A Sideways Approach to ERP

I promise I have not forgotten how terrifying it is to be in the crosshairs of OCD.

sidewaysEven though I’ve had a decade of freedom, I can remember the sheer terror, ugly discomfort, the feeling that relief would never come. It felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff by only my fingertips and knowing that hell was below. It was painful and exhausting to hold on, but I figured letting go would be even worse.

In fact, letting go was my salvation.

Hear me out. That one sentence does little to describe the immensely hard work of exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. It doesn’t show the years of not knowing what was wrong and why my brain didn’t work like most others’ did. It doesn’t show the hard road just to get to a diagnosis; it doesn’t show all the attempts to fix things with prayer, medication, talk therapy, hard conversations with people who loved me but could never understand what was going on in my head. It doesn’t show the desperation that grew large enough to finally force me to call an ERP therapist, and it certainly doesn’t show the actual process of ERP therapy, the brain/head/heart/body work of actually “letting go.”

And that is something that I want to honor, in myself and in you.

When I say “letting go was my salvation,” I am not talking about a reckless choice to fall over the cliff. I’m talking about a thoughtful decision backed up by evidence and supported by tremendous bravery.

I stole power back from OCD by facing the thoughts that I’d spent twenty years fearing with my entire being. I was not able to turn around and face them head-on.

But I did face them sideways.

This is how.

Let’s say the thought I was running from was something like “I want to hurt people.” If I were to let myself say or even think “I want to hurt people,” then I’d be acknowledging I was a monster and (this is how people with OCD think) would have to either turn myself into the cops and either be locked up or they would send me home and I would have to lock myself up or else live with a constant, unbearable anxiety that I would lash out and hurt someone at any time.

But what if I hear someone else say it? And I told my friends, “Today I heard someone say, ‘I want to hurt people'”? I would still be saying the words (stealing back power from OCD over that phrase) but I would not be taking ownership of it the same way. I would be coming at it from the side.

And that’s exactly what I had to do. I let myself think, “My OCD is making me think X.”

This was the only way I was able to even approach the intrusive thought that was destroying my life. It wasn’t running at it full-steam-ahead and tackling it. It was sneaking up from the side and tapping it on the shoulder.

But it was enough.

Thank you, Dr. Christopher Donahue, for helping me sneak up on OCD, for helping me be just brave enough to steal back the power I needed to prompt my mind to fix its faulty wiring.

When I finally let go, it wasn’t hell beneath me. It was God’s hand.

Beloved who Dreads the Holidays

You are not alone.

Honestly, I’ve spent time thinking about how to articulate this, and I think if I am usually functioning at a level just below “the normal,” then that gap is exaggerated at this time of the year. I drop lower due to the cold, the darkness, while others seem to move higher due to the Christmas joy, holiday lights, family time. I become so much more aware of the gap. 

Does that make any sense?

I’m blessed. I have great friends and family, a warm place to spend Christmas. There will even be the cutest little puppy-niece there to keep us on our toes.

But I will also be doing my best to suppress feeling lonely for romance, ignoring seasonal depression, and beating myself up over the inevitable inflammation as I fail to avoid sugar. 🙂

Today is the shortest day of the year in this hemisphere. And even though the temperatures will keep dropping for a while, the days will start to get longer.

And in eleven days, we get this marvelous symbol of new beginnings, second (third, fourth …) chances, healing. Mmm.

Beloved, you are not alone. We are not alone.

10 Cover Songs I Want

I spent the drive to and from my parents’ house listening to Relient K’s album full of cover songs, one of which is my favorite cover ever. (Bonus: at the end of this post, I will share my two favorite covers!)

It got me thinking, and while I listened, I tried to come up with my own dream cover album. Here’s what I’ve got:

“MMMBop” by Hanson, covered by Ed Sheeran
“Can’t Fight this Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, covered by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows
“Everything I Own” by Bread, covered by Imogen Heap
“Follow You Down” by Gin Blossoms, covered by Falling Up
“Penny Lane” by the Beatles, covered by One Direction
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, covered by Relient K
“You Got It (The Right Stuff)” by NKOTB, covered by the Weepies
“Find You” by Zedd, covered by Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, covered by Matt Nathanson
“So Far Away” by Carole King, covered by Rachael Yamagata

Okay, your turn. Which song would you love to be covered by which artist?

Here are my two favorites:

Darkness, Poetry, Healing

I’m scared that learning to take a great selfie has only resulted in postponing people’s disappointment.

I’m aware that is an uncharitable thought and maybe untimely (I’m on my period).

I wish the holidays were over. I wish this every year. I just want it to be January 2nd with me dreaming big and digging hard into goals.

I’m lonely, and loneliness is exaggerated in my life by cold weather, attending holiday events alone, and darkness. Right now it gets dark around 5:30. That’s a lot of time every night for loneliness to grow.

And we are still headed into the darkness at this point. One more week till solstice.

Even then, the light returns slowly.

It’s the switchback again, you see: it feels counterintuitive to head into the dark, but it’s still the right path.

2018 has been both harmful and healing. In the same hands I can hold all the heartbreak and tears as well as the joy and healing.

Can you tell I’m in a mood?

One promising thing: lately, I’ve been thinking in Poetry. Poetry like a language, like finding you dream in Spanish or argue with yourself in French. I have been thinking in Poetry– when I lie on the acupuncture table under lights, the massage table under hands, when I walk silently across my room, in the shower, in my car, in the space before sleep while I listen to artificial thunderstorms I desperately wish were real.

I think in Poetry.

It’s just been a long time.

That, almost more than my lab results and much cleaner room and less impossible mornings, shows me I’m healing.