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.