Living with Severe OCD | Book Review

Living with Severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Marie Gius


PLOT LINE / ABOUT THE BOOK:

Taken from my notes in my blogging journal:

In this book, Marie Gius tells her whole life story. In a way, I can see how this rounds her out as a person–someone beyond a mental health issue, however I also feel it’s rather unnecessary and had me questioning its significance multiple times. I think it lays out the foundation of how she struggles before she attempted suicide, yet I feel it was rushed after that revealing truth.

Granted, she does have a lot of ground to cover, from her teenage years to her early fifties. I also would recommend this book to an OCD sufferer who is a teacher, however I’d advise not to read beyond the point where Marie tries to kill herself. There are distorted thoughts after that point that I don’t believe are conducive to anyone’s Recovery process and I think Marie would have a different perspective of it now, a decade later than she did when writing the book. I found those parts to be particularly triggering myself (which is a good exposure) but so much so that I’m muddled in my recommendation score.

She doesn’t focus much on the Recovery process, however this is how she defines her own Recovery journey. She doesn’t believe she can recover or be cured from her OCD and so if you’re looking for a book to inspire you to motivate yourself in Recovery, this is not the book for you.

Her aim is merely to tell her story, in all of its mistakes and truths. At least in that, she did a fine job. I do congratulate her on that courage, especially since she struggled with being open about her condition for many years. I still find it difficult to respect her definitions of Recovery, but maybe it is a work in progress for me to do that, as well.


RECOMMENDATION SCORE:

3/5 obsessive compulsives.

If you’re an OCD sufferer and also a teacher, I’d recommend reading her story in this book, but don’t be looking for much inspiration, rather just learning about another’s experience and how they managed through it. So, if you’d like to learn about OCD and don’t have it, or have OCD and want to learn about another’s journey with it, then I do recommend this book. 🙂


QUOTES & MY THOUGHTS:

  1. “I was shocked she knew about my illness, but again, I think many people found out after I tried to ‘commit’ suicide in June 2000” – p. viii

There’s no actual quotes around ‘commit’ in the book, but that’s just my insertion into it :3 It makes me cringe whenever I hear the term ‘crazy’ ‘insane’ and other stigmatizing comments like that just flung around carelessly by people, apparently in books and in real life and any other source. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Same with someone who mistakenly says a “successful” suicide, it’s like, “Ouch, no, you mean completed suicide” or “died by suicide” or “lost their life to suicide”. There’s an interesting TED talk about these word choices and suicidality here:

In addition, when I read this part of the prologue, I was surprised and unfortunately I found that it made her story, as little had been mentioned thus far, more … serious or impactful for me. 😦 In the sense that I’m sad it got so horrible to deal with for her and that it also just packs more of a punch when it gets ‘that bad’ too. 😦 Hope that makes sense!

2. “For decades, I have wanted to share my story. I feel such relief now releasing what I have had to hold inside” – p. ix

This is just to show how her main objective in this book (published in 2006) was to tell her story, in all of its intricacies and complexities. As I said above, it’s not much of an inspirational Recovery centered book, but rather what treatment she had over the course of her lifetime and how her condition worsened as she grew older.

3. “Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins” – p. xiii

She refers to this anonymous quote before the start of Chapter 1. It is a nice quote, hence why I’ve included it within this list, and I think it’s also especially good for me to keep in mind as I often struggle with this when it comes to learning about others’ OCD stories and Recovery journeys and attempting to RESPECT them in their uniqueness and vulnerability. *sigh* I am still my own work in progress.

It also reminds me of that post I deleted about one person’s OCD journey that caused a roaring reaction within my soul. I can understand now more of her journey from what I’ve read and learned from this book. That’s a solace, at least!

4. “My behavior is compulsive and irrational because I don’t have control over how I react to situations that bother me. At least, I don’t feel as if I am in control of my actions” – p. 1

This first sentence had really spiked me on the wrong foot, but I relaxed again once I read the following statement.

FEELING like you don’t have control over your actions and NOT having control over your actions are two VERY different things. I’m not just being nit picky. That difference MATTERS. I’m sure there are exceptions to this concept, ones you may be able to point out to me better than I can try and think of them off the top of my head, however, if there are few things we do control in our world, it’s OUR ACTIONS.

We ALWAYS have a choice. That choice may be minuscule or on a microscopic level, yet it is STILL a choice. Lying to yourself that you don’t have a choice can be damaging and put you backwards further in your Recovery, to the point of regression or relapse.

I think it’s very critical to realize, recognize and be aware of the power we have of our choices and actions. To believe I don’t have a choice for instance, means I’d just go off acting on the OCD thoughts without any regard to my Recovery process. And that is NOT how my Recovery works at all. I may still have the OCD thoughts about harming myself, however it is my CHOICE whether I stay on the road to Recovery or if I veer off course. That doesn’t mean I’m ALWAYS choosing Recovery, sometimes I don’t, and that’s just life and how shit goes sometimes. And really, that’s okay. Unless I’m dead, than it’s not. ^^;

I just feel this is a very important issue. It reminds me of idranktheseawater’s video about her revised edition of Lady Injury where she recognizes that she did have a choice in regards to her previous history of self-injury:

5. “No one really understood what was going on inside me. There was no one I could talk to who could help me” – p. 18

I’m including this quote because I think there are people who have struggled with any mental health issue or non-mental health issue who have felt alone and that they didn’t have someone in their life to help them through it or that could understandably wrap their minds around what was going on with them. So, this is for any of you out there, to remind you that you are not alone. And, if you ever need someone to chat with, my blog is always open. ❤ ❤ ❤

Sometimes just being heard means the world.

6. “At last I had a name to describe my problem… I was determined to learn everything I could about this mental illness” – p. 20-21

The neat thing about this bit is that she was also diagnosed by her university’s counseling center! Also, I hope it’s obvious that her treatment went back into the 1980’s, so some of the discrepancies in her book make sense.

I do want to point out here, as well in a few other places, that researching or learning all you can about OCD in particular, can actually be a form of reassurance seeking. When I was first diagnosed, I read a TON about OCD and self-harm/suicide obsessions and the differences between them and suicidal thoughts, and I continued this behavior into the new year when I was researching suicide prevention tips and everything. For me, it was a part of my compulsive behavior because I was fixating on the issue, giving it more importance than necessary, and finding out if I was dealing with OCD vs actual suicidal thoughts gave me some reassurance that it was OCD…only for me to doubt it again, research it, and so on and so forth. I also had some crisis appointments I made in the fall semester where I was also reassurance seeking as well.

So, just be careful (god that sounds so OCD lol) what your MOTIVATIONS are behind the action. Reassurance seeking has always been the slimiest behavior for me to understand and specifically determine.

7. “Keep telling yourself that the toilet is clean and it doesn’t need  any paper on it” – p. 25

This is a questionable response to dealing with OCD that she was told to introduce into her life. I think it’d be more accurate instead of reassuring herself that it’s clean, to admit that there’s the POSSIBILITY that it IS NOT clean and that that discomfort is something she has to grow more accustomed to.

8. “When I would drink beer my OCD wouldn’t bother me. I could act in a way I considered normal and have a good time. But it was really hard for me to deal with my OCD when I was sober again” – p. 32

I think this is important to highlight because it shows how substance abuse and OCD can play a role together, hand-in-hand. Also, whenever going to treatment programs, at least here in MA, one is often told they have to be sober from any drugs/alcohol, to be able to receive treatment. I know this is especially the case at the OCD Institute, at it can run amuck with the treatment you’re receiving to handle your OCD. Probably one of the main reasons I’m going to stay away from alcohol in my life. No, thank you, let’s move it along now, shall we? 😉

9. “You’ve progressed more than you think. To be able to talk about your OCD and be willing to go through steps to help yourself takes a lot of effort and courage” – p. 36

This quote is what I’d like to refer to as a #TMtruth (TM = treatment, my shorthand). This was something the psychologist had told Marie early on in her treatment at college, and I felt that it’s important and true and good to mention on here as well. ❤ This is also true for other mental health issues, too. 🙂

10. “Different situations and people started bothering me more and more; I could hardly function. I would avoid walking up and down the aisles of students because I didn’t want to become contaminated  by someone who wasn’t wearing clean clothes” – p. 59

This shows the depth of Marie’s OCD and how it was affecting her deeply and troublesomely.

11. “…Knowing that I never would be cured or completely free of my problem. I asked myself a question that had been haunting me for years. Did I really want to get better? OCD provided a perfect excuse for me not to do anything I didn’t want to do” – p. 63

#TMtruth. Recovery is a hard road to go on, even if it’s the most rewarding. Not having to be so hunkered down by the OCD or other mental health issue, having hard days but more often having better days, shedding yourself from the gunk that is mental health issues… that’s what Recovery can offer us, one moment at a time.

Recovery is not a cure all dream. At least, I don’t define it as such, which gives me the hope and inspiration to want myself to get better, not to be rid or “cured” from the OCD, but to just manage living with it in a positive and effective manner. That’s my goal. Anything higher than that might be idealistic and delusional.

I think because Marie had trouble defining her Recovery process in such a way, feeling it was an all or nothing task, she wasn’t able to get enough out of her treatment process with such a dim light ahead of her.

Also, it’s so common and a unity moment that we all wonder if we can recover, if we want to and if it’s something we can truly manage. My answer? YES! Listen to your true self, what your values are and head in line with them! You may not believe you can recover, however there are people in your life (or who will be in your life) who will encourage you and believe in you until you’re ready to start believing in you, too. ❤ ❤ ❤

12. “If you’re going to get better, you’ll have to force yourself to do activities you want to avoid” – p. 67

#TMtruth for our other OCD fighters out there!!! Remember Robert Frost: “The best way out is always through”

13. “‘Here in this world. I wish I were dead so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this anymore. I’m so tired of living with OCD day after day'” – p. 69

Living with OCD, or any other condition, IS tiring day by day. However, I think if someone had further addressed this confession of Marie’s early on, she may not have gone on years later to act on these thoughts, in her blinding desperation to feel heard, understood, and to communicate the pain she was going through.

If someone you know is expressing suicidal ideation, please ask them more about it. Don’t shy away from the topic. Learn what to ask and how you can best respond to help them, and get them the help they need. ❤ It can make all the difference.

14. “After lunch, I took a nap. Sleep was the only time I could get away from OCD” – p. 71

I can understand this behavior, I sometimes engage in it myself to this day. However, it’s important to note that behavior like this to get away from the OCD can be avoidance and in that, is a compulsion. So again, tread lightly.

15. “But you’ve got to force yourself to go through these steps if you want to get better. How are you supposed to cope with situations if you don’t expose yourself to them?” – p. 76

#TMtruth!

16. “Those 2 weeks in the hospital seemed hardly to have helped me in coping in the real world. Just as I had told Dr. Montgomery, I went back to my old ways once I was home” – p. 77

*Insert facepalm here. Insert facepalm here*

17. “I was very emotional and needed the support of my family as there was no special person in my life to help me with my OCD. If my principal had fired me I think I would have ‘committed’ suicide as teaching was my life” – p. 80

I quote this part because I recall in a Philosophy class once we spoke about how, as humans, we tend to have the inability to imagine ourselves going through and SURVIVING terrible situations. We either underestimate our strength or overestimate the pain, however, when put through the situation, we wind up keeping it together better than we thought we would. That’s what this reminded me of.

18. “I was told to practice my tension reducing techniques, but I wasn’t diligent with my efforts” – p. 80

I get that Recovery and treatment are no easy endeavors, but this part made me a little annoyed because I just felt like, well, what would you expect? If you’re not an active member of your own treatment, it’s likely that doing nothing isn’t going to help you.

Yes, we all slip up and make mistakes. But if it’s an ongoing problem, then it’s our decision when to start looking for solutions to it rather than continuing with the problematic behavior.

19. “Normal? I don’t think so, but they keep reassuring me that there is no such thing as normal and I only have a disorder” – p. 82

I think this concept could be borderline reassurance seeking. See my comments from above for more. (We’ve got nearly 18 more to go… O_O DX GAH)

20. “Killing myself seemed like a good idea” – p. 84

It always does, and it never is. -_-

21. “The last statement about hiding my OCD is very accurate. I have learned many ways to cover up when something is bothering me” – p. 89

This reminds me of the idea of hiding your mental illness from Fuck Feelings by Michael and Sarah Bennett, and how that’s often not helpful for either you (the sufferer) or the people around you because they will often become upset and angry at themselves and feel at a loss for how to help you if you don’t open up to them about it. So, in fact, trying to hide it can be more damaging. At least, that’s what I recall from the book, check out the book review about it for more of my thoughts on it! 😉 Shameless self-promotion 😀

22. “I would remind myself that anger, like any other emotion, is something a person cannot control. What humans can control is how they react to anger or any other emotion” – p. 91

#TMtruth

23. “‘The way I stop worrying is to do my best and accept what comes and know it will all work out in the end. Your thoughts on depression are very real and a lot of people experience it. It’s hard to overcome sometimes. We all need meaning and a purpose to survive. There is meaning and purpose to your life. You are part of the web of life. We are all interconnected and all are needed and useful. The difficulty is in recognizing how needed you are…So keep going; you can conquer anything if you want to‘” – p. 95

Some powerful words Marie was given from a friend. I thought they were too good to not include, as they can reach out to many from her story. ❤

24. “Just like living with Leslie, being around others was good for support, but the group also reinforced each other with more negative habits and ideas” – p. 110

I’ve heard this concept before from someone, that people who suffer with OCD can pick up the obsessions or compulsions of each other. I don’t know how much truth is involved or if there are studies about it, but I thought I’d include it as it’s interesting.

Phew, we’re getting there, peeps, we’re getting there.

25. “This whole process was extremely stressful, not just to my body but also to my mind. I would continuously replay what quantity of food I ate, and it made me nervous to monitor my food intake. It is very common for people with OCD to control their bodies because they feel they cannot control their minds. I had power because I could decide what I would and would not eat” – p. 121

This is the part where I can now better understand how some people with OCD develop secondary eating disorders. It reminds me of a few stories that I know of where this has happened, and it clears up some discrepancies I once had.

I also feel the power play reminds me of myself whenever I talk about that ‘negative power’. That’s interesting.

God, my laptop is ON FIRE. D:

26. “People with OCD need constant reassurance from loved ones that events in their lives are acceptable to live with” – p. 141

NO. That is another form of reassurance seeking, which is a compulsion which means one is engaging family members in the act of enabling the OCD and only making it stronger and worse for the sufferer in the long term.

This Youtuber is pretty great who talks about his experience and journey in Recovery from Harm OCD:

Mark Freeman

27. “…Suggested I use a nasal CPAP to control my breathing, but I did not want to use anything unless I had no choice. I still have problems sleeping, but I am able to continue functioning” – p. 143

Some of us peeps out there are rigid in what we allow or don’t allow ourselves to use or have. Just like some people think that going on medications is unnecessary or “bad”, some people will see the aid for what it is: an aid. Even so, I just included this bit as it shows how treatment resistant (for better or worse) Marie was in all aspects of her life, not just with the OCD. Maybe continuing to function even if it’s with some impairment is how she wants to live her life. *shrug* Just something to point out. *cough I’m criticizing *cough*

28. “I was tired of the day to day routine of living. I wanted to crawl into a fetal position and forget the world even existed” – p. 145

It tends to sound nicer than it is though. What’s better is to face whatever difficulty is impeding upon your progress and punch it back in the face as you gather up your strength and courage to face another day as another victory. We all have tough days, with and without illness, and it’s important how you make it through those tough days that really counts. Be aware of your victories.

29. “I didn’t realize I need consistency to take the proper dosage of my medications to remain stable. I thought I was doing better, but I wasn’t thinking properly” – p. 162

Remember: Do NOT stop using your medications without first consulting your doctor!!!

When it came to Marie’s suicide attempt, I found that Recovery Raquel could understand it and relate to it with anger and shock, since it would have been better for her to have gone to the ER beFORE she acted on the thought. However, her attempt, like ANY suicide attempt, is very serious. I’m glad, although she wasn’t all that willing, she got some of the help she needed. OCD has a different opinion, but fuck that, that’s not important!

30. “I had been unstable when I had seen him, but I have learned over the years how to be a great actress. I had agreed to start seeing him on a regular basis. And I had assured him I was doing well. I was not.” – p. 166

It’s very important, crucial and critical for us to be honest to our treatment providers as we are going through hard times, especially if we are aware that we are vulnerable to acting on self-harm or suicidal thoughts. It will not only cause undue pain onto yourself but the people you depend on or who depend on you likely won’t be happy either. That’s not to guilt trip anyone. That’s just the truth.

I’ve always felt in my journey that the second hardest thing to do was to tell someone and ask for help. The first was to choose to live.

If you find it difficult or near impossible to say it to your treatment provider, write a document or a blog post and use that when you go in next to speak to them. Keeping your suicidality to yourself only lets the idea sink further into your brain and makes it more likely that you’ll act on it. Remember, there are hotlines you can reach out to. If you need me, you can reach out to me, too. ❤

31. “How dare the medical system – anyone – force me to stay where I did not want to remain” – p. 166

Yeah, so Marie wasn’t all that cheerful for getting in the hospital that time. However, it makes me more grateful to myself that I’d been so open to hospital help in my past!! True, some things and some people annoyed me, but as long as I didn’t punch them or myself in the face it was a fine time.

32. “My family was concerned about my safety and how my OCD was affecting me” – p. 170

#relatable 🙂

33. “I was on a constant merry-go-round without the choice of ever slowing down or escaping. Was there any way to get out of this chaos called OCD? The “only” way to get rid of all the agony, hate, pity and sorrow was by ending my life. I had reached the point where I had [retracted]. I knew it was the ‘cowardly’ way to deal with my problem, but I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to stop feeling anything, and I didn’t want to live another minute where I would be so concerned about keeping clean” – p. 170

Remember, “only’s” and “just’s” and “not that bad’s” are all suicidal ideation talking. They are not true depictions of reality and what potential and strength you have within you to get through another day.

Think of a time when you’ve gone shopping. Have you noticed how many different designs there are for socks? Different lengths, different polka dots, stripes, themes. There’s different color schemes and sayings and toe socks. There’s such a VARIETY of cereals and food and stationary and beads and artwork. The point is, just as you have many OPTIONS in shopping, you have many OPTIONS in life too.

Suicide ends the possibility of life ever getting better. To be alive is to experience this world once and once only. At least once as who you are today, that is. When you’re in that struggle between living another day and ending your life all together, make sure you have a safety plan before you get into that crisis. Write out who and where you can contact people, help lines, ER’s. Write out what you can do to push off your acting on those harmful thoughts. Remember that this feeling will pass. That feelings are temporary.

Find some music you relate to, preferably positive and hopeful, and use those messages to guide your way through your journey into the light.

I can’t promise you that the thoughts will ever go away, that the urges will disappear, however I can say it’s rather likely that you’ll get better. And if you are the few who find it still is difficult to live, try another treatment program, try another treatment method. Try to accept what you were born to deal with, and make the most out of your good days, as best as you can.

More of us will get better than not. But if you die today, you’ll never get to experience the good in life again. And that’s the truth.

34. “I had not practiced with [retracted] for three years, I did not know what I did wrong. I don’t want to know what I did wrong because I hope I will never want to kill myself again” – p. 172

Hoping suicidal ideation won’t come up again could be a death trap, literally. It’s better to plan out solutions you can employ if they do come back again, like a safety plan, a guideline of coping strategies, etc. Don’t just blindly hope, put the work in to make it more difficult for yourself to act on your thoughts.

The more time you give yourself to think through what your actions are, the better. So lock up your medications or have someone hand them out to you, put other things under locks, or remove access to things that you feel a part of you would love to act on. Make it more difficult. Choose Recovery.

35. “You are the kindest and most genuine person I have met. You have had a positive impact on so many people by what you say and how you live. Our time in this world is limited. This world will be a lonelier place without you. There are people you have yet to meet and who will be blessed by your friendship and company” – p. 176

Another something someone had wrote to her. Again, I think it is sweet and applies well beyond her single life, too. PASS IT ON! ❤

36. “Sometimes a crisis is the ‘only’ way to get a message through. My attempted suicide let those close to me as well as my medical advisers know how serious I felt about my situation” – p. 176

I wish it were NOT true, and I guess that some TIMES it’s not will have to be enough for me. I think that sucks, having to resort to such a terrible, risky action before other people start waking up and recognizing how badly things are affecting you. Again, I wonder how things may have been different for her if this was addressed earlier on…

 

ANY WHO!!!!!!

THAT IS ALL FOR THIS BOOK REVIEW! I AM GOING TO NOW CONSUME ICE CREAM BECAUSE I DESERVE IT. LOL THE NEXT BOOK I AM READING IS:

Do it Now, how to break the procrastination habit

ALSO YOU BEST BE READING THIS, IT TOOK ME ALL DAY TO DO. lmao Just kidding, it did take me all day to do D:

 

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