I was asked to read and review I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands: The Other Side of OCD, by J.J. Keeler, as part of a TLC Book Tour for the book.
Rather, Keeler suffers from harm obsessions and compulsions.
In the first-person narrative, Keeler writes about the different obsessions that started when she was a child and the checking she does to try to resolve the anxiety.
In a chapter called “The Bomb in My Teddy Bear,” she writes about her obsession that a teddy bear she received as a gift had a bomb inside it. She doesn’t know what to do with the bear because she fears it blowing up and hurting others. And she can’t diffuse the bomb because she doesn’t know how: “I was eight years old and I knew nothing about diffusing bombs. My school system had failed me” (p. 29).
Keeler uses humor to discuss a subject that is obviously very serious to her. Throughout the book, she offers “Random OCD Facts” such as “OCD can interfere with the ability to sleep” (p. 59).
In “A Bump in the Road,” Keeler writes about her hit and run OCD, which leads her to drive miles and hours out of her way to make sure she hasn’t hit someone or to make sure there’s no baby in the abandoned grocery store cart she sees by the roadside.
In “The Belly of a Babe,” she writes about her efforts to keep the world safe for children, removing things from the environment that she thinks might be harmful and keeping a watchful eye even on children she doesn’t know.
Keeler knows that her fears are not rational: “But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering, What if? If we OCDers were all related, that saying would be on our family crest” (p. 143).
Statements like that ring true and had me nodding my head and feeling a kinship with Keeler as I read.
Keeler provides vivid details about what it was like to check for fire, for bombs, and for other harm that might come to not only her family and people she knew, but strangers. She mixes the description with anecdotes about her experiences.
The last chapter of her book suggests that she has gotten professional help for her OCD. Called “Dear Friend,” it offers very helpful advice.
In a section called “Ignore what you need to ignore,” she tells her readers to “listen to science, to doctors, to people who have dedicated their lives to studying mental illness, who have passed tests and received degrees in this field, and to those who have experienced it first hand” (p. 161).
In the section “Find therapy that works for you,” Keeler names cognitive behavior therapy as “one of the most widely used” (p. 163). She urges readers to look for a therapy that works for them if the therapy they’re doing isn’t helping: “It’s your brain and you’re free to fix it any way you want” (p. 163).
This book resonated with me, and I think it would with other sufferers of OCD. It would also be helpful for family members and friends of those with OCD because of the clear picture of obsessions and compulsions it gives.
I enjoyed the humor and the readability of this book. I felt like Keeler was talking to me as I read it.
She did an excellent job in describing what it was like to have the fears of OCD and the increasing anxiety brought on by giving in to compulsions.
I wish she had written more about how her OCD symptoms impacted her relationships, especially with her family as she grew up and her college roommates, friends and husband. I would also like to know when she sought treatment for OCD and what worked for her because I think that information would be helpful to the reader on his or her own journey.
That said, this is still definitely a book I highly recommend.
Note: I received a free copy of this book for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.