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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Organization is Not OCD -guest author with personal experience

Organization is Not OCD



I think I was ten the first time I heard about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I remember hearing about the disorder in clinical, definitive terms. Obsessive compulsive disorder is defined as an anxiety disorder that plagues people with unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, and sensations, the obsessions, that end up fueling the compulsions. In the mind of those affected, the compulsions are the solution to the obsessions, but in the end they just drive them further. As I sat listening in class I turned to the bored looks on my classmates’ faces waiting to see the lightbulb for someone else. As the teacher continued to list things I had been unable to explain for years of my life already I wanted to see another student who felt the same way, but I didn’t. So I kept it locked in, continuing with my quiet and consuming thoughts, reserving myself to something I would have to hide indefinitely. It was about two years later that I started to see counsellor who confirmed for me what I had feared and didn’t entirely understand.

My OCD started a small and unusual way as a child, but I can still remember it being there. Since before I can remember I was certain I was going to die before I was eighteen years old. It would consume me, I would lay in bed at night thinking about what it would be like to die in a car accident or just never wake up. I sat with this “fact” in my mind for years, obsessed with the idea that I would die before I was eighteen. But this was only the beginning.

As I got older my OCD developed in more concrete and patterned ways.  Some days I would have to sit perfectly symmetrical because is something touched me on one side of my body I needed an identical touch on the opposite side of my body. I liked the tops of my dressers and desks to be completely clear and anything that was set on them at perfectly right angles. Sometimes I even hated the way words came out of my mouth. Even now, some days I’ll get stuck on word or phrase and I’ll have to say it over and over until it sounds perfect. (Here’s the secret, it never sounds perfect.) My list could go on and on.

All of my compulsions that come from my obsessions, though, are not “predictably” OCD. I don’t obsessively wash my hands and I’m not a germaphobe. When I was a child/teenager I was not particularly clean, so while my dresser and desk tops had a system, I could have clothes all over my floor and not be phased. I wasn’t flipping light switches. My whole life wasn’t perfectly organized in color coated tabs. That is how most people see OCD. It’s impossible to have a conversation about organization without someone claiming, “They’re sooo OCD.” Alphabetization and order do not equate to OCD, though.

Let me be clear, some people’s compulsions do manifest in this sort of way, but the difference is easy to see. Being a little irritated because something isn’t perfectly alphabetized or liking things a certain way is fine. Outside of my OCD I like things a certain way, I prefer things alphabetized and generally organized, but these are distinct from my compulsions. Because people perpetuate this idea that OCD is just a small frustration with how you prefer things, people with an actual problem are viewed as a joke or overreacting. To be completely clear, though, it isn’t overreacting that has me terrorized because I can’t get a word or phrase to sound how I want it to. It didn’t feel like a joke sitting in a stall in a bathroom in high school trying to get myself to feel symmetrical and trying to continue that feeling as I had to carry things through crowded halls. The fear and frustration that held me as I tried to get my dresser tops just right. Moving things a centimeter and sometimes breaking things or throwing them out all together if I couldn’t get it right. I’ve bruised my hands because I wasn’t sitting in the right spot. I’ve bitten the inside of my mouth until I bled as I was shaking because people wouldn’t take these compulsions seriously. I spent innumerable hours of my life fearing my looming death as I got closer and closer to my eighteenth birthday.

I’ve spent years of my life learning to self regulate my OCD, after years in counseling. I still distinctly have OCD and I spend a lot of my energy managing and hiding it. I have, over the years, not only come to fear my OCD but the reactions of people to my OCD. Most people go one of two ways when they find out about my OCD. I can generally see when people are uncertain of my stability and aren’t sure how to handle me. Or, and this is the far more common scenario, they assume I like things super organized or am picky and claim to be “super OCD” too, talking about how they like their kids’ toys organized.

I implore anyone reading this to reconsider how they use the term “OCD”, because this is a serious disorder. My situation, too, is much more manageable OCD. This disorder sends many people to need help and completely debilitate their life. It can ravage their minds and bodies. In the end comparing a preference towards organization to a disorder which can completely isolate someone to the point that they feel they have no control over their own minds, bodies, and habits is hugely trivializing towards people who actually suffer.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (2015, November 18). Retrieved August 23, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Power of Perspective


Some times you get the gift of spending time with a person who changes your perspective on life events. I have a wonderful aunt who lives in Oregon. In my life I have not gotten much time with her but thanks to my husband working for Delta we could fly to her for free. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get to know her more and see a part of the world I haven't seen yet. Fortunately she welcomed me and my two boys with open arms.

Flying stand-by demands a certain amount of flexibility. We were suppose to land 1 hr from my aunt's house. Instead we got booted off that flight and landed 4 hrs away in Portland Oregon. Did this stress my Aunt out? No, her and her partner were excited about the different things we could explore and see up there. This change of plans and added inconvenience was no apparent problem to them. They just turned it into an adventure.

The entire week with them included responses like this. I was so excited to see sea lions and they had a solid plan to show me sea lions up close. Well, turned out sea lions don't hang out there in the end of June. No sea lions. Did this bum my aunt and her partner out? Nope. Just means a new fun plan to them!

They are living evidence that our perspective is so powerful.

Going to Portland could have ended the trip if they had not see the silver lining. Every wrong turn, turned into a new exciting exploration. My kids and I got to see Mount Hood and climb to the near top! It was amazing and I will never forget it. We went on to see the coast, sand dunes, gorges, and more. They always were looking at the silver lining and turning disappointing situations into new adventures.

I hope to live my life more like them. I hope you do too because joy can be found in this way of living!


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Take a deep breath, swallow your pride, forget about fair and say sorry.

I am just going to be honest. My husband and I got in a big fight tonight. I was condescending, and rude. Marriage is messy. People are broken, and damaged. People are soo mean to each other at times.

There is no one on this earth that I love more than my husband. Yet no one on this earth have I treated as poorly.  I don't want to lose the man that I love so much. He has helped me get to were I am today. We have had 10 happy years of marriage. I have shared so many laughs with him, and cried with him in my darkest moments. I cannot let a fight steal our depth. I need to suck it up and say sorry.

Let quit pretending the people we respect are perfect. No one is. I surely am not. That is the key in marriage. We need to accept that we will screw up and own it. Say sorry. Put your pride behind you.  I don't care what they did. Just say sorry. Win the relationship not the argument.

Win the relationship not the argument. 

So often we are so in the moment that we forget we are talking to the person who means more to us than anything. Take a deep breath, swallow your pride, forget about fair and say sorry. Win the relationship. No one is perfect.  

A relationship will grow if there is acceptance, growth and humility. It will die if it is based on pride, and selfishness. We have to be able to let go of what our spouse did wrong.

FORGIVENESS.

We need to get so good at forgiveness. Lets face it. We will screw up. It's a two way street. If you both get good at forgiving there is so much room for growth. My mother in law once said to me, "I hope to get sweeter with each passing year." I hope this is true for me too.

If I own my stuff and truly work on it, each year I should be a better wife. I should be more patient, kind and forgiving. I want to be that person but I wont get there if I am stuck in the moment. I need to take a step back and say I want to win the relationship not the argument. I want to be a silly old couple in love but I wont get there unless I am willing to look at myself and take ownership.



Today look at yourself. Quick blaming your spouse. What can you do to improve your marriage? Win the relationship not the argument. Be that silly old couple someday that inspires people.
We can do this.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Key to Being Happy

Life is full of irony and the key to happiness is one of those things. I will give it to you straight. To be happy you must not try to be happy all the time. Happiness, success and beauty cannot be your goal. If those things are your number one priority you will not find happiness for very long.  The pursuit of happiness in that way leads to emptiness.

As a counselor you get the privilege of hearing people's stories. Over the years my case load has including people making six figure salaries and homeless people with literally no income at all. Their success or the number in their bank account did not always reflect their happiness. One man quoted King Louie from the Jungle Book.

 "I made it to the top and had to stop and that's what's bothering me."  


He said "I thought once I was successful enough I would be happy. Now I made it to the top and I feel just as empty as when I started."

On the flip side one of my homeless clients came to every session with joy and enthusiasm for life. He would tell stories of how he had helped people and how great he felt about the people in his life. One session he shared how blessed he felt because he got two meals instead of one on that particular day.

So why did my six figure client feel empty and my homeless client carry joy with him?  It had to do with their goals. My six figure client thought the key to happiness in life was in status and things. He sacrificed relationships to get to the top as fast as he could. My homeless client pursued relationships and meaning.

My homeless client said one session, "As long as I have people I love and love me back in my life, and I feel like I have a positive impact on the world there is no circumstance that can get me down."


Johnny Cash did a cover of Nine Inch Nail's song "Hurt" with that same basic message near the end of his life.
One of the lines in the song is:
"You could have it all. My empire of dirt."

He would give all his wealth away. It meant so little to him because of the emptiness he felt. The song talks of regret for not doing relationships well and how the wealth means nothing. It's a pile of dirt to him. There is a void because success without relationships and impact means nothing in the end.

When people age and are near their death bed it is natural to look back on your life and evaluate if you lived a good life. People tend to ask themselves questions like:
1. Did I make the world a better place?
2. Was I good to my family?
3. Did I love well?
I imagine this is exactly why Johnny Cash covered that song. He asked himself those questions and didn't like his answers. People who can answer these questions with a strong yes feel satisfied and fulfilled. People who answers those questions with a no feel a deep void and emptiness.

So you want to be happy? Follow these directions:
1. Find a way to make the world a better place every day. Even if that is something small like making some one smile or cleaning up some trash in the park.
2. Be a good friend. Respect people. Be trustworthy. Make relationships a priority and NEVER betray them. In the end relationships matter more than anything else. Never take them for granted.

Remember some times to be happy we have to do hard things. We have to not be selfish at times and put others first. This is the simplistic yet powerful answer to happiness.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What to Tell Your Children About Tragedy

On May 3rd a man who must have been harboring a great deal of pain himself shot and killed four people (including himself) and wounded one. Included in the people he shot was a father, an 11 year old daughter, a single man, and a mother. These people were innocent just enjoying a walk as on a beautiful bridge that goes over the water. How do you possibly explain this to your children? Do you hide it from them so they don't develop anxiety from it?



Fortunately there was a lot we can focus on in this situation that can be inspiring. There is a lot our kids can learn from this situation.

1. There is a lot of pain in the world. That is why it is soooo important to be kind to all people. You never know what you are preventing in an act of kindness. Hurt people, hurt people. Teach your kids to look for little ways to spread kindness.

2. Kids can be super heroes too. The 5 and 7 year old kids who's parents and sister were shot did not crumble and refuse to function. They bravely got off the bridge and helped others too. Teach your child what to do in a crisis, where to go for help, and what to avoid. If you explain it in the context of being a super hero it will be less scary for younger children. Most kids get the idea of good guys and bad guys so teaching how to respond if a bad guy is around can reduce their anxiety.

3. Even though there are bad guys in the world there a lot of good guys. In response to this horrific event thousands of people have donated money, gone to prayer vigils, and offered help to the families. Horrific events often times brings communities together.

4. Life is fragile and we need to remember to appreciate every moment. Life is not about stuff. It's about relationships. Make sure the people in your life are a priority. Make sure they know how much you care about them.

5. Forgive no matter how horrible it was. The dad who died asked his family to forgive the shooter as his last words because he knew not forgiving could only hurt his family. Forgiveness doesn't mean you think what happened was ok. It just means you are not going to hold that anger in your heart and wish bad things on someone.


Monday, February 2, 2015

What We Can Learn From a Homeless Man


Many people are quick to judge when they see homelessness.

"He's just lazy."

"She must be a drug addict."

"They are just mooching off of the government and everyone else."

The church I attend puts a lot of effort into homeless outreach. The goal of the ministry is simply to earn the privilege of hearing people's stories. We are discouraged from preaching, judging or anything else that would push people away. Through this ministry I got to know a guy named Greg. Greg came with a recognizable smell, dirty clothes, and shaggy hair. If I am honest, I would have would have been intimidated by his appearance and avoided him in previous years.

Lucky for me I didn't avoid him this time. I got to know Greg. I got to know his story. Greg had experienced more than his fair share of pain, rejection, and plain bad luck. Greg wasn't perfect but the thing about him was he seemed to understand something most of the world cannot seem to grasp.

Greg had contagious joy.

Greg had every excuse in the book to not have joy. Greg suffered from serious health conditions. He had seizures that would spontaneously come on and cause serious injuries. He couldn't be employed because of the frequency of this but it took him a long time to get on disability. While he waited he was homeless. He didn't have family in the area so he lived on the streets or in shelters.

Greg needed to walk with a walker and experienced debilitating pain. Yet he got connected at the Mission Church. He said that people there respected him and made him feel like he mattered. Because of this Greg would walk in pain with his walker across town to attend our church.

We were lucky he did.

When Greg finally got on disability he was able to get an apartment. It was run down. There were stains and it had a smell almost as strong as Greg's but he was ELATED!!!! He had nothing. His belongings fit into a back pack but now he had an apartment. When it rained he was going to stay dry. When it was freezing he could stay inside. Did he have a couch or a bed or a TV? No. Greg felt like the luckiest man alive.

Years went by and Greg accumulated a few more things. He felt very fancy with his stained, run down chair. He invited people over all the time because he felt like he had soo much to share. He felt like he had so much wealth.

Greg passed away this weekend due to his health conditions. I will truly miss this man. I couldn't help but smile or laugh when I was with him. He loved authentically. He knew how to appreciate life and not compare himself to others. He considered himself blessed.

His way of looking at life often convicted me. He got it. It wasn't about stuff. When will we get this!!! Stuff doesn't make us happy. If you struggle with depression stuff cannot fix that! Greg had joy and to US standards he had nothing and the nothing that he had most people would consider smelly junk.

I hope that in his death people can learn from him. I hope I can learn from him. This is a lesson I too quickly forget. It's all about perspective. He didn't have health. He didn't have money but he had relationships. Therefore in his mind, he had everything.

Joy cannot be found in stuff.

R.I.P. Greg.