk therapist) or chooses to use this web app … or chooses to use both in conjunction with one another … I am 110% for it.

The important thing is that you pursue CBT.


some details on my faith

I wanted to post something about Jesus and my relationship with Him on my blog, just something short and simple and true so that my readers would know more about me and my faith.

I love Jesus the way I love my mother, my father, and my best friends all combined.  Most of the time I feel like I really know Him—like, really know Him.  It’s like Jesus called out to my heart across all the junk I manufactured in my head, and He never quit calling.  And better than that, even.  It’s like He fought through the junk—I picture someone in a jungle with a machete, ripping away the undergrowth, clearing a path, you know?  It’s like how a girl always wants a boy to fight his way to win her heart.  God did that—does that—for me.

Jesus has given me Truth and Purpose, and these things are my gravity, grounding me, centering me.  When I boil down all the desires I have—to be an excellent writer, to have a family, to love people well and make them think—the real core, the only real desire I have, is Jesus Christ.

God is perfect.  I am not.  The wages of sin is death—which is exactly what I deserved.  But instead, God had His Son die in my place.  What an incredible substitution!  And when Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death.  Because He has rescued me and because I cling to Him, I now get to go along for the ride with this VICTORIOUS One!

The truth I know, the purpose that centers me, the friendship—actual, real friendship—I have with Jesus Christ … these are the things that I want for others.



weird little beast



I love being a weird-little-beast writer.  I love finding things so bloody interesting.

Things that fascinate me:

Kryptos, this encrypted sculpture

Witold Pilecki, who volunteered for Auschwitz

As of 1994, there were over 85,000 Chinese characters.  Apparently, basic literacy requires knowledge of about 3,000, although an educated person will know even more.  The English alphabet has just 26 letters, like a short train with the Z as caboose.


Karel Soucek (and all Niagara Falls daredevils)


colors and all their shades (and names)

Pallor mortis is the paleness a body has after death, as the blood stops circulating through it.  Imagine: a stopped machine, the workers take a nap forever.

wind turbines

believing six impossible things before breakfast


I miss reading.

As you may remember, I am frantically editing my manuscript before I go to the Big Sur Writing Workshop a week from tomorrow, and in doing so, I have neglected reading in favor of spending all my time writing.

I think it’s fair to do that for a short amount of time (for me, six weeks), but it’s starting to feel unhealthy.  When I read, I join in on a large conversation, I connect with a bigger community.  Writing the way I have for the last five weeks is a much more solitary act.  I feel a little lonesome and left out, as if I was in the restroom when the juiciest gossip was shared.

When Big Sur is over, let me tell you, I’m knocking down doors and rejoining that conversation.  It’s what feeds my writing.

Can. Not. Wait.

P.S. I literally have … hold on, I’ll go count … sixteen new books on my shelves.  Dying.

if you think


YES YES YES, Yes to everything Claire says!!!

Living With Me And My OCD

This is a video in response to the new series on Channel 4, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners. This programme has misrepresented OCD, and stereotyped the disorder, something OCD sufferers, OCD-UK and other organisations have tried to overcome for many years.

The initial programme only featured one individual with OCD, but with constant references to OCD, and quotes such as ‘The OCD Team’, Channel 4 have seriously overlooked the effects of this programme.

OCD is not about enjoying cleaning. You do not WANT to clean because you like it, it’s something you feel you HAVE to do in some cases or something bad will happen or because you want to reduce anxiety.

I have included the tweets that were posted on Wednesday night, during and after the broadcast. Some horrified me, with references to wanting this disorder that can ruin lives. There are also tweets from sufferers OCD and others who stating…

View original post 101 more words

where OCD failed

Those who read my blog know that I mean business when I say that OCD is a brutal liar, the biggest thief I know.  I hate it passionately.  And I hate the way that media so often leans in the direction of portraying it as comical instead of devastating.  It throws so much ugliness at us.

But every once in a while, its tricks fail.

The following is one of the OCD-induced thoughts I have … but this one never worked its evil on me.  I even think it’s funny … because it’s an area where OCD attempted to ruin me and failed.  It’s an intrusive thought … but it’s not an upsetting one.  And the resulting compulsion has always been small and has never gotten out of control.

So, here it is.  “The one that got away.”

I get these thoughts that letters and words have feelings.  Yup.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say I was typing the word blogging, and instead I typed bloggging.  Instead of deleting the ing and the extra g, I, at times, would take the extra time to remove only the extra g.  You see, the ing didn’t do anything wrong to deserve being deleted and replaced with a new ing.

I also get the feeling that words that have been next to each other for a while have become friends.

So if that last sentence had been written a long time ago, and then I decided to edit it but to use some of the same words, I would not delete the old word and replace it with the same new word (you’d be surprised how often this kind of thing happens when you edit like a maniac).  It just seems wrong to uproot neighbors like that.

It’s okay to laugh.  It makes me smile!  Even now, with years under my belt of being in charge of my OCD, I still have these thoughts.  I don’t hesitate to replace a word with a different, better word (or I’d be in rough shape as a writer!), but I don’t want to replace words that are the same/equal without taking into account the words’ feelings.

But it’s very natural.  I make the decisions quickly as I go, so I’m not wasting extra time, and it wouldn’t ruin my night if I hurt a word or letter’s feelings.  I know they don’t actually have feelings.  And I don’t get upset over anything connected to it.

It’s like this funny little leftover from OCD, and since it’s so weak and powerless, it kinda makes me grin.

OCD has a lot of terrible tricks.  Are there any that OCD tried to play on you which actually failed?