Once Were Dim Prayers

In 2012 I did a bible study called “Experiencing God.” I began praying for God to reveal himself and his will to me and it changed my life. About a month into the study I began having seizures. I was then diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I had for many years prior. My depression got worse and I started contemplating suicide constantly, then I started to give in every time there was an opportunity to act on the suicidal thoughts.

Depression made me believe I was a completely unlovable, burden; and OCD made me believe I was capable of acting on my worst fear of hurting someone. I was appalled that I could even think of such horrific things which led to crippling anxiety and worsening depression.

I was on the church prayer list for over three years. I’ve had people all over the world praying for me.

->People prayed for healing-with a miracle, medication, therapy-whatever means God willed.

->People prayed that I would draw nearer to God

->People prayed that I would hold on to the truths that I believed in

->People prayed that I would feel loved and supported

-> But, most importantly, people prayed for my safety

 

God answered every one of our prayers! Gods will for my life was not for it to end during any of the times I tried to take life into my own hands.

My memories from my time in the hospital are very broken up and foggy. However, I do remember enough to have witnessed unexplainable miracles in my very own life.

There were times where I walked along train tracks for hours and hours, just waiting for a train to come end it all. In those lonely hours very few trains actually came. When a train did come, I was sitting or laying on the tracks…and the next thing I knew I was in the ditch.

Every. Single. Time.

I don’t even try to wrap my mind around that one. It was just God.

I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on around me so when the train tracks crossed streets I walked straight out into traffic. There were some busy streets, but I was never hit. God was protecting me.

Another time, I overdosed. The amount of medication I took should have damaged my liver…but the test results came back completely normal.

I was told that my depression was “treatment resistant,” and our last resort treatment was electroconvulsive therapy. That ended up being exactly what my body needed to reset and begin healing through a specific type of counselling that targets OCD. The therapy is expensive and at first I needed to go every week! But God is so good. He met that need right away with financial support from family, friends, the church, and even some anonymous donations.

Healing didn’t come the way I prayed for and the way I wanted. I wanted complete healing, right away, with no work on my part.

It’s a good thing I’m not God.

 

If he had answered prayer the way I wanted:

->There wouldn’t have been time for all the changes to take place in my heart.

->I would have missed out on time with family, discovering my love for writing, and learning how to be a true friend from my own friends.

-> And I wouldn’t have learned how to depend on God, and fully trust him.

 

Sometimes God answers prayer and fills a need I didn’t even realize I had. My family and I decided I

needed a psychiatric service dog. We looked at some local dogs, but they just didn’t “feel right.” We decided on a chocolate brown Australian labradoodle from BC. She was a huge help in just her first year and a half with me.

We started to notice an odd behavior where she would climb up onto my shoulders. It took a while for us to catch on to her cleverness…but this was her way of letting me know 10 minutes before I had a seizure.

Dogs cannot be taught to sense when a seizure is coming. They either sense it- or they don’t- and you can’t know if the dog will reliably alert until the dog is older. I have had Zoe for 3 and ½ years and she has become my seizure alert dog!

I didn’t know I needed a seizure alert dog or think one was a possibility for me, but she has given me much more independence, prevented many injuries, and even saved my life.

Raising enough money for a service dog was an answer to prayer but God went beyond that when he gave me Zoe. Its as if God was chuckling and said, “Yeah, sure I’ll do that… BUT LOOK AT WHAT ELSE I CAN DO!”

It’s a beautiful reminder of how God is in control of all things seen and unseen, and he is capable of so much more than our small minds can even imagine!

I decided I wanted to go to bible college after high school. I applied and was accepted in 2013, but I wasn’t stable enough. I thought I would never actually get to go…but It was one of my goals that kept me motivated to get better. Anytime a Dr. asked what I wanted to do when I got out of hospital, it was “Bible College,” I want to go to bible college.

This past May, four years later, I just started taking online courses through Heritage Bible College! I was probably more excited to start school than some people are to graduate.

Those are just a few of the amazing ways God has kept me safe and answered prayer. Not only am I still alive today…but I am ALIVE AND WELL!!

I have been out of the psychiatric hospital for 2 years and 2 weeks. My physical health is still a struggle and I will likely struggle with minor flares of depression here and there for the rest of my life.

But my OCD is almost manageable, most of the time my depression is nearly non-existent, and I’m easing myself back into a new normal life. I have been blessed with this life and this trial. When I look back, I see a lot of painful moments that God brought me through and used for my good.

alive and hopefull

Chapter Twenty-Three

** WARNING: This post contains a section that discusses suicide and depression. It could possibly be triggering. If you are struggling with these issues I would suggest either skipping this post and reading others or skipping to the end of this post. I promise there is a happy ending. **

 

Today I am twenty-three.

For some, birthdays are no more than a regular day, maybe some presents, or good wishes and cake. Nothing ever really changes when you turn another year older. It’s not like you wake up and suddenly have matured a year. It’s a gradual process, and your birthday is just a marker along that path.

My family has made a big deal out of birthdays for as long as I can remember. We (the whole family) would wake up and open presents before we all went our separate ways to work or school. We would pick out a special birthday dinner – whatever we wanted – and probably have a party (or two…or three) at some point.

This year I have a different outlook on my birthday than I ever have. I have never been more thankful to be alive.

I’ve never been happy to be alive.

I mean, I probably did when I was younger, but at that age you don’t understand the whole “life” thing yet.

As a child, I remember that I had this vague idea in my head that I wouldn’t live to be 18. I had a small voice in my mind that said by the time I reached 18 I would have gathered the courage to end my life.

I had a twisted sense of hope that came from knowing my life would end soon enough, ending the consuming fears and misery. I thought it was just a feeling or maybe my fragile, mental state saying that it was “Gods will,” however, I can now recognize it as depression. On some level, I must have known that it wasn’t completely normal, because otherwise I’m not sure why I never said anything.

I woke up on my 18th birthday. I felt shocked, relieved, hopeful and distraught, all at once. I pulled myself together enough for the next year and a half to make the world believe I was OK, to make me believe I was OK. That’s when things started to unravel. I began spiraling downwards, convincing myself this time I wouldn’t live to see 20.

I was 19 when I first attempted suicide. I cringe thinking to those days. Thinking the words: I am unlovable.

The years that followed my whole family was in continuous crisis mode. They never knew what the next day was going to hold. Heck, I was so far removed from reality that I didn’t even know what the previous days looked like never mind the coming hours.

Somehow [clearly through the grace of God], I made it through countless life or death situations.

I don’t know how many times I have tried to end my life, nor do I know the exact number of streets I’ve crossed, [purposely] without waiting for cars to pass first.

I can’t count the exact number of scars on my skin from each time I carelessly slid a piece of metal through, silently hoping I would bleed to death and never wake up.

I don’t know how many hours I have been lost along train tracks waiting for a train to come and end it all.

I have walked across this train track bridge [the view now terrifies me!]:

*Bridge photos from London Free Press

If a train had come while I was walking across this bridge I would have not survived. I had hoped I would slip through the holes between the pieces of wood I walked over or through the sides.

*But this excruciating, long chapter of my life is closing.*

I’m well on my way to recovery!

Twenty-three is fresh.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been working towards bible college for as long as I can remember. I am moving into a transitional chapter of online courses and I am already halfway through my first course: Intro to Old Testament Studies. I’m loving the content!

I have said this is a transitional chapter because I’m practicing the coping skills I’ve perfected while living a very simple, low-stress life, now in a more stressful life. It’s proving tough but I’m happy to report that there have been no suicidal thoughts that have come with any intent. The thoughts are more fleeting. They come almost out of habit.

My brain doesn’t work the same as it used to, nor does the rest of my body. I have been out of school for 4 years. Those things themselves throw some consequential challenges into life.

I got a 77% on my first midterm! I’m proud of that. I worked extremely hard and did not think I could manage more than a 60.

Good & amazing things have come from this chapter!

LIST OF GOOD THINGS/ACCOMPLISHMENTS DURING “DISABLED” YEARS:

I had extra time to spend hours reading Gods word and just resting in His presence.  Not everyone gets this wonderful opportunity.

My personal relationship with God is stronger than ever. My desire to experience Him, love Him, and obey Him, is sometimes more than I can handle (In a good way)!

I was diagnosed with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that had been going on for 11 years before diagnosis. I don’t know when/if I would have been diagnosed had I not started having seizures.

I have overcome treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, after the better part of three years was spent in a psychiatric hospital.

I’ve overcome some intense psychotic episodes.

I have a better ability to empathize with other people’s sorrows. It’s the kind of empathy that you can only gain from going through a dark and difficult time.

I have completely stopped self harming. (Nearly 2 years without cutting!) Just a day ago, an ER nurse even commented on my scars looking old.

*I also now view self harming as a completely ineffective coping mechanism, but because of the addictive nature it is still tempting.

About 4 years after the OCD diagnosis, the disorder is almost managed now!! **HUGE HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT THAT REQUIRED AN CRAZY AMOUNT OF WORK**

I have my own website/blog that actually gets a large number of views (that is if I actually post…oops…)

I have been doing a lot of painting and drawing **even with a tremor!

I have trained a service dog! (With a lot of help from family, a friend, and a trainer). Now I have an incredible, life-saving dog! I wish I didn’t need her as “medical equipment”, but she keeps me laughing and I constantly talk to her. (I have learned that when you are alone in public, it’s much more fun to pet a dog than to awkwardly pretend you are texting someone…)

I have had time to draw, write, and spend time with my family before I prepare to move away for school.

Now I see that this life I live is actually so wonderful! So long as God continues to use my struggles for His glory (I have no doubt He will), I don’t mind them being there.

For a long time, birthdays acted as a sort of ‘countdown’ of my life, filled with nothing but doom. Now, they serve as a source of hope and strength, reminding me I have – and will continue to – overcome.

I have come a long way in the past few years. Now I’m able to look back and say I survived. Now I’m able to look forward and say I can continue surviving and thriving.

My child self never thought I would make it to 18, but here I am, almost five years after 18, with a desire to keep living as long as God allows, so I can do and accomplish all that he has planned for me.

Today I begin chapter twenty-three.

Anchor Answers

“Why?”

“How long?”

That’s what we really want to know. We want God to answer, to give an account of Himself.

“How long will the pain last?”

“Why did he leave me?”

“Why did she die so young?”

“How long will I be unemployed?”

“Why won’t they leave me alone?

“Why me? Why now? Why this?”

Sometimes we learn the answers; often not. But still, we ask.

The asking is built into us; we can’t help it. We ask, “Why?” because we understand cause and effect. We ask, “How long?” because we discern beginnings and endings. We ask because we’re human. Even Jesus, the divine human asked, “Why have you forsaken me?”

SUFFERING:

“Why?” and “How long?” don’t ususally have clear answers. However, there are other questions you can always know the answers to. They have a definite yes or no, with a clarity that anyone can grasp. BUT…I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer.

Is God here?

Does God care?

Is God part of this?

Did God cause this?

Does God have a purpose for this?

Is God punishing me?

Will I be okay?

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I say that I hope you won’t ask them when you suffer, because I know you’ll need the answers before you suffer.

The answers are so much harder to find in the storm. It’s also easy to disregard the truth in the midst of a storm because we may be too wrapped up in confusion, fear, anger, or feelings of loneliness.

But, we rarely think about these things before we need them. We are often like a grasshopper who wasted the summer away without ever thinking about preparing for winter.

People who expect suffering to come will read and think and pray and wrestle with these questions well before the storm hits. Then, in the storm, they hang on to those truths for hope and comfort. Without them, suffering preys upon our pain or grief injecting fear and doubt that eats away at our hope.

I will be honest and say that I wasn’t completely prepared for a huge storm to shake up my life. These days I know that there is another storm just around the corner. We can’t escape these storms as Christians but God will be here, with us, through all of it.

The ANCHOR ANSWERS:

With clear answers to these questions, we have an anchor for our souls and a reason to hope. (Hebrews 6:19)

A biblical perspective on suffering accepts the certainty of suffering but embraces the hope of God’s reign over it.

Everyday, I fight a storm that seems to never let up. On the outside, I’m conversing with a friend, playing with my dog, or writing; but in my mind I’m struggling to hold the door closed against a biting wind of anxious thoughts.

What holds me together is truths that I hold onto.

*I know God is real and He is here, holding the door against the storm with me.

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*I know God cares, having the empathy of one who has experienced ultimate suffering and sorrow himself.

*I know God is in this with me, like a father who wraps his little child in his coat and bears the worst of the wind.

*I know we live in a broken, cursed world full of sin, death and suffering, and yet God directs all things as the Sovereign Lord of all. Even though I cannot fully grasp this mystery of providence, I know my suffering does not escape His loving notice, nor is it beyond His power. I know she is neither a victim of fate, or the devil.

*I know Gods purpose toward me, as a believer, is only good eternally. And although the path in this life has many hazards, God makes even these serve my greater, eternal good.

*I know God is not punishing me for Christ was fully punished in my place, and lives again as the Mediator of my favor with God.

**And therefore I know, with soul-deep certainty, that I will be okay. My God and Savior made a promise.

THIS is the anchor for my soul!

I hope and pray that this can be a comfort and hope for your soul as well!

The world is scary and full of trouble. You can arm yourself against the day of trouble with the truth.

Knowledge that if you belong to Christ, God is here.

He does care.

He’s in it with you.

He has a purpose.

He’s not mad at you.

You will be okay.

If you’ll take the time to find out if this is true-by reading the Bible-then, you can know before you need to know.

You may find that knowing these things is a greater comfort than knowing why or how long.

 

Update: Fall 2016 Part 1

At this point in my therapy I am not where I ever expected to be. A year ago I thought I would have been further along and a few months ago I didn’t think I would ever get this far! You often think about the beginning and the end of therapy but then you kind of forget about the middle part of recovery where you have come so far but you also still have a long ways to go.

You forget that you can’t skip over steps to get to the end faster. It doesn’t work like that in mental health recovery. You have to take it slow, however, you can keep reflecting back at how far you have come and how much better you feel than when you were on the last step.

It’s been a while since I posted an update, so I figured it was about time!

I posted the last Music Monday a little over 2 months ago. The day it was posted I fell down the stairs and was unconscious for about 10 minutes. My mom called 911 and the paramedics put me in a neck brace and on a backboard then took me to the hospital. I was fortunate to (unsteadily) walk away from the hospital later with ‘only’ a concussion and a bucket load of bruises. My recovery from the concussion has been quicker than expected! The physical symptoms are mostly gone now but I am still struggling with the cognitive effects – memory, confusion, concentration, brain fog…things that were already issues but a little magnified right now, nothing too major.

Mentally, I did have a hard time switching back into “recovery mode” after the fall. I had two weeks where I didn’t do any OCD homework exposures at all. This wasn’t only because of the head injury. Part of me just got stuck in a negative “rut.” I kept telling myself that I could’t do the homework well enough so I might as well not do it at all. I wasn’t being lazy, I was just overwhelmed with fears and hopelessness.

I also had a couple really stressful events during this time. All that additional stress while recovering from a brain injury PLUS all the usual OCD stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Then came the appointment where I was supposed to discuss the homework from the two weeks that I didn’t do it.

If you have a great therapist, they should understand how hard the work they are asking you to do actually is. They should understand and even expect that you are going to have setbacks and that normal life problems may appear a little amplified to an anxiety sufferer.

My therapist is fantastic, so she did not look at it as a bad thing or even think it was a setback. In her sweet accent, she just said, “I bet you needed that break from the work. Lets see how we can make things more manageable for this coming week.” That felt so validating to the work I was doing, but also offered a gentle hint of encouragmentand.

We did figure out how to make things go much better. The day after I saw her I picked up my homework and said to myself, “even if it doesn’t work today-you might be setting it up to make it work tomorrow. Just do it anyways Summer.”

Now, for the first time since I started this round of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) in May, I feel like I am making progress that I can actually see. I have made progress like what is ‘typical’ for an exposure.

I have done things that I didn’t think I could do. I wasn’t even sure I would ever be able to do them!

But I did…and I can’t even explain how incredible it feels. I feel successful. I feel strong. I feel fearless(ish). And I feel proud.

It all started with picking up the homework and believing in myself. (And prayer.)

OCD: 14 (for the 2 weeks I didn’t do homework)

Summer: 31! (For the one month I have been totally beating OCD!!)

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Before I fell I had been planning on going to surprise a good friend, who moved 3 hours away, with a visit! My incredible Grandparents said they would take me (thanks again guys!). It was a much needed catch up day filled with smiles, laughs, and encouragement. I was able to surprise a friend, see her (very new) house, see her town, have lunch with her, visit by the lake, let my dog run in her backyard, and even show her how lovely it is to colour in an adult colouring book!

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My beautiful friend and I! Thank you Lord, for times like this.

If I think back to last year, there is no possible way that I could have managed a trip like this. Depression, self harm, and dissociations in addition to OCD were too frequent and I hadn’t quite figured out which coping strategies helped me the most. This means I was still having crisis situations very often and I wasn’t good at coping yet.

FLASH FORWARD to Now:

The fun and excitement from this visit outweighed the negative that the OCD thoughts and fears bring into everything.

…Wait…did I actually just say that!? Yes, it’s true!

Do you know how long it’s been since I did something that is supposed to be fun and actually could focus on anything except doing compulsions to keep everyone around me safe? TOO LONG. I don’t remember the last time, but I will remember this success.

OCD: 14
Summer: 31+6 (=37)

(1 for travel/sitting with uncertainty about what we were going to do, 2 for stopping in service stations, 2 for walking near a busy road while having thoughts, 1 for eating lunch at a busier restaurant)

Everything I do does come with challenges. Satan really knows how to use OCD against me. He knows that is how he can make me weak – so he can make me feel completely worthless, disgusting, unforgivable, and even invaluable in Gods eye’s…ALL of which is completely untrue no matter how often these horrible, awful, nasty thoughts come into my mind. So, to get back at satan, I’ve been trying to fight satan and the OCD with all I have and all the strength God is providing.

These past few weeks there has been a big change in the anxiety during exposures.

So… PRAISE THE LORD! Thank you, God, for bringing me to a therapist who is working hard to figure out which techniques will target my OCD best. Thank you for the strength and courage to do the crazy hard work that I would have labeled “too dangerous” in the past. Thank you.

I’m not noticing much change in regular everyday life yet, I’m sure that will be coming soon.

Any time that I have with low anxiety from the intrusive thoughts is precious! These past month where I have exposed myself to things that terrify me then just sat with it and slowly noticed the anxiety go down low…were just ~ WOW ~ wonderful!

Of course I still have a lot of difficult moments and days so your continued prayers are still SO appreciated!

Please pray that the OCD continues to improve. Pray that the ERP therapy gets easier. At the beginnings or before, I still am usually close to tears because I am so fearful of the thoughts. Pray for continued brain healing and answers to the other physical health symptoms that are messing up my system. Pray that I keep my eyes focused on the Lord and lean on Him for my strength.

*Part 2 to come soon*

“So OCD?”

We live in the age of different. “Hipster” is in and it’s cool to be unique, nerdy, and quirky. What better way to show your individuality than branding yourself “so OCD“?

Except for OCD IS NOT a quirk, or a set of tendencies…it’s an incapacitating, isolating disease that makes you afraid of your own mind. This is what it’s really like to have OCD:

*You believe you are a horrible person.

Imagine having a song stuck in your head. Now imagine that instead of a lovely, catchy tune it’s the thought of murdering your best friend. In horrendous graphic detail. Over and over again. You’re not mad at your best friend, and you’ve never even done anything violent, but…

It. Won’t. Stop. Playing.

You probably feel uneasy just reading that. But that’s what the “obsessive” part of OCD is like: intrusive, unwanted, disturbing thoughts that won’t go away. No one seems to know what causes them, although it might be miscommunication between parts of the brain or something faulty in its error detection circuit.

The thoughts aren’t always about you doing bad things, but they’re never pleasant. Most obsessions are based on deep fears — “What if I or someone I love gets sick?” — or basically the worst things one can think of, like blasphemy, racism, suicide, murder, rape, contamination, animal abuse, cannibalism, torture …

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People with OCD who have thoughts of doing something violent never actually act on these thoughts, and those who dread bad things happening almost never see those things happen. While most people can shake off a weird thought, when you have OCD, it sticks in your mind. Inevitably, you think, “Why do I keep thinking about these things? Is it because they’ll happen? Do I want them to happen?”

The answer’s no! No, you do not. But you will still fear you do.

*You’re Probably Not a Neat Freak

Sheldon, from Big Bang Theory, is depicted as having OCD. OCD is a debilitating condition so it is a bit strange that the show is often poking fun at his ‘compulsions’. The show plays on the OCD stigma by making sure to mention some part of his strict schedule (also can be related to aspergers syndrome which he also has) or his fear of germs. Don’t get me wrong, those are fears and compulsions that some people have but our society needs to be more aware that there are MANY other forms that OCD may come in.

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This means that despite what the media might have you think, having OCD doesn’t necessarily mean you’re neat and particular. Those of you into freak shows (sorry, reality shows): First of all, don’t even get me started on the show “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners“…Second, have you ever seen that show “Hoarders“? Hoarding is often a symptom of OCD.

Compulsions can vary. Sometimes they correspond to fears, like washing your hands because you’re scared of contamination. Sometimes there’s no real logic behind them, like when you have to jump over a line on the floor because otherwise everybody you know will die horribly and it will be all your fault. Or you keep counting because you don’t want to lose control and start stabbing people.

Many don’t have physical compulsions at all, instead suffering from “purely obsessional” OCD, where all they have are obsessions. And some people with diagnosed OCD even obsessively doubt the fact that they have OCD.

OCD, at heart, is an anxiety disorder. Yet movie and TV characters with OCD are often shown washing their hands or straightening things, never suffering from overbearing anxiety. This is probably because it’s easier to show someone cleaning than to show someone going through extreme mental anguish.

*You Know There’s Something Wrong With You

One of the many differences between people who have OCD and people who are just “quirky” — is shame. Let’s be clear: If you regularly check your pockets to confirm that you’ve still got your car keys, or if you prefer your sandwiches with the crust cut off, or if you only eat orange Skittles, you’re not suffering from OCD.

Those are just quirks, and also the orange Skittles are obviously the best. People like quirks when they’re cute, fun, and harmless. When they involve picking at your fingernails to get blood (that isn’t even there) out or sitting on your hands so they don’t move and slap someone, people just think you’re “crazy.”

But you’ll believe it of yourself as well. You’ll be standing in your bathroom at three in the morning, scrubbing your pocket change because you’ve been awake for hours wondering if it could contaminate your clothes and make you a danger to the people around you, and you’ll be unable to stop, but you’ll know that what you’re doing is crazy.

OCD is “ego dystonic,” which means “out of sync with your ideal self” or “making you look and feel like an idiot.” People with personality disorders typically think they’re always in the right, and people with psychosis often don’t realize that their delusions are coming from their heads. But one of the defining characteristics of OCD is knowing that your thoughts are bizarre and your rituals don’t make sense.

Additionally, people who have OCD don’t even get any joy out of their compulsions. Relief? Definitely, but it’s temporary, like scratching a mosquito bite. You don’t want to count every pole and sign you pass, you have to.

There are people who are ‘perfectionist control freaks’ and love every meticulously planned minute of it. But they have a different diagnosis: obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. OCPD involves being neat and exacting (is that even a word??) to the point of disrupting one’s life and being really annoying to everyone else; it’s all of the OCD stereotypes with none of the anxiety or shame.

*It’s Rarely Just OCD

The day I was diagnosed with OCD was one of the best days of my life. Finally, I knew what was wrong with me, I wasn’t crazy, and I could get it treated. But then came the depression, dissociations, psychosis, trichotillomania and dermatillomania, anxiety, PTSD diagnosis…”oh, yeah. You have all those things too. Sorry about that.”

Panic attacks, Tourette syndrome, hypochondria, body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania, dermatillomania, and eating disorders are all OCD spectrum disorders. They’re diagnosed on their own but also like to hang around in the background while OCD tricks your mind. They’re like its creepy cousins.

OCD also often coexists with depression. This is partly because of chemicals and genetics, and also because constant obsessing, isolation, or exhaustion from ritualizing can be extremely depressing. Studies show that having OCD from an early age tends to make you more susceptible to depression because it wears on you so much. You’re also at higher risk of suicide.

The good news is that OCD and its tag-along disorders are treatable. There are all kinds of medications and therapies that can help alleviate symptoms. And since the spectrum disorders are linked, one treatment can sometimes cover all symptoms. OCD is not something that can be cured, but it can be controlled.

Im not going to lie…my OCD has not responded to many medications. There was one experimental medication that did work but seems to be not working for the last little while. At first this made me feel like I was back to where I started just less than a year ago.

Thankfully, a lot of stinkin’ hard work has moved me forward in my recovery! I keep hearing from my supports that they are noticing that I’m so much better than I was then. I still have a very far way to go but a few steps are behind me now.

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The face of OCD? I look calm in this picture but I was actually struggling with millions of intrusive thoughts and likely counting in an effort to “neutralize” the thoughts. OCD doesn’t have “a face.” 

*You have a demand for certainty

You think you should know for sure whether you will get violent, loose control, or are contaminated.

What if i didn’t unplug my hair dryer and it catches fire? Then the house would catch on fire, burn down to the ground, and it would all be my fault. What if there are germs on the door handle and I touched it? Then my entire family would get extremely ill and die. What if I lost control and acted on one of my horrible thoughts? Then I would stab somebody and they would die a horrendous death just because I didn’t take the proper precautions.

What if, what if, what if….?

The compulsions offer relief from the uncertainty. OCD sufferers are desperate to feel certain so of course they try to do anything and everything that offers relief even if it takes them hours upon hours to reach that “safe” or “just right” feeling. Then Nothing short of perfection is enough to ease the raging anxiety in the sufferers mind.

Dear non-sufferers,

Do you still think it’s funny, cute or quirky to have OCD?

Are you still going to label yourself “so OCD” when referring to your neat, tidy, and clean preferences or your choice to double check that you have your car keys?

May I ask that you please, please, reconsider that choice of words?

It can be hurtful by making us feel like you are disregarding an OCD sufferers debilitating and incapacitating symptoms.

For This Season

I’ve been so embarrassed to ask for prayer lately because sometimes it feels like my life is just a never-ending drama. With all the seizures, OCD, depression, PTSD, new symptoms, other health illnesses we’re still trying to diagnose, and then the most recent OCD worsening, a new stomach issue, and over a week long lingering migraine thats the result of a head injury: it just feels like it should be the end of the ‘hard stuff.’ That there shouldn’t be more and if there is, it’s somehow my fault.

I have this little voice inside of me that tells me I’ve used up my entire allotment of sympathy and prayers; that life should be easy and painless and perfectly put together now because I’ve maxed out my quota for pain and people are tired of hearing about it already.

(Never mind that I am tired of living it already!!)

Against all the blaring sirens in my heart and soul telling me I am “too much” and “out of turns to ask for help” and I just need to “be quiet, suck it up and handle it on my own”…

I’m saying:

I need prayers in this season because my heart is breaking in a new kind of way that I didn’t know was possible. Who knew there were more ways for it to break? And I cringe asking for prayers, because I wish more than anyone that it was all put together already and I didn’t need them. But I do. So can you please pray for me? Again?

As I wrote in my journal God so tenderly seemed to respond in my soul, “Who put a limit on mercy, Summer? Was it me? Did I say you were out of turns for compassion, grace and love? Who told you that you were a burden and that people were weary of walking alongside you?

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive this brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus looks Peter in the eye and blows his mind. “I tell you not just seven, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus looked me in the eye and whispered the same thing over my heart this week.

Who am I to limit how many times I can be on the receiving end imageof mercy and grace and forgiveness and prayers? Should I receive the tenderj and fierce prayers of my community only seven times? Or seventy times seven?

God himself is reminding me: if forgiveness is not limited, neither is mercy.

Or prayers. Or grace. Or love. Or compassion.

Do I deserve it? Have I earned it? Do I need to re-pay it? Will I have to ask again? Am I a burden? This week I am practicing the art of silencing all these questions and leaning into the grace of friends who have not once shamed me and told me to “just be well already.” Friends who have stood beside me and not grown weary in their love and prayers.

And I am standing in awe of a God who keeps whispering “seventy times seven” over me.

Maybe you need to be reminded today that seventy times seven is for you too.

Maybe you need to offer more than seven shots at grace to someone in your life.

Maybe God needs to step into your shame and fear and “people are SO tired of hearing this story from me” thoughts and remind you that this whole Gospel thing? It’s about mercy…

and mercy and mercy and mercy and mercy… the unlimited, never-runs-dry, seventy times seven kind.image.jpg

Question That Makes Us Fake

How are you?

The most common greeting-so common that it just springs out of peoples mouthes without them even thinking. Although, most people feel genuinely interested in the other persons life when asking the question.

People aren’t built to expect bad things or bad days, so when asking ‘how are you’ they are usually just ready to hear all the good and wonderful things that have been happening in that persons life.

Unfortunately, not everyones lives are all sunshine and daisies. That leaves pressure for those of us who have been struggling. We feel we need to respond with positive answers-regardless of how we are actually feeling. We feel we we need to pretend everything is going how we hoped it would be.

Why do we do this? It’s so fake and routine!

At church I often I find myself frantic for the ‘right‘ answers when asked, “How are you?” For simplicity sake and so I didn’t need to break out into a big honest spiel, I reply, “Good!” or “Alright!” And to my close friends, whom I fear may see right through me, I shrug my shoulders and make ‘that distressed face.’ That’s when you know things are very bad.

Really, I’m fine…except for I am totally not. I’m completely falling apart inside. My mind is a raging hurricane! My thoughts are a disgusting junkyard full of twisted metal!

I am beyond upset and disappointed in myself for slipping so far from where I was just a few short weeks ago. It scares me that all it takes is one wee trigger to set my mind off, to shake me to my core and to completely disrupt my life.

But then, I’m also upset at myself for being upset with myself (totally makes sense, right?) because this is not my fault. Again, I remind myself that recovery comes with setbacks, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape them.

“This is just a setback. This is just a setback. This is just a setback.
3…6…9…12…15…18…21…24…27…30…33…”
(Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…)

Imagine being so consumed by something that you literally could not think of anything else until you felt certain of the outcome you needed…so caught up in the thoughts and worries that you could not go to work, concentrate in conversations, do simple math (like counting out money), or perhaps even stand to be around people because your brain is essentially on overdrive.

The result: a heavy, crushing, debilitating, long-lasting, wave of anxiety.

It was so much that I tried to end my life…again. It pains me to say that. I so badly want to keep it a secret because I am so ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I didn’t tell anybody. Ashamed that thoughts that appear SO trivial could drive me to such extremes.

This is the harsh reality of mental illness.image

It brings people to the place they said they would never go. That dark, scary, place. The place I thought I was so far from. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it and it changes your thinking. You think no one really cares. You think death is the only option. You think this is the safest way.

For me, the distress comes from harm OCD.

My mind races 123876562431078465 miles a minute. I’m scared of my mind. I’m scared about these intrusive thoughts. I’m (irrationally) scared for my loved ones, and even strangers’, safety. Even though I know I would never act on these thoughts. Ever. I’m so scared of acting on the thoughts though. I’m terrified that there is half an ounce of longing to the thoughts; as if that part of me wants and enjoys the thoughts. They feel so real.

My greatest fear is people around me getting physically hurt-especially the people I love the most…and what if that came from me…what if I was the one that hurt them!? I couldn’t live with that happening, so I do everything in my power to prevent it.

The media does not help. Many tv series show people killing left and right. They make it look “normal.” Often the killer doesn’t even have a motive! So then, I sit there and think “What if that’s me one day!? What if I just went crazy and attacked someone!?”

That is why this week, I thought the only way to keep other people safe (from myself) was to hurt myself. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not true but that’s what I thought. It’s what my OCD made me believe was true.

What I did not think about was ANYTHING else. Not about other people, my dog, my dreams, Gods plan/timing… I could only think about all the horrible things that I could do. I didn’t think of anything real; just what I felt was real.

It is a miracle that I escaped unharmed…I mean NO liver damage when my liver should be in liver failure. If that’s not a divine sign from God that He is not finished with you yet, I don’t know what is!

I’m fighting my brain constantly (literally constantly). I was drained from this never-ending battle.

OCD had a firm grip on me last week even though I am doing everything I possibly can to get past this. I’ve tried telling myself, “Summer, you would never do that. Thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t mean anything.” I’ve tried to ignore the thoughts; I’ve tried not to ignore the thoughts. The best thing I can do is to just ‘let the thoughts come and go as they please.’ ‘Don’t give the thoughts meaning.’ ‘Do not try to fight the thoughts.’

Simple right?

NO!! Its so ridiculously hard to let go of revolting thoughts and images that literally make me vomit at times. My coping strategies that helped me out of this mess before seem completely useless right now. Regardless, I will continue to do everything I can to manage until something changes.

So, next time you go to ask someone how they have been, try some of these alternatives:

How has your day been so far?

Have you had a nice morning so far?

Recall and ask about the little things in their life. It means the world to people when you ask about the little details of their life.

Ask about an area of life that they care about. (Writing, drawing, music, tattoos, school, work, sports, exercise, pets/animals, relationships, travel, ect.)

Just simply tell them that you have been thinking or praying for them. There is something fantastic about the feeling of someone thinking about you. You feel cared for, loved on, and not forgotten.

Or hit them with a compliment instead of a vague question! Don’t you look extra lovely today!

Or, the best thing people can do for me when they know I’ve been struggling is say, “Hey, can I pray for you right now?” BEFORE you leave me and I’m left wondering if any people care enough to go home and actually pray for me.

If you don’t know the person well enough to say anything personal, just say, “Wow! It’s so nice to see you! I pray for you often. Hope to see you again soon!”

Don’t assume that because I look well, I am doing well. There is a very real battle going on inside my head that no one else sees.

A Moment In My Mind

I was asking myself “what’s wrong with me?” Why do I always have such awful thoughts? Then, in that moment, my brain chatter went completely quiet, like somebody pushed the mute button. What is this….silence? Total silence. At first I was shocked to find myself in a quiet mind and then I was immediately captivated by this unusual happenstance.

It was a rare, short but beautiful, moment because the internal dialogue that anxiety creates is unique to anxiety sufferers and it never ends. We are always worrying about something, anything, and everything. This is why I wanted to create a brief window into my life, giving people an idea of what its like to live with anxiety.

Then, the next moment, it was gone. All the brain chatter came rushing back.

What if I get sick? What if I die? What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t get accepted? What if I fail? What if I hurt someone? What if I mess up? What will they think of me? What’s going to happen if I go? I’m hopeless. I spend too much time thinking about my thoughts. I could slice that persons face.

Suddenly, my brain shoots into overdrive. Whats wrong with me? Who thinks thoughts like that? Why do I have these thoughts? Maybe I’m a murderer. I should go to hell or maybe I should die. 

What if I die now that I’ve thought that? ok. ok. ok. We’ve got a problem! *Heart starts racing* I’ve got to get help! I need to text my mom. So, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I search for my moms number but all I can see is pixels, even though I can see clearly in my mind where my moms name is, my eyes just can’t focus on the task at hand. I’m still to worried that I’m going to die.

I could stab that person walking by.

WHAT?!?! Summer!! How could you ever think something so awful?! I must be the worst person on the planet! No one else would ever think something like that. 

The Dr. said lots of people have these thoughts occasionally…but that can’t be true. Nobody thinks like that. I must be a psycho-murderer at heart. 

I could punch that person.

WHAT?!?! NO!! 

I NEED TO GET RID OF THESE THOUGHTS!!

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33

Still there…

3

6

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12…

You have now survived just 10 seconds in my brain. For anxiety sufferers this continues for hours and hours on end.

Although my mind is a crazy place at times, I find comfort knowing I don’t need to battle alone. 

“Moses answered the people, “Stand firm and you will see the the deliverance the Lord will bring you today….The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14) 

I feel as though I fight anxiety every moment of my life but what a comfort to know that God’s got it all under control, I need only be still. The people were despairing but Moses encouraged them to watch the wonderful way the Lord would rescue them. Moses had a positive attitude! When it looked as if they were trapped, Moses called upon God to intervene. WE may not be chased by an army but we may still feel trapped by anxiety. Instead of giving in to despair when all these thoughts are rushing through our mind we need to only “stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will bring…The Lord will fight for you you need only be still.”  

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