“98.762 percent of my time is spent obsessing. About what? EVERYTHING.” ~Monica Devon, the main character in Janet Tashjian’s novel “Multiple Choice”
I don’t know why I’ve never written about growing up with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has been one of the most unique and defining experiences of my life. My entire childhood and adolescence were rocked by OCD. Compulsions and rituals that I could not stop. Intrusive violent thoughts that I could not control. All the makings of a fascinating story.
But to me, writing about OCD feels like writing about air. I don’t know where to begin because there is no beginning. The kaleidoscope of my entire life, the gorgeous parts and the ugly parts, my earliest memories — all of it would have to be encompassed in my story. OCD is the inky thread that wove its way into my entire tapestry. There is no way to cut it out cleanly.
Here is how my story begins:
- I had undiagnosed OCD as a child. I didn’t know there was a word for what I was experiencing, and I thought I was defective and alone.
- In elementary school, I read Multiple Choice by Janet Tashjian — a middle-grade fiction novel.
- The main character of the book created systems and rituals to make all of her decisions. She couldn’t stop. She was just like me. And she had something called OCD.
- Suddenly there was a word for my experience. If there was a word for it… there must be other people out there who were like me.
- I told my mom that I had something called OCD. We researched it together. My healing journey unfolded from there.
* * *
After the 2016 presidential election, Sara Seibt reached out to me about her newly-launched Agape Podcast. Sara’s vision was to create a podcast that emphasized storytelling and listening amidst the division of our times. She wanted to showcase diverse people and stories — filtered towards a lens of understanding.
When it was time to set up the podcast interview, I tried to think of something smart to say — something about environmental policy, maybe? Or about moving to Texas? Or about writing?
I could have talked about almost anything. But like a divine windchime, the memory of Multiple Choice came to me. Now more than ever, I see the importance of books for younger audiences — and it was time to tell this story.
* * *
You can listen to my interview with Agape Podcast (for free!) here. I hope it serves you. I hope that you can find pieces of yourself in it, and I hope it helps you appreciate the books transformed your life throughout your childhood.
It’s worth mentioning that I still struggle with OCD — its inky thumbprint still lurks in my thoughts and in the ways I relieve stress. If I hadn’t found Multiple Choice, I don’t know long it would have taken to realize that my symptoms had a name. I’m so grateful for that book and for Janet Tashjian’s decision to write it.
Peace + Books Forever,
(PS — Contrary to popular belief, OCD isn’t about being super tidy and organized. Here is a list of common obsessions and compulsions.
If you think you may suffer from OCD, anxiety, or any mental illnesses — please talk to a doctor, therapist, or trained professional. I promise there is hope and help out there for you. xx)