Joanne Limburg thinks things she doesn’t want to think, and does things she doesn’t want to do. As a young woman, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours had come to completely dominate her life. She knew that something was wrong, but it would take many painful years of searching to find someone who could explain her symptoms.
The Woman Who Thought Too Much is a vividly honest, beautifully told and darkly witty memoir about the quest to understand and manage a life with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
As someone with personal experience of OCD, I get extremely cross about the way it is misrepresented. OCD isn’t about being tidy and organised (take note Michelle Mone and anyone who thought her interview on ‘This Morning’ had anything at all to do with OCD – if you want to know what it’s really like then this article is a good starting point). OCD sufferers have intrusive thoughts and obsessions and often feel compelled to carry out an action, such as reciting something or touching something, in order to make those thoughts go away. For Limburg, OCD manifests itself in obsessive thoughts about the danger inherent in everything. She sees danger in normal everyday things and obsesses over it, unable to shake the thoughts, and this has a debilitating effect on her life – for example, she can only cross a road when it is completely clear in both directions, a fear that intensifies when she has to cross a road with her small son.
This book is honest, sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, reassuring, and incredibly well-written. The author is a poet, and her talents show in the writing. This makes the book strangely enjoyable to read as well as disturbing. The author comes across as a genuinely lovely person, and it is hard to read sometimes how her disorder has prevented her from enjoying many things in life.
This is such an important book because there are so many misconceptions about OCD. People still view it as something minor, but it can, and does, prevent people from living a fulfilling life. If you suffer from OCD, or think you may suffer from it, this book will offer reassurance that you’re not alone; if you know someone who suffers from OCD, then this book will help you understand what’s going on in their heads, and if you’re one of those people who arranges their bookshelves in alphabetical order and then proudly proclaims, ‘Oh, I’m just a bit OCD’, then you should definitely read this and maybe you’ll realise that it’s no laughing matter.