OCD is Not an Adjective

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the 26th Annual OCD Conference in Austin, Texas. If you read my first post about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you’ll know that I painfully struggled for over a decade before being correctly diagnosed two years ago with OCD. This disorder is greatly misunderstood and this isn’t helped with media’s portrayal of being “so OCD” about organizing and germs.

Throughout the weekend’s events, I met people from all walks of life and from different parts of the globe that are affected by OCD; sufferers, parents and siblings of sufferers, and the therapists and doctors that serve in that field. I met several doctors and therapists that have been extremely influential in my journey with books they’ve written or podcast/Instagram postings. The sessions covered a variety of topics with panels of both experts and sufferers that shared their experiences. Because OCD can reveal itself through many different themes (contamination, intrusive taboo thoughts, relationship, etc.), there were specific support groups scheduled for the evenings. This quickly became my favorite part because I was sitting amongst men and women of different generations and from all over the country and world that knew exactly what it was like to think with a “sticky” OCD brain. There were laughs and tears and conversations that went late into the night. Without getting too dramatic, it was beautiful.

OCD is not an adjectiveI think I have always known that there is relief and hope found when you know someone else understands a similar struggle, but that became magnified through my experience at the OCD Conference. I’ve made friends and will keep in contact between different time zones so that we will know and be reminded that we are not alone. I plan to attend each year so I can learn about new advances in treatment, ideas and encouragement on learning to live with OCD, join forces to advocate for mental health awareness, but most importantly, to gather with others that understand.

If you or someone you know struggles with intrusive thoughts and/or obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsive behaviors, inward rumination, seeking reassurance or avoidance, look further into OCD as a possibility. The International OCD Foundation’s website can give you more information and help you find the support you need.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

Well, I wondered if I’d ever step foot into blog world again after my last one stirring the political pot on Facebook. There is irony found in the connection between my last two posts: one being about my people-pleasing tendencies and then the next one about Trump that allowed me to get a bit of a verbal whoopin’ and lose some respect from people that I care about. It is the complete opposite of what I strive for (to a fault) in wanting to make sure everyone likes me. I have thought many times that I wish I’d kept my thoughts to myself on such a fiery topic, especially when I question my decision as the future president continues to tweet nonsense…However, as I reflect on it, I think it was good for me in a lot of ways. My pastor has reminded me that because of Christ, I am free. I’m free to share my opinion on things and that is true regardless of the push back I may receive. However, I still feel sad about what feels like damage that has occurred with some relationships or even acquaintances; just for giving my opinion on how we should be treating others with a different perspective or choice of vote. I feel like any walls I may have worked at tearing down from certain people that are different than me (i.e. politics, religion, sexual preferences, etc.) were built right back up and maybe even a little higher. That may not be the case, but it feels like it and feels discouraging.

One area that in which I have prided myself and sometimes maybe a little too desperately, is the fact that I tend to consistently play devil’s advocate on issues and try to remain open-minded and seeing both sides. I never, ever want to be considered close-minded to issues in our country, world, or what’s to come in eternity. I am extremely sensitive by nature and that helps me to feel deep compassion for others struggling with life. My wonderful husband is a conservative-minded guy who reads up and listens to the news consistently and I value his opinion on things because he’s done his research, but like Paula Abdul successfully coined, “opposites attract” and we don’t always agree on the issues. With other family and friends on a more liberal field, I try my best to hear their side, too and often find myself right in the middle on big issues because I can understand both sides. I think it’s great to be willing to hear different sides and I will keep doing that, but not in an effort just to win approval.

So, the lesson from all of this? It could be that one should never publicly share their opinion on politics or other hot topics and only blog about fluffy things. But, that’s lame and not brave. Here’s what I know and will type out for all of us to see as a reminder:

Be mindful of the way you react to someone else. Stop. Pray. Breathe. Then you can respond, if you still feel led. (another great tip from my pastor)

Be willing to slow down and listen to the other side. They feel just as passionate about it as you do.

So long as you are being respectful, you are FREE to share your thoughts and opinions.

Not everyone is going to like you. And they may even say ugly words. That’s OK.

When you respond inappropriately out of strong emotion or act ugly to someone, tough up and seek their forgiveness! What a beautiful example that can be.

Overall, if you know and trust in the Bigger Picture, you are FREE in Christ.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

As I soon approach my 37th birthday, I’ve begun to recognize my weaknesses a lot easier than ever before. One of those areas that I have taken for granted and now seems blaringly obvious, is my struggle in meeting and making new friends. I grew up in the same town and maintained friendships from pre-k through high school graduation! It was easy and safe (besides the usual drama of friendships growing up). I am still in contact with a handful of those wonderful girlfriends and had some as a part of my wedding party, but due to distance and busyness of life, they are no longer the “regulars”.

Even beginning college, away from home for the first time and in a whole new world, I was able to pal up with my roommate and sorority sisters fairly easily and now still call them dear friends. It was easier then. Maybe we weren’t set in our ways or too comfortable and that allowed us the bravery to reach out and connect. Maybe it’s because we weren’t as busy with marriage, housekeeping, and raising kids. My college friends, affectionately self-proclaimed  the “Fab 4”, are all doing life, too, and although they will always be my “forever friends”, they are no longer my “everyday friends” that I currently crave and miss.

Maybe it’s because I’m a creature of comfort and have always relied on my friendships and expected they’d always be a part of things, that I took them for granted. As I thought it was supposed to get easier as I age, my own insecurities actually increased as I worked through my great struggles with anxiety (shame, depression, worry, guilt) over the years. This caused me to pull away and shut down and as a result, damage connections with others. One particular friendship, my rock and BFF, very slowly changed because of my pulling away and as we changed, we did so in seemingly different directions. It happens. It’s life and I know that. But it doesn’t make it any easier and I find myself still mourning a reliable friendship that I thought would always be what it was.

So, here I am now and seeing just how tough it can be to be a big girl in adult life trying to make new friends. I’m naturally shy. I despise small talk and feel like a bumbling idiot at times. I’ve always known this, but up until recently, I did not see how it affects this task of pushing myself to meet others. I have recently been in numerous settings, i.e. baby class, school-related meetings, etc., and realized that I can do all the smiling I want (which I try to overcompensate with because I’ve always been well aware that I may come across snotty, when in fact, I’m just shy!), but that’s not going to get me engaged in conversation or moving to the next base in “mom dating”. I’m referring to a book I’m in the middle of reading called, Women are Scary, The Totally Awkward Adventures of Finding Mom Friends by Melanie Dale. It is spot on and is really what has given me a kick in the pants to recognize my need to step it up and get out of my comfort zone. My “kindred spirit” as Anne Shirley would call it, isn’t going to necessarily knock on my door and want to hang out.

Speaking of “kindred spirits”, another issue I need to address is my high expectations for what these friendships will be like. With a friend, and like I do still have with one or two of my “forever friends”, I crave ease and safety. I want a giggle partner that gets me. I want to play together fairly regularly and share common interests (or learn new ones from one another!). Am I signing myself up for the friend version of The Bachelorette? Are these realistic expectations? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m determined to kick it up a notch and try to reach out more with the other moms, my co-workers, neighbors. I can push myself to ask them questions and just practice being a good listener. That’s enough for now and if anything, it will hopefully give me just the right amount of a confidence to be brave!