About Jackie Lea Sommers

Minneapolis YA author who rather enjoys Jesus, stories, cute nerds, and cranky teenagers. Jackie blogs about OCD, faith, and creativity at www.jackieleasommers.com.

OCD Awareness Post at OFTAMS

I hope you’ll take a minute to read my guest blog about recognizing OCD over at the lovely new site Of Fig Trees and Mustard Seeds, featuring devotions for those with mental illness, written by those with mental illness.

It begins:

There’s a poem I love by Charles Finn, raw and real, that reads:

Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,

what I’d like to be able to say,

what for survival I need to say,

but what I can’t say.

I remember reading this poem aloud to audiences years ago, when I first began speaking publicly about obsessive-compulsive disorder; this was before I underwent the exposure therapy that God used to save my life, before I was able to even recognize that freedom from OCD was a possibility, and before I could imagine myself become a vocal advocate for OCD awareness.

Try to hear what I’m not saying. Yes. This.

In honor of OCD Awareness Week 2019, let me peel back the version of OCD the media loves to use (most commonly being either super-clean or super-organized) and look at the tender space beneath.

Read the rest here: https://offigtreesandmustardseeds.com/awareness-please-hear-what-im-not-saying/

InstaThoughts

Hey peeps, it’s #OCDweek, so I wanted to call attention to a couple things: @ocdtwincities is hosting a convo on Thursday between @bryanpiatt and OCDTC prez Alison. I’m guest blogging for a brand-new daily devotional for those with mental illness. And as always, there are a host of resources on my website about #OCD #erptherapy #cbttherapy #exposuretherapy #HOCD #ROCD #scrupulosity and more.
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#blog

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The Hero is You: Thoughts on Failure & Identity

Despite a nearly life-long fear of public speaking, about six or so years ago, I just got over it and now I love the opportunity to speak on things that matter to me. So I jumped at the opportunity when my friend asked me to speak about failure and identity for her leadership course at the university where I work.

I was not prepared for how emotional this would be for me.

Emotional, but good. Freeing. Meaningful. An ebenezer, “stone of help,” a way to remember God’s grace to me.

My writing journey has been a long one– from being a young storyteller, to learning to write, to declaring in high school the life goal of publishing a book. Then to college and a major in creative writing, joining critique groups, spending four years on a manuscript that taught me the long narrative arc, writing workshops and conferences, professional editors, and getting a literary agent.

Then, finally, the book deal.

With a big publisher.

A dream come true.

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that the book deal brought on panic and anxiety, fear that shook me, frustration, and YES: a novel named Truest that I am so, so proud of.

To keep a long story short, and to protect the details of my journey, I’ll summarize and say that, though it was originally a two-book deal, I ended up only publishing the one. (For now!) The details here are important but private. And though I initiated it, at the time, it was not empowering. To have a dream come true and yet find myself in a state of panic and shame, then to walk in the opposite direction of what had always been the goal, was painful and confusing. I felt like a fraud, despite the evidence of a published book. I felt shame when people called me a writer, because it felt like I hadn’t earned it. It was embarrassing to feel inner failure while well-meaning people asked about success.

I was no longer under contract, and in fact, I was hardly writing at all. The fear and anxiety became so intense that I could barely open my manuscript document, let alone work on it. How could I call myself a writer if I wasn’t writing?

In addition, the anxiety, stress, and sadness had taken a physical toll on my body. I was in near-constant pain, sapped of all energy and strength, and had gained weight to a point where I didn’t recognize my own body. This only intensified my feelings of failure and shame, plus the lack of energy and proliferation of pain made me miss a lot of work in my day job and time with friends. The various markers of my identity were toppling like dominoes. It was a dark season.

I began to slowly crawl toward the light by seeking– and insisting— on help, both medical and emotional. A diagnosis of sleep apnea, a CPAP, and a therapist who is an absolute angel were critical parts of recovering pieces of myself.

Then I read The Hero is You by Kendra Levin, which gave me real, practical and meaningful exercises that were like handholds out of the hole I was in. One of the exercises she suggested was to rate myself in a variety of areas, and then go after the lowest rated one by journaling about it daily for fifteen minutes– not to solve it, just to sit with it.

For one week. Seven days. It only took me three before my entire mindset shifted.

Please allow me to share some excerpts.

MY GREATEST VULNERABILITY: SATURDAY
So, the goal with this exercise is to just sit in the weakness, not try to solve it. At least, that’s what I think is meant to happen here. I selected “focus” as my greatest vulnerability, but mostly because it listed “insecurity” beneath it. And that’s wildly true for me. I don’t know if it is connected to my childhood or what, but I have always wanted to be the best. Not just 100%, not if someone else got 100%. I want to be the best. So, if someone else got a perfect on the test, then I wanted to have also gotten the extra credit questions so I came in at 102%. I wanted to stand on the top box and not share that platform.
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I have run into problems along the way, of course. […] a book deal I had to walk away from (funny that I see this as a weakness; it took exceptional courage!), the fear that comes from trauma, the physical illness that resulted from who-knows-what and that has taken so long to get under control. Even now, I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that it’s under control, but it’s better. So much better.

Already day one, I had the briefest of insights that maybe I had more power than I’d thought: “funny that I see this as a weakness; it took exceptional courage!

MY GREATEST VULNERABILITY: SUNDAY
All right, time to spend another fifteen minutes thinking about insecurity. Cool.
[…] So let’s talk about writing. […] What does success look like to me? Because if I define success as publishing books that people read and like … I’ve done that. Well, one book. But it’s published. With a major publisher. People have read it. People like it. So am I successful?
Or do I define success as something bigger? Obviously, from what I wrote yesterday, we know I have issues with wanting to be THE BEST. Does that mean #1 on the NYT bestseller chart? What if it was only for one day? Would that be enough? Or does being the best mean being #1 for longer than anyone else? Just in my genre, or in all genres? Do I need to be the #1 writer in the world? In history? At what point does this crumble into ridiculousness?
Do I have to win awards? How many? What kind? What if I was runner up? What if I was #15 on the bestseller list? Would I just be angry or would I celebrate?

As you can see, day two I was beginning to remember how subjective this business is and how impossible and ridiculous it is to have a goal as vague as “be the best.”
But day three is where I saw the tectonic shift in my attitude:

MY GREATEST VULNERABILITY: MONDAY
All of it seems to boil down to being a failure, doesn’t it? But I’m not a failure. […]
[I was paid], which I used to buy a car and a house; I got a book published; I was able to speak in unique environments; I’ve gotten some amazing reviews. That’s pretty amazing, even if I bravely walked away from the last [advance payment] and a book deal with a Big 5 publisher.
Because isn’t that more the truth? That I bravely walked away vs. that I was kicked to the curb? When I frame it that way, I feel empowered and badass. Like I walked away from an explosion without turning around. Where are my leather pants?
I am a badass bitch.
Oh my gosh, that’s wild. Is that what others have seen or felt about me? When I’ve been thinking that I was the girl kicked to the curb? The reality is that I initiated the “break up.” And while, yes, I would have liked to have stayed with the good parts, when it turned out that the entire floor beneath my feet would vanish, I still did it. And [with a later opportunity] I said, “No thanks. I am figuring out my own foundations.”
God bless the badass bitches who walk away into uncertainty. That takes real courage.

That was in July. Now I’ve been writing up a storm and should have a revised draft by Christmas.

So did this take three days? No. Of course not. The years before it were critical parts of the healing journey, the recovery of my identity. But were these three days an unbelievably crucial part of healing? Absolutely. Just like re-telling it all in that leadership class this past week. That the class listened with such attentiveness and empathy was so special to me.

Afterward, I sat outside on a bench under the awning of another building and watched it rain on our campus green. I rested. I sat with the experience for a few extra minutes, acknowledging that something important had happened. The next day, I explained it all to my therapist, along with everything else I’m working on or working toward, and she said, “Jackie, you sound so much like YOU again!”

I think so too.

Complicated

What a week.
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I was sick (of the office bug kind, which was a semi-welcome semi-relief from the chronic kind), I had hard conversations (some without resolution), watched a Netflix docu about the brain, worked on #saltnovel, and spent much of it (and this whole month actually) like a tall glass full of emotion that needs to be fully emptied out but really only manages to have the excesses overflow the edges. Remaining persistently full is draining. I need a good, cathartic cry-fest.
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Swipe right to see the screenshot I took recently of @tanfrance’s Insta. I’m trying to start my day saying, “I woke up today as Jackie Sommers. POWER MOVE.” 😂 But seriously, just the idea of knowing myself and my identity IS a power move. One step at a time to being fully, truly myself.

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I am full of hope, fear, restlessness, creativity, humor, compassion, and sleepiness. Humans are so complicated, aren’t we? It’s beautiful.
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#blog #writer #writing #writinglife #author #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #courageovercomfort #courage #growth #meaning #purpose #meaningfulgrowth #enneagram4 #spoonie #spoontheory #outofspoons

InstaThoughts

Taking Sunday night to prep for the week ahead. For me, that looks like revising my writing “syllabus” to slow down my pace; remembering my current goals and making a list of how to work on them this week; calling my mom; and lots of reading.
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How about you? .
#blog #writer #writing #writinglife #author #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #courageovercomfort #courage
#SelfCare #radicalacceptance
#radicalselfacceptance #mentalhealth
#mentalhealthwarrior
#investinginmyself #goals #growth #growthmindset #enneagram4 #meaning #purpose
#Repost @selflovesupply
• • • • • •
✨✨✨ AMEN ✨✨✨ @themayfairgroup

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InstaThoughts

In my dream, I was in a class where my assignment was to make a dish inspired by a book. Even in my sleep, my mind defaulted to Narnia.
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I really would love to recreate this (for humans 😏): “But for the tree people different fare was provided. When Lucy saw Clodsley Shovel and his moles scuffling up the turf in various places (which Bacchus had pointed out to them) and realised that the trees were going to eat earth it gave her rather a shudder. But when she saw the earths that were actually brought to them she felt quite different. They began with a rich brown loam that looked almost exactly like chocolate; so like chocolate, in fact, that Edmund tried a piece of it, but he did not find it at all nice. When the rich loam had taken the edge off their hunger, the trees turned to an earth of the kind you see in Somerset, which is almost pink. They said it was lighter and sweeter. At the cheese stage they had a chalky soil, and then went on to delicate confections of the finest gravels powdered with choice silver sand. They drank very little wine, and it made the Hollies very talkative: for the most part they quenched their thirst with deep draughts of mingled dew and rain, flavoured with forest flowers and the airy taste of the thinnest clouds.”
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Illustrations by #PaulineBaynes.
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#narnia #princecaspian #favoritescenes #bakingdreams #lol #blog

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In my dream, I was in a class where my assignment was to make a dish inspired by a book. Even in my sleep, my mind defaulted to Narnia. . I really would love to recreate this (for humans 😏): "But for the tree people different fare was provided. When Lucy saw Clodsley Shovel and his moles scuffling up the turf in various places (which Bacchus had pointed out to them) and realised that the trees were going to eat earth it gave her rather a shudder. But when she saw the earths that were actually brought to them she felt quite different. They began with a rich brown loam that looked almost exactly like chocolate; so like chocolate, in fact, that Edmund tried a piece of it, but he did not find it at all nice. When the rich loam had taken the edge off their hunger, the trees turned to an earth of the kind you see in Somerset, which is almost pink. They said it was lighter and sweeter. At the cheese stage they had a chalky soil, and then went on to delicate confections of the finest gravels powdered with choice silver sand. They drank very little wine, and it made the Hollies very talkative: for the most part they quenched their thirst with deep draughts of mingled dew and rain, flavoured with forest flowers and the airy taste of the thinnest clouds." . Illustrations by #PaulineBaynes. . #narnia #princecaspian #favoritescenes #bakingdreams #lol #blog

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State of the Blogger: Growing

State of the Blogger: Growing.
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Things aren’t perfect. But they aren’t stagnant, and that’s what matters here. When I think about hitting rock bottom (emotionally/mentally in 2008, physically in 2017), I can’t help but be grateful for where I am now.
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Over a decade into #freedomfromOCD and never, ever not full of genuine thankfulness for the rescue. This past week has been a hard reminder of the hell of #mentalillness, and I had a convo just yesterday about my 15 years to diagnosis and another 5 till proper treatment. In fact, on average it takes 14-17 years for a correct diagnosis and treatment of OCD. Mine took 20 total, but the last 10 have been more joyful than I could have imagined.
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It’s been nearly two years since I told HR at my school that something was wrong, that I needed help. UNW has been an absolute support to me and here I am now, no longer in constant pain, getting deep sleep, and enjoying new roles in my job. I used to notice when I wasn’t in pain, because pain had become my norm. Last night, my wrists hurt and instead of being upset, I just thought “thank you, thank you, thank you that this flare-up is even noticeable, that it’s no longer expected.”
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And I’m reading again as if books are oxygen. I find the stories and words and wisdom of these books coming pouring off my tongue every chance I get. I know they are subconsciously making me a better writer too. And (very) consciously a better person.
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There is hope, friends. There really is. I have had to become my biggest advocate and to demand that people both listen and hear me. But that’s made me powerful. My heart is so full. Yes, I still have so far to go, but I’m excited by it. The journey feels weighty with purpose and meaning. .
#blog #spoonielife #enneagram4 #spoonie #spoontheory #ocd #obsessive #exposuretherapy #erptherapy #grace #courage #growth #radicalacceptance #powerfulwomen #advocacy #selfadvocate

18 Years Later

My second year of college, I lived in a suite with seven other girls whom I laughed with and fought with and loved. That Tuesday morning, one of my quadmates Tracy and I had a class together, and I was getting annoyed because she was dawdling because she didn’t feel well and was probably going to make me late.

Another quadmate Megan, pre-med, had an early lab that morning and returned to our place, breathless as she reached for the remote. She clicked on the news, saying, “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!”

My first image was of some podunk, rogue new pilot who had accidentally somehow managed to bump into the building.

But the people on the news seemed serious, and Tracy sat down on the couch next to Megs to watch. “We need to go,” I told her.

She waved me off, still watching the screen. “I’m not going to go. You can leave.”

I stomped off to Nazareth Hall, upset and annoyed that I would be late now without a partner in crime. When I got to the fourth floor, someone in my class had turned on the TV in the room, and now the news was reporting on the crash at the Pentagon. Everyone was transfixed. I clearly remember thinking, Is this the end of the world?

Our teacher made us turn off the TV. I don’t think anyone quite realized yet that this would be one of our nation’s biggest tragedies. We talked in class about leadership. I don’t remember anything specific about it.

At Northwestern College, we had chapel every morning at 10:30 am (CST). As the student body was making its way to Maranatha Auditorium from all areas of campus, everyone was buzzing about the news. I was in the Totino stairwell talking animatedly about the towers being hit when John, a friend from freshman year, said, “I think the bigger deal is that it has collapsed.”

Wait, what?

I remember being in complete shock– how could a small plane collapse a skyscraper? It wasn’t until a week or so later when I saw in a magazine an illustrated cross-section of the tower with an overlaid plane, as if seen from above. Then it made more sense.

In chapel, they had a live news feed playing over the giant screen above the stage. The student body watched, cried, prayed. They let the feed play all day, and students came in and out to watch and pray.

I was shell-shocked, since my sister Kristin and my dad had been in New York City only two weeks earlier. They had pictures of themselves from the roof of the WTC. Even though I knew they were safe and in Minnesota, I kept picturing them on top of that building, knowing that someone else’s sister and dad had to be in the building that day, my heart breaking for them and so relieved that my family had escaped such personal devastation by fewer than 14 days.

Everyone at my school kept saying, “This did not surprise God; this did not surprise God,” and I knew that Northwestern was the very best place for me to sort through the tragedy. It was heartbreaking but beautiful to grieve with a community that both loved and trusted God’s sovereignty in spite of the destruction and sadness.

What a day. Sometimes it is hard to believe that it has been over a decade since then. Sometimes it feels like it’s been even longer. My dad says he always remembers what he was doing when he found out JFK was shot. I suppose this is my generation’s event. It makes me sad even to write about it today, all these years later.

One thing I know: September 11, 2001, did not surprise my good and perfect God. I continue to trust Him.

This post was originally written on September 11, 2012

InstaThoughts

I’ve written for six weeks in a row. Perhaps you don’t understand how huge that is for me. Trust me, it’s huge.
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I wrote EVERY DAY for something like 7-8 years, then got a book deal and revised like a beast for another year and a half.
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Then I lost my mojo. And my energy. I was confused about if I even wanted to be published again. But I did not lose my love of story or desire to write.
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The book The Hero is You by @kendra.levin with its clever exercises was the practical tool that shook me loose from hiatus. It feels so good to be back to work.
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Yes, this is a picture of me wearing a shower turban because I like my eyes in it and I needed a photo. Turn that into a metaphor if you’d like. 😊
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#blog #writer #writing #writinglife #author #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #courageovercomfort #writingishard #saltnovel #enneagram4 #burnout #writersblock #spoonie #spoonielife #chronicillness #chronicillnesswarrior #theheroisyou #bookssave #backinthesaddle

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I've written for six weeks in a row. Perhaps you don't understand how huge that is for me. Trust me, it's huge. . I wrote EVERY DAY for something like 7-8 years, then got a book deal and revised like a beast for another year and a half. . Then I lost my mojo. And my energy. I was confused about if I even wanted to be published again. But I did not lose my love of story or desire to write. . The book The Hero is You by @kendra.levin with its clever exercises was the practical tool that shook me loose from hiatus. It feels so good to be back to work. . Yes, this is a picture of me wearing a shower turban because I like my eyes in it and I needed a photo. Turn that into a metaphor if you'd like. 😊 . . #blog #writer #writing #writinglife #author #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #courageovercomfort #writingishard #saltnovel #enneagram4 #burnout #writersblock #spoonie #spoonielife #chronicillness #chronicillnesswarrior #theheroisyou #bookssave #backinthesaddle

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