The Darkest Days

artwork  in retro style,  woman and cup of teaThere is a little Caribou Coffee in Long Lake, Minnesota, where I sat one morning since I’d arrived too early to my visit to Orono High School. I stared at my steaming hot cocoa and repeated to myself: You are going to hell. 

Swallow that down, I told myself. You are going to hell, and there is nothing you can do to change it. This realization is your eternal reality.

In the car, I’d been listening to “Spirit” by Switchfoot on repeat: I’ve found all that I want, all that I long for, in You.

It was true then. It’s true now. But in those days, it was a truth that I imagined fell on deaf ears. Spirit, come be my joy.  It was the cry of my heart, but I knew I was damned and that joy would be forever inaccessible to me.

I can’t detail exactly how creepy it is become a cardboard person.

To ride the rollercoaster to the deepest depths and then to climb off there.

A reader asked me if I’d ever felt like God wasn’t with me through the storms of my life.  Have I felt that way? Yes, intensely.

But I was wrong.

Praise God I was wrong.

All these years later, God has stormed in, torn off my blindfold, wrapped me in his arms, and repeated truth to me till I came to believe it.

Do I still have moments where I doubt? Yes.

But my anchor holds.

I wrote this to remind myself of the truth– the truth that no disorder or devil can withhold from me because my God is stronger:

anchor manifesto

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






The Invisible Fight

There’s a scene in C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Caspian land on an island inhabited by invisible people who seem to be enemies.  The group talked over their best options for escape and realized they would likely need to fight:

“Surely,” said Lucy, “if Rhince and the others on the Dawn Treader see us fighting on the shore they’ll be able to do something.”

“But they won’t see us fighting if they can’t see any enemy,” said Eustace miserably. “They’ll think we’re just swinging our swords in the air for fun.”

Couldn't find the owner of this awesome pic, but I love how many stories it tells.

Couldn’t find the owner of this awesome pic, but I love how many stories it tells.

It makes me think of OCD. Not only of OCD but other mental illnesses too.

People often cannot see the evidence of a mental illness, and so they think we’re just “swinging our swords in the air for fun.”  It’s difficult– because the enemy is so very, very real, and the stakes are high (sometimes it’s literally life-or-death), but since mental illness is invisible, the fight doesn’t always warrant the respect it’s due.

For some of us, we look perfectly “normal.” We go to work, we smile often, laugh at our friends or co-workers.  And for some of us, the battle against intrusive thoughts is almost entirely internal (especially for those of us with Pure-O, whose compulsions are usually also invisible).

I am not at all trying to pit visible illnesses against invisible ones; every individual struggle matters.  My point is just to say this: you don’t know what the person next to you is fighting. Be kind to all people.


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

Being Me with OCD by Alison Dotson

BeingMeWithOCDI first connected with Alison Dotson through the International OCD Foundation blog, where we realized that we were both from Minneapolis and made plans to get coffee.  I can still remember that first in-person meeting at Dunn Bros, one of those lovely times between two obsessive-compulsives finding joy and relief in saying, “Me too, me too!”

Alison’s book– Being Me with OCD— is aimed toward teenagers and young adults, but I think its audience is much wider than that.  It’s incredibly well-written, chock full of helpful information, and– most importantly, I think– it’s like sitting down with a friend.  While reading it, I kept thinking of my first meeting with Alison.  Her comforting, empathetic voice comes through so strongly in the book that you feel like you have a friend, a cheerleader, right beside you.

The book is part-memoir, part self-help, and is sprinkled throughout with personal essays from teens and young adults who offer wonderful insight into a variety of areas.  OCD is a strange beast in that, while it works the same way for most people, it manifests itself differently for each person, and the personal essays help the book touch on areas that haven’t been a part of Alison’s own personal journey with OCD.

I deeply appreciated her approach to medication.  I also loved that she dedicated considerable time discussing exposure and response prevention, even though she never underwent ERP herself.  Alison also spends time talking about overcoming stigma.

All in all, a great book for teens, young adults, or any age!  The best part is finding someone who gets it,
someone brave enough to share, someone on your team.

Read an excerpt. Buy the book on Amazon. Follow Alison’s blog.

The Dreadful O of OCD

My friend Janet over at OCDtalk recently blogged about how, so often, all people know of obsessive-compulsive disorder are the visible compulsions, as opposed to the invisible obsessions.  And back in November, The Atlantic also posted about the debilitating nature of obsessions.

As I’ve said before, “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not OCD.”

OCD begins with obsessions.  Compulsions are actually just a monstrous side effect of OCD.

Source: deviantART "Torture" by eWKn

Source: deviantART
“Torture” by eWKn

Compulsive hand-washing is hard to hide.  Hoarding, definitely.  Even repetitive reassurance-seeking and confession (compulsions of choice for a Pure-O) are easy to notice once someone points it out to you.

But it’s harder to see the obsessions that are driving them.

Imagine the deep horror of constantly imagining you’ll hurt someone you love.  Or the intense mind-screw of questioning a part of your identity that you’ve always gripped tightly.  Or feeling as guilty as a rapist, a pedophile, or a murderer … when you haven’t even left your room.  You know that wrong feeling that you sometimes get to which you can never find the words to describe it except for that it’s just wrong?  How’d you like to feel that every waking moment?  Obsessions come hand-in-hand with such intense anxiety, horror, and guilt that obsessive-compulsives feel they cannot bear them.  Hence, so many compulsions.  And, devastatingly, suicides.

That, my friends, is why I get upset when people say things like, “I’m a little OCD; my handwriting has to be perfect” or “If my socks don’t match, it bugs me so bad.  I think I’ve got a touch of OCD.”  It feels like someone is comparing their hangnail to your amputation.  Does that make sense?

So many people in the OCD community have not yet found their voice, and that prompts me to be even louder.  I know no one likes the person who is so easily offended.  Heck, those people generally annoy me too!  But I’m reacting on behalf of a broken, abused, tortured community who– this is heartbreaking– believes themselves worthy of only brokenness, abuse, and torture.

So I choose to be loud about it.

Thanks for understanding– or trying to.

Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer

interviewHey peeps!  Since I’ve been getting so much traffic on my blog in regard to HOCD (homosexual OCD), I thought I’d do another post on it.  This interview is with “Hannah,” who tells me she is ready to bare all (except for her real name, ha!) for the sake of helping others better understand HOCD, that obsessive-compulsive phenomenon where a straight person obsesses over being gay or a gay person obsesses over being straight.  

I think you’ll enjoy this interview.  Hannah said there was no question too personal, so I really went for it!  🙂  If you have additional questions, leave them in the comment section, and maybe we can force more truths out of Hannah.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to make a statement on homosexuality itself.  It’s intended to open up our eyes to HOCD, which is a lie that both straight and homosexual obsessive-compulsive people battle with.  It’s not about the morality of homosexuality– it’s about people who believe lies about their sexuality at the hand of OCD.  My blog readers are ahhh-may-zing, so I doubt I even need to say this, but nevertheless: if comments get mean or stray away from the topic of HOCD, they will be deleted.  You’re a fool if you think I’ll let you bash any of my friends, gay or straight.

Jackie: Tell us a little about your history with HOCD.
Hannah: I was in junior high when I first started questioning if I was gay.  It came on really suddenly, like, in a MOMENT.  One minute I was this boy-crazy girl and the next I wondered if maybe I was gay.  But the thing was, I didn’t want to be gay … at all.  AT ALL.

Jackie: What triggered this sudden change?
Hannah: I found one of my (girl) friends attractive.  OCD doesn’t need something big to work with.  It will take whatever you’ll give it.

Jackie: What was your reaction?
Hannah: Cold dread.  I mean, I was terrified.  I didn’t want to be gay.  I wanted to like men– I DID like men– but suddenly it was all I could think about.  Every girl I would see, I would think, “Do I think she is pretty?” and then, of course, I had to take it a step farther: “Would I want to kiss her?”  Every girl, I’d start imagining myself kissing her.  It made me sick.

Jackie: It made you sick?  Readers will wonder how you didn’t realize then that you weren’t gay, you know!
Hannah:  Yes, I know.  Because it doesn’t FEEL obvious.  I kept focusing on what I was doing: thinking of kissing every girl.  That felt like evidence that I was gay.  The fact that it made me sick barely registered, for some reason.  I guess it’s just how OCD works.  It’s all very confusing.  Well, then of course, there was the fact that I DO think girls are beautiful.  Sometimes more beautiful than men.  Their bodies definitely are.  Most of us can agree to that, haha!

Jackie: So there was a part of you that found women attractive then?
Hannah: Yes.  There still is.  Women are hot!

Jackie: But you’re not gay?  Or maybe bisexual?  I know I already know these answers, but I think this will help my blog readers process things.
Hannah: No, your questions are fine.  I told you anything goes, right?  Haha!  No, I’m not gay, and I’m not bisexual either.  I know that now.  And the key to learning that was learning to be uncertain, as opposite as that sounds.

Jackie: Okay, we’ll dive into that more in a bit here.  But tell us more about what happened when you first started wondering about it.
Hannah: Well, I couldn’t STOP wondering about it.  Like I said, every girl I saw, I thought about kissing her.  I think it was like my way of “testing” myself– to see what my instincts would tell me, to see what I really wanted.  I hated doing this though.  This was the compulsion actually for me.  The “testing” was like what you talk about about seeking reassurance.  If I thought about kissing the girl and it still made me sick, then I was still okay, still not gay.  (Again, no offense to your gay readers!  This was just my experience.)  I thought about this so much that one night I had a DREAM where, in it, I kissed a girl.  When I woke up, I thought for sure I was gay.  I was having gay dreams!

Jackie: It carried over from real life!
Hannah: I know that now.  But it felt like this stamp of homosexuality.  I was so scared.  I didn’t want to tell my family that I was gay.  I still didn’t even WANT to be gay.  Oh, and this one thing.  I still liked boys.

Jackie: So, you didn’t want to like women, you felt sick about liking women, you ACTUALLY liked men, but you still thought you might be gay?
Hannah: It’s OCD.  It feels confusing.  You know what it’s like.

Jackie: I do.  I really do.  So, what changed?  You’re pretty confident now in your sexuality, yes?
Hannah: I am!  And it feels awesome!  I love knowing I’m straight– and get this, this is so good– I can even appreciate the female body now, and I am not joking, I could see a NAKED WOMAN today and I could GET TURNED ON BY HER and I would STILL know I am straight.  Because I am.

Jackie: And that came about how?
Hannah: Exposure and response prevention therapy.  You preach it.  I preach it.  Cue Hallelujah chorus.

Jackie: You could see a naked woman and get turned on by seeing a naked woman, and you still wouldn’t doubt your sexuality?
Hannah: Not for one second.  I’m as straight as they come.  I love men.  I want to be married to a man someday and have sex with a man and build my life with a man, and it doesn’t make me flinch to say that I think boobs are hot.  Like, super hot.

Jackie: You’re hilarious.  You’ve come so far!  I’m sure there are HOCD sufferers out there who can’t imagine admitting something like that.  And people who are probably thinking you must be bisexual if you feel that way.
Hannah: Haha!  People can think that all they want!  I am FREE from my HOCD and totally straight.

Jackie: You’ve come so far through ERP.  It’s amazing, right?
Hannah: Amazing, for sure.  And hard.  But good.  It made me able to think clear finally.  If I like men and want to be romantic with men and DON’T want to be that way with women, then I am not gay.  It’s obvious, like you said.  And the more I realized that I am in control of my own response to it, the more freedom I found.  That’s why I can say women are hot.  Doesn’t bother me anymore.

Jackie: So, your advice?
Hannah: ERP.  For sure.  Best treatment out there.  For the gay obsessive-compulsives too, the ones who obsess that they are straight and that causes them as much anxiety as the opposite thought caused me.  ERP is absolutely the best treatment for OCD.  I know you know that.

Jackie: I absolutely do.  Do you still struggle with OCD?  Not just HOCD, but other obsessions and compulsions?
Hannah: Rarely.  ERP kinda took care of OCD, you know?  Instead of just one issue, it went after OCD itself.  I know you know these things, but your readers need to know.  ERP is the solution.  A one-stop shop.

Jackie: And you think women are more attractive than men?
Hannah: I think the female body is more attractive, but I am attracted TO men.

Jackie: But you know you’re not gay?
Hannah: Yep.  But that certainty only came through embracing UNCERTAINTY, the whole point of ERP.

There you have it, folks.  

My thanks goes out big-time to Hannah for her willingness to be interviewed and her awesome vulnerability.  The bottom line is ERP is the best treatment for OCD.  

In other words, just what I’ve been saying on this blog for the last two years. 🙂

Related posts:
Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer
No One Wants to Talk about HOCD
A Closer Look at HOCD
A Big Ol’ HOCD Post
A Third Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer


I have OCD!  I have OCD, and I don’t care who knows it!  (Can you picture me spinning around like Buddy the Elf?)


No, but really, I’m not ashamed of my mental illness.  Why should I be?

Illness is not shameful.

I didn’t choose it.

It gives me a platform to help others.


Can shame co-exist with grace?

Earlier this week, A Deeper Story shared an incredible post called “A Lesson in Words: They Mean Things,” and while I generally like to produce my own work on my blog, this post was too good not to share.

Here’s the beginning of it:

My voice came out braver than I felt, startling me.

“I need you to explain what you mean by God-centered shame.”

The entire class turned and looked in my direction. A guy sitting at our table cleared his throat and shifted in his seat.  I didn’t realize the tension in the room until I spoke up. But it was clear: they are the leaders; we are the students. They know more than we do. They speak; we inhale.

I couldn’t ignore my gut any longer – the small voice telling me to speak! – and so I did. I raised my hand, and when my hand was ignored, I interrupted the greeting to ask my question.

The response to my question was mediocre and confusing at best, and so I pushed a little more. “But, I still don’t understand. How can shame exist within His kingdom if Christ went to the cross despising the shame? Shame cannot coexist with grace. It can’t.”

And they told me that it came down to the Greek roots of words, and in 2 Corinthians 7:10, the godly sorrow leading to repentance is really an offshoot of godly shame. We’re faced with our sin, and so ashamed, we’re moved to repent.

People joined in the discussion. I still wasn’t willing to let it go, but my words were starting to trip over themselves because of the almost robotic-like responses of those around me. Phrases like “Well, I think what he means is this…” and “we can definitely feel shame over our sin and it lead to repentance” and “I can totally see how shame, in this context, would be beneficial to our salvation” were said.

And friends, I swear I saw red.

“I still don’t see how they relate.” I said. “Grief is not shame. Sorrow is not shame. When I feel shame, I believe lies. Grief and sorrow are healthy emotions. Shame is not. Shame is negative. Shame speaks lies.”

To read the rest of the post, click here.

Then hop back over to my blog and let’s discuss!


Mental illness is a medical problem.

One thing that frustrates me to no end is when people treat mental illness like moodiness, as if you can just snap out of it, instead of like the medical issue it is.  This mindset is so pervasive that it has infiltrated even those with mental disorders.  It broke my heart to sit across the table from an obsessive-compulsive who thought she should be able to just “pray away” her OCD.  Now, of course I think that prayer matters.  But I think also that you pray about cancer– and then undergo chemotherapy— and pray some more.


stunning realization

I have recently gone through (and am still enduring) a very humiliating experience.

While praying the other night, I believe the Holy Spirit opened up my eyes to see it in a whole new light:

Wow, Jesus, I just LOVE the way that You handled the Pharisees.  You are so smart and stunning and clever, and You just OWNED them!

It’s interesting to me that those moments– the ones when You seemed most powerful– would not end up being the cornerstone events of history.  Instead it was the CROSS that would– the moment you looked weakest, most defeated, completely ashamed, and beneath the feet of the Pharisees.

HELP ME TO REMEMBER THIS!  These days may end up being the days that define me.  That is startling a little.  God, give me grace, poise, maturity, integrity, favor as I undergo this humiliating experience.  God let me use this time to IDENTIFY with Your Son.

Jesus, my shame is nothing compared to what You went through, and yet You endured it sinlessly.  Give me the strength to do likewise.  Make me humble.  How could I forget that it is You who are the Humble Servant?  This whole experience may serve to make me LIKE YOU.

You understand my feelings even better and more deeply than I do.  Let me be worthy of this humiliation.