Sunday, August 2, 2009

OCD Book Review

(Sorry this is so long!) When I was first diagnosed with OCD, I read a bunch of books about OCD- mostly self help books. There are a lot of goods ones out there, and one of these days I'll do a run down of my favorites. More recently, I'm really drawn to memoirs and accounts of people with OCD. I'm mostly looking for success stories, as inspiration. Generally I've been disappointed by most memoirs I've read. One, because few people are as recovered as I'd hope, and two, because it's hard to convey how frightening the process of fighting OCD can be, and so the books never completely resonate with my own experience of OCD.

Earlier this year, the book Life in Rewind was released to a decent amount of fanfare in the OCD community. I understood it to be the story of an amazing therapeutic relationship between Ed Zine, a man completely and utterly disabled by his OCD, and Michael Jenike, a well-known psychiatrist who specializes in OCD. And it sort of is. In the late 1990s, Ed basically didn't leave his basement for a year, and didn't bathe once during that time. By the end of the book, he's out of the basement and is married with two children. So his transformation is pretty amazing.

But in truth, Ed was not that interested in Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy. Ultimately he sort of does his own Exposure and Response Prevention, but in the end, he still has some pretty elaborate rituals, which those around him continue to enable. Here's a quote from near the end: "Ed struggles not to let his guard down, as he tries to capture every one of his rewinding routines, while still engaging in the real world... If he gets behind, he will get overwhelmed trying to catch up and then get locked down." Another: "At the same time, there is more punishment, and Ed must still repeat sentences backward, countless number of times... But Ed cannot physically speak to tell the person that he is actually in the moment doing his reversing protocol in his head." I'm left with the impression that he still spends every waking hour trying to be sure he's done everything "right" and performing hours of rituals in his head if he hasn't. It sounds exhausting, and it sounds like pretty severe OCD.

Thus, I was somewhat frustrated by the book for a couple of reasons. As a biography, it's quite interesting, but I don't think it will all that helpful in convincing others to seek out treatment, since Ed never really does. And I would imagine that only a very very few people with OCD would be able to do as much as he does on his own. Of course, books on OCD shouldn't only exist to convince people to seek treatment, but I still think it's a great side effect. Also, Ed's attitude even at the end of the book left me feeling like he didn't think he really had control over his actions when "OCD" tried to make him do something. And I think for most people, the realization that you can take control of your thoughts is pretty important. It's a quick and interesting read, but I have yet to find a truly inspirational OCD memoir. Have you?


  1. I love your blog! I just found it and am working my way through it. I was really interested in this entry because I started writing a memoir about my experiences with OCD (I'm almost 36 and I've had it since I was a little girl), but I put the project away for 7 years!! Talk about avoidance.

    I am just now starting to look at it again; I think it is about half written, and I think I am going to do my best to finish it and maybe self publish it, in case anyone else wants to read it and may find some help/amusement from it. So far, the book follows my OCD journey from me as a five year old kid not knowing what the heck this crazy thing was, to pre-teen experiences when I saw an Oprah show on OCD and diagnosed myself! (haha), to high school and beyond, university, career etc (of course I'm a high achiever!), all the time hiding this "terrible secret". I hid the secret until I was 27, married for one year and just couldn't take it anymore (and driving my new husband crazy). I then told my husband and family and friends, started on some medication, and did an intensive cognitive habioural program at the local university (ERP). I am really happy to tell you that for the most part, the OCD is gone. I will continue to be on meds for my life I'm sure, but I don't care. So....that is my long post to say that if I ever finish my memoir, it will indeed be a positive ending!!!! Keep on blogging. I love it!

  2. Wow, that's great to hear. I'm sure it would be inspirational, and I hope you do publish it!