The First Thought is the Weakest

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2014 by chrissiehodges

I was browsing facebook today and as usual, all I was seeing were pictures of how great everyone’s lives seem, inspirational quotes, and rants against the government, and then I came across one specific quote that made me stop my down cursor.

It was something reposted via reposted via reposted from some site I had never heard of, but the quote read something along the lines of ‘Negative thoughts can be easily defeated by recognizing when they first pop into your mind…the first thoughts are always the weakest.’ I wanted to like it for what it was originally intending—to combat negative thoughts—but for those of us who suffer with OCD, we understand the ‘bad thoughts’ as something entirely different than the average individual and their daily struggle to ‘be more positive’.

I thought about the depth of that comment as it relates to spikes and trigger’s associated with my form of OCD. Matty Myles, the OCD Specialist that I work as an ERP coach for always talks about OCD as being a ‘bully’. The bully taunts you all day long and as long as you are aware that you are being hit with irrational and ridiculous taunts, it is easy to not get hooked. Unfortunately, OCD is so intelligently warped (which I like to attibute to how intelligent I am, since it IS my brain!!) that its taunts get dirtier and nastier until you are appalled by your own twisted thoughts and the initial taunt (which is usually in the form of a ‘what if’ question) finally stops you dead in your tracks.

What if the vision of me putting on the gas at a slowed intersection REALLY means that I want to hurt all of those pedestrians and the stopped cars?

OF COURSE the answer is NO, but all of a sudden I can feel a tingling sensation in my lower leg and into my foot…does that mean I could accidently lose control of one of my limbs?

Oops…I think I may have just gotten hooked into the cycle!

WHY is it that I was able to laugh at and stave off the thoughts of worrying that I wanted to scream out obscenities in the coffee meeting I had with a colleague earlier—some of the foulest names and slurs I could think of—but all of a sudden NOW I cannot let go of this worry that I take pleasure in wanting to slaugter innocent bystanders???

Because I gave it a second thought.

I get bombarded with thoughts every single day that can potentially get hooked. Usually they are violent or sexual or both. I don’t bother to worry WHY I have these thoughts…I already know the answer to that. I HAVE OCD! What I do bother to do is to recognize that they are meant to trigger me. They are the bully in my mind waiting silently and patiently all day, everyday looking for the moment when I am tired…when I am stressed…when I am vulnerable…to pounce on me and continue the dance that makes him rejoice. So, I take very seriously the one-up I have on the bully. I already know they are going to happen and I usually KNOW they are going to happen at inopportune times. I know walking into an important meeting that I am going to have thoughts about screaming out obscenities, interrupting people with rambling thoughts unrelated to the topic, or sexually grabbing someone beside me. I wait for them to happen and the bully sulks and pouts when I giggle as they come through my mind at their absurdity and at my ability to control them.

Lee Baer who wrote ‘The Imp of the Mind’ gave a talk at the International OCD Foundation Annual Conference in LA last weekend and I was lucky enough to attend. He said in his talk that the more times that we perform compulsions…the more times that we go back to ‘make sure’ or ‘prove or disprove’ something, the less sure we will be….the weaker we become in the face of that fear. In logical world, this does NOT make sense….but our minds exist in OCD world. The faster we can recognize that our type of ‘logic’ is driven by a bully in our mind when it comes to irrational thinking, the faster we will be able to recognize when the bully is tempting us and never give it’s taunts a second glance.

The difference between individuals who have OCD and individuals who just have quirky obsessions or habits is that people with OCD RECOGNIZE that their obsessions are irrational and they do NOT take pleasure in the ritualistic behavior that accompanies the obsession.

We have OCD. There is no cure for OCD. But what we do have is therapy that works (ERP), medications that aid in our depression and anxiety, and we have the ability to educate ourselves. Never forget that the bully will taunt you all day and everyday until he gets you to give his fears a second glance. The first question—the first doubt is the weakest—once you give in, the power starts to slip out of your hand and the fear becomes stronger with each compulsion.

Learn the voice of the bully. Learn the reaction you have to the bully. Learn the absurdities of the taunts. Learn the irrationality of the thoughts. And learn how to NEVER give them a second thought.

Thank you for taking the time to read and good luck in your fight against OCD

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker, CBT/ERP Coach, Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio, Mental Health Peer Consulting, OCD: Outreach Community in Denver

The Pure O’s Secondary Shame

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2014 by chrissiehodges

When I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I was shocked, relieved, and pissed off all at once.

Shocked because I could not believe that I had a diagnosable and treatable disorder.

Relieved because it explained what I had been suffering with for years and confirmed that I was actually not the ‘evil’ person that I believed could think such horrible thoughts.

Pissed off because what the hell did I do to deserve this and how am I suppose to go back out into the world and act normal now that I know?

Those seemed like rational reactions at the time and for many years to come they seemed pretty justifiable. However, nothing prepared me for the double dose of shame and embarrassment that I have experienced through the years as a result of having Pure O/Intrusive thoughts.

The shame of the obsessive thoughts has always been there even before the diagnosis. When you have Pure O, you usually feel like ANY other obsession would be better than the one that you actually have. Mainly, because you subconciously believe that the obsession is a reflection of you, your character, and that there could perhaps be some potential truth behind it. If there wasn’t some sort of truth, then why would I worry about it? Annnnnd, that’s where the cycle can start all over again.

I’m going to put it to you plain—doing my best not to be reassuring if that’s what you are looking for:

Pure O obsessions have NOTHING to do with who you are as an individual. If you could control it, it wouldn’t have become an obsession in the first place. It isn’t some deep, dark, unexplained secret you have always had that finally manifested in the form of anxiety…it is the thought that got stuck among the many MANY weird and random thoughts that every single person on the planet experiences.

So, you believe me…but you still feel shame, right?

Of course you do! If you didn’t feel something, it wouldn’t be an OCD obsession. This is the vicious and debilitating cycle. Don’t I wish I could just have an irrational fear of spiders sometimes—at least my CHARACTER wouldn’t be called into question!
Here’s one for you—-if you DIDN’T feel shame, embarrassment, or guilt (etc) surrounding your Pure O intrusive thought, then chances are it would NOT be OCD related and would have virtually no anxiety about thinking it. So, in a twisted way–the feelings you hate to have are the same feelings that can alert us that we are, in fact experiencing OCD.

But, then there is the secondary shame. In my career and advocacy, I am very open about my obsessions. It took many years to be able to say them out loud without crying or waiting for some horrendous reaction from the listener afterward (which NEVER happened). But, one of the things that I have noticed since then is that while I do not have shame anymore about having OCD and the suicide attempt and living with a mental illness, I have started to feel the need to apologize to others and explain in detail why I have the obsession so they won’t have an opportunity to doubt that I have OCD and/or think that I am just ‘lying to myself’.

Once I noticed I was doing this—and doing this often—I realized I needed to figure out where this need was coming from. I quickly discovered it was the secondary shame of trying to predict and control what others will think of me and my OCD. I am STILL trying to get others approval and acceptance before I drop the bomb on them about my disorder–I am just doing it sans tears now.

I needed to figure this out because what happens is that this is the OCD Demon’s manipulative way of throwing me back into the cycle of the dreaded ‘What if’s.

What if people don’t believe I have OCD and they just think I am perverted or confused or a bad person?
What if they walk away from me and laugh at how screwed up I am?
What if I lose my credibility as a speaker/radio host because people don’t understand OCD and think I am just lying?

Sound familiar?

So, what can we do about this?
Well, I hate to say this because it is OCD individual nightmare to accept this…but we have to give up the control. ERP teaches us to take the risk and live with the uncertainty with ourselves. This is what we have to do when we encounter the shame associated with our Pure O thoughts.
Maybe others will think I want to be a murderer…
Maybe others will think I may turn into a pedophile…
Maybe others will think I’m secretly in the closet…
Maybe others will think I want to commit incest….
Maybe others will think that I like beastiality…
Maybe others will think that I worship Satan…

What if people think these things about us if and when they find out what our obsessions are? Then they do and there is not much you can do about it. There is no point in ruminating over whether or not you can be convincing enough to reassure someone else! We have enough on our plate trying to manage our own thoughts…let’s not waste any time trying to manage what other people may think about them!

Treat this secondary shame the same way you deal with the shame associated with your own obsessions as a result of Pure O. I have to take the risk that others may judge me and even reject me if they find out and live with the uncertainty that they may not believe me. It can be JUST as scary as facing your own obsessions, but it is JUST as liberating when you learn to disassociate from the shame and guilt.

I have rarely encountered anyone who when they have found out about my obsessions, they actually question whether or not I ‘really’ feel like that. Just like the shame associated with my personal Pure O obsessions, I am only reacting to the anxiety of the unknown…and I quickly learn that the unknown is never as bad as my OCD mind expects it to be.

Understand why the shame is there, embrace it as a side effect, let it go, and move forward. You are not alone.

Stay diligent in your treatment and recovery, friends.

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate/Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio

To CBT or not to CBT: Is that the question?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2013 by chrissiehodges

When I decided to go through with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for my diagnosis of Pure O/OCD, I truly believed that there was no other hope. If this did not work, I would be doomed to live a life bordering on staving off the urge to commit suicide more frequently than I would like to admit. Fortunately, the stars aligned for me when I was seeking out therapy for OCD rather than relying on medication every day.

WAY back in the day—1998, there was definitely not as much information on the internet as there is today, and in fact I had to search for days and days to find qualified OCD specialists and websites that could even explain what CBT was!? I had no idea how important ‘key words’ were then!! However, one day in my awkwardly worded web searches, an article popped up called ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, (http://www.ocdonline.com/articlephillipson1.php) and I literally screamed out loud as I read it as everyone in the library computer lab gave me evil looks and shushed me from all directions. I couldn’t get enough…I scoured Dr. Phillipson’s website soaking up every single word thinking I had FINALLY found someone that GETS ME!!!!!  I knew then I had to contact this man and no matter what the cost financially or emotionally, it was imperative that I become one of his success stories.

And shortly thereafter, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Dr. Steven Phillipson ensued.

15 years after that therapy, I still use the techniques instilled in me to manage my obsessive thoughts as they arise. I am still so grateful that I took the leap, that I held on to hope, and that I threw myself into the therapy 100% with my full trust in a Doctor who my blind faith in him completely paid off. I owe my life to that man.

I am absolutely a CBT success story. Of course, I am not cured of OCD, but I live a relatively normal life and manage all of my obsessive thoughts and have control over my life whereas at one point in my life, OCD was almost responsible for my death at my own hands. But, just because I feel confident in my experience with CBT does not mean I did not have the SAME doubts and fears that you have or will have if you decide to go through with it. Here were a few of my fears during CBT:

1. Even though Dr. Phillipson has helped many people with the same OCD spike that I have, I believe I am different and he won’t be able to help me;

—-Dr. Phillipson was completely prepared for this fear and in fact, he said that almost everyone he treated had the same fear! While hearing that I was not the only one did not make the fear dissipate, it did confirm that I could trust my therapist and have more confidence that he knows people who have OCD inside and out.

2. What if I go through with the therapy and it doesn’t work? I am afraid that will mean that I do not have OCD and that my obsessions are real!!?

—-As part of CBT, Dr. Phillipson was aware of this fear because I repeated it to him very many times, but he was careful not to reassure me—he needed me to realize that there are always ‘possibilities’ that we can never prove or disprove. Again, I had to just trust him and know that he would probably not treat me if he truly did not believe that I had OCD. Since then, I have learned that MANY people experience this fear as a secondary fear to their OCD. When I am involved in an OCD cycle, this is hard for me to grasp and understand, but it is true and you can take comfort in knowing that professionals are qualified to diagnose you with OCD—-even though OCD may FEEL real, it is NOT real.

3. Dr. Phillipson let me know that the therapy will not make the thoughts go away, but that it will help me to not react. THIS TERRIFIED ME! WHY AM I PAYING MONEY IF THE THOUGHTS AREN’T GOING TO GO AWAY!?!?!??!?!

—-This was the most difficult fear to deal with. Up to this point when I was not on meds, I could not imagine my life without the fear and all of the ruminating and anxiety that went along with it? I WANTED the therapy to make the thoughts GO AWAY! Well, it is hard for us who suffer with OCD to understand this because we are conditioned by our brain to fear the thoughts. The TRUTH is that we have bizarre thoughts all of the time but because they are not accompanied by the anxiety, we do not perceive them as a threat. CBT is designed to transform the obsessions into those petty everyday thoughts that are not charged by our reaction. Once I got through 3-4 exercises and realized that the point was to eliminate the ANXIETY rather than the THOUGHT itself, I began to understand the concept.

Every person’s experience is different with OCD and treatment involves so many different factors. But here is my advice if you are thinking about CBT:

1. Find the right therapist for you: Not every method works for everyone. Dr Phillipson was VERY matter of fact and had little emotional connection to the therapy. This worked for me because I needed someone to take control and not give me any options. It was that tough-love attitude that made me want to succeed. MAKE SURE when you seek out a therapist for OCD that the therapist performs CBT and ERP—otherwise they may not be adept in treating patients with OCD. Interview several OCD Specialists and make sure they are the right fit for you in order to set you up for success.

2. When you begin CBT, GO FOR IT 100%! CBT will work wonders for you if you dive into it head first. You HAVE to be willing to be uncomfortable—to endure the pain—to take every risk possible knowing that the outcome will be beneficial. Many people find tremendous success with CBT when they get to a point that is almost rock bottom…I knew the only thing I had to lose was my life so I thought that I had no other choice. CBT IS NOT FUN AT ALL, BUT IT WORKS IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DO THE HARD WORK!!!!!!!

3. When you find the right therapist and are ready to give 100%, HAVE FAITH IN THE PROCESS!! I know, I know this sounds way easier than it is…but hang on like hell to hope! Research success and graduate stories that are just like your obsession…read books of OCD success stories…reach out to other people who have gone through the treatment and find a mentor. But, most importantly, TRUST IN YOUR THERAPIST! OCD Specialists WANT you to get better…they want you to succeed. Give them 100% and hang on to faith that You will be a success story.

There are many different treatments for OCD….but in my experience and in many other success stories involving OCD, the answer to ‘To CBT or not to CBT’ is

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOES WORK!!!!!!!

Thank you for taking the time to read. Here are some links that may be helpful:

ocdonline.com, theotherocd.com, effectiveocdtreatment.com

Have a fantastic day

Chrissie Hodges

Public Speaker/Mental Health Advocate

Radio Host: ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’

I have a mental illness?…now what?

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2013 by chrissiehodges

I guess I thought that I was the only one. Or perhaps, I just thought that I was weak or angry. What kind of person takes over a decade to come to terms with a diagnosis of mental illness? An immature, stupid, and incompetent person does…or at least that is how I have thought about myself over all of these years.

It has been over 16 years since my diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That day was probably the first day in 20 years I understood what it was like to have ‘hope’. I guess in my naivety, I thought a diagnosis would sweep away the 12 years prior of pain, suffering, and built up angst of living in a mind I had no control over…but unfortunately, that was the beginning of an uphill battle of struggle with self-acceptance in an attempt to love the monster inside of me.

In a few of my interviews on my radio show, ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’ lately I have encountered an inevitable truth that my ears and my heart have finally become open to accept. Both David, who has suffered with bipolar disorder and George who struggled very many years with addiction talked with me at length about the difficulty of ‘accepting’ the fact that they had been powerless to the illness during several points in their life. They also revealed that coming to terms with knowing this was not an easy and pleasant experience either. David revealed something that struck me to the core—he struggled for many years trying to understand and separate himself from the illness. ‘Where does David end and bipolar begin?’, was a question he wrestled with for a long time.

This was also reinforced to me recently by my dad’s diagnosis of diabetes. When I heard that he had diabetes, I thought to myself, ‘well, he will be fine—he just needs to adjust his diet and amp up his exercise regimen…no big deal’. But, I noticed for several weeks when I would talk to him, he just seemed very down and struggling with the diagnosis. He was forced to change everything that was ‘normal’ to him and he had no power over it. Even though he knew that by taking more control over factors in his life, he would eventually normalize, I began to see that the diagnosis itself can create the feeling of doom…of powerless fear…of the reality that we really are not ever in complete control. My dad took quite some time to cope with the diagnosis and needed to go through the appropriate emotions to come to terms with it. After months, he began to readjust and created different and better habits and he is seeing the diabetes becoming less of an issue and a burden.

Slowly over the last year in sharing my story with others and being someone others can share their story with, I am beginning to accept and forgive myself for taking so long to come to terms with having a mental illness. Almost as equivalent to not knowing that I was sick for so many years in my thought patterns, I was completely unaware that I was grieving over the idea that I now had a label.  Not to mention, THAT label is less than desirable in the eyes of the public.

It feels validating to know that each of us responds change and each of us is entitled to take as long as we need in order to come to terms and cope. I find comfort that each of us are not alone in working through the emotional responses when we get that inevitable glimpse into the truth that control is an illusion.

It took me every single moment of 15 years to understand that I am Chrissie and I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I do not define it and it does not define me. It is part of who I have become and I am part of what makes OCD real and an authentic disorder.

None of us are immune to change. When you find yourself facing an uphill battle where self-acceptance is sitting at the pinnacle so very far away, remember to face the journey knowing steadfast that you will summit. And however long the climb feels, every single step is important because there are no short cuts to self love.

Happy journeys my friends.

I never thought I was crazy?

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 by chrissiehodges

I am giving a presentation tomorrow on the stigma of mental illness and while contemplating the format and content, I keep coming back to something that has been on my mind for several weeks.

How do people not KNOW that they are mentally ill?

In my own personal experience, this is easy to understand. I was eight…I had weird thoughts and even weirder bodily reactions and everything in my being told me to just stay quiet, deal with it alone, and take it day by day. I always thought that everyone just had these odd feelings and no one ever talked about them? As I progressed in age and in obsessive intensity…I began to suspect that I was either a. different from everyone else or b. weaker than everyone else because I could not control the thoughts. Believe me when I say that it NEVER crossed my mind—EVER–that I was mentally ill.

This has been on my mind because of my last two guests on my radio show, The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio. Scott Schneider talked about his obsession of worrying he would become a murderer and while he knew his thoughts were irrational and the chance of them being true were virtually none, he did not even think that it had anything to do with mental illness. When he asked his parents about it, it did not cross THEIR mind that it may be mental illness. Perhaps it is just stress from moving and going to college, he said they justified it as.

My guest Kathy Bacon last week talked about her daughter and some of the struggles she had as a parent watching her daughter’s bizarre compulsions, her spiraling down, and her erratic behavior and it did not even cross her mind to think that there is help available because it could be a mental illness. Perhaps, it is just hormonal or just a phase, she thought. I asked Kathy if she thought her daughter knew and she believes that she did not know either.

This scares me. It scares me because it overwhelms me. Even as someone who did not think I had a mental illness, it makes me feel scared for all of the people out there right this moment by themselves….terrified…ashamed…suicidal.

How do we get to them? How do we spread awareness quick enough that we can reach people before they hit the bottom like I did, like Scott did, like Kathy’s daughter did before they get a diagnosis?

The answer is unknown. But I know I am trying. I hope that you will try too. I hope that even in trying to wrap your brain around the idea that someone could just ‘not know’, and not able to comprehend it conceptually—that you will trust me…trust Scott…trust Kathy that it is real and it is scary.

I will start tomorrow by asking my audience to do a few things for me:

PLEASE BELIEVE that mental illness is real

PLEASE BELIEVE when a person is mentally ill that what they are telling you exist in their mind as the truth

PLEASE BELIEVE there is help for everyone and that the more awareness we spread the quicker we can help

PLEASE BELIEVE that YOU can make a difference by believing, being empathetic, and compassionate.

Mental illness affects 1 out of 5 people. You have the potential to change someone’s life because you know many people who suffer.

Please support not only people like Scott, Kathy, and myself that are advocating for mental health awareness, but our country as we embark on a movement to join together and abolish the stigma of mental illness.

Thank you and have a fantastic week,

Chrissie

The Stigma of Suicide

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2013 by chrissiehodges

I have written about suicide before in my blog because it is necessary for all of us to take a serious look at suicide and what we are NOT doing as a society. I would not ever speak for ALL suicide victims or those that attempt, but it has been reported that an estimated 90% of suicide victims suffered with a mental illness. I know what that feels like and exactly how torturous it feels to think that death is the only relief in sight.

Suicide is still a taboo topic even though the statistics of suicide victims and attempts are staggering all over the world. How can we ignore what is going on? How can we pretend this is not something that does not affect every single one of us in some way? Inevitably, when I discuss suicide in presentations or when talking about my journey with a brain disorder, I almost always have someone say that they have known someone who has committed suicide or they are close with someone who has lost someone to suicide. In contrast, I will also encounter people in presentations as well that as soon as the word ‘suicide’ is mentioned they look uncomfortable, antsy, and become visibly detached from the message. WHY?

I discussed a few different talking points during the show that I believe keeps suicide tucked way back into the dark, awkward, and misunderstood corner that keep most people safe from having to think about it or face the severity, thus keeping it stigmatized.

One of the most amusing beliefs about suicide victims and those that attempt is, ‘those people are just lazy and weak and cannot handle what life has given them’.  When I hear people say this, I always laugh. Clearly, when someone is obtuse enough to say this, they could not possibly grasp what it is like when life throws you a mental illness.  When individuals that suffer from mental illness are unaware of why it is they are unable to control their thoughts, it is like being trapped in prison inside your own mind. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment, there is NO relief from suffering. How do you think it would feel for you to suffer a heart attack and not be able to get a diagnosis or treatment for an extended amount of time? This is what it is like for undiagnosed individuals…AND they have to function in society like everything is perfectly fine. Anyone who would have the audacity to call someone ‘weak’ or ‘lazy’ for getting to a place in their life where death seemed like the only relief is nothing less than an arrogant and misinformed jackass.

The second stigma that is often associated with those who attempt or commit suicide is that they are ‘selfish’ individuals. Again, I cannot speak for anyone except myself and I would like to believe I represent most individuals that suffer with brain disorders. I spoke with my father about this specific ‘selfish’ stigma. He said that people could be perceived as selfish because they have given up believing the world can help them or offer them anything. I understand his point and can see that in that perspective it could be considered saying because ‘I know best and I now know no one can help me, I will take my own life’. While I absolutely understand this, coming from the perspective of a suicide attempt survivor, my intention was not coming from that of being condescending of the world but from desperation in the world. My father and I both agreed that it is unfortunate that once an individual lands at the absolute bottom and suicide is the only option, it is a low, dark, lonely place where any scouring of every corner turns up nothing but hopelessness. I would be willing to bet everything that I own that those who go through with suicide or attempt would give anything they could just to know that help is there, available, and that one day they could find hope again. For the loved ones who are left on this earth grieving the loss of someone who has committed suicide from a mental illness, I would encourage you to never believe that the victim was selfish but that in their last moments, they truly believed that the only way to find relief…the only way to not disappoint you…the only way to gain control over something that was controlling them was to control their own destiny by death. Before accusing someone of being selfish, think about how much turmoil, how trapped, and how terrified that person had to feel in order to go through with it. Empathy is a much more powerful tool than judgment.

My last point, and I have talked about this before, is the stigma that ‘People that commit suicide will go to hell’. I guess my true reaction to this is that if someone is so self-righteous to judge others to the point of thinking they know where there spirit will go after death…I would think they would be sitting right next to that suicide victim right there in hell. This has to be the most narrow-minded, archaic, sanctimonious, and ignorant statement regarding suicide anyone could ever say. Anyone who would be senseless enough to verbalize this statement is not only delusional but in no way can grasp the ability to understand empathy or compassion. There is no need to even engage in a discussion with anyone who would truly even begin to argue this point.

The amount of suicide and suicide attempts in our country and ALL around the world are creating a pandemic. The suicide rates are growing each year. If we see that up to 90% of suicides are a result of mental illness and the numbers are as high as they are—What can we do as a society to help? What can we do to stop this?

My suggestion is that we start talking about it. We STOP thinking it is a hush hush topic. Those that suffer so tremendously that they believe that death equals relief do NOT need their memories swept under the carpet because families and friends are too embarrassed to talk about it. Each of us needs to create a space within our families, amongst our friends, within our communities of understanding and openness so that sufferers can reach out for help. If people are unwilling to talk about suicide, then those that are contemplating will be fearful to reach out due to judgment, embarrassment, and shame.

Talk to your families…talk to your friends…talk to your churches and your schools! Let people know that there is HOPE—there are OPTIONS—there is TREATMENT for almost anything that someone may be dealing with. But more importantly—make it perfectly clear that your friends and families are not ALONE ever and NO problem or fear is too great that it cannot be understood and worth taking their life for.

It is our responsibility in our society to start changing the stigma—we have to talk about it before it happens! Do not tolerate the ignorant stigmas people may throw around. We can make a powerful difference in the lives of those who are suffering if we make ourselves available to listen, to love, to understand, and believe what they have to say. It is up to us!

Thank you for taking the time to read

Finding Hope

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2013 by chrissiehodges

I was excited and a bit nervous about having my sister on my radio show, ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’. Excited because I knew it would be fun banter but nervous because maybe I do not really want to know the extent of what my disorder can and could impose on other individuals. It’s easy to think about it now because I am in the neutral OCD state which means that I have not been exposed to a threat and my anxiety is at a minimum…but I am never naïve enough to think that it could not change in a second’s notice. I guess when I really think about the repercussions the burden can be on other individuals when I need their support, I can truly see that I could take advantage of the fact that I actually HAVE a support system in place.

I feel very lucky when I think about where I am now in contrast to where I was a mere 16 years ago. I barely even remember who that girl was back then…I have done my best not to remember what it was like to live every single moment in fear. When I read and talk to people who are struggling as much as I was for those 12 years leading up to wanting to die verses getting help, it puts me back into a place of feeling frantic and out of control. This is a space that people who suffer from OCD know VERY well, unfortunately. I am reminded of this even on a slight level when I am exposed to any threat which triggers an obsession—and those are common—but I often wonder what was inside of me that propelled me to seek help despite how painful the therapy was? In the midst of panic, there seems to be no hope in sight even now after therapy and on meds…but somehow I seem to always keep fighting even when I have no idea what I am fighting for.

I have had the pleasure of speaking with many specialists here in Denver who deal with brain disorders and a main thread that runs through their logic and thinking is that it is imperative for sufferers to understand that there ARE treatment options that WORK and that one must possess genuine HOPE that there are reasons to want to push past the demons in the mind. Trust me, the demons will do and say ANYTHING to keep you ensnared in your cage…but beyond the bars of entrapment are beautiful rays of healing—of rational control—of living life on YOUR terms verses what your brain tells you that you are capable of. After living in that prison for so long, it baffles me that I could see outside the darkness and that I chose to believe there really was a light at the end of that narrow tunnel.

When I learned at the age of 22 that I had a choice to live in fear of my brain disorder or dive into the deep end of the most difficult therapy I can imagine there is—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention (what seems like an OCD sufferer’s nightmare) and take the risk…I have no idea where the strength came from. I have NO idea where the confidence rose from within me to definitively decide that I CAN DO IT! Was it the athlete in me? Was it my stubbornness? Was it the love that the people around me had for my well being? I cannot answer that. But—what I can say with absolute certainty is that no matter how frightened, confused, or angry I was at the time about all that I had to deal with—I am proud of that girl. I stand today in awe of her courage. I celebrate that there is something within me that felt such a deep desire of hope that I was willing to toss a fear that had controlled each hour of every day of my life for years and year aside in order to create the life that I have now. I am forever indebted to the courage that she had 16 years ago despite how terrified she was at the time. And I do believe that when I relapse now as an adult, I recall and remember all that she faced alone and scared and it drives me to be better and to never give up.

Each and every one of us has this courage inside even at our darkest hours when it seems like there is no one else in the world that can understand what we are going through. Courage can get buried beneath fear, sadness, anger, and a plethora of other emotion…but the bottom line is that if you can find the strength to push all of that aside and hang onto any one thing that can give you hope….DO IT. Your life—your future—what you have to offer the world is WORTH it. YOU are worth it. And more importantly, you are never alone. Never alone.

I am grateful to my sister, Joy Hodges Branagan. She is my biggest supporter. I sometimes think that at the lowest points of my life that I can recall, I owe my life to her and what she has done for me just by BELIEVING that what I go through is real. It makes such a difference to know that I am worth taking the time to devote her time and energy to me when I have needed her the most.

‘The most important thing to do is find out as much as you can about the disorder. Don’t be afraid to be completely armed with knowledge—Listen to the person suffering to what they need you to do and what they do not need you to do.

BELIEVE what the person is saying. Do not in any way diminish what they say and what they are going through. You have that commitment to that person if they trust you enough to let you in…you have to be willing to do the work.’ –Joy Hodges Branagan on ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’

Much love to her and to my very special support system. You know who you are and I am forever with gratitude.

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chrissie

OCD Is Not an Adjective

Follow me on ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness Radio’ on facebook

Ocd.chrissie@yahoo.com

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