Ever since I gave birth to my own child almost 30 years ago, I've often thought that it was like an actual piece of my heart left my body and was now walking around in the form of my son. I think it is not a stretch to imagine that is how Janet Singer feels about her own children. I like to think of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" as a love story, featuring the selfless love a parent has for a suffering and hurting child. In this case, it is the story of Janet and Gary Singer, and their college student son, Dan, who was struggling with severe OCD.
I was excited, and a bit nervous, when Janet asked me to read and then review her book. I was nervous because, well, what if I didn't like the book? Phew. No worries there. I love this book. I mean, I really love this book. It is very well written and flows easily through what was probably one of the most painful years of the Singer family's lives. I had a hard time putting the book down and read it in its entirety in a handful of sittings.
At times, I longed to hear more about Dan's obsessions and what the thoughts were behind his particular compulsions. However, I began to suspect that perhaps Janet was protecting his privacy, or maybe she was purposely not making those things the focus of her memoir. After all, the content of obsessions and any particular compulsions are really not the important thing. No matter how you slice it, it's still OCD, and OCD, regardless of each person's individual particulars, gets treated in essentially the same fashion: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
What Janet did focus on was her and Gary's attempts to help their son navigate through the mental health care system so he could find healing and hopefully, a return to a more "normal" life. What a journey that was! From incompetent doctors, to improper medication, and through the difficult, but effective, treatment of ERP, Janet and Gary were there the whole time to advocate for and encourage Dan. At one point, they even picked up and moved their entire lives so they could be close to Dan when he returned to college. It ended up being a very wise decision.
"Overcoming OCD" also has a co-author, Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D. Throughout the book, Dr. Gillihan adds thoughtful and informative commentary abut OCD, and more importantly, treatment, including ERP and medication. His input is spot-on and adds a critically important component to the book. These are not throwaway or filler remarks. They are filled with solid information that sufferers and their families can use to guide them forward through the maze of battling OCD.
Lastly, there is a "Resources" section at the end of the book listing helpful organizations, treatment centers, and other books. I always appreciate it when an author is considerate enough to include that type of information.
After finishing the book, I was left with a few thoughts:
1. Would I be as selfless if my own son needed me in this way? Oh I sure hope so!
2. It is absolutely crucial that family members advocate for a loved one who is ill and suffering, especially if the illness (physical or mental) causes them to have a decline in their ability to make good decisions for their own health.
3. Trust my instincts. I must do the homework and the research about the illness so that I can make informed and educated decisions, but at the end of the day, I need to trust my instincts.
"Overcoming OCD" is a big win for me, and I will gladly recommend it, along with my long beloved other favorite OCD memoir, "Rewind, Replay, Repeat" by Jeff Bell.
"Ovecoming OCD," ISBN 978-1-4422-3944-9, is now available in hardcover, coming in at 206 pages, and it is published by Rowman & Littlefield. It is also available for Kindle!
My only compensation was a free copy of "Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery" from the publisher, in exchange for my honest book review.