Originally published on The Redeeming Things blog in September 2013. Edited only slightly here; note that where I talk about four years of freedom … it has now been nine. Amen.
Last week, while listening to an audiobook by Anne Lamott, she mentioned a line she tries to live by: “And may the free make others free.”
I had to rewind a few seconds and listen to it over again. And again, amazed at the stark and beautiful way these few words summarize the last four years of my life.
I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder that preyed on all I most value: faith, friendships, vocation. Forget all media has ever taught you about OCD—it is not a funny, quirky, bothersome nuisance. Instead, it is a hellish, tormenting thief and tyrant. OCD is slavery, and I was in bondage to it for over twenty years. I was a tormented pot that complained to the Potter, “Why-why-why did you make me this way?”
Four years ago, I stumbled, uncertain and afraid, through the door that led to freedom (labeled “Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy”). It was a tremulous victory, and I’ll admit I was shocked to discover things like peace and joy re-entering my life for the first time in years. Freedom gave me an exhilarating high that I have not yet come down from, even in four years.
These days, I am an OCD awareness advocate, a member of the OCD Network to Recovery, and a leader in OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. I communicate every week with people who are broken by anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses, my own OCD branding me as their war buddy, allowing me to move in closely and show them the way to health. I advocate for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, defend the right to and benefits of medication, and push back against the stigma of mental illness. I talk to parents who don’t know how to help their children, to people whose anxiety makes their own home a prison cell, to those who are needlessly ashamed that they have a brain disorder.
OCD, once the thorn in my side, has become my platform.
So the Potter finally answered my tormented question. I was given obsessive-compulsive disorder so that I, now the free, may make others free.
Beautiful post, Jackie. And I’d like to personally thank you for all of your help with the OCD Network to Recovery – never once passing up the chance to help someone. You are one special person!
It’s an honor!!
Hi Jackie! I recently found your website and I need some sort of advice. I’m desperate!! Last November, one of my friends told me that she could see me being lesbian, probably more bisexual, and it freaked me out like never before. This has already been a very stressful year for me- I’m a senior in high school and the whole prospect about the future and moving out has me stressed as it is, and add in HOCD… basically I can’t deal with this anxiety anymore. I think I have had mild cases of OCD, like when I was younger, I would triple check that the doors were locked at night, or I would think that I would wake up and my parents would be dead (I know kinda morbid). Today, I am a virgin, but I have had many crushes in the past. I’m also a super romantic, like I was the girl that would dress up as a princess every year and pray upon a star that one day I would find a prince (super cheesy). Before November, I even really liked this guy in my class. Now, it’s like all feelings for men have left and I’m terrified. I’m also scared because going into college, I want to be confident enough in myself to find a great boyfriend. I think I experienced mild HOCD when I was younger because I thought that I might be lesbian because I thought certain girls were pretty. Like there were no sexual or romantic feelings, I just thought they were really pretty. Is that an early sign for being homosexual? And now my intense anxiety is taking that childhood memory and using it against me by saying I have liked girls all along and liking boys was a cover-up. I’m also scared because I think one of my friends is super pretty. She looks like a European model. When I’m not around her it’s like my brain says to me “YOU LOVE WOMEN” but then I’m around her and it’s like talking to a friend. And I think that’s all I have every felt towards women, a sisterly kind of love. But my brain keeps confusing my memories that I don’t even know what to think. I have talked to my parents about this and they told me that they have never seen any early signs in me that I might be lesbian, but they told me they would love me no matter who I was. As reassuring as this is because my parents are amazing, that doesn’t make me feel better and I just want to be rid of this burden. This has just been an extremely terrible last four months. I have also had cases of depression and steady low self confidence in the past. Does this sound like HOCD to you, or should I do some more soul searching? I’m seeing a psychologist next week. What should I talk to her about? Thanks for reading this long post:)
(I might have double posted this, I’m sorry!)
I am begging, if you have a chance to respond, please do!!
I replied to your other comment, hon. You left the same comment on two posts.
I read your blog about Hocd and i feel like sharing my part of two month old trauma to you. Couple of months ago I happened to read a coming out story of a bisexual girl. And it suddenly send chills of anxiety. I have had lesbian fantasies and watched lesbian porn before just for the sake of pleasure. And it didn’t mean anything more to me. But now I am crucifying myself for such moments by questioning my orientation. It scares n grosses me to the core now. I am scared of everything which is even remotely associated with LGBT theme. I am scared of having a crush on a guy because I fear that I am doing it forcefully to deny a truth. But the fact is that I have always had romantic attraction towards men.But today I fear that I might change my orientation. It scares me. And rightnow i am not in a position to consult a specialist. I hope you wont judge me and give me a couple of advices to combat this intrusive thought.
Hey dear, sounds like classic HOCD … please see all my resources at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD! If you have a specific question, you can ask it by clicking on the ASK ME ANYTHING icon on my main screen!
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Hi Jackie I have been dealing with HOCD since I was 11 and now I am 16 and it has been horrible. When I was younger I fully questioned if I was lesbian even though I obviously liked boys and now I am starting to wonder If I am bisexual or something! I have always been boy crazy and I don’t think I ever had a crush on a girl before but now my mind is thinking back on my memories of all my best friends and telling me that I was secretly in love with them like Emily from Pretty Little Liars. The worst thing is When I am with my best friend I am too scared to be around her because I am afraid I am in love with her so I get so freaked out and nervous which I interpret as a sign that I like her! I also get groinal reactions and I am hypersensitive to looks of girls so I am always checking them out and noticing if they are pretty. Is this the OCD? My whole family has OCD and this year has been hell on my entire family with our issues. I just want clarity. I understand that everyone isn’t 100% straight and that is apart of being human, but I feel like my OCD takes normal feelings and makes it worse or makes up stuff. I can’t stop thinking about this and obsessing over it and looking things up for it. Is it normal to be all of a sudden questioning what if I want to date girls or do sexual things with them? And my mind tells me this is not a bad idea? Does this sound like Hocd? Am I lying to myself? Also when I am not having outright anxiety I still have the worry in the back of my mind but it is not gone, then I worry that I am accepting my true self or something. Sorry this is so long I am desperate for help!!!
Hi Allison, this sounds exactly like HOCD. The obsessions and compulsions all fit it to a T.
The best thing to so is ERP therapy, which can even be done on your own if you can’t afford to meet with someone. I have posts on this site about self-directed ERP. You can do this. Don’t wait. I remember battling OCD at your age. Wish I had done ERP so much sooner than I did.