Category Archives: Mental Health
Over the past few months, there’s an idea I’ve been trying to articulate. It’s the idea of “becoming Real” — that, somehow, embracing “who we really are” is critical to being happy and healthy, and that it is God’s love that facilitates this. I’ve written about it in one form or another here, here, here, and here.
I finally got some clarity on it a week or so ago. During my 12-hour drive to our new city, I listened to portions of a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Oddly enough, it’s a book about masculinity (why I’m reading it is a long but unrelated story), but there is a section that resonated with me as profoundly universal for both men and women.
The concept is basically this…
In a few days, my family is moving from a small town in northern Idaho to a much larger city in the western United States.
It’s hard to believe that we have to move on, yet there’s a sort of completeness that fills me as I think about it. I have no doubt that it’s time for the next phase of our lives…and that we’re ready for whatever comes our way — thanks, in large part, to the preparation of this phase.
And my, what a phase it’s been! My husband was in graduate school for Acting. I think I was in graduate school for life. I’ve learned seriously important lessons over the past 4 years. And since new beginnings are always a time to reflect, I thought I’d share some of them here…
1. The only way out is through.
2. All I’ll ever have is a small glimpse into what is eternally True.
3. God is good.
4. Love means honoring people’s freedom…then giving them all kinds grace when they use it to screw things up. MOST IMPORTANT PART: this goes for me, too.
5. From our greatest trials spring our greatest blessings.
6. It is more important to be authentic than liked. Of course, with few exceptions, it is possible to be both.
7. Wherever I am today is because I chose it.
8. At least 35% of the Avett Brothers’ songs should be canonized as scripture. Case in point:
9. The Kingdom of God is within.
10. I married the right dude. Just look at him.
11. The church is as true as the gospel. Especially because of its flaws.
12. God’s love brings freedom to live from what’s real.
The past few weeks have been some of the most transformative I’ve ever had in my recovery from OCD. They haven’t been particularly easy weeks, but of course I never expected this journey to be easy. I want to share some insights I gained from a massive breakthrough I experienced recently, in case others who struggle with OCD might find them useful. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling this might also be of value to folks who are perfectionistic or have a tendency to worry. But because I am speaking from my experience with OCD, I’ll address OCD directly.
(Disclaimer: I am NOT a counselor and this is NOT scientific. This is just an analogy that has helped me lately. If you’re an OCD sufferer and it’s useful to you, wonderful; if not, please ignore me and listen to your therapist instead.) 🙂
In my last post, I introduced an idea that is fundamental to the way I make sense of this world: a perspective of radical freedom and radical grace.
Today, I want to explore another implication of this approach: the value of weakness.
In our fast-paced, modern world — and, let’s face it, our self-reliant Mormon culture — there is a sense that weakness and vulnerability are signs of inferiority. That when we struggle, it is because we are doing something “wrong”; or, perhaps, not doing enough things “right.”
And sure enough, with the radical freedom we possess, we create much of our own misery with our choices. That’s part of the purpose of this life, after all; to learn by our experience to determine good from evil.
But not all struggle is “choice”-related. Some of it is the inherent frailty of the flesh. We might say that Nature is as Radically Free as we are, and that it evolves all kinds of problems, such as illness, appetite, brutality, and disaster. For all its stunning beauty, the natural world is also viciously cruel: we have no power against a tsunami, for example. We are polarized beings in a polarized world, with sparks of divinity competing against base, fleshly instincts and natural processes that can destroy us in an instant.
Of course, we would not be free otherwise. Without both extremes, it would be like living in the Truman Show or the Hunger Games, with everything, even the weather, perfectly controlled. There are some who view God this way, as Master Game Maker, but not me. I believe that uncertainty, disease, and corruption are the price we pay for freedom. And that it’s worth it.
The question is what we do with it.
This is the 100th post on my blog! Celebration time!!!!! 🙂
Since it’s my hundredth post, and it’s coming up on the New Year, I thought it might be a nice opportunity for reflection. So I went through some of the old posts I’d written. WOW. What a transformative few years it’s been since I started writing my blog in June 2008.
In some ways, it’s painful to read. In other ways, it’s miraculous. I read between the lines and remember what this journey has been. In particular, it’s striking to revisit the agonizing confusion that came with my fight against OCD, especially before I knew I had OCD (I wasn’t diagnosed until December 2010, but I have been battling it my whole life). I see it in every post, every question. And yet, I would not change any of it. OCD has been my life’s greatest trial; but as is often the case with great trials, it has also provided many of my greatest gifts.
Today, I’d like to share some of the gifts OCD has given me — graces I would not have received were it not for my day-to-day struggle to live a rich, meaningful life despite my disorder. I write this for the benefit of others struggling with difficult trials of every variety (including myself!), but with a special place in my heart for those facing mental illness. I hope this will be a reminder that there is meaning in our battle, that God can create tremendous beauty from even the deepest despair, that there is hope for all of us.
Since I only have 31 days left in my youth, I figured I better make the most of it (okay, technically it’s 29 days as of today, but when I began this challenge two days ago, it was 31 days). So, I am doing one youthful and/or adventurous thing per day as a countdown to my 30th birthday in mid-September. I’m not going to make this a major blog project or anything, but enough people have asked me about it that I thought I’d post quick updates here so folks who are interested can follow along!
This will be the only page about it; I’ll just edit it every couple of days. So save the link and check back in at your leisure!
Also, even if you’re still a young pup or have already crossed over to the other side, feel free to play along! You’re only as old as you feel, so post fun and/or adventurous things you’ve done in the comments section! 🙂 And, of course, I’m accepting ideas, so feel free to send suggestions…
My last post was about doubt, something with which I am intimately acquainted due to my lifelong battle with OCD (often called the “doubting disease”). Obviously, chronic doubt, like the kind associated with OCD, can have a profound impact on one’s spiritual life — so I wrote the post in an attempt to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned in my quest to cultivate faith anyway. I hope it can be a source of help and strength not just for OCD sufferers, but people who struggle with doubt in any way (which, let’s face it, is all of us).
It occurred to me this morning, though, that spirituality isn’t the only thing impacted by OCD. It has also has a major effect on emotional health. So today, I wanted to share some of the strategies I’ve learned about being emotionally healthy, despite managing a mental illness. I haven’t always been great at these — and, in fact, am still mastering most of them — but they are useful principles that I work on daily.
For RMA, who doubts everything (just like me)
I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting today that I wanted to share here: Choosing Faith in the Face of Doubt.
I’ve got a really scratchy audio recording, which has a few seconds of children fussing and crying at the very beginning (and, of course, throughout — it wouldn’t be a Mormon Sacrament Meeting otherwise!). 🙂
If you can’t stand the bad audio, I also created a PDF version you can download here: Choosing Faith in the Face of Doubt.
The full text is copied and pasted below…
My good friend Laura has a wonderful blog called Depressed but Not Unhappy where she discusses depression and mental health issues within an LDS context. I recently did an interview with her about my own experiences as an OCD sufferer, and thought I would pass the links along to my readers.
(If you are struggling with OCD, please see my books recommendations page for 5 books that helped transform my life and made a dramatic impact on my ability to successfully manage my OCD. If you need someone to talk to, you are welcome to private message me on Facebook or email me at katie_in_logan [at] yahoo [dot] com).
I wonder if, at the center of a woman’s unhappiness, there isn’t an insatiable Want: to be accepted, to be known, to be loved.
In fairness, I don’t think this is exclusively a “woman” problem. I’m certain men experience similar longings. More likely, this is a human problem — perhaps among the most fundamental of our uniquely human urges. But I’ve never been a man, so I can only speak to my experience as a woman; and from what I’ve observed both in my own life and in my interaction with other women, it seems to be a core component of our collective discontent.
We seek to fill the Want in a variety of ways: relationships, hobbies, careers, motherhood, sex, power, chemicals, causes, shopping, interpersonal drama, food, entertainment.
Depending on the fill, it might work for a while — some more convincingly than others. The stomach-tingling excitement of new romance has filled me for weeks, even months. A good conversation for a day. A Jack-in-the-Box chocolate shake for a solid half-hour.
Eventually, though, the satiation fades and the Want returns — often much stronger than before.