My Slow Journey to Woke

Note: I wrote this in the days after the horrid events in Charlottesville, and I didn’t post it before because I wanted some friends to read over it first and give me the green light. So … here I go. Please know that I share my story with a humble heart. If I offend, or if you need clarification, I invite you to please contact me. Here’s my story.

wokeI grew up very conservative in a small town where I can recall nine students of color in our local schools. I was born in 1982, so I lived my teen years smack-dab in the nineties evangelical subculture (think: Joshua Harris and cheesy t-shirts and conferences meant to generate intense spiritual experiences). Oh, and I had undiagnosed OCD with the flavor of religious scrupulosity, which magnified everything times a thousand.

I went to college. I met Christians who truly, deeply loved Jesus and yet had different theological beliefs than I did. I had friends from other cultures, friends with skin that doesn’t glow in the dark like my own pasty self. I read Transformed into Firewhich sowed seeds in my heart that would grow into a full-blown embrace of my truest self. I was finally diagnosed with OCD and underwent exposure therapy, which broke my chains of perfectionism. I watched friends get married, sometimes separate, sometimes divorce, sometimes lose their faith. I learned about all the myriad shades of gray in between the black and white ideas I’d grown up with.

I started this blog, which helped keep me vulnerable and transparent in an Instagram world that usually only shows the smiles and laughter. And as I did so, I found that it created a safe space for other people to share too– and my friends actually liked me more for showing my imperfections. And I liked myself more too.

It was as if all of that was preparing me to become Who I Really Am. I had to get out of my small town and out from under the thumb of OCD and out of my own way first.

After that, God ushered people into my life– people who did life with me, who sat with me, talked with me, cried with me; people who– yet again– loved Jesus so deeply and yet approached things from a different angle than I ever had. And those people would passionately share their thoughts with me over and over again until one day–

something clicked.

I read this article. All of my experiences, and most especially the friends who had spoken into my life, were like one trillion pounds on me, a girl built to “withstand” one trillion pounds, and then this article was a bird that landed on my shoulder, and bam: my whole LIFE changed.

It was like having my eyes opened for the first time ever. I guess that’s why people say “woke.”

These simple truths suddenly made sense to me, suddenly seemed simple, seemed obvious.

  • Just because something is not my experience doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s.
  • White people are uncomfortable talking about racism, so they dismiss it. This is part of what we call privilege. Victims of racism don’t have the option to dismiss it.
  • My first steps toward becoming an ally are/were to admit that, as a white person, I have some sort of internalized racism. To realize that, to acknowledge that, did not destroy my awakening. It propelled my awakening.

Every meaningful change in my life has been accompanied by humility. 

I am trying to listen, to ask good questions, to come alongside (and not to speak over) my sisters and brothers. I am not even close to doing this perfectly, but I will spend my life in pursuit of these goals, and maybe over the years, I’ll inch a tiny bit closer.

On Saturday morning after the horrid events in Charlottesville, I woke up to news of what happened, and all those old hypotheticals we white kids would ask ourselves when reading books about the Underground Railroad, the Holocaust, etc. — what would I have done if I was there? — they were not hypothetical anymore.

Listen, I will not be found on the wrong side of history.

So, in case it wasn’t clear: I denounce racism and hate speech and hate crimes. I denounce white supremacy. I am proud to stand alongside my sisters and brothers of color. I humbly admit that there is almost certainly institutionalized racism in my heart, and I pledge to spend my life eliminating it. I declare these things in the name of Jesus, the Middle-Eastern Jewish man who saved my soul.  

Should You Trust Your Therapist? Depends.

Got this excellent question from a blog reader:

I think I have HOCD but I’m not sure. My therapist is doing CBT but I don’t think it’s ERP and it’s making me anxious. Like what if this therapy goes know where and just becomes me talking about my problems.(what happened with my last therapist). Should I trust that she knows what she is doing? Her Website says she does CBT so by saying she does CBT does that mean she is also an expert on ERP?

It’s sad, but so many mental health professionals are not very educated on OCD or how to treat it. CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a pretty vague, blanket term, whereas ERP (exposure and response prevention) is a specific type of CBT.

Two things I’d suggest:

  1. Read up about ERP. As much as you can. It will help you recognize if it is being done correctly. Start with this article on the IOCDF website. Also read any/all of the CBT/ERP posts at www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD.
  2. Ask your therapist the following questions. These questions– and the answers you should listen for— are pulled from this page on the IOCDF website.
  • “What techniques do you use to treat OCD?”If the therapist is vague or does not mention cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) use caution.
  • “Do you use Exposure and Response Prevention to treat OCD?”
    Be cautious of therapists who say they use CBT but won’t be more specific.
  • “What is your training and background in treating OCD?”
    If they say they went to a CBT psychology graduate program or did a post-doctoral fellowship in CBT, it is a good sign. Another positive is if a therapist says they are a member of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) or the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists (ABCT). Also look for therapists who say they have attended specialized workshops or trainings offered by the IOCDF like the Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI) or Annual OCD Conference.
  • “How much of your practice currently involves anxiety disorders?”
    A good answer would be over 25%.
  • “Do you feel that you have been effective in your treatment of OCD?”
    This should be an unqualified “Yes.”
  • “What is your attitude towards medication in the treatment of OCD?”
    If they are negative about medication this is a bad sign. While not for everyone, medication can be a very effective treatment for OCD.
  • “Are you willing to leave your office if needed to do behavior therapy?”It is sometimes necessary to go out of the office to do effective ERP.

 

Hogwarts Yule Ball Couture

Even though the next Tri-Wizard Tournament is not scheduled till 2019, word has it that the Hogwarts students have since insisted that the Yule Ball be an annual event. And who can blame them, since most days they have to wear robes and there’s nowhere really to take a date besides Hogsmeade?

Here’s what’s trending this year in the wizarding world.

In Ravenclaw Tower, the catchphrase is “Make Bronze Great Again.” Let’s be honest, the movies perpetuated a false idea that Ravenclaw’s colors were blue and silver, when every student at Hogwarts knows they are really blue and bronze. The trendiest witches this year are doing all they can to reclaim their roots.

Ravenclaw 2017

Marcella earrings, $180 (here)

Gryffindor has long been known for its daring and nerve, which is why this year’s Yule Ball fashions are saying “All eyes on me!” But the lion pride of witches wants everyone to know they have a softer side too, so watch for frilly details like bows and ruffles this season. The ROAR a la Lily Evans Potter plus the AWW a la Lily Luna Potter equals a hearty Gryffindor RAWR.

Gryffindor 2017

Lion ring, $30 (here) | Valentino bow pumps, retail $825, on sale (here) for $199 | Toriska clutch (here)

Those patient little badgers have been waiting all year to say, “Look, this sweet skirt may represent fair play, but this lacy crop top is not playing fair!” Some say this attitude was inspired by last year’s Head Boy Teddy Lupin, but regardless, Hufflepuff’s coming out so you’d better get this party started, Hogwarts.

Hufflepuff 2017

Amelia Full yellow maxi skirt, $75 (here) | Linda Flora bracelet, $29 (here) | Betsy Johnson flats, $99 (here)

The latest trend in Slytherin House is the vampy pantsuit, noting that it suits them, as Albus Dumbledore once said, to have “a certain disregard for the rules.” But if some unwritten rule said not wearing a dress to the Yule Ball was wrong, we don’t want to be right! These serpents are turning the rules on their heads … and turning all heads on their new rules.

Slytherin 2017

Jumpsuit #1, $67 (here) | Jumpsuit #3, $33 (here) | Jumpsuit #4, retail $240, on sale (here) for $97 | Snake on vine necklace, $75 (here) | Antique snake necklace (here)

Your turn to weigh in: Which was your favorite look? Is it from the Hogwarts House you’re in? Would you wear any of these outfits in the muggle world?

Holidays are Hard for Some of Us

Thinking of everyone who struggles through this time of year. Hugs!

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

This time of year– i.e., “the hap-happiest season of all”– is difficult for many people, including me. It has been since I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. That’s over half of my life spent wishing that Thanksgiving and Christmas and even New Years would just hurry up and be over already.

It’s not that I don’t love family. I do.

It’s not that I don’t love what the holidays represent. I do.

It’s not that I’m some bah-humbug Scrooge who is annoyed with it all. I’m not.

I think it mostly has to do with the dark. It’s so much, so suffocating. It’s waking up in blackness and having it already be dark when you leave work.

But it also has to do with the light– that is, the cheer, the general good tidings, the comfortable coziness that seems to accompany the holidays for most people. For some…

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