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, 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.)



I’ve been trying to blog, and I’m just not feeling it. I have a lot to say, but I’m distracted by my manuscript– and I think that’s actually a good thing. This month might be a little quiet from me as I battle through revisions. Send good thoughts. I feel really excited about the direction of the story. It’s been a challenge, but a GOOD one. A rewarding one.

I will say that I recently finished The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass and that it was possibly the most useful, nuts-and-bolts book on writing craft I’ve ever read. Ever. If you write fiction, definitely buy a copy immediately.

In the meantime, will you leave a comment? A line or two about what’s going on in your world? I want to stay connected.



Advice for New Writers

Just reblogging a few older posts that are still relevant. Hope they meet someone where they are needed!


advice for new writers1. Write. The most important thing you can do as you start your journey as a writer is, in fact, to write. More specifically, write a lot. Most of it will probably be bad. That’s okay. Most writers have to expel a decent amount of junk onto the pages before they ever get to anything good. The more you write, the closer you’re getting to the real gems that are waiting.

2. Read. And be picky about what you read. Consuming massive amounts of poor literature is not going to be much help to you. Read the best of the best, the most brilliant pieces. At first, you might not know how to tell the good from the bad. In that case, start with award winners, ask people you trust for recommendations, delve into the classics that have stood the test of time. Eventually, you’ll be able to discern what…

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Idea Factory: Where My Ideas Come From

I really, really love creativity.


I feel like people always ask writers: Where do you get your ideas?

More often than not, the answer is everywhere.

It’s the same for me.

where do you get your ideasI get ideas from song lyrics, conversations, the radio, dreams, daydreams, Wikipedia, real-life events, funny things my co-workers say, freewriting, scents and smells, prompts, answers to the (many) questions I ask on Facebook, people I meet, Pinterest, memories from high school, websites I visit on accident, websites I visit on purpose, Tumblr, photographs and images, pretty dresses, cute things my favorite kiddos say, Quora, novels, memoirs, poems, books of quotations, books of symbols, books of trivia, books of anecdotes, books of mythology, instruction manuals, online journals, art, antiques, trees, weather, arguments, and on and on and on.

I usually start with an idea and a handful of characters. Truest started because of a Wikipedia article I stumbled upon years ago about a topic that continued to fascinate…

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One Word Revisited: Sacrifice, a Trip Through Scripture

You might recall that my one word motto for 2017 is sacrifice

Sacrifice is such an interesting word, and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a big shift in the way it is viewed. I may have studied the Bible in undergrad, but I would never consider myself an expert. Still, join me for a little walk through scripture in regard to sacrifice.

Of course, in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel offered burnt sacrifices as a way to have their sins forgiven. In fact, it’s described this way (later, in Hebrews):

Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Then, in the Psalms, I start to see a shift:

Psalm 40:6 – In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Psalm 50:14 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,

Psalm 50:23 – The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 51:16 – For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

And in Proverbs:

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

And in Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”


And now we learn a whole new way of looking at what we offer:

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 12:33 – And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus dies, the temple of the curtain is torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that his death was a sufficient atonement for sins. It was the final sacrifice– by Old Testament definitions. (Hebrews 10:12 – But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)

After that, we are encouraged to be LIVING SACRIFICES:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.


Well, I don’t know. But I see that my body is to be a living sacrifice, which makes me wonder: how do I honor God with my body? How can I treat my body right as the temple of the Holy Spirit and how can I use my body in ways that glorify God and promote holiness? I see I am to walk in love “as Christ … gave himself up for us,” so there is still that element of being poured out for the benefit of others. This, I think, includes my time, my heart, and my money. I see that I need to offer a sacrifice of praise– perhaps to carve out time to worship my God even in my busyness. I see that I am to do good and to share what I have; again, this encourages me to open my wallet again and again. Mercy and love are prioritized; they should be my priorities too.

So, that is what I am trying to do this year.

I am learning my friends’ love languages and trying to love them on their terms, not mine. That means taking the time to think through what would best show them how special they are and then making it happen. For example, I am a hermit. I’m happy to sit alone in my home all weekend, writing. But some of my friends feel best loved when I spend quality time with them. So, that means getting out of my house.

I am trying to become a more gracious, merciful, generous, and thoughtful friend to others and follower of Christ. To care about righteousness and justice. I am a work in progress, trying to keep my hands open.




When Writing = Death

This post is probably not what you think it is.


Look, I’m not the first one to comment on this. Not even close.

You have an idea– a bright, beautiful, perfect idea– and then you start to write it down, and it dies on the page. It becomes imperfect. It gets messy.

Ann Patchett said her ideas are like beautiful butterflies that soar around in her mind, and then when she starts to write, she takes them and pins them to a board. Death.

Chuck Wendig blogged about it recently, saying, “Writing and storytelling is this… nasty task of taking the perfect idea that exists in your head and shellacking it all up by dragging it through some grease-slick fontanelle in order to make it real. You’re just shitting it all to hell, this idea. You have it in your mind: golden and unbreakable. And then in reality, ugh. You’ve created a herky-jerky simulacrum, a crude facsimile of your…

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Six Parts of Writing a Book that Aren’t Actually Writing


There is so much more to writing a book than just writing a book. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and thought I’d write up a few thoughts about it. Note that this is my experience; every writer has his or her own methods!


When I was younger, I thought, “I’ll never write historical novels; that way, I won’t have to do research.” HA. I think any well-thought-out piece of writing requires so much research, and not always the kind you might imagine. I’ve spent countless hours researching things that my characters are interested in, just so that I can have my characters talk about them with convincing acuity. When those things are above my head (i.e. the quantum mechanics in Yes Novel), I have to still find a way to write just enough to convince the audience I know more. (Then I had to have my…

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Book Heroines I Adore

unsplash90Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling | Related
“The smartest witch of her age” and fiercely loyal, never gives up. Never.

Shazi from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and sequel)
“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”
“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

Citra from Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Review
Whip-smart, deeply philosophical … but can also kick your ass.

Joana from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys | Review 
“She must have been a nurse. She looked a few years older than me. Pretty. Naturally pretty, the type that’s still attractive, even more so, when she’s filthy.”
So strong in the face of a thousand hardships

Roza and Petey from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby | Review
Each of these girls is so strong in her own way; I adored every character in this book.

Liesel Meminger of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | Related
She can hold her own against any boy, she knows the power of words, and perseveres through tremendous loss.

Isaboe of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Related
Fearsome. Unwavering. Isaboe’s resolution and leadership are a thing to behold. She is her own boss. She loves with ferocity.

Quintana of The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta | Review 
“‘Do you know who tells me my worth, Phaedra of Alonso?’
The princess pointed a hard finger at her own chest.
‘Me. I determine my own worth. If I had to rely on others I’d have lain down and died waiting.’”
‘Nuff said.





I am just so tired. No, that’s the wrong word. I am well rested. I guess I’m exhausted… emotionally, mentally.

Online dating is a really great way to feel like a piece of meat. I’ve heard from about 300 guys just since the start of the year, and it’s mostly made me sad.

Writing is such a beautiful thing, and it is usually life-giving to me, but lately, it’s been a battle just to open up my manuscript.

My friends are incredible… but going through some very hard things. I want to support them well, but that takes energy too. 

I have zero dollars. Please save me, tax return.

All in all, life is so good, so lovely and exciting and challenging. I’m just exhausted, that’s all. 

Psychiatrist on Monday morning. I need to see if any part of this is chemical. 

How are you, lovelies? What are your best suggestions for free/cheap self care?

Some Newer Book Boyfriends

unsplash82Indulge me, folks.

Tim Mason from The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick | Review
“Her lips touch just against my mouth, then the cleft of my chin, back to my lips. ‘Good night, Tim.’ My lips on her forehead. ‘Good night, Alice.’ I can’t remember ever having something and not reaching for more. But I back away from her, hands in my pockets. Enough.”

Julian from Caraval by Stephanie Garber | Review
“He’d never stared at her like this before. Sometimes he gazed at her as if he wanted to be her undoing, but just then it was as if he wanted her to undo him.”

Khalid ibn al Rashid from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Review (and Sequel)
“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.
“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.
“No.” His hands dropped to her waist. “Destroy me.”

Eight Beaufort from The Heirs of Watson Island series by Martina Boone | Review
“I’ve been out with enough girls to know what I want. I know. You and me together? We’re not the same plain vanilla let’s-date-while-we’re-in-high-school, let’s-go-to-prom, let’s-promise-we’ll-talk-in-college relationship. We’re more like those fireworks on the Fourth of July that keep exploding with new bursts every time they’re done. Before we know it, we’ll be in rocking chairs side by side on the porch, holding hands and watching a houseful of great grandchildren chasing blue ghost fireflies on the lawn.”

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Review (and Sequel)
“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Noah Shaw from the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin | Review
“We’re only seventeen,” I said quietly.
“Fuck seventeen.” His eyes and voice were defiant. “If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you for all of them. If we were to live a thousand lives, I would want to make you mine in each one.”