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About Jenna Gresham

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So far Jenna Gresham has created 19 blog entries.

Aha! Moments from the 2014 IOCDF Conference

When I attended my first International OCD Foundation conference in 2010, the whole thing was one huge Aha! Moment from beginning to end. As I share in "Is Fred in the Refrigerator?", I went through the entire conference picking my chin up off the floor in amazement. In session after session I learned one mind-blowing thing after another about OCD and its treatment, and the fact that as a person with OCD, I did NOT have to suffer. I just left the 2014 IOCDF conference in Los Angeles, the fifth one I have attended. This year I spent the entire conference with a slightly different expression on my face:  a huge smile. In this Aha! Moment, I'd like to share why. Bring It On, Baby! Even though I have been to four previous IOCDF conferences, I have never been on the "virtual camping" trip. This year, I made it a priority to join the 200 other conference attendees walking around Los Angeles on Friday night to do some "OCD camping." So just what is OCD camping? Imagine walking around a city at night confronting all the triggers that your OCD doesn't want you to go near, mentally or physically. I [...]

IOCDF Conference|

Aha! Moments from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk: Your body language shapes who you are

Watching Amy Cuddy's TED Talk, "Your body language shapes who you are," gave me an aha! moment about a new way to gain power over my OCD. Our body language influences how we think and feel about ourselves Dr. Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, states that when we are feeling powerful, we open up our stance and make ourselves bigger. When we are feeling not powerful, we close in on ourselves, hunching over. Our body language communicates how we feel. It make sense that our body language is influenced by our thoughts and feelings. But what's really interesting is that the opposite is also true—we can influence how we think and feel by our choice of body language. Dr. Cuddy's research has shown that if you adopt a "high power pose" for 2 minutes*, you change levels of some key hormones in your body, which make you feel more powerful. How does this relate to OCD? Before I answer this question, let me share a little background.  Because I've done a lot of my own exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), OCD doesn't bother me much on a daily basis. But I'll admit there have been times when [...]

Power|

Aha! Moments from Man’s Search for Meaning and Unbroken

It was an auspicious coincidence that I decided to read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand back-to-back. Frankl's book is the account of his life during and after being imprisoned at Nazi concentration camps in World War II.  Hillenbrand's book is about how Louie Zamperini survived after his B-24 bomber plunged into the Pacific, also during WWII.  Both books gave me some incredible, new perspectives on living with and surviving OCD. Tales of torment Frankl's book is sobering.  Through his stories of life at Auschwitz as well as other concentration camps, we get a grim picture of the reality of day-to-day existence for those who were held by the Nazis.  He states that of every 28 people who entered a concentration camp, only 1 walked out alive at the end of the war. Every day Frankl lived with the  knowledge that he could be chosen for execution at any moment. Zamperini was a bombardier on a B-24 bomber that crashed into the Pacific.  He and two other crew members survived and floated with no food or water for 47 days, many times in the company of circling sharks.  [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  I have read the books and watched the movies countless times. I even went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in Orlando with my friend Jenna over spring break this year! But what in the world does Harry Potter have to do with OCD? Plenty. Just ask any wizard who's ever encountered a dementor. "Like I'd never be cheerful again…." For those of you muggles out there who are not familiar with dementors, they are the guardians of the Azkaban wizard prison. Terrifying creatures cloaked in gray tattered robes, they hover menacingly around the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They are incredibly effective guards because no one wants to get anywhere near them. For those who are susceptible, being close to a dementor forces a person (wizard or muggle) to relive his or her worst memories—the most awful thoughts s/he could have. Anytime the dementors came near Harry, he was bombarded by images and sounds from his parents' deaths at the hands of Voldemort.  Harry's friend Ron, who was less susceptible to the dementors' powers but still affected, summed [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from Freedom from OCD

One of the things I love most about Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson, PhD is Dr. Grayson's focus on intolerance of uncertainty as the root of OCD.  The first time I heard of "intolerance of uncertainty" a few years ago, a light bulb went off in my head.  "Dr. Grayson is right!" I thought. "My OCD wants 100%, undeniable, absolute certainty about everything.  And it makes me do rituals to try to get it, but it never can, because certainty is impossible.  The only thing that's certain is my OCD is afraid of uncertainty!" Adding uncertainty to exposures Once I learned this concept, I started incorporating uncertainty into all my exposure and response prevention exercises.  For example, for one of my contamination exposures I changed what I was saying to myself during the exposure from "I'm probably going to get some dread disease and die because I just ate off the floor," to the more uncertainty-friendly,  "I may get some dread disease and die because I just ate off the floor. But I may not.  It's impossible to know."  For me, adding the concept of uncertainty into my exposures seemed to make them work better, because they went [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from The Onion

For as long as I can remember, I have personified my OCD and thought of it as an entity separate from myself. Now I don't have a specific picture of what my disorder looks like, although the shadowy, menacing figure of a dementor from the Harry Potter series probably wouldn't be far off. Instead, my personification of OCD is more aural—I know how my OCD sounds:  it has a vicious, deprecating, and demanding voice. WDNG Before I received the right treatment for OCD, I felt like I had a radio station called WDNG ("All danger, all the time! Your home for the worst case scenario!") constantly broadcasting death, doom, and destruction in my head. My OCD waxed and waned for a period of three decades before I got the right treatment, and when my OCD was active its voice was a ruthless reminder of the constant danger I was in or was causing. Here's just a sample of what I heard: As a child, while lying in bed at night: "What is wrong with you? Why did you just see a movie in your mind of your parents getting their heads chopped off? You must want that to happen! You are [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from Glee

I grew up in the 80s, and with the exception of the "big hair" phenomenon, nothing defines that decade for me more than the music. As a young teenager, I would spend almost every afternoon at my friend Debbie's house, where we would create dance routines to go along with our favorite songs. So it's no surprise that twenty some years later she would be the one to introduce me to Glee.  "You just have to watch Glee," she told me one day. "Trust me, you will love it." Don't Stop Believin' As we would have said in the 80s, she was "totally" right. Had I been a student at Glee's William McKinley High School, I would have wanted to be in Glee Club. Halfway through watching episode one I was already hooked (and also surprised to find out that one of the most lovable characters on the show, Emma, seems to have quite a case of contamination OCD!). But I became a true fan of the show at the end of the first episode when the club performs a version of an 80s favorite, Journey's Don't Stop Believin', that was so heartfelt it brought tears to my eyes. Over the [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from The Emotional Life of Your Brain

My parents saw one of the authors of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Richard Davidson, Ph.D., interviewed on Charlie Rose's TV show and recommended the book to me, as they know the ongoing struggles I have had with my brain.  Davidson and Sharon Begley share that there are six dimensions to Emotional Style: Resilience Outlook Social Intuition Self-Awareness Sensitivity to Context Attention Resilience is my issue There is a self-assessment in the book that allows you to identify where you are on the continuum for each of the six dimensions.   While it's not "bad" to be in a certain place on the continuum for a dimension, where you are on each dimension may cause a person to have more issues than others.  I knew as soon as I learned about Resilience, how slowly or quickly you recover from adversity, that I was not what you'd call "resilient."   I learned that if you fall into the Slow to Recover end of the spectrum, you cannot easily shake off negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or anxiety.   When I took the self-assessment, I scored a 9 out of 10 on Resilience, meaning I'm just one point away from being at the [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from Still Alice

During Brene Brown's ecourse, The Gifts of Imperfection, she once said, "Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  Showing up and being seen when there are no guarantees.  Perfectionism is the 20-ton shield [protecting us from being vulnerable]." Today's Aha! Moment is a little different from previous posts, as it has to do with a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated stuff that is, "aha!", actually all related.  Namely, a book I didn't want to read, the loss of a 20-year companion, pills on the kitchen table, and perfectionism. The imperfect recovery As most of you reading my Aha! Moments know, I am in recovery from OCD.  To keep myself in recovery, I do exposure and response prevention (ERP) maintenance therapy.  I also read and think about OCD all day long, because I help people with OCD learn how to overcome the disorder using ERP.  In addition, I do advocacy work to raise awareness of OCD and its appropriate treatment.  So you might think if anyone would have the tools, training, and resources to perfectly keep OCD in its place, it would be me. Wrong.  My recovery has been far from perfect.  And just following Brene's advice and being vulnerable by [...]

Recovery from OCD|

Aha! Moments from Still Alice, continued

The pills Several days after Abby's passing, I was driving to work listening to Still Alice.  Alice's memory was failing even more at this point in the book.  Mine wasn't so great either.  I was still getting used to Abby's being gone and the new routines in our home for our three other pets, Milo, Murphie, and Bella.  Then, all of a sudden as I was listening to Alice completely forget something incredibly important for her job, I heard in my mind: "Did you pick up your pills off the kitchen table this morning? I bet you forgot them, just like Alice forgets stuff.  Now they are going to be sitting there all day, and I bet Milo and Murphie will knock them off the table (you know how cats are) and Bella will eat some of them (as dogs will eat anything) and then the cats will eat the rest of them, and they will all die.  And it will be all your fault." On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being maximum anxiety, I was instantly at a 9.  I thought, "Oh my gosh, maybe I did leave pills out!"  I had just picked up a [...]

Recovery from OCD|