Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Thin Line Between Helping and Hindering

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Notice the title of this post refers to “hindering,” not “hurting.” I hesitate to refer to any kind of help a person offers as hurtful because the intentions are good. But it’s so often hard to know what to do to help someone with OCD. After my book reading earlier this month, we opened the floor to questions. One woman, a mother of two young boys, asked how a person can support a friend or child with OCD. I told her supporting someone with OCD can feel like the opposite of supporting a friend–being too reassuring can enable a person with OCD, making it easier for the person to continue performing the compulsions that offer temporary relief and ultimately hold them back from living a full, rich life.

I shared the example of Howie Mandel’s wife washing his money for him. A spouse helping out with laundry or the dishes or making the bed isn’t a bad thing. But she’s doing him no favors by going along with his fear of touching money that other people have handled. Mandel can get by with this, I think, because he’s a celebrity. He probably has people who can handle money for him. He’s not facing his fears. And defeating OCD is all about facing the things we fear most.

But offering the “right” kind of support isn’t easy, even for me, and I have OCD. In the psychiatric community, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is considered the gold standard for overcoming obsessions and compulsions. That doesn’t mean anyone can administer it, though. I’ve been chatting with a man who has OCD, and he’s asked me several times if I think he has homosexual OCD (HOCD) or if he might have latent homosexual tendencies. He’s terrified that he might be gay, and I think I know why: He loves his wife and has a newborn daughter he is completely enamored with. “She is the love of my life,” he said. “My everything. My air. My heart.”

Well, there you go. Losing his wife and daughter would be the absolute worst thing to happen to him, and that is why he worries he’s gay. How could he stay married to his wife if he’s gay? And then if they get divorced, when will he see his daughter? As much as I know–as much as I can know–that he’s not gay, that OCD is playing tricks on his mind, I’m not doing him any favors by constantly reassuring him. On the other hand, I’m a layperson, just another poor soul who’s been afflicted with terrible obsessions. Is it really responsible of me to try to lead some sort of halfway ERP over Facebook? Of course not. All I can do is listen, tell him I’ve been there, tell him what has helped me–to remind myself that obsessions are there because OCD is a beast, not because I’m a bad person. To remind myself that everyone has bad thoughts, but people with OCD can’t let those thoughts go. To calmly tell myself that it’s just a thought, and it holds no meaning I don’t give it. It’s hard to tell someone I can’t keep reassuring him because the relief he feels is just as fleeting as the relief a compulsion provides.

How do you offer support to friends with OCD? If you have OCD yourself, do you tell the person everything that helped you? Do you just listen? Do you offer book recommendations? Let me know! I want to be the best source of support possible, and it’s such a gray area that I will take any advice I can get. 

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OCD in the Workplace

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As I mentioned earlier this week, it’s OCD Awareness Week! On Monday I participated in a chat about “coming out” with OCD, and last night I read excerpts from my book. Yikes! I’ve done a lot of sharing in just a few days. Not even my husband knew some of the things I’ve shared this week, and that’s saying something–I talk a lot at home.

This week’s blog for the International OCD Foundation focuses on what it means to have OCD and hold down a job, even when that feels like a truly impossible task. Let me know what you think. I always love hearing about other people’s experiences.

OCD Awareness Week

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While I like to spread awareness about OCD all year long, OCD Awareness Week is a great time to get people’s attention with events and activities. 

On Monday I’ll be participating in a live chat for the International OCD Foundation, along with Shannon Shy and Jackie Lea Sommers. We’ll be fielding questions about how to come out with OCD–how to tell friends, family, teachers, coworkers, love interests. Join the discussion at 12 EST.

Then–dun dun DUN!–on Tuesday I’ll be reading a few excerpts from Being Me with OCD. In front of a group of people. Some friends, some coworkers, some strangers. I’m not gonna lie–I’m nervous! But to say reading aloud is my biggest fear isn’t quite accurate. I have OCD, after all. So I know I can face the fear and get through it. And once I do, it will be time to celebrate! 

If you live in the Twin Cities area, I hope you can make it!

Do I Still Have OCD?

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Seems like a silly question, huh? I have this blog about OCD, my book is coming out soon, I’m the newly minted president of OCD Twin Cities…But I considered it a question worth exploring. Read my latest blog post for the International OCD Foundation and weigh in in the comments section.

OCD on the Radio

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Today I had the immense pleasure of chatting with Chrissie Hodges on her show The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio. We realized over the course of the show how much we have in common and that we’re OCD kindred spirits. For years and years I felt completely alone with my obsessions, and lately I’ve come to see how wrong I was. And you know how I’ve found people I can open up to and relate to? By sharing my story. Sure, it’s scary at first—as Chrissie pointed out in the show today, people with OCD, particularly those with taboo obsessions, feel so ashamed that they’re afraid to tell anyone what they’re going through and instead suffer in silence. But the more I’ve written and talked about OCD, both formally and informally, the easier it’s become and the larger my support network has become.

You can’t know who totally gets you like Chrissie and I totally got each other until you share your vulnerability. I never would have met someone with such a similar background if I hadn’t reached out to her and suggested we collaborate. Give a little, get a lot back.

Try it. You can write to me to start!