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The Literary Minds Online Book Club is in Session – Please share your thoughts about ‘Nowhere Near Normal’

Readers, welcome to our discussion of  “Nowhere Near Normal – A Memoir of OCD,” by Traci Foust. This conversation will take place in the comments section, below.

For the next book, we will enjoy a hybrid between the online interaction here on anewscafe.com and a face-to-face meeting, complete with refreshments, at YAKS on May 31 to discuss our second book,  “A Long Way Down,”  by Nick Hornbyn.

But first books, first.

I’ll start, and after that, please, jump in and share your thoughts, OK?

The book’s cover photo illustration for “Nowhere Near Normal – A Memoir of OCD”  shows half a dozen whole, white, smooth eggs in a holder beside an egg with the top shell cracked and broken, exposing the raw yolk and runny white inside.

For me, that was the ideal depiction of author Traci Foust’s tale of her life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, beginning when we meet young Traci at age 8, and going on up through her 20s.

Having the story begin when Traci’s 8 is ideal because it was shortly before that when Traci’s OCD traits began. The older, and more aware of others’ behavior Foust became, the more it dawned upon her that she was different – that she had a problem. She began to notice that, for example, nobody else washed their hands nearly raw with Ajax, or nobody else had to snap their fingers after saying the word ‘God’ or nobody else needed to repeatedly check, double-check and triple-check  door locks, and nobody else she knew had debilitating fears of germs and illnesses.

Foust’s child self character is so smart and engaging that I found her a completely sympathetic person, despite some of her over-the-top behaviors, such as nearly killing a young playmate by locking the little girl in a hot car.

I felt such great frustration for Foust as a child, because she was so obviously unable to articulate to her family what exactly wast ailing her, and the anxiety she suffered alone.

One of the parts of the book that I liked the most was the question-and-answer session with Foust at the end of the book. She is blunt and brilliant and plain-talking, and can perfectly sum up a thought, such as she did here, when discussing her acceptance of OCD.

“Rising above the stigma of mental illness (which is a fancy way of saying people are ignorant and you may have to deal with their crap) means that you have to say Okay, I’m getting better, I can see I’m getting better, ” and this passage, where she shares some of her most helpful affirmations – many of which she carried on Sticky Notes as reminders –  that helped her cope:

“…I think my favorite ones are those that end in who cares? Like, I have a little more anxiety today than yesterday – WHO CARES! Or, if I have to leave the party because I’m getting anxious – WHO CARES!”

Foust says those messages were crucial because she’d spent her whole working herself into a panic over what others would think or do.

“You cannot imagine how freeing it is to let go of that,” she says.

Statements like that were so illuminating, and were so potentially applicable for us all – not just someone with OCD. And Foust’s book made me feel ashamed for how loosely I’ve tossed around terms like OCD, without truly thinking of what it means to suffer from this disorder.

Sometimes, while reading Foust’s descriptions of her seemingly irrational behaviors, I was reminded of irrational things I’ve done in my own life, like make myself drive home to see if I left a stove burner or iron on, which made me relate that much more to Foust.

Readers, how about you? What are your thoughts about Foust’s book? Or, if you haven’t read the book, do you have anything to share about OCD.

This Literary Minds Online Book Club is the third collaboration between anewscafe.com and the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency in honor of May’s Mental Health Month. Special thanks to everyone at SCHHSA, and most notably its Community Education Committee, for the work to make this event happen.

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Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.