Skip to main content

Body Punishment: Book Review


Are you like so OCD, that you have to arrange all your clothes by colour?

Just because you like things organized or tidy, does not mean you have OCD, which, by the way, is not an adjective, its a mental illness.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and its nothing to laugh at.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around the condition, and a lot of silly misrepresentations in the media. Its not something cute and quirky, it is potentially very serious and disruptive to a person's life.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted, uncontrollable and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. OCD is often associated with eating disorders, depression and generalized anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks.

Note, however, that OCD is distinct from OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). OCPD is is a personality disorder characterized by an overconcern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness to experience, and efficiency. There is some overlap with OCD, however, those with OCD see their symptoms as unwanted and shameful whereas those with OCPD see their behaviour as rational and advantageous.

There are also many people who do have some obsessive compulsive 'traits' or tendencies, but would not meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of OCD. But just because you are a perfectionist does not mean you have OCD traits.

Now that we've got that all out of the way, I will review Body Punishment, a memoir by writer Maggie Lamond Simone which details her life long suffering from OCD that wasn't diagnosed into late adulthood.

Her tragic story - which fortunately ends well - is a perfect example of the harm caused by the shame and stigma associated with mental illness. This talented, intelligent woman had no idea she was suffering from a mental illness, suffered by many others like her, for most of her life to-date. Why? Because we don't talk about it enough!

Recently, many initiatives, like Bell's Let's Talk campaign, have started to bring attention and awareness to mental illness, but much of the focus has been on depression.  Very seldom does OCD get mentioned. This is despite the fact that OCD and other anxiety disorders are often associated with depression.

I applaud Simone for her courage to not only admit her struggles with OCD, but to detail the symptoms, which seem odd to others, and are a great source of embarrassment and shame.

You probably think of excessive hand washing when you think of OCD, and that can be the way it manifests, but it can also manifest in a wide variety of behaviours. For Simone, it was through pulling out her eyelashes and eyebrows, and self-starvation (hence the title of her book). Though there are pharmacological treatments for OCD, along with counselling strategies that can help, Simone just thought she was broken and self-medicated with alcohol.

Here is an excerpt from Body Punishment:

Its a vicious circle: I have obsessive thoughts and uncontrollable urges that seemingly no one else has, which cause my self-esteem to plummet; since I have such a low opinion of myself, I feel I don't deserve to be with other people, to love other people, or to let other people love me; the loneliness and hatred cause anxiety, which kicks the OCD into high hear, compelling me to do things to myself that will further my isolation because I make myself ugly by scarring my face or plucking out my hair.

...When I'm plucking, or picking at my face, or stepping o and off that scale, or counting, the world is on hold. I'm completely away. My brain shuts down and I'm focused on my task. It's as though I'm able to shut myself off from life entirely for those few minutes. I escape. And nothing hurts.

In fact, it's almost like meditation--a distorted, perverse, self-destructive medication technique...

One of the reasons I have chosen these passages to share is that her description of the mental state while performing the rituals is something I can relate to.

I have always known I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. How? I have no idea. But even as a kid, I was always prone to various mental games and tasks, like counting how many steps I took or bites of food, etc. I also am a compulsive picker. Since childhood I have chewed at my fingers and cuticles (not my fingernails though). It sounds weird but I feel like it helps me think. Unfortunately, it often ends up with me drawing blood and hurting myself and it totally grosses out Adam and the kids.  I've actually much cut down on how much I do it, not even on purpose except maybe perhaps because as I've gotten older, my skin has gotten dryer and chewing on my fingers leads to more cracks in them, especially in cold weather, which are extremely painful. Pain, at least for me, is a good deterrent!

I have also had OCD. After Little A was born, I felt so overwhelmed and incapable of caring for a toddler and an infant that I developed generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I did, in fact, develop the hand washing kind. This fear of contamination I developed was directly linked to my anxiety around taking care of the kids: I feared I'd come into contact with some germs that would make them sick. I also became overly worried about something happening to them. Any time Adam would take one or both girls out without me, I had to tell him to be careful and drive safe, or I would be plagued with extreme anxiety that there would be an accident.

Luckily, I knew things with me were not right and I sought help.  Medication and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped me get over it.

Simone is a good writer and though I am sure she could have filled many more pages full of her experiences and insights, she manages to keep the book focused and concise. There is some jumping back and forth in chronological time, but she manages to prevent the story from getting confusing, despite this.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you think you might have OCD or that a loved one may have it, you will find this book extremely enlightening. If you know so, even more so!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Blackfly Coolers: Product Review

Summer is over! Well, at least if you're a student. Officially it doesn't end for a few weeks, and it certainly still feels like summer. Yeah, I hate it. This f*cking hot, humid weather needs to end NOW! We made the most of our last weekend of the summer with our annual trip to the CNE on Friday, with a crowd of friends. It wasn't unbearably lot, thank goodness, and the girls and their friends had a blast on the rides.  Saturday I had to work, and Sunday was errand day. Monday we took the girls berry/apple/pear picking but didn't last long due to the heat. I organized the house to prepare for the construction workers starting back up yesterday, while Adam took the girls for a swim in our neighbourhood pool.

Yesterday was the first day of school. Grade 2 and Grade 5. Yep, the girls are growing up.  We are fortunate that the girls don't have much anxiety about school, they are so much more confident than I ever was as a kid! But now, in the midst of our reno chaos, …

Live Clean

I have been committed to living a healthy life through nutrition and fitness for over 20 years now.

It took me a lot longer to pay attention to what I was cleaning the house with and what I was putting ON my body as opposed to IN it.

When I got pregnant with Big A I started reading about the toxins in a lot of commercial cleaning products and switched to the all-natural, eco-friendly stuff. When I became pregnant with Little A, I switched to all-natural, eco-friendly personal care products.

I am all for being environmentally friendly for the good of the planet, but to be honest, what really motivates me to make these types of changes is concern for my family's health.

You may remember I mentioned giving up my favorite perfume a while back because it apparently is full of nasty chemicals. I switched to the "Red Tea" scent made my Roots, which is supposed to be somewhat "natural". This was only after a number of trial and errors. I first found a woman in …

Panang Curry

When we go out for Thai food, one of my favorite things to order is the panang curry. But there is no doubt when this dish is made in a restaurant, it packs a hefty wallop of fat, sodium and calories.

My version is lightened up, but still rich and flavourful and it is super simple to make.

Traditionally, panang curry is made with either beef or chicken, but I made it vegetarian, using dried seiten (wheat gluten) I got at T&T a few weeks ago. If you are not sensitive to gluten, this is a great source of vegetarian protein. If you cannot find it dried, you can get it prepared at most health food stores. Alternatively, you can use tofu, or the more traditional chicken or beef options.

This dish also doesn't usually have much vegetable matter in it, but I love how yummy veggies taste when simmered in this sauce, and it makes this a healthy one-pot meal. Use whatever veggies you prefer or have on hand.

Protein of choice (2 cups seiten or 1 lb organic tofu, boneless skinless ch…