Book review: Clean by Amy Reed

Simon Pulse, 2011

Clean by Amy Reed

This YA novel is told with a five-person narrative in addition to the patients’ detailed personal essays and compelling substance abuse questionnaires. While I both like to read and write from alternate viewpoints, I was concerned five would be too much but then remembered how much I enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible. That was also five perspectives being the mother and the four daughters caught up in the Belgian Congo in 1959. Well besides both being five viewpoints, they couldn’t be any more different. These five patients in a rehab center come together not on their own accord but end up enhancing the lives of the other characters, if only for a brief moment in time.

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have hit the rock bottom of addiction. The individual voices were unique, honest and intriguing and portrayed their distinct frame of minds as they confronted their pasts amidst forced introspection in this new group of strangers. The difficult, often gut-wrenching concepts of the danger of drugs and the necessity of help were well written, albeit occasionally choppy because of the format. But it was heartening to know that there is hope out there, so you don’t have to be alone once they stopped resisting treatment as is common with teens.

All in all, the characters were relatable in this fast-moving story about hope and guidance despite bad backgrounds and experiences. It was reminiscent of the 1985 teen movie, The Breakfast Club as to how the five teens were thrown together, not knowing they needed one another and ultimately touched each other’s lives amidst the harrowing nature of life’s circumstances and sometimes obstacles.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, my memoirs, or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

My Reason for Starting This Blog

I started this blog to reach out and connect to people with similar challenges in a healthy and positive way. The blog has personal history, ideas on lessening the severity of some symptoms, insight, goals, and therapies for those with similar diagnoses or those with family members or friends that are curious on how to communicate or help their loved one.

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It’s fulfilling and therapeutic to open up about my past, present, and future goals. I’ve enjoyed the messages that I’ve received from likeminded individuals through my books’ contact information. Some of the things that helped me aided them as well. That makes it all worth it.

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By finding articles and researching studies to write my own articles, I learn more about my diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment for my disorders and those of loved ones such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, self-harm, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, among others.

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Some people who read this mental health blog are concerned individuals who want to reach out and connect with the mental health community to understand what their children, family members, friends, or acquaintances experience. Some of the earliest posts on this blog are from a few years ago when I started it. My mental health took a downturn for a brief time, and I became distracted. This time around, I’m in a better place and have learned more than I knew before and continue to take part in therapies to lessen the illness. I welcome those new readers and thank those that have written to me about the topics I share here and those in my books.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub, BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Facts & How it Affects Me

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OCD is characterized by intrusive, troubling thoughts (obsessions), and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) which are time-consuming, significantly impair functioning and/or cause distress. The average onset of OCD is 19 years old and occurs slightly more often in females than in males. It affects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children.

When an obsession occurs, it almost always corresponds with a significant increase in anxiety and distress. Subsequent compulsions serve to reduce this associated anxiety/distress.

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Common obsessions include:

  • contamination fears
  • worries about harm to self or others
  • need for symmetry, exactness and order
  • religious/moralistic concerns
  • forbidden thoughts (can be sexual or aggressive)
  • a need to seek reassurance or confess

Common compulsions include:

  • cleaning/washing
  • checking
  • counting
  • repeating
  • straightening
  • routinized behaviors
  • confessing
  • praying
  • seeking reassurance
  • touching
  • tapping or rubbing
  • avoidance

Many people with OCD recognize that it isn’t rational but continue to need to act on their obsessions with their corresponding compulsions and may spend lengthy amounts of time, like several hours daily, performing senseless rituals. OCD can be chronic and interfere with a person’s schoolwork, job, family, or social activities. Proper treatment with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy can help sufferers regain control over the illness and feel relief from the symptoms.

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My onset was also at 19 years old despite occasional cutting (of my thighs) as a younger teenager. The bulk of my OCD began when with dealing with an alcoholic spouse. I’d start worrying about a fire in the apartment and what the police or firefighters would walk into, so I repetitively cleaned, straightened, and reorganized many times so they wouldn’t think low of me. At 21 years old, when my daughter was born, I worried something bad would happen to her; so I began touching a set of feng-shui coins tied in a red ribbon that I’d nailed to the entry door trim. Then I established the handwashing routine where I’d scrub roughly for eighteen minutes. After that the tapping the table eight times began.

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When I returned to college at age twenty-six, I’d avoid certain hallways and walk unnecessarily around campus as opposed to direct paths. When I had to take the quick routes for social reasons, I’d ask for reassurance that nothing bad would occur. Two years later, after I filed for divorce, I sought help so others wouldn’t see my compulsions. The psychiatrist prescribed SSRIs which eased a good deal of the more embarrassing situations.

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Now, I take Zoloft (serotonin) and Wellbutrin (dopamine) for the chemical imbalances in my brain. Those are an immense help. Now the social disturbances are almost non-existent unless an event occurs that stresses me beyond normal levels, such as my daughter receiving radiation therapy or immunotherapy. The only thing that I compulsively perform is touching the coins when I leave or enter. The reasoning behind that is that nothing will happen to my loved ones. I realize it’s irrational, but I can’t quite handle that obsession and compulsion yet.

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My point is that help is available. You may not be cured, but a combination of medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy may treat it to the point of others not observing your behaviors, especially in confined spaces like classes, meetings, or elevators.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, my writing memoirs, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: Under Rose-tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

What happens when one day you just wake up with mental illness, like agoraphobia, anxiety, or OCD? For thirteen-year-old Norah Dean that is her reality. There is no concrete reason why her, but now seventeen-year-old Norah no longer leaves the house without having a panic attack. She can’t even walk down the stairs without a ritual. So she has extremely limited human interaction with that being her mom, therapist, and an occasional guy from Helping Hands. She relies on social media and her house to feel a sense of security.

Then seventeen-year-old, courageous Norah meets charming neighbor Luke, and now she wants to get better and get over her illness. This novel is about Norah’s struggle with her insecurities and self-perception, but can she do anything to stop it. Norah, the heroine, works hard to not let these things define her throughout the story.

The author’s descriptions of social anxiety were spot on and had me recognizing similar feelings myself. Louise Gornall didn’t shy away from mental illness; instead, she explains the mortifying effects of mental illness that can leave one sheltered and lonesome. On the lighter side, the book had humorous dialogue, particularly between the mother and daughter. It is a brutally honest read that also leaves you entertained and appreciative that Norah was beyond her illness and for shedding light on mental illness with an accurate portrayal of her mental illness and self-acceptance.

Book review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Usborne Publishing, 2015

Is it a good idea to go off medication? Probably not. Would about when you’re trying something new? Especially not. For the sixteen-year-old protagonist in this YA novel, Evie, like most of us, just wants to be normal as she’s starting off new at school. Left behind is the label of the “girl who went crazy.” Nobody at her new school knows about her diagnosis of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). So she’s making friends, going to parties, and thinking about a relationship. But if she can’t even open up to her friends about her diagnosis, how can she be in a relationship?

As an OCD sufferer myself, I found this YA novel comforting and relatable in the fact that I’m not alone. But the downside is my obsessions and compulsions got intertwined with those Evie experiences. So, this book has a trigger warning. All in all, it should help non-sufferers to experience what people like Evie and I go through daily. It’s openness about mental health issues is refreshing but with this illness in particular society has gone too far in taking it on as a typical characteristic by saying things like “I’m so OCD because I have to have my desk a certain way.” Doing so minimizes how severe and debilitating OCD actually is.

This tearjerker of a book takes you into the character’s mind at her most difficult times. We get to experience if only momentarily, the “bad thoughts” that Evie dwells on as well as the occasional “good thought.” We know what Evie really thinks about a situation and how she deals with it, which really makes one ruminate. And lastly, this book doesn’t play up mental illness or relationships as the be all end all well of happiness and jubilation. It is more realistic.

Book review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Dutton Books, 2017

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a masterfully crafted book that accurately depicts life with a mental illness by tapping into the spiraling world of a teenage mind. The empathetic narrative also offers a bevy of memorable voices. The story follows a young girl named Aza, who is reunited with her fugitive billionaire friend, Davis, whose dad has gone missing. Aza struggles to juggle school, her social life, and her family, while having to deal with the never-ending spiral of her own thoughts. Even though she struggles so much, she is still smart and loved so dearly offering a balanced depiction.

The way Aza’s struggle was put into words was incredible, and it portrays mental illness so accurately. I related to Aza’s journey. Aza’s mental illness never goes away or is cured, and nothing is glossed over, cured, or romanticized. The relationships in this book are very authentic as well because the mental health representation is spot on. It may give someone a character to relate to or give someone else a greater understanding of mental.

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Angela Grey is a writer with paranoid schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety. She has created memorable moving tales about the sometimes unexpected and challenging road to first love: Secret Whispers (a story about schizophrenia), Déjà vu (a tale about a teen with bipolar disorder), and Of Laughter & Heartbreak (a piece about obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on Bookshop, TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

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