A Better Question

Did I ever share this article with you guys? It’s important.

Instead of asking, “What do I want?” ask, “What is worth struggling for?”

I hope you’ll read this and share your thoughts.

It begins:

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that—it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Click here to read the rest.

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Best of the Web: On Depression

bestofthewebMy friend Addie Zierman is an incredible person and an incredible writer.  She recently wrote an amazing blog post for her sons over at A Deeper Story.  I really would love for you all to take a look.

Here’s a teaser:

You want to know why we’re going through the Walgreens drive thru, so I tell you, “Mama needs to pick up her medicine.”

But you’re FOUR now, so that’s not good enough anymore. You want to know why. You want to know what for. You want to know if Mom has a headache or a tummy ache. What medicine? You keep asking me. And Why?

My first instinct is to oversimplify. I consider telling you that they’re Mama’s “happy pills,” but dismiss it almost immediately. It may sound simple, but it’s not the truth. The pills don’t make me content. This is not a magic potion or a jolt of endorphins. We’re not talking about a hit of happiness here.

In the end, it’s much more complicated than all of that. This is about synapses and neurons, about a kind of short-circuiting in your brain that makes everything go a little bit dark for no good reason at all.

To read the rest of “For My Sons: On Depression,” click here.

P.S. Addie has a book coming out next month called When We Were on Fire.  You should all buy a copy!

a slew of thoughts on sex and sickness in teen books

So, the Daily Mail in the UK published an article that made a lot of people mad, including me.  The article condemned young adult books that deal with hard topics like sickness and death, calling these books “sick-lit.”  It ripped on one of my favorite books, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, in such a way that made me question if the author of the article had actually read it.

How’s this for an infuriating sentence: “While the Twilight series and its imitators are clearly fantasy, these books don’t spare any detail of the harsh realities of terminal illness, depression and death.”

Time out.

Time the hell out.

It’s better for kids to read books like Twilight (a book considered poorly written by many creative thinkers … featuring an obsessive, co-dependent romance with a vampire) than to read books like The Fault in Our Stars, which makes readers of all ages think deeply?  I can hardly process that quote.  It’s better for kids to live in a fantasy land than to learn to think about real-life hard situations?

It boggles my mind.  Honestly.

I’m not a parent.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I was a parent.

I want kids and teenagers to read great books, great writing.  I want them to be forced to think critically and examine their beliefs.

But maybe that’s looking through rose-colored glasses?

I’ve read a lot of YA books in the last year.  A lot of them had sex scenes or sexually-charged scenes.  Would I censor these books from kids?  No.  From my kids?  … no.  I don’t think so.  But what do I know?  Everything could change if I were a parent, I know that.

I think Harry Potter is one of the most brilliant series for teens in existence.  I don’t think I’d stop my kids from reading it … but I do think I’d talk to them about magic and witchcraft and good vs. evil.  If my kids read The Fault in Our Stars, I’d talk to them about sex and terminal illness and death and the meaning of life.  If my kids read Jellicoe Road, I’d talk to them about drugs and abandonment and romance.

But would I?  It’s easy to say that when I’m 30 and childless.

I’d love to hear thoughts on both sides of this debate– please comment!




dare to take off your mask

Here is an article I recently wrote for the student newspaper at the university where I work …

I have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It is my distinct pleasure to share this with others because I have learned how much freedom there is to gain by sharing my real self.

Years ago, I harbored my secret, held it tight in my fists, knowing that if I released it to the world, I could never go back to “the way things were.”  It would create an unalterable “before” and “after,” and I wasn’t sure I was ready for people’s avoidance (at best) or condescension (at worst).

Instead, what happened was that a long-time friend told me that he too struggled with OCD.  He was so ashamed of it that he hadn’t even told his own family.  Then someone else told me about her struggles with an eating disorder.  Left and right, people started removing their masks.  The more vulnerable I made myself, the more vulnerable others were willing to be with me, and this honesty worked as a glue between our hearts.

Honest sharing from one person draws out honest sharing from others.  In other words, freedom begets freedom.

Frederick Buechner has this amazing quote, which reads, I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell.  They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.”

For years, I thought I was some kind of anomaly.  I’m not.  I’m just a girl living in a fallen world, and I stand alongside a world of brothers and sisters in Christ who share my same hunger to be fully known and fully loved.

Community matters.  Northwestern, open up your hearts and lives to one another this year.  These early weeks of the semester are exciting ones; I am thrilled when I think of all the possibilities and opportunities stretching out before the student body this year.  Be the kind of grace-filled community that welcomes vulnerability with open arms.  Love each other with the wild love of Jesus Christ, a love that encourages freedom, a self-sacrificing love.

OCD.  These days, I drop those three little letters into conversation pretty much any chance I get.  I am not ashamed of it or nervous to tell people I am an obsessive-compulsive.  I am only hoping that my newfound freedom will beget freedom.

Date a Girl Who Reads

Date a Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Christianity and OCD

Continuing the conversation from last Monday …

My friend Rachel is a college student who recently completed a major project during which she had to view obsessive-compulsive disorder through a Christian lens and present her findings in a medium other than the typical college paper.  She created a blog, which you can view at http://christianityandocd.wordpress.com.

The questions that she asked me during this project prompted me to again reconsider the relationship between OCD and Christianity, along with those thought-provoking questions such as “Did God give me OCD?” and “Is CBT enough?” and “What is the cause of OCD?”  Her blog explores some of these questions.

Rachel herself does not have OCD, so all of her research is outside of her own experience.  I invite you to check her blog out and let me and her know what you agree and disagree with!

medical or spiritual?

Discovered a website this weekend that is very disturbing to me as a Christian obsessive-compulsive.

At GreatBibleStudy.com, you can read quotes like the following:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly referred to as OCD, is not a mental disorder or disease… it is a spiritually rooted bondage in the person’s mind that needs to be uprooted.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is basically demonic torment brought on by a person’s bondages to fear and shame.

These ‘voices’ or compulsive thoughts are NOT caused because of a chemical imbalance (which the secular world cannot explain anyways); they are there because of a spiritual bondage in the person’s life.

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder has entered into this world due to SIN, yes, but to negate that OCD is caused by a chemical imbalance seems ridiculous to me.  As a Christian, I view ALL of life through a spiritual lens, but these quotes seem like the equivalent of saying, “Diabetes is not a problem with the pancreas– it’s a spiritual issue!!!”  To say that diabetes is not connected to the pancreas’s inability to produce insuliin would be silly, just as saying that OCD is not connected to a chemical inbalance (our bodies absorb serotonin too quickly … that’s why we take SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors … they SLOW DOWN the reuptake/reabsorbtion of serotonin]).

All issues are spiritual issues, but that does not mean that they are NOT also medical issues.  God is also the Author of Science and the Creator of our bodies.  To not combine the spiritual with the scientific is short-sighted, I believe.

What are your thoughts on these quotes?  I’d especially love to hear from obsessive-compulsive believers!

“reasonable doubt”

I read an interesting article today called “Casey Anthony, Reasonable Doubt, and OCD” by Stacy Kuhl-Wochner at the OCD Center of Los Angeles — you can read the entire article here.

Just wanted to quote a little bit of it for all you blog readers to consider, especially after having an interesting phone conversation along these same lines with my college roomie Megs.

Being a therapist who specializes in treating those with OCD, I can only imagine what an especially difficult task quantifying reasonable doubt would be for many of my clients.  People with OCD and related OC Spectrum Disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Hypochondria (Health Anxiety), and Social Anxietyare on a constant quest for answers to unanswerable questions.  They seek to quantify that which cannot be quantified, to gain certainty when it is only possible to be “pretty sure.”  These are questions that most people who do not have OCD can accept despite their inevitable doubts.  But for many people who experience OCD or a related spectrum condition, “reasonable” doubt often feels unbearable.

Doubt is such an intrinsic part of OCD that the condition has often been referred to as “the doubting disease. Some common doubts seen in OCD and related OC Spectrum Disorders include:

  • Are my hands clean enough to ensure that I won’t accidentally make someone sick through casual contact?
  • Am I straight enough to to be certain that I am not actually gay?
  • How do I know if I really love my spouse?
  • What level of pain is a enough that I should visit a doctor to see if I have a serious medical condition?
  • What is the right amount of eye contact to avoid being seen as socially inappropriate?
  • How do I know whether I am a good person or a bad person?
  • If I become angry at my child, does this mean that I do not love them enough, and that I am close to mentally snapping and harming them?

The only realistic answer to these and similar questions is to accept that nobody has 100% certainty on these issues*, and to stop the mental checking.  The goal is to make decisions based on what is “most likely”, given all the evidence.  For people with OCD, it may feel terrifying** to make that leap and take that chance because their brain is telling them that absolute certainty is required.

*JLS adds: That is why the point of cognitive-behavioral therapy is not to remove uncertainty but to make one okay with uncertainty.

**”Terrifying” doesn’t even touch it.

Thoughts?  What’s the most basic thing you know that you have doubted before?  (I have sometimes wondered if all of life that I’ve “experienced” so far is only a dream.)