Nowhere Near Normal, Traci Foust

“You do not merely stretch rhino leather over your own fair skin, for that would deflect pleasure as well as pain, and you do not permit your being to turn stinking inside a shell, but what you do it swirl yourself in the toughness of dreams.” (Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

Traci Foust’s memoir provides an extremely honest insight into life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Foust’s ability to clearly convey the intensity of the distress involved in this illness is startling. There are times in the reading of this book hat I had to walk away, pause to remind myself that I was not a part of her obsessions, but that I was an outsider, looking in – this is how real this  book seems for readers. When Foust hid in the bathroom to brush her teeth repeatedly with bleach, I felt as though I was there with her, burying the shame of the need to eradicate any possibility of germs existing in her world. When she traipsed through the house at all hours of the morning while the world was asleep, unplugging appliances because she had convinced herself that if she didn’t, bad things would undoubtedly happen to her, her family, everyone she loved, I too traipsed after her, worrying for her, with her. And I think that this is part of what Foust is trying to convey in this account:  “Later still would come the gratitude toward all the secret hardships a parent must endure and the steadfast patience required to raise a difficult child.”

The bulk of this book is about Foust’s inability to see beyond her own obsessive behaviour, the difficulty she has in being honest with people she cares for and the challenges involved in trying to make something of her life when she is so immersed in and gripped by obscure compulsions. Fortunately for her, she is surrounded by a relatively supportive family, although at times she cannot see this.

Beneath all the trauma of the OCD is the sadness that envelopes Traci as she is immobilised and lost in the mire of her obsessions. Her inability to escape leaves her bereft of hope and stuck in an endless, disabling cycle. How can she possibly define herself when she is so consumed by these obsessions?

Needless to say, I found this book extremely disturbing. Foust has since been diagnosed with Aspergers which clearly sheds further light on the workings of her mind.

 

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