My friend Matt Bieber writes eloquently about what it feels like to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He has compiled some of his essays into a book, and I’m happy to share my review below:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an often misrepresented and misunderstood illness. As an advocate for OCD awareness, I spend a fair amount of time trying to explain to others exactly what OCD is. And I don’t even have OCD – my son does. Still, it’s not difficult to define the disorder and give examples of what it entails. What is nearly impossible for me to do, however, is convey what it actually feels like to live with OCD: how it makes you act, how it distorts your thinking, how it attacks the very things you hold most dear, and how you can spiral down into an abyss so deep, it is often nearly impossible to find your way out. I don’t have to attempt this insurmountable task anymore. I just have to recommend reading Matt Bieber’s book, Life in the Loop: Essays on OCD.
Bieber is an intelligent, introspective, gifted writer. He also has OCD. Life in the Loop consists of nineteen essays that touch upon all aspects and time periods of his life, and he brings the reader right along with him as he tries to make sense of a disorder that he readily admits makes no sense. In many ways it’s a paradox. In OCD is a Full-Time Job he writes:
“What’s wrong with me again? That I sometimes have completely unrealistic thoughts which generate unbelievably powerful fears. But none of that is real – so why is this so painful again?”
Bieber explores his OCD from all angles, including delving into his knowledge of Buddhism to see how it might help him in his quest to break free, or at least understand, his obsessive-compulsive disorder. He finds the two often conflict. In What OCD has Taught Me About Buddhism (and vice versa) he writes:
“OCD is built on the premise that control is possible, and that there’s someone there – some kind of “self” – to do the controlling. But as the dharma points out – and as meditation reveals – this just isn’t true.”
The book is enlightening, philosophical, and even humorous at times. But it is also full of anguish, and I often felt exhausted, feeling the intensity of Bieber’s experiences. But that is what OCD is – exhausting. I wanted to tell Matt to stop being so hard on himself, to stop thinking about everything so much, and to just relax and enjoy his life. All opposites of what OCD commands.
That’s not to say there aren’t glimmers of hope throughout the book; there are. Bieber knows his OCD inside and out, knows that fear and uncertainty are what drive it, and that living in the present is possible. As he says:
“I’ve seen this; I’ve known it, if only for moments.”
I highly recommend Life in the Loop: Essays on OCD to anyone whose life has been affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as to those who want to learn more about what OCD really is. I don’t think you will find a more honest account anywhere.