May the Free Make Others Free


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.

unsplash74Last 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.


7 thoughts on “May the Free Make Others Free

  1. 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!

  2. 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!)

  3. Hey Jackie
    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.

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