I read this memoir as soon as it came out, and was moved by the author's honesty and ability to communicate what OCD is like from the inside out. Jeff Bell is an accomplished radio host, and kept his obsessions a secret from those around him.
He opens with the image of being 6 years old and driving past another car, with a little boy shouting "Hi!" and having an urgent need to know who the boy was and why he said hello, repeatedly asking his mother about it. I remember at age 8 becoming obsessed that I might need to go to the bathroom after I got into bed, that I would not be able to sleep if I had any pressure in my bladder. When I first got into bed I would bolt out of it over and over, feeling the compulsion to keep checking, keep attempting to empty my bladder.
OCD is relentless, and I could feel Jeff Bell's pain as he started fearing he'd hit someone while driving, and feeling compelled to go back and check the road. That he somehow functioned at all is amazing, with this other full time job of struggling with the OCD. It's like the relay a gym teacher had my class do when I was in the 11th grade--we were to put on a full set of clothes over our swimsuit, swim to the other side, take off the clothes and give them to next person in the relay. We did it because our teacher said to, and OCD wants that kind of power. It says, "Drive to work, but if you hear any sound, go back to make sure you didn't hit someone."
Scheduling your life around these demands is exhausting, debilitating and destructive to yourself and those around you. It's like swimming in waterlogged clothing. It's also paradoxical--if as a child I was afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep, repeatedly getting up to empty my already empty bladder made sure that I wouldn't be able to sleep, but in the midst of the intense anxiety created by OCD, I did what it commanded.
Jeff Bell has a new book, When in Doubt, Make Belief, which I am looking forward to reading. Let me know if you've read it.
Another Good Book:
Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD and SSRI-Induced Apathy
6 days ago