As the title suggests this is the author’s memoir of her life with OCD, specifically during her sophomore year of high school. It does not, despite the title read like a typical, often dry memoir. It’s eye opening and quite the page turner. Before I dive into how much I enjoyed Obsessed: a memoir of my life with OCD by Allison Britz I should warn you that if you will be triggered in anyway by OCD, persistent, unwanted thoughts or urges, incessant or repetitive actions, or food restriction tread lightly.
As promised I was completely changed after reading about Allison’s inspiring journey in this nonfiction debut memoir. She brings us through every painful step as she finds her way to the other side of her debilitating struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obsessed begins with a prologue that allows the readers a glimpse into what they should soon expect. Chapter 1 however thrusts the reader for a very short time into the before. Before Allison had dream of having terminal brain cancer (page 15). Allison is navigating her way through the typical teenage world of high school, boys, football games, homework, and prom. Then one night she vividly dreams that she has brain cancer. When she wakes up to her alarm playing “it’s all in your head” she is sure that the dream was a message/warning that she has brain cancer.
After the dream she starts avoiding cracks. If she steps on a crack, she can cancel that out by reaching a destination under a certain number of steps. She believes if she avoids the things that cause cancer she can cure herself. She finds new ways to barter with herself including food restrictions. She continually barters and trades one thing for another including standing on one leg for hours on end, and holding her breathe. She continues to believe there is a monster/savior sending her secrets messages to avoid objects. These objects included: clothes, furniture, pencils, notebook paper, calculators, anything the color green, her toothbrush, her hair dryer, etc. As she begins her driver’s ed class her instructor, a very religious man changes the way she sees the debilitating messages. She no longer believes they are from a monster. She begins to believe God is using her as a vessel and they are direct messages from God to her. Now, God will be mad if she doesn’t listen to these messages. Obviously, her behaviors had devastating consequences on her social, academic, and home life.
Once she had friends, had a good relationship with her parents. Now she has pushed all her friends away and is shouting at her parents to leave her alone. She continues to believe that God is telling her the secret codes to cancer so she follows these thoughts deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Midway through Obsessed, somehow Allison is able to reach out to her mom. After a visit to her primary care physician where her mom reveals she knew something was wrong, the doctor refers Allison to a psychiatrist. After just a couple visits and secretly reading some pamphlets Allison believes she has OCD. After terrifyingly talking to the psychiatrist about it, the psychiatrist agrees. Since Allison does not want to take any medication she is again referred to another doctor who specializes in childhood and adolescent OCD and anxiety. Initially the OCD makes it difficult for her to want help, but deep down she does want it. She begins ERP (exposure response prevention) and slowly she begins making improvements.
I feel extremely sad for Allison because it seemed like the people around her knew something was wrong, but did nothing about it. I do not have OCD nor am a friend nor a parent of someone that has OCD but I would like to think it is my job to not have the answers but to realize there is a problem and to seek out someone with the answers. Allison went from 115 lbs. to 95 lbs. Everyone noticed she was skin and bones. They saw her tiptoeing, heard her counting, avoiding things. Why did no one do anything? She dropped out of her extracurricular activities, her grades started suffering and no one said anything. Even after she is in therapy and slowing regaining the ability to use things previously deemed cancerous one of her teachers nastily remarks about her weight loss. This brought me to tears. As a teacher myself I couldn’t imagine seeing Allison at such a low point and saying such a thing.
Obsessed widened the definition of OCD for me and I highly recommend it. I will be seeking #ownvoices reviews come September when this memoir releases.