Spencer Hyde: Living With OCD

Episode #22: Published Mar 27, 2019

Spencer Hyde first began to recognize the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder when he was 6-years-old. Since that time, he has repeatedly seen God’s hand in his battle against OCD. In this week's episode, we talk with Spencer about why God allows His children to struggle with mental illness and how the scriptures have aided him in that fight.

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Read more about Spencer's experience with OCD here.

Check out Spencer's new book "Waiting For Fitz," here.

View a full trascript of the episode below.

MORGAN JONES: Hey everyone, it's me, Morgan. I wanted to introduce you to our new sponsor, Bookshelf PLUS+. If you're like me, you like to listen to your podcasts in your car. Podcasts are perfect for my morning commute. But what do you do when you have a road trip and you need something a little bit longer to listen to? Well with Bookshelf PLUS+, you have access to every audiobook Deseret Book has ever released. So regardless of what you're in the mood for, buckle up and let Bookshelf PLUS+ keep you company on the open road. You can try bookshelf plus for 30 days free right now by visiting desertbook.com/allin. Again, that's desertbook.com/allin. Happy Trails y'all.

In a recent article on LDS Living, Spencer Hyde wrote the following: "At six years old, I realized I cared more about the number of times the windshield wipers moved back and forth than I did about the thunderstorm. At seven, I understood germs to be more prevalent than air. At eight, I found it impossible to focus on anything religious because I was counting the number of vowels in a church talk, tapping my knee in sets of three in order to stave off a serious illness or a catastrophic event that I believed would wipe away my family. And blinking, alternating left and right eyes, seven times when I saw the color black. My rituals each morning sometimes took up to two hours or more, and I often showered at least five times a day, washing my hands a minimum of 100 times per day, but it wouldn't be until years later that I would be diagnosed with OCD."

In Spencer's new book, Waiting for Fitz, he introduces readers to fictional characters who, like him, were faced with mental health issues. Spence Hyde worked at a therapeutic boarding school before earning his MFA and his Ph.D. He is currently an English professor at BYU and he and his wife, Brittany, are the parents of four children.

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm your host, Morgan Jones and I am so excited to have Spencer Hyde with us today. Spencer, thank you so much for being here. 

SPENCER HYDE: Thank you for having me. 

MJ: Well, I am so excited. I'm almost finished with your book, I've been reading it over the last like three days and I have loved what I've read so far. But I think it's so interesting that you kind of take your personal experience and infuse it into these characters. So I do want to talk a little bit about that. But mostly, I want to focus on that experience that kind of shaped and influenced this book. So your personal experience, you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, is that right? 

SH: That's right, yeah. 

MJ: And I think, at least for me, in reading the book, I started to think about how many times we flippantly throw around the term OCD. For you, how is OCD different than just wanting your closet to be arranged by color? And does that bother you when people just throw that term around? 

SH: It doesn't bother me, but I wish I had that kind of OCD. So I've had a few conversations since the book came out with people who said, you know, "I like to use my jacket instead of my hand when I open a door, do I have OCD?" Or you know, like, "I count to certain numbers at different times of the day when I see certain things, do I have OCD?" And so to a degree, you know— and people who like things to be kept clean will tell me, "Yeah, I think I have it," you know, which is fine because I think it manifests in different ways, but I wish I had that kind. Mine's a little, well, a lot more extreme, where instead of having a color-coded closet, you know, I would well— I haven't done this and I think my wife wishes it manifested in that way, where I kept the room clean. Okay, here's a good example: I had this conversation the other day with a colleague where he said, you know, "I put only my left foot on the cracks in the sidewalk." He's like, "Is that is that OCD?" And I just said, "Yeah, it is, you know. It's a little obsessive, over you know which foot is put where," but I say I would put my left foot— I also put my left foot over the cracks in the sidewalk. But if I missed it, that's the difference. If this person missed one, I assume that say, "I'll get it next time." But if I miss something, it can throw off the entire day, or my routine. So for example, if I wash my hands, and then I have a bad thought, again, I'm right back to the sink. I can't say, "I'll get to it later," it controls everything. And I remember one time my mom walked into the kitchen and I was putting dish soap on the back of my tongue, because that's where death was, right? Which sounds so weird, I know. But she said, "Is there a part of you that knows that you don't have to do what you're doing right now?" And I said, "Yeah, there is I just don't know how to find it."

MJ: So interesting. I am fascinated by the fact that you then took this experience that you had, that I want to kind of dig deeper into, and put it into this book, where in your book, "Waiting for Fitz," there are all these characters that are all inpatients at a psych hospital, being treated for different mental illnesses. I love that we see— and I've been learning a lot as I've read about the different things that these teenage kids are struggling within the book. Do you struggle with any other form of mental illness, Spencer?

SH: I did struggle in high school with anxiety and depression as well, which was pretty heavy. And you mix that in with OCD, and it was the perfect storm, right. So I struggled with those things and honestly, from the research I've done on other mental illnesses, I think they share a lot of common ground, a lot of anxiety. Like with what I've read about schizophrenia, there's, there's an obsessive nature to that. And Tourette's, I mean, I would blink in numbered sets, right? So it felt a lot like Tourette's. People would look at me and sometimes ask me that, you know, "Do you have, do you have Tourettes? Because you're blinking left eye, right eye, left," you know, but I was counting. I wasn't, it wasn't uncontrollable in that sense. But in the sense that I had to do what my mind was telling me it was, in a way uncontrollable. 

MJ: I think it's super interesting. You talk in the book about how all these different things, you can have two people that have obsessive-compulsive disorder and yet it may be completely different for those two people, it may manifest itself in different ways. How have you seen that?

SH: Well, in my own family, I don't want to out my siblings, but I have some siblings who also struggle with OCD to the point where Johns Hopkins, they were doing a study on our family. And, you know, they'd visit us and draw blood and talk to us about the ways that manifested because they were interested in the idea that traumatic birth or premature birth, or sometimes coupled, right, if that can make OCD, you know, more severe, less severe, how it manifested. Yeah, but my sister would space her hangers in her closet. And she liked, she likes everything very clean and I don't mind throwing a shirt on the floor. But if I have a bad thought, I better have soap and a sink close by, right? But she didn't need that.

MJ: Okay, interesting. So for your sisters, did they associate their OCD with death like you did? Because I honestly, I had never heard that before reading the book and reading a little bit more about your experience. So is that typically how that works?

SH: It varies from person to person. I know my younger sister also struggled with the idea that if she did not complete certain rituals that it could harm someone close to her. I've read essays by others who dealt with OCD, who also said, you know, "I felt like, I need to do this seven times or, you know, my dogs gonna die," which sounds completely absurd. But try telling that to someone who can't control that thought and thinks, you know— the way I think of it is Pascal's Wager, which is in the book, right? Where Addy says, well, because Pascal, he said, "If you believe in God and God doesn't exist, you still lead a good life and there's no harm done. If you believe in God, and He does exist, that's great. You know you did what you were supposed to, right? If you don't believe in God, and He does exist, you could be in trouble." So just that wager of, well, if I complete this ritual and it helps them, that's great. If I complete this ritual, and they never needed it, what harm is it done to me? But then you look at it and it's done quite a bit, right, to the person because it's consumed them. But that initially was my thought, well, why wouldn't I do this? If it could maybe save someone's life? Which, again, I know, sounds absurd, but that's how I thought.

MJ: When you wrote recently, you wrote an article for LDS living. And in it, you talked about how at six years old, you realize that you cared more about the number of times the windshield wipers moved back and forth than you did about the thunderstorm. Is that the first time that you remember noticing these obsessive thoughts?

SH: Yeah, and I think it was an interesting moment because I remember being in the car, I don't know whose car it was, I don't know if I was with a sibling or not. But I remember someone came on the radio doing— it's one of those ads for you know, "We're studying OCD, please call us at this number." But it started with what you expect from those late-night infomercials. If you are experiencing x, y, z, you should call us, right? But it said if you're counting things if you're washing more than normal, and I thought, you know, what's normal? I was a kid and I'd never thought of what was normal. I didn't know it wasn't normal to count the windshield wipers going back and forth instead of looking outside at the storm and that was the first moment where I thought this might be different. And I think that was also the time when it started manifesting more, and my parents were noticing it more. But it was still in the stages of this could just be odd, not consuming.

MJ: Yeah, absolutely. So fast forward a little while and you mentioned Johns Hopkins, and your parents were called to be mission presidents in Baltimore, is that right? 

SH: Right. 

MJ: And that's what led you all to be in that particular place at that particular time, which to me, it's like, yeah, you could look at that and say, that's a coincidence, I'm not really a believer in coincidences. So for you, when you look back on that, how do you see God's hand in that? And can you tell us a little bit more about that experience and how you became involved with being observed there?

SH: Yeah, absolutely. When I think about our trip to Maryland, it's hard not to see God's hand in how everything came about. My mom told me— my grandma passed away a few weeks ago and I remember my mom telling me, when they got the call to go on the mission to Maryland, she knew how bad my OCD was, my grandma did. And at the time, she wasn't very active and she said, "Are you two, simple fools really going to leave your home to go serve the church when your son is dealing with what he's dealing with?" And my mom said, you know, "What other choice do we have? If we want to get help, we know we should be doing, right, whatever the Lord is asking of us." 

So when we got there, some really amazing things happened pretty quickly. My mom drove me to Johns Hopkins and we met with some psychiatrists and she was just hoping to get us in, get me in to see anybody that could help. And the doctor we met with said, you know, we could maybe get him on the adolescent psychiatric ward, which is ages 12 to 17.

MJ: And how old were you at this time?

SH: I turned 15 the day we got on the plane to go to Baltimore. And the doctor said, "Well, you know, our specialist in OCD, who was at the time the leading adolescent psychiatrist, who specializes in OCD, he doesn't take in patients and it's rare that he's working on the ward. So let me go check." Right, and so he came back and, and he said, "Who are you?" And my mom looked down at her tag and she said, "Well, I'm, I'm here, we're mission presidents," and she explained it as you know, we're ministers for our church. And he said, "No, I mean, who are you because nobody gets in to see Dr. Riddle," which was his name, "nobody gets in to see Dr. Riddle and he wants to see your son. And he will be on the psych ward. And he does specialize in OCD." So that was amazing. And then I was an inpatient briefly. But then Dr. Riddle met with my parents and said, "It might be better if he stays at home, as long as you promise to bring him in, whenever I want to see him." So we agreed to that. But here's where the, I think the biggest miracle happened. We'd been trying for months different medications. And you know, it takes a while to get into the system and working and then out of the system. So some medications had me losing weight, some gaining weight, sometimes I was more tired, sometimes, you know, I was more energetic. And it kept changing and that was really hard. But my mom had an impression while she was reading her scriptures and she went to Dr. Riddle, and said, "You need to try Ritalin on my son." And he balked at this. And he said, "No one's ever tried Ritalin on an adolescent. I'm not doing it." So he tried other medications. And she came back a couple weeks later and said, "You need to try Ritalin," to the point where he was getting kind of annoyed and I could tell he was getting annoyed. And finally, he said, "You're not gonna let this go, are you?" And she said, "No, I'm not." So he said, "Here's what we'll do. After this medication runs its course, I'll give you five days with Ritalin and then I don't want you to ever bring it up again." And she said, okay, deal. So, we took the Ritalin home and on the third day, I walked into my parent's room, and I said, "I'm back." It was weird, it was like a light switched on. And she got on the phone and he said, "Bring him in right now." And I walked into his office, and I started joking about the books he had on his shelf, which it happens in Waiting for Fitz, as well but that's really what I did. I walked in and started joking about the titles he had there and he looked at my mom and said, "So this is Spencer?" And from there on out, it was behavioral therapy and learning how to live with it.

MJ: So what differences Did you see in yourself? Because I think that's fascinating that you could even sense it, that you were back. What differences did you see from before that to that third day? 

SH: So I recently met with a friend from Texas who deals with a lot of anxiety and she just started a new medication. And she said, "What's strange is I have the impulse to kind of let that anxiety take over but I'm able to keep it at bay. And she goes, I don't know how that works, but I'm, I'm able to avoid it. And not in a way where it will come back later, heavier, I can just walk away from it." And I think with my OCD, that's what happened when I was on the Ritalin, which they then changed to a different type of Ritalin, but I had the urges, the impulse, the obsessions, the intrusive thoughts and yet, I was able to walk away from them, not always, but to a degree where I could function. I mean, I'd spend most of the day inside reading and washing my hands. And it came to the point with this new medication that I realized I could put the book down, or I could walk away from the sink and go do something. And I wanted to talk to people, I wanted to be outside and do things. Because most drives to the hospital, I would just kick the seat back and sleep and on our drive in, I just sat and talked to my mom the whole way. I think I just felt, I felt like I was back. I don't know, I don't know how else to explain it.

MJ: Yeah. Well, I mean, you would know better than anybody else, for sure. And so then fast forward a little bit more, and you went on a mission, but then your OCD and your depression relapsed and you returned home early. And I think this is something that so many people experience within the church and I honestly don't feel like we talked about it enough. But what would you say to other young men or women who have had to return home early from their missions?

SH: I'd first agree with you. Absolutely we do not talk about this enough. I came home after four months in Houston, Texas. And at the time, my OCD, you know those rituals, the ticks, everything was kind of coming back, the obsessions. And my parents called Dr. Riddle, and he said, "Get him home or he'll fully relapse," he's like, you're going to undo all the work we've done over these last, you know, four or five, six years so get him back. So I came home and it was, it was incredibly hard, right? And people were kind. But I mean, just being on on campus, I was at BYU at the time, and telling people I was 20, it always kind of confused them, and made them question what I was doing, right? "What are you doing with your life, you're 20 and still here?" But for those who are struggling with this, and who have come home early for mental health issues or any other issue, although it might sound simple, the best thing I can say is to remember how much you're loved. I remember when I came home, I was distraught. And I felt like there was a lot of disappointment surrounding me like a cloud like everywhere I went. But it took the love not just of my family, but of the community to really bring me home. I never really felt home until my neighbor two doors down, he walked into the house, he walked past everyone else without saying anything, he walked straight through that cloud and he hugged me and he said, "I love you so much and that's all that matters." And, and that's when I felt home that moment. And I think we often talk in the church about God's love. but I don't think we often seek it out— we don't personally go remind ourselves of it or pray to God to remind us of it. But we should, especially those dealing with these kinds of issues. Go ask God how much he loves you and I promise I'll show you.

MJ: Thank you for sharing that. What about what would you say to people—and I feel like we've kind of touched on this because I think extending love is a huge part of this, but what would you say to those who have loved ones who have returned home early, family or friends, how can we best support those that may be going through that?

SH: I think you can do it best by doing something that I hope everyone does when it comes to mental illness and see the person before the diagnosis. See that there's a person there before anything else. So that in your home or in your community or your group of friends, it's impossible to look at someone and not see a human first that you connect with on a very basic level. Before you allow culture to come in, before you allow what others have said about this person to come in and color the way you see this person, first see them. First, see them as a human and how you connect with them before you let anything else come in. It shouldn't matter at all if someone came home early from a mission. Well, let me rephrase that, it matters to that person because they're unsure of where they stand. So letting them know that they're loved and that nothing has changed in how you feel about them, will allow them to start over. And remember that what God really cares about is that you still know he loves you, you're still interested in going to the temple and going to his house and kicking your feet up and talking to him. I think that's what he cares about most.

MJ: Yeah, I would agree. So now Spencer, you are a husband and a father. And how does this, how does your OCD play into that? How do you manage it? And do you feel like you're able to lead a pretty normal life now?

SH: Yes, I think so. And having children helps with learning to deal with the mess, as far as behavioral therapy goes. Actually, just this morning, my wife said, hey, we're going to go to one of those, you know, those trampoline like bounce places?

MJ: Yeah. 

SH: She said, we're going to go to one of those and I kind of sighed a heavy sigh. And she said are you okay? And I thought, yeah, I'll be fine. But it's those kind of like very public places that sometimes trigger my OCD a little bit more, right. Which is so silly.

MJ: I'm not OCD, and those places kind of trigger me.

SH: That's good to know. Because, yeah, amusement parks, public restrooms are like my nightmare. So I still have those moments. And I wrote about one in the LDS Living article, where for Halloween, I just couldn't wear the costume because I immediately had a bad association with it when I saw it at our house. And to my wife's credit, she said, we can wear whatever costume you want and that helps me overcome in these moments. Just like coming home early from a mission saying, I love you and nothing else matters, instead of something like hey, you know, maybe you'll go back out? Or maybe you can do your mission in this way. Right? Instead of trying to find a solution, just loving. 

MJ: Yeah. I'm curious, how did you meet your wife?

SH: I met Brittany rock climbing. So I went with the same group of friends rock climbing almost every day, we were skipping class a lot, which don't do that. But yeah, stay in school, unless there's really good climbing to be had. So I'd go rock climbing in the afternoon and she'd always go in the morning group, and they went really early and I'm not a morning person. But one Saturday, I decided to go early. And there she was.

MJ: And so in like a dating situation, how did you, how do you approach like, how do you bring OCD up? And at what point?

SH: That's, that's a good question. Well, once we started to get to know each other, I gave her— I'd been working on a novella, you know, just around 15 to 20,000 words of just this piece I wrote about visiting my friend who lived in DC. And we took a bus at, you know, 3am up to Chinatown in New York and kind of traveled around. But I wrote it about my experience doing that while also dealing with OCD and anxiety. And so I gave her a copy of that and I said, read this, and then we can talk, becausethis is who I am, you need to know this about me.

MJ: And how long had you been dating at that point? 

SH: Only a few weeks. But, I really liked her, you know, you need to know this about me. And she said that helped her a lot, but she was also just kind of shocked. Like she said, "I would never know any of this unless you let me read this or told me about it," right? Because we're masters of disguise, right? We think we have to be, we think we have to be. I don't think that's the case anymore and that things are getting better as far as allowing yourself to talk about mental illness. And what I've loved about this book's release most, are the friends who come to me and say, "Hey, thank you for talking about it. Because I've dealt with this my whole life, or I dealt with this in high school and I and I never spoke about it. And I feel like I can now." And I love hearing that.

MJ: Yeah. So this is your first book, first published book. And I think that's amazing because really, it really is so good. But you talk in the book about this, this idea of everyone having masks and taking off the mask. How much of that is influenced by your personal experience?

SH: A lot. Because I feel like— and this is something I'm trying to tackle in the next book as well. How do we be multiple things at once and allow ourselves to do that? Because I think, you know, people may feel in the workplace, I can't talk about mental health, right? I mean, what would, maybe that would put my job in jeopardy, or people might think of me differently and this is a community I work close with, right? So we put on the mask we wear at work. And then at home, we feel like we're able to make it safer, right? We feel like we're able to make different comments to people were closer with. So we're wearing a different mask there and sometimes it feels like acting. And so I wanted that to be in the book. Because in high school at times, I felt like I was swapping masks, depending on who I was with, which always makes me think of Jim Gaffigan and how he talks about mixing groups of friends, you know. He says, you know, it's always that weird moment where you tell your friend, hey when we go meet this group, don't be thrown by my British accent, right? We're so different with different people and what would happen if we let them know how different we are with other groups? I hope we can all take the masks off. But that's an easy thing to say and very hard to do.

MJ: Yeah. Speaking of friends, how many of the characters in this book are influenced by people that you knew personally?

SH: All of them in some way. Fitz, the schizophrenia, I have a friend whose wife has schizophrenic. And I had him read and tell me things and I'm positive that schizophrenics will read this and say, "You got this totally wrong. Did you not even do research?" Right? But so will people with OCD. But I wanted to show her, the idea of her dealing with schizophrenia kind of at its best, right? Like when the medications working, when I'm feeling good, I can joke about it. But I'll still sometimes get angry, I'll still muddle my words. But I didn't want to show too much of the darkness because of the storyline, and that's how I cope, is through humor. So I wanted her, I wanted this character to do the same thing. With with Didi, although the name comes from the play, "Waiting for Godot," Didi is based on a friend that I had growing up who was the consummate one-upper. I mean you could tell a story and it was never as good as his next story. He'd come right in and say, "Yeah, yeah, I've done that, too. But, but mine, I did that at, you know, a couple thousand feet higher. I didn't have a rope," that kind of thing. So

MJ: That character reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit with the— Have you ever seen the girl that does the so... 

SH: Oh, yeah.

MJ: They're like, I went to an NSYNC concert on Friday. And then she's like, well, I had backstage passes to meet NSYNC.

SH: That's exactly the person. That's the same person. We all have them. 

MJ: The characters are seriously so well developed, though. And I think that's what makes any book worth reading. And so I'm excited for people to get their hands on this and to be able to read it. I'm curious, Spencer, this is something we've talked a lot on this podcast about why bad things happen to good people, which I think is like the question of all questions. Why do you think that God allows us to have mental health issues?

SH: I think a lot has to do with the idea that we're all writing our own story. We're all protagonists in our own journey, we're all heroes, in a way, and trying to figure out if we don't feel that way, how we get there. And so God is giving those reversals that, at the time, we think of as like, no, this is setting me back. But it's those reversals we crave in story, the reversals we crave when we're in a good movie, and you think, you know, the screen goes black, and you think your heroes done, and they're at their darkest point, and then you look at your watch, and you're like, we've still got an hour, right? 

MJ: Game on. 

SH: Exactly. And you know they're coming back stronger. And I feel like God is a master of the hero's journey, and he knows what obstacles to put in our way to make us our best.

MJ: That's beautiful, thank you. What role has faith played in this journey for you?

SH: Faith has played a significant role and it is just that, faith. Because with my OCD, one of the most difficult things has been feeling like I am able to feel the spirit. For years, and even still, I don't have moments where I get impressions, I don't get the fuzzy, warm feeling people talk about over the pulpit. I don't have thoughts given to me that I feel like oh, yeah, that was a manifestation from the Holy Ghost. I've always felt like like I was missing something because my obsessions are— even though I'm so much better, I'm still counting things, l my mind's still going on one track while other things are happening. So it's trying to play both sides, I'm mixing metaphors. But I've always struggled with feeling like I am feeling the spirit. So I've come to learn that the way the spirit manifests itself to me is through whether or not I am happy. And I think that's how God works. He wants us to be happy, ultimately. So I feel like if I am happy, I feel like I'm doing what the good Lord wants me to be doing and I go with that. And I have to on faith because I don't feel I have those moments and I feel sometimes that can cause people to doubt, right? Well, I don't, I don't have any specific manifestations, or I haven't had these concrete moments where I know. But it's staying involved in it, for me, in the Book of Mormon. Because with that book, comes a power into my life that is truly something I can't explain.

MJ: So, I love that you brought up the scriptures, because that's one thing that I wanted to ask you about in this LDS Living article that you wrote, which I loved, and I'll put a link in the show notes for those listening, you talked about several scripture stories that had helped you in being able to better understand your OCD. How would you say the scriptures have helped you to better cope with these challenges? Or what insights have you gained from those? 

SH: Oh, immensely. And I think that's true of a lot of stories. Because we look at it as sometimes, you know, this is direct truth from God. Whereas looking at the Bible, I see it more as a collection of stories. And I mean, that's what I study, that's what I teach. And stories are practice on how to live, they teach us how to empathize, we're able to engage with characters and learn from them. And that's why I write, so hopefully, people and learn from these stories. And I often have moments where I'm— right now I'm going through the Old Testament, which to be honest, I'm tired of hearing about measurements for the temple, right, you know, and fabrics and sacrifices. 

MJ: Cubits. 

SH: Yeah, exactly. So many cubits! So many different colors of fabric. But I just got to Samuel, and I'm reading right now about David. And this story of an unassuming youth who recognizes power before he's experienced it, it has taught me a lot. And these moments in the New Testament, especially like the one I referenced with the man with the palsy whose friends lower him through the roof, just thinking about the work they went to for their friend is powerful. And that's all I need is that story to teach me. And I think that's why Jesus often taught in stories because just like any good story, they're going to be multiple layers of meaning and he's going to allow you to learn as much as you're ready to learn from it.

MJ: I am very passionate about stories as well. And so I love that you brought that up. In the book, one of the characters remarks that no one really means it when they ask what they can do to help. And I wondered, have you felt that? I would imagine so, and if so, what do you think that we as members of the church can do to better serve and develop greater understanding toward those struggling with mental health issues?

SH: That's a really good question. I think this comes down to having a desire to know people, to truly know people. Not just acquaintances, not just, yeah, those are people I see on Sundays, or around my neighborhood, but really wanting to have a community. So if you have a neighbor who's, you know, has a four-year-old autistic son, to seeing that as a son first, and dealing with autism second. Getting to know them and their struggle with their son so that you can do whatever you may be able to do to help. And most the time, that's just loving them and letting them know that you are there if they need you. It's not imposing, it's not trying to push yourself on other people, but I think allowing people to be themselves is the best thing we can do. To truly be themselves.

MJ: Yeah, there's a quote that I love and I was trying to figure out who said it, but I know, and it may be Brené Brown, but she references— Okay, it's either Brené Brown or it's someone else. 

SH: She's amazing. 

MJ: She says, "It's impossible not to love someone up close." And I think that that is so spot on. I think sometimes it's so easy to judge from a distance, but once you've actually taken the time to get to know someone and love someone, it's so hard not to love them. And you see, I've seen that with roommates, where like, I'll have somebody where I've known them for a long time and then I'm roommates with them and I always liked them, but I love them once I've lived with them. Despite the fact that like I learned how messy they are, I also learn the things that they're struggling within their lives and then it creates like this bond that is difficult, it makes it difficult not to love them.

SH: I love that. When you get that close, the masks have to come off and the walls have to come down. From a distance, seeing me blink at different colors would be very disconcerting. But if you get close and asked me what I'm doing, and really want to know, I think that's the key if you really want to know, and you want to be that close, then it, you're right. It would be impossible not to love that person.

MJ: Yeah. Spencer, I have enjoyed this conversation so much. And I've learned so much and I am excited to finish Waiting for Fitz because I'm anxious to see what's going to happen to the characters. But before we finish, I just have one last question for you. Well, actually, hang on, before I do that, what would be your message, Spencer, to those who are currently struggling and maybe in the thick of mental illness?

SH: You are loved. You're needed. Man, I just want to reach through this microphone and give you a hug. I remember my first day at Johns Hopkins, there was a 12-year-old boy sitting on a bed with his head kind of dipped between his shoulders looking down at his feet. And I think I mention this in the back of the book, but I've kind of kept that image with me my whole life. Because I feel like that was the thing I wanted to change. And so if you're struggling right now, just like with that boy, I want to go sit next to you and ask you your name and, and what's going on and how I can love you. And I hope that your neighbors are doing that too. Also, it might be a while, it might be a wait, which is what I wrote this book about. All of us are waiting for that something or that someone to come into our life and give it meaning. And it might already be there and you just don't know it yet but, keep hope.

MJ: Thank you. Okay, so before we wrap up, I have to ask you, what does it mean to you, Spencer, to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

SH: That's a really good question. And I love that you asked this question. This might seem counterintuitive, but I think being all in means allowing yourself to ask questions. If you're all in I think you know that it's okay to doubt and to seek answers, so you truly figure out your relationship with God. I think we need to decriminalized doubt and if you're all in, you're asking questions because you want a better relationship with the Savior. And for me, that's being all in.

MJ: Thank you. I agree completely. Well, Spencer, it has been such a pleasure to have you in today and we wish all the best with this book and the many more that I'm sure you'll write.

SH: Thank you so much.

MJ: A huge thank you to Spencer Hyde for joining us on this week's episode. If you're interested in reading Spencer's new book, Waiting for Fitz, you can find it in Desert Book stores now. If you'd like to listen to more episodes of All In, you can find us on iTunes, Spotify or Bookshelf PLUS+ and please, don't forget to leave us a rating or review. You can also find our show notes by visiting www.LDSliving.com/podcast. That's all from me this week, we'll see you all next week.