On Books and OCD

Books, Me, and OCD

“Can we please read Madeline tonight?” I asked as if I were a toddler asking to read her favorite book for the fifth time.

She ignored my pleas and excavated through the piles of clothes and books that littered the floor of my room. She came up with Eloise Takes a Bwath.

“For someone with OCD, your room is a disaster,” my mother said.

I ignored her comment; she knew that OCD didn’t work like that.

“We read Madeline the last two nights;” she declared, “it’s time for something different.”

She did have a point. We did need a new book, and Eloise was that new book.

We only made it through the first few pages that night. I kept getting s-t-u-c s-t-u stuck on the words. Starting and stopping, we read for an hour that night, and every night. She read aloud, and I listened, trying to form the words into sentences instead of grouping the letters into clusters of fives.

This counting of the letters interrupted my life the summer before my sophomore year when my great grandma had her second heart attack. Because I could not save my grandmother, I had to do the second best thing: make sure that every word that I saw or heard or thought had five letters in it.

Diagnosed in with OCD in 9th grade, I thought I had lived the hard chapter of my life. I had spent several months in therapy and was finally doing better, until my grandmothers got sick. In 9th grade, my OCD had been nothing more than a series of rituals in order to make sure that things felt just right. When my grandmother had a heart attack, my OCD turned into preventing her death. As my OCD became more intrusive, school became harder since all I was doing was counting, and I lost one of my favorite things, reading.

Mom and I never finished Eloise Takes a Bwath; we switched over to The Phantom Tollboothinstead since you can only read the first page ofEloise Takes a Bwath so many times before you cannot take it anymore. We slowly made our way through The Phantom Tollbooth.

As the harsh Florida winter ended, I was at a point where it was no longer necessary for me to be read to; I could finally read a book on my own, something I had not done since school had started back in August. Over the course of six months, I had gone from nearly illiterate to reading again.

My parents often say that they wished they could have made it all better, wished they could have made my OCD go away. Looking back, I am happy their wish did not come true. Although I am grateful that I am better and my OCD is managed, I am more grateful for what my OCD has given me. When I was diagnosed with OCD, I was given the choice to let it control my life or get my life back. Through therapy, I’ve been able to learn one of the most important things, that I have the power to change my life. Beyond learning the power I have to change, I’ve also made some of my closes friends because of my OCD. I’ve met an incredibly community through the International OCD Foundation’s Conference and was able to speak to kids with OCD on the Teen Success Panel. I feel like I was given this challenge in order to make something out of it. Because of this belief, I’ve started a nonprofit summer camp for kids with OCD. Since I had to fight to get my life back, I will make something out of the life I now have.

To Authors

Growing up, authors always seemed like distant people to me. All authors must live in some far away city, such as Los Angeles or New York City, and spend every minute writing. I thought of authors as part of a secret society, one where the only way to get in was to grace the shelves of Barnes and Noble with your books. Authors were busy people that did not interact with us lowly readers. Their books, however, were just the opposite.

Books gave me access to the entire world; they brought people that I had only heard about right into my hands. I could travel anywhere I wanted to, speak to whomever was in the book, and befriend the protagonist. Books gave me a VIP pass to all worlds and their citizens. All worlds except for the world of authors, that is.

The wall between the illusive authors and their works was shattered when I read Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby. About a deaf girl who befriends a chimpanzee through sign language, Hurt Go Happy quickly became my favorite book from my childhood. As I finished the book, I noticed the Author’s Note at the end of the book. There, printed only a few pages away from what was the best book I had read up to that point, was Ginny Rorby’s email. It did not appear to be the email to a publishing company but to the author itself. As 5th grade me crafted my email, I was doubtful she would actually reply. My parents told me I would only get a pre-written response from the publisher, if anything.

“Thank you for your email. Ms. Rorby is quite busy writing, but appreciates your thoughts” should be what I would receive, everyone told me. That was, if I did even get a response.

Instead, a few days later, I woke up to an email for Rorby herself thanking me from the kind remarks and wanting to know more about me. I frantically typed back, amazed to be in correspondence with an actual author. Over the next 7 years, Ginny and I emailed almost daily. She would send me an early manuscript of the novel she was working on; I would send her my poetry or pieces that I wrote for class assignments.

Since I was interested in leaning more about chimpanzees, Ginny was able to set up a visit for me to a local chimpanzee and orangutan sanctuary, the same one where she had done her research for the book.

Hurt Go Happy connected me with someone I thought was too good to be real-an author. Her email back showed me the true power of books, connecting people to not only the characters in the books, but the author as well. Having just spent a week this summer staying and writing with Ginny in her tiny Northern California house, I am finally convinced that authors are people just like me. They are people who have a story to tell and simply tell it through words.

To Read Books Written by the Deceased

Recently I’ve somehow ended up reading books written by people that are dead.  Normally I don’t pay much attention to if the author is dead or alive, but after receiving The Opposite of Loneliness in my Easter basket, I’ve started to notice if the author is still alive.  

The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of essays written by Marina Keegan, a Yale graduate who was killed in a car accident three days after her graduation.  I started reading her book the day that I got it and fell in love with it.  The only thing that kept me from finishing the book that night was knowing that there would never be anything else written by Marina Keegan.  This book was the only piece of writing that I would be able to read by her.  

It got me thinking: Should we read books written by people who are dead differently than those whose authors are alive? Should I have stopped reading The Opposite of Loneliness simply because I wanted to savor the only writings that I would read from her? Or should I have just read the whole book in one sitting? 

How should we read books written by those who are dead?

As I thought about this, I realized that the majority of books that I’ve read have been written by people who are buried.  People who won’t write ever again.  Shakespeare, Ken Kesey, and George Orwell are just a few awesome authors who are no longer with us. I’ve read books by those three men without even thinking of if they were dead or not.  Not thinking that there would be no new writing from them. I simply read their books without a second thought. 

Why were Marina Keegan’s essays different? Why did I freeze before I continued reading? 

I have come to the conclusion that I stopped because she was so young.  There should have been more writings from her.  This should not have been her only published work. She was not expected to die.  

That was why I couldn’t keep reading.  I couldn’t keep reading because with every page turn, I was confronted by the shortness and harness of life.  Every page turn, I stood face to face with some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read, and it was written by someone who shouldn’t be dead. 

I couldn’t keep reading because that could be me.  That could be any of us.  

We can all be forced to stop writing, stop dancing, stop singing, stop creating at any moment.  

And as scary as that is, it’s also a challenge.  

What do we make with our time we have to create? 

“And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short” -Marina Keegan 

to rename pride and prejudice

I am currently reading Pride and Prejudice for my English class. Below are what I believe would be the titles that the characters would have thought up for Pride and Prejudice.  (PS I still have 50 pages left) 

1. Introverts and Extroverts (Submitted by Darcy)

2. Guess who’s coming for dinner? (Submitted by Mrs.Bennet)

3. The Bachelorette(s) (Submitted by Lydia Bennet)

4. He loves me.  He loves me not.  (Submitted by Jane Bennet)

5. I was wrong (Submitted by Elizabeth Bennet)

6. The Lives of the Less Fortunate (Submitted by Lady Catherine de Bourgh)

7. My Daughters are Idiots (Submitted by Mr.Bennet)

8. Good Thing I didn’t Marry Her (Submitted by Mr.Collins)

9. They Really Mean Well! (Submitted by Jane)


To rant about 1984

I have just finished 1984 for the second time.

For those of you how have somehow managed to get through life without reading it, close this page, drive yourself to the nearest bookstore, buy the book, and sit down and read it for the next 6 hours (or until you finish it).

Now that everybody who has not read this book is on his was to buy it, I don’t have to be worried about spoilers.  But in case you haven’t gotten the message *spoiler alert* (even though I believe that if you have not read the book that you deserve to have it spoiled).

Anyways, I just finished 1984 for the second time less that 4 minutes ago.  I had read it a few years back, and it didn’t really have much of an effect on me except that for some reason it was one of my favorites.

After rereading it, I see why I had a deep, passionate love affair with this book, and I think I’m ready to put a ring on it.

Never, ever, ever (and I read a lot of books), have I been so emotionally attached to characters.  Never have I come close to the point of sorrow that I felt when Julia and Winston get arrested.  BY THE SHOP KEPPER. ANYONE BUT HIM. That was the part that really got me.  I so badly wanted Julia and Winston to just live in the attic and drink coffee and read books and think and just have sex forever and ever and make little Julias and little Winstons.


And the fact that something so great becomes so tragically terrible in a matter of like .25 pages is what makes me want to just cry and pull my hair out and burn 1984 but build a shrine for it all at the same time.  So many conflicting emotions.

I knew that they were going to get caught; it is evident throughout the whole book.  But I was in denial.  I was not going to accept that Julia and Winston didn’t end up together forever and live in the attic and make babies and overthrow the government.

I’m still not sure that I accept that they are arrested, even though I saw it happen.

In my mind, they are still in the attic, laying on the bed, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate together.