May the Free Make Others Free


Originally published on The Redeeming Things blog in September 2013. Edited only slightly here; note that where I talk about four years of freedom … it has now been nine. Amen.

unsplash74Last week, while listening to an audiobook by Anne Lamott, she mentioned a line she tries to live by: “And may the free make others free.”

I had to rewind a few seconds and listen to it over again.  And again, amazed at the stark and beautiful way these few words summarize the last four years of my life.

I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder that preyed on all I most value: faith, friendships, vocation.  Forget all media has ever taught you about OCD—it is not a funny, quirky, bothersome nuisance.  Instead, it is a hellish, tormenting thief and tyrant.  OCD is slavery, and I was in bondage to it for over twenty years.  I was a tormented pot that complained to the Potter, “Why-why-why did you make me this way?”

Four years ago, I stumbled, uncertain and afraid, through the door that led to freedom (labeled “Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy”).  It was a tremulous victory, and I’ll admit I was shocked to discover things like peace and joy re-entering my life for the first time in years.  Freedom gave me an exhilarating high that I have not yet come down from, even in four years.

These days, I am an OCD awareness advocate, a member of the OCD Network to Recovery, and a leader in OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation.  I communicate every week with people who are broken by anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses, my own OCD branding me as their war buddy, allowing me to move in closely and show them the way to health.  I advocate for Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, defend the right to and benefits of medication, and push back against the stigma of mental illness.  I talk to parents who don’t know how to help their children, to people whose anxiety makes their own home a prison cell, to those who are needlessly ashamed that they have a brain disorder.

OCD, once the thorn in my side, has become my platform.

So the Potter finally answered my tormented question.  I was given obsessive-compulsive disorder so that I, now the free, may make others free.

Supplements, Nutrition, & OCD: Guest Post by Leah Adair

Leah is on the board of OCD Twin Cities with me, and she’s got the loveliest heart! She is a tremendous encourager, and she also knows more about natural ways to treat OCD than anyone I know. Leah herself has undergone ERP, and I know that she would never argue to replace ERP with the following … these are meant to complement exposure therapy.

With that said, here’s Leah!

xoxo Jackie


Jackie asked me to share a little bit about my experience with supplements/nutrition and treating OCD. I am not a doctor, dietitian, or a nutritionist. I am someone who suffers with OCD and I’ve done a lot of research on ways to treat it.

When the beast of OCD first began, I researched all of the possible ways that I could fight it/defeat it.

An interesting fact is that our gut is our second brain. 90% of what we feed into our body transfers to our brain. Fascinating, right?

I started taking a variety of different supplements that have been proven to help with OCD and also anxiety/depression.

I’ve been on meds combined with supplements and I’ve also done strictly supplements. It’s important to find what works for you. It’s also important to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist if you are planning to make any major changes. I had two sessions with a certified dietitian to help me understand supplements.


It’s crucial to try to eat a healthy fat, protein, and carb at every meal. Carbs = fruit and vegetables. I’ve found that limiting dairy, gluten, and sugar has helped decrease anxiety quite a bit. I still LOVE pizza, , but I definitely feel a difference when I don’t eat a balanced meal.

Healthy fat is so important.
Think: BUTTER!!!  Our brains store fat and we are often lacking healthy fats in our diet. Examples of healthy fat: avocado, dark chocolate (who can argue with eating more chocolate!), eggs, olive oil/olives, fish, nuts, chia seeds, coconuts/coconut oil.


It’s super important to be active. When our bodies are moving, they produce endorphins which trigger a positive feeling equal to that of morphine (with out the addictive component). If exercise seems daunting to you, start small. Walk around the block or do a short video online.

This article highlights 13 reasons exercise benefits our mental health.

Supplements that help OCD:

My top 3 recommendations paired with medication are fish oil, a probiotic, and a multivitamin.

Fish oil: Fish oil helps support serotonin and build it into our bodies. It might sound like it would taste gross, but you don’t even notice the fish taste. I would highly recommend getting the “burp-less” kind. When I forget to take fish oil, I notice that my mood is much lower.

Probiotic: Probiotics are anti-inflammatory microbes that affect the gut in a positive way. Remember when I said our gut is our second brain? Probiotics have some similar effects to an SSRI. Probiotics can be purchased at Walgreens, CVS, or Target. They can also be purchased online. I get mine (with free shipping!) from

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is what we receive from exposure to sunlight. Unless you are a lifeguard, work in construction, or some other job where you are exposed to the sun for several hours each day, you are lacking Vitamin D. This is especially important if you live in a colder climate. I actually take  take 3000 IU’s a day which is 3 tiny capsules. This article is by the Journal of Internal Medicine and highlights they ways that Vitamin D helps fight depression.

Multi-vitamin: It’s important for take a good quality multivitamin. Multi-vitamins have a lot of key nutrients that help our bodies beyond just mental health. Look for a multivitamin that has B vitamins and magnesium/calcium, like this.

5-HTP: I took this for awhile instead of an SSRI. It helps raise serotonin levels in the brain. 5-HTP is the closest natural alternative to an SSRI.

NAC:  I know of a few people with OCD who swear by NAC combined with an SSRI.  I do not take NAC, but I’m definitely considering it. It’s an amino acid/antioxidant. It significantly reduces glutamate which is a major neurotransmitter that leads to over stimulation. Here is an article from the International OCD Foundation on the benefits of NAC.

Inositol: Inositol is able to cross the blood/brain barrier and provide relief from over firing nerves, the stress reaction of over taxed, hyperactive minds. The multivitamin that I take has a small amount of Inositol in it. Inositol is in the B vitamin family. This can be purchased in powder form or capsules. Learn more here.

I hope this was helpful. Be kind and patient with yourself in this journey. It can take time to find the right combination that works for you.

Why Meds?

A blog reader emailed me and asked, “If you are okay with sharing this, could you tell me why you chose to stay on your medication after ERP?”

My response:

For me, meds are a chemical tool to slow my serotonin reabsorption. ERP is a physical tool in that it rewires the brain and a mental tool in that it gives me a new mindset toward uncertainty. I’m grateful for ALL my tools. 🙂

 Also in my toolbox: prayer, deep friendships in which I can be vulnerable, essential oils when needed, Ativan when needed, talk therapy for non-OCD anxiety, and self-care (i.e. naps and ice cream).

 What I’m trying to say is that God has given me an extensive amount of assistance. Some tools only come with privilege or money (having insurance and a paycheck to pay for meds and therapy … and ice cream, ha!); some from transparency (I have the greatest friends); all are sheer grace.

I’m at a stage of my life and faith where my hands are open to all the grace I can get.

Life like a Rocket

An update on my life:

I’m reading again. I read two books this week and started a third. Loved Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea (review) and Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (review). I was lucky enough to get an ARC of my friend Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the DarkI’ve read the first couple chapters, which are brilliant. No surprise there. Addie’s writing knocks me off my feet every time.

My writing group is amazing. It was so good to get together with them this week and really hash out my POV concerns for Salt Novel. I feel really, really good about where we landed. Plus, they are so encouraging. To be honest, in the early stages of writing a novel, I think that’s probably my biggest need: to have people say, We’re interested. We like these characters. Keep going. 

I’m making some changes to my OCD meds. This is maybe a little surprising, since I’ve said before that I don’t like to rock the boat. Problem is, I had some blood work done and the little half-milligram of Risperdal I take each night is probably affecting me in such a way that I need to get off of it long-term. That part is fine to me. I feel like these days I’m using Risperdal more as a sleep aid than as an anti-psychotic. So I suggested to my psychiatrist that maybe I could trade Risperdal in for an actual sleep aid like Trazodone. He agreed. I really can’t sleep without Risperdal (see story below for case in point), but I also know from past experience that I’m suuuuuuuuuper sensitive to Trazodone. We’re working out the kinks. My primary care doctor also recommended that I start taking NAC, an amino acid that has been helpful for people with OCD. The next day, our OCD Twin Cities group was talking about NAC. Then I asked my psychiatrist, and he gave me the thumbs up too. I’ll keep you posted. The nice thing about NAC is that you can pick it up at any old vitamin store, no need for a prescription.

Sleep evades me. I’ve had some problems (read: lots) with sleep lately. I cannot sleep without Risperdal. But I also take 10 mg of melatonin, which is all-natural. Even then, I wake up throughout the night, and in the morning, I don’t feel well-rested. Last night, I gathered up my evening meds, and I thought I felt one pill fall on the floor. I got on my hands and knees looking for it, but couldn’t find anything so I went to bed. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I was restless. I was wakeful. I was up for long periods of time around 1, 2, and 3 am (at which point I started praying for my friends– sometimes when I can’t sleep I wonder if that’s why I’m up. Interestingly, one of my friends told me today that she was up at 3 am, fitful over some things going on. I was praying for her at the same time!). Finally, at 6 am, wide awake but soooo tired, I realized the pill that probably fell was my Risperdal. So I took Risperdal at 6 am and finally got some rest. YUCKO. Thank goodness it’s the weekend!

Except I have to work this weekend. This is historically the hardest couple of days of the year for me– President’s Day and the day before– because we have a wild and crazy large-group overnight event for prospective students on these days. As my personality has shifted into full-on introversion, it’s gotten harder and harder. Think of me.

It’s pretty darn cold in MN. We’ve had it easy so far this year for the most part, but in the last couple days, it’s been downright frigid.

I’m excited about my novel. I really am. I have so many ideas and so much hope. Sometimes all the ideas and all the hope kind of flood me and I get overwhelmed, so I remind myself to put my head down and to SHOW UP and put in the work. I have a really detailed word count spreadsheet, and I’m loving it. Theoretically, if I follow the spreadsheet, I will have a draft finished soon! It’s so good to be back on the island with these characters. They are lovely and cruel and have lots of sharp edges.

One last thing: Girl Scout cookies are destroying me.

How are you, friends? Please comment. I absolutely love hearing from you. Makes me feel less alone!




Talk about Your Medicines Month


I was invited by the American Recall Center to blog about my medicines in October, and I agreed– there is still such a stigma attached to taking medication for mental illness (and to mental illness itself!), and I think that talking about things reduces stigma.

I started my search for a medication for my OCD as soon as I was diagnosed, which was back in 2003 or 2004.  It took five years before I ended up with the right “cocktail.”

The five years included:
* 3 psychiatrists
* 1 physician’s assistant
* TCAs
* a beta-blocker that I was allergic to (which almost killed me)
* tremors
* jello-legs
* drymouth
* lethargy
* vision blackouts
* rapid weight gain
* & a year in the middle when I avoided all medication due to the above.

But when I started meeting with my former psychiatrist (the now-retired OCD expert Dr. Suck Won Kim), he got me onto the right medication almost immediately. These days, I take a combination of Prozac (SSRI), Effexor XR (SNRI), and a teensy dose of Risperidone (an anti-psychotic).

Am I ashamed?



Am I grateful?


Do I rock the boat?

Not usually. Though my current psychiatrist (also a lovely, amazing man) helps me to feel confident in making slight changes to my regime as needed. For example, I now take Ativan for panic as needed.

Do I think medication is the right choice for all people with OCD?

No. It varies from person to person, and in EVERY case, I would recommend ERP as the first/best treatment. If I had to choose between my medication or my twelve weeks of ERP, ERP would win every time.

But isn’t taking medication like saying I don’t trust God to heal me?

What if medication is part of how God is healing me? Let me tell you a story about three boats

Want to join the discussion? Comment below about your medicines (or mine!).

Medication vs. Exposure Therapy

meds vs erpI have always been honest about my personal experience with OCD on this blog.  Faithful readers are well aware of my mama-bear protective instincts in regard to my medication.  I take Prozac, Effexor XR, and Risperdal each day and am utterly unapologetic about it.

That said, I completely understand that others have their own reasons (personal, medical, or otherwise) for avoiding medication, and that is perfectly fine by me (so long as no one tries to rob me of my meds, haha!).

People sometimes ask, Is it possible for me to treat my OCD and avoid medication all together?

While the answer varies from person to person, the best response I can give is that YES, it has been done with ERP (exposure and response prevention therapy) alone.  In fact, were I pushed to choose between my three daily doses of meds or my 12 weeks of ERP, it would be one of the easiest decisions of my life to choose ERP.

Every person is different.  I have an obsessive-compulsive friend who treats her OCD with only meds– she has never undergone ERP.  The son of one of my blogger friends uses only his tools gained from ERP– no meds.  Then there’s me, a girl who wants(/needs?) a full arsenal to treat her disorder.

So, what will it be for you?

The best treatment is ERP, hands down.  Start there.  See how you do.  If you can find an OCD specialist whom you trust, you may try to fold meds into the mix if you find that you need them.  It’s (unfortunately) a trial-and-error kind of thing.

Will you be okay without meds?  Maybe.  You’ll have to discover that for yourself.
Has it been done before?  Absolutely.

Hope that is helpful!

Just One Dose

I had such a hard day recently– my anxiety levels were higher than usual (“usual” being not too bad for the last four years– thanks, ERP!).  I felt this strange depression, a strong desire to sleep, and a hovering sadness that wouldn’t lift.  My blood pressure felt through the roof, and the stress took a very physical toll on my body: by the time I crawled into bed for the night, my shoulders felt like cement blocks and my arms were throbbing with pain.

I realized that– while racing out the door that morning– I had not taken my Effexor XR or my Prozac.

Just one dose missed, and it was so terribly evident.

I have acknowledged that I may be on medication for the rest of my life, and I’m okay with it.  In fact, I’m quite protective over my right to take medication.

I read this awesome related post on the OCD Foundation’s blog recently.  And it turned out that Alison, the blogger, lives in Minneapolis … so we got coffee.*  Love my OCD community!

* And since then, we’ve accepted new roles at the Twin Cities affiliate of the International OCD Foundation (I’ll be the communications director)  … and have an event planned in Minneapolis for OCD awareness week!  Exciting!

prozac morning