No Shortcuts

When Jeff Bell, spokesperson for the International OCD Foundation, spoke for our OCD Twin Cities event, one of the things he said that really stood out to me was that there are no shortcuts in treating OCD.

Woman and maze

That’s true, or at least it was in my case. I wanted easy answers: for deep theological conversations to solve my problems, or for comfort and reassurance from friends to be enough, for an hour-long conversation with a therapist each week to take away the anxiety, for an easy prescription to fix everything.

I definitely did not want the hard answer: exposure and response prevention therapy.

My psychiatrist didn’t mince words in his description: “It will be hell.”

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, but one of the most necessary and most rewarding. For me, there was no shortcut to healing, and since I was already living in OCD hell, the best way out was to keep going.

So, believe me, friends: I get it. ERP therapy is hard, so hard. You might think you won’t survive it. You might think your loved ones won’t survive your going through it. You might think it’s sinful or disgusting, and your exposures are probably going to be loathsome and repellent to you.

If you need to, go ahead and look for shortcuts. I know I had to.

But in the end, there were none for me, and I’d only wasted time looking for them.

While experiencing it, ERP was hell. But on the other side? It was my rescue.


Is what I fear possible?

uncertaintyAhhh, that’s the big question for those of us who suffer from OCD!

If you ask your friends, they will probably try to reassure you and say no.  This feels good. For ten minutes. Then you want to ask someone again.

If you really want to heal from your OCD, you have to start answering that question with a yes.  Through ERP, my refrain became, “It’s possible but not likely.”

I know you think uncertainty is your enemy. It’s not.

It’s actually your liberator.

For (lots!) more about the ERP therapy that teaches you to accept uncertainty, check out

Image credit: Russ Allison Loar

Self-Directed ERP Therapy

???????????????????????????????????????If you’ve spent any time hanging around this blog, you know that I’m a huge proponent of treating OCD with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, which is the best treatment available. It’s the first and only* treatment I recommend.

People often balk at it, which I understand: it’s difficult. Very difficult. People want an easier option. But I wouldn’t recommend a bandaid for a cancerous tumor, and I won’t suggest anything else.

But I’m too embarrassed …

But I can’t afford it …

But there are no ERP specialists in my area …

Those are all very valid reasons for seeking another treatment option, but the GOOD NEWS is that you can do ERP on your own, if you are committed to it, and if you’re willing to work hard.

It’s still important to have an expert guiding you, so please track down one of the following books:

Stop Obsessing by Edna Foa
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
The OCD Workbook by Bruce Hyman and Cherlene Pedrick
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well by Fred Penzel
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond

With the help of one of these books, you can be starting your own ERP journey for under $50 (most under $20!).

Read the whole book from cover to cover and do all the exercises. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into pursuing wellness, freedom, and peace. You can have your life back. Believe me. I languished in the hell of OCD for 20 years before just 12 weeks of ERP therapy broke that torturous yoke. This can be your story too.

If you’re not convinced, go to and read my posts about ERP. Then drop me a comment or an email with your questions!

* I think medication can definitely help too– but ERP is a better option than meds, and in my (non-MD) opinion, meds should come alongside ERP, not ever replace it.

The [Beautiful] Paradox of ERP

paradox of ERP2Exposure and response prevention therapy. ERP.

The hardest thing I have ever chosen to do in my life.

And one of the best.

But that’s not actually the paradox I’m talking about. The paradox of ERP that fascinates me most centers around uncertainty.

The whole point of ERP therapy is to teach someone to learn to live with, accept, even embrace uncertainty. ERP actually re-wires the brain to help the OCD sufferer with this. Before I went through ERP, I wanted to know everything with 100% certainty. Anything less would cause intense havoc in my mind, heart, and body. Because of this intense desire to know everything with certainty, I so often felt gobsmacked by uncertainty. I lived as if, without total certainty, I could barely know anything. Doubt pummeled me like a linebacker. My life was ravaged by uncertainty.

But once I went through ERP therapy and learned to accept uncertainty, the bizarre thing is that my confidence returned. I suddenly felt surety and certainty again– after I realized I didn’t need it.

When I demanded 100% certainty, what I ended up with was often something in the 25-40% range. Or lower.

When I abandoned the need for 100% certainty, I ended up in the 90-99% range. Sometimes less, but usually way, way up there.

That’s weird math. Backward logic. A paradox.

One I love.

99% sure,
Post-ERP Jackie

P.S. If the need to know for sure is ruining your life, you need ERP. Read more about it at

P.P.S. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and I can’t help but be struck by the similarity of this to “Lose your life to gain it.”

Image credit: Nicu Buculei, modified by me

Is Mental Illness a Spiritual Issue?


The question is complicated; my answer is too.

Yes and no.

As a Christian, I believe that basically everything is a spiritual issue because I believe in a sovereign God. My particular set of beliefs means that I believe that writing is a spiritual practice for me, that the food I eat represents my spiritual discipline, that my obsessive-compulsive disorder has a spiritual purpose (one that was hidden to me for many, many years) of refining me, showing me the beauty of freedom and the glory of grace. Because I am a spiritual person, all things are spiritual to me. There is no way that I can separate my OCD from my experience of Christ because it is so clearly evident to me the way that God has worked in my life through my mental illness, recovery from it, and subsequent advocacy. I would be a liar if I tried to tried to divorce these two items in my own head and heart and speech.

But I also believe that mental illness is an illness like any other. Just as I wouldn’t hyper-spiritualize someone’s fight with cancer or diabetes or even a common cold, so I wouldn’t approach mental illness as anything other than a medical illness. I wouldn’t assume that someone got pneumonia as a direct result of their sin … or that they were spiritually unfit … or that something demonic was going on. I feel the same way about OCD and other anxiety disorders. I feel no shame– spiritual or otherwise– over my OCD, just as I wouldn’t feel ashamed if I were to break a bone. (Granted, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point; a heaping side of shame comes quite standard with your plate of religious scrupulosity!)

So, do I pray about OCD? Yes, of course. But I pray about my headaches too.

I realize that this is a touchy subject for many people, and I hope that I’ve presented my thoughts in a balanced way. Because I believe that so many people would misinterpret my “yes,” I usually bellow out a resounding “no,” but in this post, I wanted to try to delineate my thoughts on each. I’d love to hear your thoughts and continue this conversation, and I hope that you’ll extend grace to me as I try to tiptoe through this minefield!

Related posts:
OCD, ERP, & Christianity
Why I Believe in God
God’s Sovereignty, OCD, the Cross, & His Purposes

Image credit: Unsplash, modified by me






20 Life Lessons Since College

life lessons since college1. Acting like a know-it-all in college is silly.

2. On this green earth, I will always be a work in progress.

3. There are so many more shades of gray than I ever imagined.

4. Grace, grace, grace: be generous with it, both for myself and for others.

5. Love is messy.

6. Carefully choose which hills are worth dying on.

7. Quit pretending like you don’t have issues and start working through them.

8. Everyone has issues.

9. I am good company, on my own.

10. “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” (Anne Lamott)

11. Boundaries are amazing.

12. Craigslist rocks if you’re patient enough.

13. Start saving money immediately.

14. Investing in a reliable car will save you a lot of time, money, and hassle.

15. Get a great mattress. And memory foam.

16. Paying extra for a garage is absolutely worth it (in Minnesota).

17. Get the rice at Chipotle.

18. Treat yo’ self.

19. You will absolutely not win the contests you don’t enter. Enter, ask, risk.

20. Freedom begets freedom.


Image credit: Unsplash, modified by me

OCD: Am I Bitter?

Let me tell you, I have drunk my fill of bitterness over OCD.

When you’re twenty years old and have a tortured soul, an imprisoned life, a mind that won’t stop, and a heart that’s broken– and when you doubt that any of it is redeemable– bitterness feels like the only weapon in your arsenal.

But when you’re thirty-two, and you’ve been shown grace and favor and freedom and healing, when you’ve experienced rest, when you know that pain had a purpose, there’s just nothing in your rescued life that wants to hold onto that knife.

And so you open your hand.

At least, I did.



Image credit: Christian/Mr.C90


OCD Scrupulosity: Is ERP Sinful?

is ERP sinfulSometimes people with religious scrupulosity fear that ERP therapy itself is sinful. It’s true that ERP therapy will definitely ask you to do things outside of your comfort zone, things that will probably make you sick. (This is how ERP works, and it is crafted specifically around your own deepest anxieties.)

But once embarked on this ERP journey, I think it’s unwise and counterproductive to try to convince yourself (or convince others … or let others convince you …) that your therapy is not sinful. (After all, the whole point of this therapy is to embrace the uncertainty!)

If you are a Christian and concerned about ERP therapy, I suggest you say a prayer like this then dive in headfirst:

Lord, I am terrified about what I am being asked to do through this therapy, and I worry that it might be sinful.  But there is at least some part of me that believes this is connected to OCD, so please cover over all I have to do with your grace. I am doing these things in the hopes of restoring my right and healthy relationship with you. Please be honored by my therapy and my choice to fight for my freedom (which you won on the cross) and my relationship with you (again, made possible by the cross). Be glorified in my therapy, and cover anything sinful with your incredible grace. Make me strong enough to complete my exposures. Provide the strength I need to press through this scary therapy, and let these hard exposures and choices (that may sometimes seem wrong to me) glorify you. Amen.

There were definitely times when I (and others– wow, that was hard!) wondered if I was doing something wrong with my ERP exposures, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that this was my last and best chance at freedom and health and hope. I held onto that and pressed through, and I will tell you this: every. single. thing. in my life is better post-ERP, in particular, my spiritual life is now thriving and healthy. I am growing in my faith. I have the joy of salvation. I trust Christ more.
And I believe that ERP was God’s tool to bring me into this way of life.
To learn more about OCD, ERP therapy, religious scrupulosity, go to
Image credit: Fernando Rodriguez


comorbidDo you know the term?

Co-morbidity is the presence of one or more other disorders co-occuring along with the primary one. For those of us with OCD, our OCD is often co-morbid with depression. The depression seems to usually be a result of the OCD (as opposed to the other way around).

On their website, the Stanford School of Medicine writes:

Patients with OCD are at high risk of having comorbid (co-existing) major depression and other anxiety disorders. In a series of 100 OCD patients who were evaluated by means of a structured psychiatric interview, the most common concurrent disorders were: major depression (31%), social phobia (11%), eating disorder (8%), simple phobia (7%), panic disorder (6%), and Tourette’s syndrome (5%).

They also say:

In Koran et al.’s 1998 Kaiser Health Plan study, 26% of patients had no comorbid psychiatric condition diagnosed during the one year study period — 37% had one and 38% had two or more comorbid conditions. These proportions did not differ substantially between men and women. The most commonly diagnosed comorbid conditions were major depression, which affected more than one-half, other anxiety disorders, affecting one-quarter, and personality disorders, diagnosed in a little more than 10%.

OCD is enough of a beast on its own, but the truth of the matter is that many who struggle with OCD are fighting other demons too.

In my experience, OCD and depression teamed up against me, though, as I wrote before, the depression was secondary to the OCD (in that it was caused by the OCD). Some days I would be full of intense, manic fear caused by OCD, and other days all my sharp edges would be dulled by depression and a feeling that nothing in the world sounded exciting or worthwhile.

I’m so grateful that when ERP helped me steal power away from OCD, the upshot was that depression was defeated too.

For (lots!) more about OCD and ERP, go to


Image credit: Gerald Gabernig