Friday, February 27, 2015

Night & Day Difference - A"Before-and-After" Picture of My Mental Hygiene

I have come a long ways in learning to manage my OCD & depression. Today, my symptoms are more of a faint hum in the background of my life rather than a blaring bugle in the forefront. In this blog post, I share the assessments of others closest to me who add their two cents to describing the tremendous "Before-and-After" pictures of my mental hygiene.


Jensen family in 1989.  I am youngest boy. My OCD became clinical in 1992.
FAMILY MEMBER'S ASSESSMENTS


Aside from my own self-assessment of how far I have come, which I will elaborate on later in this chapter, it is also insightful, and perhaps even more so, to consult the viewpoints and perspectives of others who knew me best, and who were the most intimately aware of the struggle I was having with OCD. In soliciting the feedback of my parents, siblings, and siblings-in-law, I posed the following query: “How far has Jordan come in his battle with OCD—and his life in general—since first being clinically diagnosed in 1997?” With the exception of a few minor typographical corrections and formatting adjustments, I have reprinted these family responses verbatim as I received them. I have done this to maintain the integrity of each person’s full response, even though some responses strayed at times from the direct question posed, and contained a few minor factual discrepancies. Despite my penchant for factual accuracy, I have opted to allow for the occasional deviation from the precise facts in these descriptions because they are, in fact, factual representation of the way they saw it.

FROM MY MOTHER


1. When Jordan was a kid, he always seemed to be ahead of his peers socially and consequently related to adults better than he did friends his same age. This made school experience difficult, because he was surrounded mostly by his peers. Adults that knew Jordan would always exclaim to me what an amazing young man he was. More mature than most boys his age.

He displayed an uncanny ability to lead those around him. Example: Upon the discovery of the death of a Mouse, (or bird....I can't remember which), he went to great lengths to give it a proper burial and had his cousins stand and listen to scriptures he read from the Bible. They didn't question anything Jordan wanted to do or accomplish.

One day when I was doing laundry, He, his little sister Jessie and his cousin Ryan were playing in the doll house across the hallway. I heard him say, "I'll be the Dad, Jessie you be the Mother, and Ryan, you be the Dog". Immediately Ryan dropped to all fours and started barking. I couldn't believe it. If I had been Ryan, I would have said, "how come you get to be the Dad and I'm the Dog?" Kids his own age seemed to look up to him and regularly follow his council. He never saw his ability to lead others as something special or unusual......it was just who he was.

When he was older, in high school, he organized amazing, elaborate dates. Both boys and girls wanted to be invited and involved in Jordan's plans.

Perhaps the most elaborate of all was a Robin Hood date in which he and a good friend rode around on horseback and shot invitations to the girls, via arrows, that landed on their front yards. (Did I mention his dates were always elaborate?) They were of course dressed in the attire befitting Robin Hood's era and the horses were borrowed, as we did not have any horses. : )

He involved the entire Family. For example, I made the turkey feast, while his siblings were assigned specific responsibilities, all of which were crucial to his ability to orchestrate his carefully laid out plans. His brothers helped build a gigantic bonfire, which he started with a flaming arrow. Brothers, hidden in bushes and trees, video taped the entire evening, so at the end of the adventure all the girls and boys could view themselves on the television at our home.

I have shared only a small part of what was required to pull off one of his adventures.......but they were elaborate to say the least. One time he did a mission impossible date and even solicited the help of a teacher and the local police department. People rarely turned him down if he made a request. You might say Jordan had an amazing imagination which he enjoyed using and exercised it regularly.

Through all of these preparations which were painstakingly executed, he seemed to thrive on both preparation and outcome.

2. The one thing that always characterized Jordan was his absolute integrity and honesty. Often times his OCD would play havoc with these qualities. I remember when he took some national test that would determine whether or not he could skip a certain class his freshman year. (I think it was English 101 ) Anyway, he took the test. When the letter came in the mail revealing he had a glowing score and would be able to wave the freshman class, he had a hard time accepting it. His very words to me were..........."It was mostly essay and I just BS... ed my way through it, I couldn't possibility have done so well."( He has a gift with words and language.) All I could say was....."well, you must have done a remarkable job at b.s. ing" Don't fight it, you passed and that's wonderful.

3. When Jordan was passing off merit badges to earn his Eagle Scout award, his scout master told me that Jordan felt he had to do twice as much as was actually required, because he didn't feel the basic requirements were adequate enough to make him worthy of the merit badge.

4. I noted when he was around 12ish....he had an obsession with washing his hands. It was to the point that he had bandages on nearly every finger including thumbs, they were so raw.[1]

Jordan from a young age kept a little black note book. When he came across or heard a word he didn't know, he would look it up, write it in his little book and use it until it became a part of his vocabulary. He was always asking me if I knew the meaning of a certain word. It always seemed to surprise him when I did know. When I didn't I told him so.

5. Jordan was enthralled with the Civil War and about age 14, he started to write a story that took place during the Civil War. He took great pains to research details of that era so everything would be historically accurate. I've never met another child who was as tenacious in everything he encountered.

How has he grown and overcome his issues?

I believe the real key to Jordan's conquering his OCD challenges lie's in two amazing qualities. First: his great humility. Second:, his desire to be the best person he can be.

When he was a junior in high school, he wrote a paper, for some class at school, on OCD. After he had written it, he came to me and said, "Mother, I think this is me" .

That he was willing to look at himself candidly and HONESTLY was a big step. But the giant step was deciding to do something about it. When he got to college, he asked me if it would be ok if he went to see a counselor to get help. He got the help, and was eager, humble and willing to do the things presented to him [by his counselor].

At one point, the counselor prescribed medication. After a time, he decided he was doing fine and went off the medication. One of his brother's let me know he was not doing well. I'm not sure which brother, or brothers encouraged him to see that he needed to stay on the medication. The important thing was that Jordan was humble, teachable and willing to listen to those who see things more clearly than he did.

Jordan and I would talk into the wee hours of the night. He has a mastery of the English Language and is always striving to learn more. His example to me has made a major difference in my life …

He has truly taught me that "It's NOT over until it's over." Our lives are a result of our daily choices and we must learn that no one has the power to hold us back but ourselves. I do so love Jordan. He is a giant among men and will bless the lives of all he touches.

He is one of the most sensitive men I have ever known. In my opinion, this sensitivity, I believe has become a part of Jordan's every day life because he knows what it feels like to suffer and be in pain. Because of his trials and challenges, he has a tremendous desire to lift and comfort the sore distressed, the lost, and the discouraged souls around him. Having experienced some of the vicissitudes of mortality, he is more able to succor those who have had similar challenges.

FROM MY FATHER


Jordan was always an “amazer.” He simply amazed everyone who knew him. He had four older brothers, and he wanted to learn everything they knew, whether it be calculus or Korean. He was ten years ahead of his peers almost from the start.

When he was about 10 or 11 years old, I noticed that he seemed withdrawn, overly serious and worried about something. I invited him into my office and asked him if something was bothering him.

He confessed that he felt like a sinner, and that he had been praying about it, but that the problem did not go away. I asked him what it was. His reply was that he was thinking too much about girls.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face. After all, I squandered about 90% of my youth thinking about things feminine.

I explained to Jordan, that it was normal for boys to think about girls, and that there was certainly no sin about what he confessed to. I suggested that he might talk to his big brothers if he wanted further light and knowledge on the subject.

His demeanor changed overnight. He was his happy little self again.[2] I could relate a hundred other instances where Jordan did not react to things like most kids his age.

While this incident occurred some time before he was actually diagnosed by the medical community with OCD, I think it was part of the reason he decoded so many of the things that kids are exposed to in life differently than others his age.

I have been as impressed with the way Jordan has fought and overcome his OCD problems as I have with many other accomplishments on his considerable resume.

FROM OLDER BROTHER PAUL [3] AND HIS WIFE AMY [4]


Fun Stories:

We remember a visit to downtown Spokane. We were going out for dinner or some sort of fun. As we parked our car and checked the time, we discovered we were within 15 minutes of the free parking time zone. Our parking meter was expired, but we decided to take the risk and not plug any quarters into the machine....after all, it was only 15 minutes. We proceeded down the sidewalk heading for our dining destination. After a few moments we realized Jordan had disappeared. As all good siblings do, we stopped and began searching for our lost bro. Seconds later we heard the huffing and puffing of a sprinter behind us. We turned to see a red-faced Jordan racing to catch-up to us. He explained that he felt it was dishonest to park for that extra 15 minutes without paying and he had rushed back to the meter and plugged in the necessary fare. We just shook our heads. (Jordan, do we still owe you that $ .50?).

As a senior in high school Jordan always excelled in English class. Writing came effortlessly and his grades reflected this. At times Jordan felt undeserving of his high marks as writing took little preparation or effort. One such assignment sent Jordan back to the classroom to argue with his teacher. Most students fight for a higher grade. Not Jordan. He went to the teacher explaining why the assignment had been scored too high. Jordan knew he could have put forth more effort, therefore he shouldn't have receive a high score. Instead of being grateful for the gift he had been given to write well, with moderate effort, he criticized the teacher for giving him too much credit. Jordan couldn't rest easily if he got better grades then he felt he deserved. No wiggle room. Jordan never gave himself a break.

One Friday night we decided to order pizza, certainly a treat for a young married couple and a teenager. We took a pizza count prior to ordering. Amy stated that she would eat one piece, Paul would have 4, and Jordan....the rest. Once the pizza arrived, Amy decided one wasn't quite enough and took a second piece. Jordan, desiring accuracy in all things, contested whether she had a right to one more piece. Amy and Jordan argued back and forth....Amy explaining that she changed her mind...Jordan arguing that she had to stick with her original commitment...Paul laughing and eating his pizza.

Our favorite story about Jordan's OCD is the story of Civic-vs-Accord. Driving to the airport one day we made a comment about our Honda Civic. Jordan began to laugh and told us he couldn't believe after having our car for a couple years that we couldn't remember what model our car was. We laughed right back at him. Of course we knew what model of car we drove, be bought it together, we paid our car payment, insurance, maintenance and tabs for our car. Surely we knew what care we drove. As we chuckled, Jordan was beside himself with laughter. HE couldn't believe we were so dense!! How could WE not know what type of car we owned! Ridiculous! Crazy! He thought we were complete idiots! Jordan just shook his head, he was completely sure he was correct. He was positive that we had an Accord. Well, since Jordan was always so confident in his accuracy, and Paul loved to catch him in an off moment, he challenged Jordan to put his money on it. Dinner was the wager. If we indeed had a Honda Civic, then Jordan had to take us to dinner. If Jordan was right and we had a Honda Accord, then we'd take him to dinner. Jordan agreed immediately, without hesitation. The rest of the drive consisted of Paul and Amy discussing which restaurant they would choose, and Jordan sitting smugly in the backseat.

Upon arriving at the airport, Jordan flew out of the backseat and raced to the rear of the car. Poor Jordan. Glee turned to disgust as he stared downtrodden at the letters C-I-V-I-C. Darn it!

The dinner out was a blast. Paul and Amy planned to pull a prank on Jordan. Jordan knew he had to pay for dinner so they decided to really make him sweat and order as much food as possible (intending the whole time to pay the bill themselves....knowing full well Jordan only had about $50 in the bank). They sat down and ordered two appetizers, steak and fish for dinner. When dinner was over, they got dessert. Paul simply couldn't decide between two different desserts, so he got both of them. Jordan didn't choose a dessert, he sat in his seat watching us eat our dessert no doubt adding number totals in his head and seething the whole time. When the bill of $70 came, Paul chuckled and snatched it to pay. It was then that we told Jordan our original plan to make him sweat. He was relieved, but disappointed he hadn't ordered a dessert plate for himself.

Positives:

OCD wasn't all bad for Jordan. People around him were not aware of his challenge, they only saw a mature teenager who focused on details. At one point Jordan was asked to speak in a bi-annual church meeting consisting of 600+ people of all ages. Speakers were chosen from the various congregations, and Jordan was chosen as the teenage speaker. Jordan studied and prepared his talk well. When he spoke he was confident, direct, and polished. Jordan spoke with a maturity above his years. He was an example to his peers and adults alike. Jordan's accuracy and attention to detail may have been a weakness in some areas, but they have been strengths as well.

Now Years Later:

It has been over a decade since Jordan lived with us as a high school senior. The tools he has gained since that time have been life-changing. Jordan has learned how to take his OCD by the horns and work with it. He uses the tools he has gained to keep his OCD manageable. Jordan has become more self-aware. He has taken the opportunity to use his experiences with OCD to help others who struggle with the same challenges. He keeps it all in perspective. OCD doesn't define Jordan, OCD is just one aspect of life...Jordan has brown hair....Jordan deals with OCD......Jordan likes pizza......Jordan loves sports......as simple as that!

FROM OLDER BROTHER DAVID [5]


For the most part for me, I never really saw a "disorder." I saw someone who was overly honest to the point that it was a little ridiculous. I remember in building shelves, You stressing over things like: we weren't putting in enough nails to make it strong enough. You felt like we were being dishonest to the customer because we weren't putting enough nails in. The irony is that we were the ones with the expertise and years of experience building shelves, yet because you perceived that something wasn't exactly perfect that somehow we were being dishonest.

I felt like a lot of your dating situations went for the worse because of your perception of the world around you from that honesty stand point. The fact that you had a restraining order placed against you by one of the girls you dated was evidence of that. You just didn't see the world around you the same as most every body else.

I remember when I was a Junior in High School and for Halloween your costume was a "Junior in High School". It wasn't good enough to have a backpack on. It had to have all of my books in it. Well, a math, science and history book get pretty heavy for a nine year old to lug around, but you refused to just have a back pack on because if it didn't have a "Juniors" real books in it then some how in your mind the costume wasn't authentic. A silly over-honest manifestation. I always thought that was so endearing that you wanted to be like Wayne and I, and I would have at the time never placed you as having a "disorder" because of it, but all these little things over time added up to the fact that you really were struggling with something.

Again, I mostly saw someone that was overly honest. If I could hand pick a "disorder" to place on some one or even myself, I could think of a lot worse things. I have always admired you for the way you are and the way you always saw the world. I think as you have gotten older, it has helped you to keep a positive outlook on life that so many lose with time.

I am even more impressed with your ability to recognize that the disorder existed, and then work so hard to understand and overcome it. You are amazing, never forget that.

FROM OLDER BROTHER WAYNE [6]


With a Masters in Educational Counseling, I briefly studied the condition of OCD and how to help kids in the secondary educational system. The challenge for Jordan is that he is obsessive about being honest, and in today's world it can be very discouraging as honesty is a waning value generally.

Honesty is the best policy and I love Jordan for this quality. I would never have to wonder if Jordan was trying to take advantage of me or anyone else for that matter. When I witnessed Jordan putting money into a parking meter just before leaving the curbside or delivering more "tip" to a restaurant months after eating there, because he felt he did not tip the waitress enough, or when he went to his high school principal with a plan to eradicate profanity in the hallways... I knew he would easily refrain from the more damning sins like cutting in line or tasting a grape at the store before buying. It sure made relationships with girls extra challenging as he did not want to "lead them on" with any kind of affection like a kiss or a hug.

The beauty is that Jordan has always taken a humble approach to life and has been willing to face the challenges and proactively do things to help himself overcome. I was impressed that he diagnosed himself before getting his parents to get him professionally evaluated. Jordan has been diligent to follow recommendations of doctors and to really evaluate his own progress (which comes from his humility).

He is now married to a wonderful woman and pursuing a doctorate degree and will become a wonderful asset to society with all he has learned as he wants to teach and empower others in self leadership. I cannot think of a better candidate than Jordan for this. I think being truly honest with oneself is rare and Jordan will be a source of great hope to many in the future.

FROM OLDER BROTHER JOE [7]


It seems to me that the biggest area of improvement in Jordan's life is his ability to deal with moral dilemmas. 12 years ago, Jordan wouldn't have been able to take a Zucchini from a neighbor because he knew he would never eat it. While most of us would take the Zucchini and maybe even compliment the giver on his or her amazing abilities to grow champion-caliber green squash, Jordan would have been compelled to tell the person that he really shouldn't take it because he had no intention of ever eating it.

Jordan's OCD manifested itself in a rather peculiar way. While many seem to be obsessive compulsive about germs, cleanliness, routines, etc, Jordan's OCD appeared to be centered in a compulsive honesty. He didn't think he should be given his Eagle Scout award because a piece of paperwork wasn't properly done before he turned 18. He argued with his brother Joe (His boss in this context) for 30 minutes because he wanted to put 3 or four nails in a board when Joe insisted the board only needed 2 nails. While the purpose of this write-up is not to diagnose a cause, it seemed as though any time Jordan felt like there was the tiniest hint of dishonesty in his life, it seemed to paralyze him emotionally and socially. He couldn't function with the thought that he might not be perfectly honest in every way.

Of course this really is a debilitating situation because we are faced with hundreds of moral dilemmas every day. Is it honest to look at a non-work-related website at work for a few minutes? Is it honest to get an A in a class when you really didn't give it your best effort? Is it honest to leave work a few minutes early to get to a family member's ball game, even though you regularly put in extra time at work? Do you pay [church] tithing on your gross or net income? The source of these types of issues are endless, and the guilt associated with them for Jordan really affected him socially and emotionally.

So, how far has he come? Really, at this point, from an outsider’s perspective, he seems cured. While I'm sure he still deals with it in certain ways, he has figured out how to not let it paralyze him. I know he has hit the problem head on, and really embraced both medication and counseling as tools to help him deal with the situation. I believe his wife also provides an invaluable balancing voice. I don't know all that he has done to overcome the effects of this condition, but it certainly appears that he has learned to cope with the problem. Back when it affected him most, it seemed to be almost like a dark cloud over him. Now I would say that no such storm follows him. He was incredibly mature in his approach to the disorder, and was not afraid to seek out professional help.

FROM OLDER SISTER JODY [8]


I remember when you were in junior high/ high school and would put band-aids all over your hands and fingers; glad you don't do that any more.

I remember when you would stress for days, weeks, even months, maybe years about maybe seeing someone who might have stole something, and then beat yourself up that it was your responsibility to make it ALL right. I'm glad you don't do that any more.

I'm glad you don't wash your hands until they bleed, seems like that was an issue for a while, maybe it was just the harsh Monticello weather, but probably not.

I'm glad your married to wonderful Lina and not still "stalking" girls who you could simply not get out of your head or who caused you enormous pain unbeknownst to them.

I'm sorry that you had to figure all of this out on your own through self diagnosis coupled with pain and suffering instead of being led to help from parents or loved ones.

I'm glad you sought help through counseling and medication, and have gained an appreciation and compassion for others who may suffer.

FROM OLDER BROHER-IN-LAW TROY (JODY'S HUSBAND) [9]


I've not known much of Jordan's OCD. In fact, the main thought that comes to mind in considering this question is that the only two reasons I know about it are that: 1. He has brought it up from time to time in family settings. His self-awareness of the issue has seemed honest and pragmatic. 2. His sister Jody (my wife) has mentioned it to me at times. The only way I've ever really "seen it" or noticed it is when Jody would relate a story from Jordan's youth that in some way related to something that was going on in Jordan's adult life now. But at the moment I'm at a loss for a single specific example.

Overall one of the biggest changes I've noticed in Jordan since getting to know him in his teen year is his improved maturity of self assessment and of social skills. When Jordan was younger and single we (his sister and myself and his other siblings) would talk about what it might be like "someday" when Jordan would be married. It was a little hard to picture and we knew it would take just the right individual. Now he and his wife make it look easy. I'll also mention Jordan's willingness to engage the world as it really is - to explore it, learn the truth and proceed accordingly. I was impressed as he did this when he moved to Atlanta. It seems his willingness to press forward, his faith in himself - has proved stronger than his OCD (or anything else) that might have held him back.

FROM YOUNGER SISTER JESSIE [10]


The main things that I remember from growing up with Jordan was some specific obsessive tendencies. Hand washing for example. He would wash and wash and wash some more. It became an obsession for him often. Probably the number one thing I recognized about Jordan growing up however, was how he was capable of obsessing over just about anything. He would get one idea or thought in his head and he couldn't let it go, regardless of how trivial the thought or idea might be. I noticed that this obsessive manner seemed to greatly affect his dating relationships. He would try to force relationships where it was apparent that there was nothing there, merely because he had his heart set on only dating that one person. Even in the relationships that would work for a while, when they ended up going sour for one reason or another, he would agonize and let it eat at him for months and months, even if the relationship was not serious.

In recent years, I have recognized that Jordan no longer obsesses about things in the same manner... at least not in an outwardly, public way. He is actually quite calm and relaxed about a lot of things that I think would have driven him crazy when he was younger. He knows how to let things go and overcome the obsessions. He seems much more emotionally stable due to this. He is very relaxed and chill in comparison to when we grew up. I think that he still struggles with certain obsessions or tendencies, but the degree to which he suffers is much less severe.

This section is taken from my Doctoral Dissertation, which can be downloaded for FREE at my website: www.freedomfocused.com (Books & Free Downloads).



[1] My use of band-aids was not from the over washing of my hands, but from a bad habit (you might say an obsessive habit), of pulling or biting off bits of skin on the ends of my fingers near the fingernails, often until it would bleed.
[2] So true! albeit, as I shared in a previous vignette, this happiness did not last for long as my OCD was just getting started.
[3] Twelve years my senior. I lived with Paul and Amy my senior year of high school, so they knew me up close and personally one of the most severe OCD years of my life.
[4] Seven years my senior. I lived with Paul and Amy my senior year of high school, so they knew me up close and personally one of the most severe OCD years of my life.
[5] Nine years my senior. Twin brother of Wayne.
[6] Nine years my senior. Twin brother to David.
[7] Eight years my senior, and always considered by me to be unusually healthy mentally, Joe was one of the non-professional “psychotherapists” I sought help from, and found enormous benefits from his willingness to listen to the various dilemmas I struggled through with OCD. He also provided me with wise counsel in taking practical action to resolve those dilemmas.
[8] Four years my senior.
[9] 12 years my senior.
[10] Two years younger than me.

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