Stop telling me I’m fine.

screenshot_20171128-204604665190849.pngThis was not a normal exhaustion.

I know what it’s like to be tired: I’m a college grad. I’m a writer. Heck, I’m a writer with a day job.

But about once a week, I couldn’t get out of bed. I don’t use that phrase lightly. This was like a full system shut-down. Productivity is my favorite high. Hard work is a badge of honor I wear. And yet, I could not get out of bed. 

It wasn’t a battle of wills. It wasn’t just that I’m not a morning person. It wasn’t playing hooky from work to stay home to write. (As I told my co-workers, I wish it was!) It wasn’t simply depression; I know what depression feels like too.

At its worst, I was spending 18 hours in bed.

And I was in pain too. Long-time blog readers know that I’ve battled with my wrists for over a decade. But in spite of all the extra care I was taking– ergonomics, chiropractics, occupational therapy, oils, stretching, prayers– they were getting worse, not better. My whole body would feel achy, the way you feel the day after you’ve helped a friend move. Headaches, which have never really been an issue for me, were coming more frequently and blooming into migraines. And my mind– which is the best tool I own– would sometimes feel so foggy I’d have to give up on things like how to send a text in the morning or how to make a phone call. And I was so hot— I’d be melting away on days that really shouldn’t have melted me.

But the doctors said I was fine.

I started to feel like a complainer. I wondered if maybe I was just a whiny brat who was indulging a lazy streak, even though I’ve never had a lazy streak in my life. (Before all my former roommates pipe up: yes, yes, you’re right. When it comes to cleaning, I’m the laziest.) When you hear again and again that you’re fine, you start to wonder if maybe you really are fine.

Then, three articles fell into my lap in succession, all in the course of one week. All three were stories about women whose doctors told them they were fine until they half-believed it themselves. One of these women was diagnosed years later with a disorder that medication remedied easily. Another of the women later discovered she had a very serious illness, one the doctor had never tested her for, just sending her away with a “friendly reminder” to lose weight and she’d feel better. Another of the women ended up dying from from an aggressive endometrial cancer

These women made me take a deep breath, steel myself, and set up yet another appointment where I insisted I was not fine. 

Fast forward to now. I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Blood tests and an MRI on my wrist has revealed inflammation and joint effusion. A sleep study showed that I have 45 “sleep disturbances” an hour, which is well into the severe range of sleep apnea.

I sort of get a kick out of this chart. This shows eight hours of sleep, from left to right. The yellow part is where I had the deepest type of sleep– delta sleep– during which the body heals and repairs itself.

Yup, look again. That little yellow part. I got about 5-7 minutes of the deepest sleep the whole night.

Everything is starting to make sense.

I am not fine. But I will be.


nOCD, an ERP App/Hero

Reminder! Reminder! Reminder!
Resources at your fingertips — and FREE.


If you’ve spent time around this blog, you know that I wrestled my life and freedom back from the clutches of obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2008. (Read more about my story at

From the onset of my symptoms to my diagnosis: 15 years.
From my diagnosis to appropriate treatment (ERP): 5 years.
From treatment to freedom: 12 weeks. (<–Read that again please.)

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is powerful, friends.

On average, it takes OCD sufferers 14-17 years to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. This is not okay. 

So many OCD sufferers cannot afford treatment. In some countries, ERP therapy is simply not available. In fact, in some countries, the stigma associated with having a brain disorder like OCD is so strong that sufferers would not dare admit to needing help. This is not okay. 

The creators of the nOCD app felt the same way. One…

View original post 122 more words

Advocacy & Boundaries

advocacyTwo recent, semi-related questions I received:

  1. Can you give any recommendations for getting involved in the OCD community and doing advocacy work? 🙂
  2. I am getting very drained and upset by certain advocacy interactions. Do you have any advice on how to handle this? 

Getting Involved in OCD Awareness Advocacy

I don’t think I can answer this any better than by directing you to the IOCDF website, specifically this page, which talks about support groups, research studies, OCD Awareness Week, and getting plugged into your local affiliate!

Proper Boundaries in OCD Awareness Advocacy

I am so happy and eager to help people, but sometimes it’s as if they want different answers, so they keep asking things hoping I’ll suggest something easier than exposure therapy. Or something that alleviates their anxiety immediately. Sometimes asking the questions themselves is the compulsion.

Sometimes it gets to the point where it is damaging to MY OWN mental health or the freedom I worked so hard to achieve via treatment.

In these cases, I have to cut it off.

I can’t be a personal, free, on-call therapist. I can’t be a therapist at all. I can provide resources, and then it is up to individuals to act.

So, set your own standards and stick to them. Be kind but firm. Gently point out when someone appears to be compulsively asking the same questions again and again. Sometimes you might have to say, “I can’t reply anymore.”

One thing that has been especially difficult for me is hearing from people who are in crisis-mode. My own therapist pointed out to me that even she– with her master’s in counseling– is not trained as a crisis counselor. Certainly I– with no formal therapy training at all– am not equipped to handle folks in crisis. It is better to recommend the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or suicide hotline chat (here).

Review: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

crooked saintsI’ll admit that when I first read the description of Maggie Stiefvater’s latest book, it didn’t sound like something that would be up my alley. Then again, I thought the same thing about Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, and that one immediately become one of my top ten favorite books (review here).

Of course I purchased it. Of course I read it. It’s Maggie Stiefvater.

And it was great. But in a different way from her other books, which I’ll try to explain in a minute.

First, what’s it about? All the Crooked Saints is about three cousins in Bicho Raro, Colorado, in the 60’s: Beatriz, “the girl without feelings”; Daniel, the Saint (who performs miracles for pilgrims who travel to their ranch); and Joaquin, who DJs a pirated radio station from a truck in the desert. There is a wide cast of characters between the residents of Bicho Raro and the pilgrims who must remain there until their darkness is vanquished.

You see, Daniel performs the first miracle for the pilgrims, which makes their darkness manifest itself in some way, but the pilgrims must perform their second miracle, which makes the darkness go away. Until then, they remain at the ranch, where the resident Soria family is not able to help them.

This is magical realism, which I suppose one could argue is what all of Maggie’s books are, though I would probably be more likely to file them under “fantasy.” This book reads more like a fairy tale– and even as I write that, I’m not sure that captures it. Think Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review) vs. Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (here). More The Last Unicorn (here), less Finnikin of the Rock (here). Just south of Bone Gap (here). (What? “Just south of Bone Gap” is not a clear description of a book? Pshhh!)

(And, to be clear, I love all the books I just mentioned … but for different reasons.)

The reasons I loved All the Crooked Saints:

  • the imagery
  • the magic
  • the miracles
  • the stories
  • the way everything fits into place.

As I put it on Instagram …

crooked insta


Happy Thanksgiving and all that. 🙂

What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving is my baby sister being born 33 years ago!

kristin baby

What a joy she is and what a stinker she has been! Ha!

kristin and jackie2

Although a three-year gap now seems like nothing, and we have become the dearest of friends, I remember when that three-year gap meant that I felt like the too-cool (HA!) senior in high school who didn’t want the freshman hanging around. Although we did need to join forces to fight against the violent being that dwelt in our home. (Um, that’d be our baby brother.)

Deetie, you make me so happy and so proud. You are my biggest fan, are the most dedicated person I know, and so funny (or so I’ve heard from Mom: “She’s funny!). 😉

kristin2I love all our memories from sharing a room– Princess Pat, Janet Jackson, decorating our walls and ceiling (your half Backstreet Boys and Hanson; my half Beatles and Hanson), reading by the amber light (not to mention the “shut the light off!!!!” from Kevin or the “I’m still here” from Dad). And I love that we continue to make memories, now as dear friends instead of just closet prisoners (no, literally: our brother would trap us in our closet).

Thank you for all the support, the prayers, and for truly understanding our introvert ways. I love you, I love you, I love you. Happy 33rd, Kristin Ann!



Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green [spoiler-free post, but I’d avoid the comments!]

It was John Green’s book The Fault in Our Stars that inspired me, back in January 2012, to put down the manuscript I was working on and try my hand at writing YA literature, the result of which was my debut novel Truest. (Please see: 3 Novels That Changed My Life.)

It’s been over five years since TFIOS came out, so of course, everyone has been excited for Green’s next book, me included. I was less excited to discover the coincidental similarities it had to one of my works-in-progress: Turtles is about a girl named Aza with OCD; Yes Novel is about a boy named Asa with OCD. Yes Novel, meet backburner.

But what a cool intersection of my passions– YA lit, John Green, OCD!

In Turtles All the Way Down, Aza Holmes is fighting against her intrusive thoughts, all while she and her best friend Daisy attempt to locate a runaway millionaire, the son of whom was Aza’s childhood friend Davis. I loved how Green showed the way that Aza’s OCD impacted not only her but all of her relationships.

Did the book get OCD right?

Yes. I was pretty pleased. Green did a really good job of showing both Aza’s obsessions and the resulting compulsions, and I think readers will be able to see the *faulty* logic that presses sufferers to perform compulsions. And although some readers might think things were a bit exaggerated for the sake of the story, in my opinion, Green actually toned down OCD for the book. (My own editor told me of Yes Novel that I had to find a way to lighten it up, make it less depressing, as readers could only handle so much.) There are definitely degrees of OCD (see: YBOCS), but for it to be considered OCD, it has to noticeably disrupt one’s life. I took the YBOCS as Aza Holmes and scored 26 out of a possible 40, which is the severe category. Just because I was curious. 🙂

The book was good, very well written, a much quieter book than The Fault in Our Stars, and I think it needed to be. Though others might argue that it didn’t pack the same emotional punch as TFIOS, I think it was exactly the book Green needed to write after the phenomenal, almost debilitating success of the former.

In September 2016, John Green made the following video. It’s wild to watch it now (especially if you’ve finished Turtles) and see that just 13 months later, that book would be published. It’s because of this video that I say that I think Turtles is exactly the one he needed to write. I’m curious to hear what you think of it. (Probably best to avoid the comments section BECAUSE SPOILERS.)

OCD & Depression Book Recs

A blog reader asked:

Hi Jackie. I’m recovering from OCD and depression right now and i am looking for a few book recommendation(fiction and non-fiction) about themes related to these mental illnesses? Something inspirational and perhaps even educational?

Well, I’m so glad you asked!

book recs_1.png

Kissing Doorknobs by Terri Spencer Hesser
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers (hey, she sounds familiar …)

Overcoming OCD by Janet Singer
Stop Obsessing by Edna Foa
Being Me with OCD by Alison Dotson
The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer

More resources:
My friend Shannon does a really cool feature on her blog called #ShatteringStigmas, which you definitely need to check out. I even wrote one. 😉
All the #ShatteringStigma posts
My #ShatteringStigma post





State of the Blogger: idk.

Back at the end of 2016, I posted my creative goals for 2017:

  1. Finish Salt Novel.
  2. Find the soul of Yes Novel.

So. Yeah. Life.

Salt Novel is getting closer, but it won’t be done before the end of the year. The exciting news is that my agent, my editor, and I all want another pair of eyes on the manuscript, so I’m getting to work with an editor I really admire who has worked on NYT Bestsellers in the YA world. I’ll get notes from her in mid-January, which means a 2.5 month break from my novel! It’s quite needed. I’ve been working on this since I finished Truest back in 2013– well, along with a time where I wrote out a draft of Yes Novel. Speaking of …

Yes Novel. For those of you who didn’t know what it was about, it’s about a boy named Asa with OCD. If you’re active in the YA community, you’ll know that John Green’s latest novel just came out last month. About a girl named Aza with OCD.


Yup. So Yes Novel is headed to the backburner for now.

But all this means that I have 2.5 months to brainstorm new ideas. Or, as my therapist put it, to “be playful.” I am truly, deeply excited to just explore ideas and characters and names without any stressful deadlines I have to meet. I have a handful of ideas (Fox Novel, Ivy Novel, Glass Novel, Gold Novel, Egg Novel) and a handful of characters that have been … percolating. It’ll be fun to mix and match and dream.