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Aha! Moments from a magazine encouraging us to “Be a little OCD.”

Have you ever had a moment where you've just had enough? One where you think you just cannot stand by one more minute without saying, "No more! This is not okay!"? I had that moment on Saturday. I was attending the annual conference of The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors in St. Louis, heading to another wonderfully information-packed session, when I received this text from my mom: "Just sent you an email response I sent to the editor of [major women's magazine] regarding finding the phrase "be a little OCD" in the latest issue. Here it is, in bold print, no less." I stopped dead in my tracks. "You've GOT to be kidding me," I said out loud, to no one in particular. In utter disbelief that a well-respected, mainstream magazine could be so uninformed, I stared at the photo of the glossy page, mouth agape. Beginning to walk to my session again, I said aloud, not caring that I was still talking to myself, "That's it. I've had it. I'm writing that blog post that I've been meaning to write for more than a year. Because I can't stand seeing these uneducated phrases about OCD popping up everywhere [...]

Miscellaneous|

Aha! Moments from Stopping the Noise in Your Head

On Monday, as I was boarding a flight from Baltimore to Atlanta, I asked the flight attendant standing by the cockpit door for some water. She handed me a can (yes, a can of water....I guess they were out of bottles...), and then the co-pilot, who was also greeting passengers as they boarded, looked at me and commanded, "Wait!" I stopped while she dug into one of the little cabinets, pulled out a straw and handed it to me. "You'll want to use this," she said. "You definitely don't want to put your mouth directly on that can." That was the sign I needed that it was time to write this Aha! Moment about one of my new favorite books, Stopping the Noise in Your Head, by my friend Reid Wilson, Ph.D. This book is all about recognizing the "noise in your head" and the paradoxical power of doing the opposite of what it tells you to do. This holds true, by the way, even if the noise (i.e. "that can of water is dirty!") is validated by a co-pilot of a plane flying me to Atlanta. She may know a lot about flying, but she doesn't know that as someone with a long [...]

Recovery from OCD, Thoughts|

Aha! Moments from The Five Things We Cannot Change

When you have OCD and/or anxiety, your life can be dominated by attempts to attain the BIG Cs: CONTROL and CERTAINTY. The lessons of this book, The Five Things We Cannot Change...and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them, fit very nicely (pardon the pun) with the goal of exposure therapy for OCD and anxiety: to learn to live in a world of uncertainty and be happy anyway. So, I wanted to share the five things with you and give you an example of how I am using them this weekend. Yesterday, I was hanging out in the living room, waiting for the plumber to arrive to fix a leak in my kitchen sink, when I noticed how hot it was. I checked the thermostat, and it read 79 degrees. After an hour of so of messing around with vents, turning the A/C on and off, staring at the outside A/C unit (telepathically asking it to please turn on) and wishing the plumber were also an HVAC guy, I realized my air conditioner was broken. And hey, I live in Hot-lanta, so this is somewhat problematic. But sitting on my coffee table in the living room was The Five Things We Cannot Change. As I waited [...]

Aha! Moments from an Aha! Moment … and dog toys … and questionable holiday merchandising choices …

Why do I have a dog toy with a tissue taped to it sitting on my desk? And how does it relate to the Target OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder sweater currently being sold in stores? As usual, it’s sort of a long story. When I wrote my Aha! Moments from the 2015 IOCDF Conference, Part 1, I described my OCD as the equivalent of a sobbing Chicken Little, always crying, “The sky is falling!” In fact, in that blog post, I handed my OCD a tissue for the very first time. The more that I thought of my OCD bawling, the more I envisioned it as a little orange ball. My dog Lily loved her JW Pet Good Cuz orange “football” toy (it was a ball with feet, so it became “the football”), and as I thought more about my OCD as a sad little creature waddling along behind me, whining about all the things that could kill us, the more I decided that it looked like Lily’s football. So I went to PetSmart a month or so ago to find one (as Lily’s has sadly disappeared), and found this one…a little orange ball with feet and sunglasses. It seemed to perfectly [...]

Aha! Moments from Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World

I read the following paragraph from Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman last night while doing the elliptical and almost fell off the machine: "...Are you driven by the daily routines that force you to live in your head rather than in your life? Now extrapolate this to apply to the life you have left to you. If you are thirty years old, then with a life expectancy of around eighty, you have fifty years left. But if you are only truly conscious and aware of every moment for perhaps two out of sixteen hours a day (which is not unreasonable), your life expectancy is only another six years and three months. You’ll probably spend more time in meetings with your boss! If a friend told you that they had just been diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill them in six years, you would be filled with grief and try to comfort them. Yet without realizing it, you may be daydreaming along such a path yourself." Can you believe that? What an incredible insight! For those of us with OCD who are obsessed with all the ways that we [...]

Mindfulness, Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from the 2015 IOCDF Conference, Part 2

"You can do this," I said as I held Lily's hand, the scene before me becoming blurry as my eyes welled with compassion. Lily* turned to look at me, big crocodile tears rolling down her face. "I'm going to let go of your hand now," she said, her voice breaking with the weight of her fear, the weight of what she was about to do. "Because I want to do it just like you did. Touch it just like you did. With both hands." She nodded, a gesture of resolution more for herself than for me, and turned back around. As this woman I had met only hours before reached her hands forward, time seemed to slow down, as if the universe were pausing to recognize the importance of this small, yet terribly great, act of defiance against a disorder that Lily and I shared: OCD. She continued to reach forward, and I realized I wasn't breathing. In that moment her hands were my hands, and I knew in the very depths of my soul the terror that she felt. "Aha," I heard a voice inside me whisper, breaking the silence, forcing me to breathe. "This is what it's all [...]

IOCDF Conference|

Aha! Moments from the 2015 IOCDF Conference, Part 1

As I sit here thinking about what an amazing time I had at the 2015 IOCDF Conference—the fun I had connecting with friends new and old, the information I learned, the new perspectives I gained—I marvel that I was actually there. Not because I couldn’t get a flight to Boston. (Well, OK, I did have to buy a new ticket to get to Boston an hour and a half before my previously purchased flight would have taken off … but that’s another story for another day.) The real reason I’m marveling is because I’m 44. For anyone who has heard “Is Fred in the Refrigerator?” you know that my OCD loves the number 4. It also loves irony. And according to my OCD, this is the year … that I am supposed to die. But because of a book I read on the flight to the 2014 IOCDF Conference, I have decided to live happily with the knowledge of my potential impending death. And because of attending this year's conference, I have a better understanding of what “advocacy,” one of the themes of this year’s conference, really is. Since the clock is ticking and who knows when the specter of Death [...]

IOCDF Conference|

The 2015 IOCDF Conference

We're less than one week away from one of my favorite events of the year: the International OCD Foundation Annual Conference. This year it's being held in the IOCDF's hometown of Boston, and those of us going on Dr. Jonathan Grayson's Virtual Camping Trip will get to explore some of the innards of the city, so to speak, in great detail on Friday night. But more about that later... When I went to my first conference in 2010 in Washington, DC, I knew no one. I remember talking to my friend Linda the night before the first day of the conference, telling her what I vowed to do: I was going to find people to go to lunch with that first day. I was determined to introduce myself to as many people at the conference as possible. Because I knew that for the very first time in my life, I was going to have the opportunity to meet other people who also had OCD. Little did I know the lifelong "aha!" moment that promise to Linda would produce. How it would change the course of my life and start me on a journey that not only included finally recovering from OCD, but also changing careers to become an OCD [...]

IOCDF Conference|

Aha! Moments from Brené Brown on Empathy

One of the most basic human desires is to be understood. To be heard fully and deeply by another human being. Yet, the fulfillment of this desire happens all too infrequently. And we are left feeling disconnected and alone. If you have a mental illness, feelings of isolation and anguish can be your frequent companions—I know this from personal experience, as I had untreated OCD for several decades, and even though I'm much, much better, I will always have OCD and the on and off bouts of depression that can accompany it. When a friend sent me this video a few years ago, I had an Aha! Moment when I realized that the desolation caused by mental disorders is compounded when people don't receive the empathy they need. Before reading further, please take 3 minutes to watch this entertaining yet sobering look at empathy as eloquently described by Dr. Brené Brown. It may very well be one of the most important things you can do for your relationships with those you care about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw Connection. Not Disconnection. Let me start out by repeating what Brené said in the video:  Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection. While there are many great aspects of our [...]

Miscellaneous|

Aha! Moments from Self-Compassion

Let's talk about something seemingly unrelated to OCD: the Stockholm syndrome. Named after a situation in the early 1970s where people taken hostage at a bank started identifying with and defending their captors, the Stockholm syndrome is also known as capture-bonding. It is described in Wikipedia as "a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes 'strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.'"* It's hard to believe people could identify with someone who takes away all of their basic freedoms, but it unfortunately happens to 8% of victims, according to the FBI. I think that the Stockholm syndrome is actually much more prevalent than that statistic would suggest. In fact, I would hazard a guess that it happens to almost everyone with OCD. Sound crazy? Let me explain. A hostage and a voice When I was developing "Is Fred in the Refrigerator?", I wanted to use a metaphor that adequately described how it feels to have OCD. Characters with OCD have had key roles in numerous TV shows and movies, but for me, those portrayals lacked the emotional depth needed to convey the utter [...]

Recovery from OCD|