BOOK EXCERPT: My First Visit with a Psychiatrist

Being Me with OCD coverOur very own IOCDF blogger, Alison Dotson, has just released her first book, Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life, a memoir/self-help book for teens and young adults about life with OCD!  We are excited to be able to share an excerpt from the book on the blog. Check it out, and then feel free to ask Alison questions in the comments below. One lucky commenter will win a free ebook copy of Being Me with OCD. Just comment below to be entered into the drawing. We will pick a winner at 5pm on Monday, 11/25! —Carly

My First Visit with a Psychiatrist

My appointment wasn’t until four o’clock, so I had to go to work and sit in anticipation all day. I told a coworker that I had an appointment with a psychiatrist and how scared I was, and she told me she had seen one when her parents got divorced and that I wouldn’t have to talk about anything I didn’t want to.

“They’re not going to judge you,” she said. “Just think of all the horrible things they hear every day! You’re normal.” Yeah, I thought, that’s what you think. I felt like I was pulling the wool over people’s eyes and fooling them into perceiving me as a regular, everyday gal.

Dr. Grant’s office was more like one of those you would find when you visit your general practitioner than the psychiatrist’s office on TV and in movies. There was no leather fainting couch, no bookshelf-lined walls, no framed degrees hanging.

I sat in a small office-like chair as Dr. Grant thoughtfully paged through the questionnaire I had filled out. The silence was nerve-wracking—I watched him read through my answers, wondering when he’d recoil in disgust, but he never did. He only nodded now and then and scrawled notes on a pad. He assured me that the notes were for his personal use and that no one else would ever read them.

“All right,” he said as he flipped through the last few pages. “Tell me why you’re here.”

I had been chewing gum on the way to the appointment because my mouth was dry, so I took a tissue out of the box on the desk beside me, wrapped my gum in it, and then clutched the bunched-up wad in my hand to absorb my nervous sweat.

“It’s hard to talk about,” I said, suddenly afraid I had waited all this time and wouldn’t be able to tell my would-be savior what he needed to save me from. “I . . . I . . . let’s just say the article I identified with was called ‘Thinking Bad Thoughts.’”

“Okay, okay,” he said, nodding along patiently. “There are three so-called taboo obsessions. They fall under the categories of religious, violent, and sexual obsessions. Would you say your obsessions fall into one of these categories?”

“Yes,” I answered slowly. “Religious and sexual, but not violent. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been so ‘good’ about sex. I wasn’t going to have sex until I got married; I was always very into church.”

I began to cry softly. Warm, salty tears were rolling down my cheeks and coming to a point on my chin, where they dripped off. I dabbed at them with my wadded-up, gum-filled tissue, then grabbed a clean one.

“I can’t tell anyone because they’ll stop loving me if they know.” My throat tightened and another hot tear escaped my eye and began to roll down my cheek.

“I know it’s easy for me to say, and I’m not telling you you have to tell anyone,” Dr. Grant said, “but I am certain they would understand. They would still love you.”

“Yeah, maybe my mom would,” I choked out, feeling a bit more hopeful.

“You’re not a bad person,” he said in a convincing tone before he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I don’t know you. Maybe you are. Maybe you kick puppies or maybe you’re a bad friend, but you’re not a bad person because of this. What I’ve found about people with OCD is that they’re some of the brightest people; they are very conscientious, so much so that they worry needlessly about things their morals would never allow them to do.”

I had never thought of it that way. The reason my obsessions sent me into such a spiral of shame was that I was a good person, and I did have strong morals, I knew the difference between right and wrong, and I truly cared about doing the right thing. The people to worry about, Dr. Grant explained to me, are those who fantasize, rather than obsess, about violent behavior or taboo sexual acts like incest or molestation.

“It’s almost as though whatever I think is the worst possible thing a person can be at that time of my life—that’s what I believe myself to be.” I struggled through my explanation, but Dr. Grant understood.

He nodded emphatically, sympathetically, as though he were saying, “Yes, yes, you’re exactly right, this is what I’ve found in my research.” I could tell I had hit on something that was common in OCD sufferers, which calmed me considerably.

After we chatted for a while longer, Dr. Grant made a teepee with his hands and said, “So what can I do for you? The answer, I think, is a lot.”

I had never heard such sweet words. He could do a lot for me. A lot!

Excerpted from Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life by Alison Dotson, copyright © 2014. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; All rights reserved.

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About Alison Dotson

I am the author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life, a nonfiction book for teens and young adults with OCD. Part memoir, part self-help guide, Being Me with OCD lets readers know they're not alone in their struggle to get better--and that there is hope.

44 thoughts on “BOOK EXCERPT: My First Visit with a Psychiatrist

  1. I always wanted to write a book (or two) but haven’t gotten around to it yet – even at 72. I thought no one would want to read it/them. I have bits and pieces of a number of anxiety disorders, including but not limited to: Panic w/Agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD, Generalized Anxiety and more.
    Good Luck with your book and God Bless you.

  2. Thank you Alison for writing this!! I cannot wait to get a copy of this for my waiting room library! There are so many teens that need to see that they are not alone and this book will be inspirational to them all!

  3. Hello, thank you so much!! I’ve been living with introusive thoughts almost every day for the past year and a half. OCD has taken control over my entire life, but your book gave me hope that it won’t be here forever. You are such a kind person, very strong and full of empathy. Once again, thank you for writing this book because most of the time, the only thing that helps me is the fact that I am not the only one who is going through this.

    • Hi, Jana. There is hope! Intrusive thoughts are just that–intrusive! And it can feel almost impossible to shake them, but you can work on it bit by bit. I felt so much better the moment I realized I wasn’t alone, either, so that’s why I share so much of myself, even the most embarrassing details. Good luck!

  4. Sounds like just the book for my 12 year old daughter!!! It is a subject that there is just not enough information on. I noticed OCD signs in my daughter when she started school. It has been a struggle for her and is heartbreaking to see your child go through. I will look for this book as I am sure it will bring comfort to her.

    • Hi, Cindy! I hope it will help your daughter! In addition to my story there are several essays written by teens and young adults. Right now the book is available electronically–for your Nook, Kindle, or computer. It will be out in paperback in March.

  5. I am the mom of a 13 year old daughter that was diagnosed 3 years ago with OCD along with ADHD. She also now suffers from PTSD because her father was killed in a horrific car accident. I have read anything and everything related to these disorders and find that knowledge is power. there aren’t many books out there that younger persons can relate to. Can’t wait to read the rest of your book!

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Traci. What a terrible thing to go through, especially at a young age. I hope reading other people’s stories helps your daughter–I share my story, of course, but several teens and young adults wrote essays, too.

  6. I’m so glad you wrote this as a young adult book. So many teens with OCD don’t know of anyone else personally with the same struggles, and feeling a part of a larger community is especially important in those years. Thank you!

  7. I think my son should read this book. He was diagnosed with OCD at 10 years old and has been on medication ever since. He is 20 now and in the process of weaning himself off the mess because he thinks he can handle the thoughts now that he is older. He is in his second year of college and doing well. I look forward to reading this book.

  8. I can’t completely relate to your story. I remember the first time I told a psychiatrist about my OCD thoughts. I thought they were going to lock me up and throw away the key. It’s takes a lot of courage to tell someone. It’s great you wrote a book about it. I’m sure it will bring a lot of people comfort.

    • It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! I honestly thought I might be arrested or put in a psych ward. I didn’t realize how many other people had similar thoughts and hated them as much as I did–and that there are medical professionals who KNOW that. I’m so thankful for that!

  9. So glad you wrote this….the more info we can get out about OCD, the better! We have a son dealing with this and when we first learned what he had, there was so little information and no one to help us. Even now, there are so few psychologists that have specialized in that field, so if you do find one, there’s a waiting list, or they are not taking new patients! So thank you, for your part in spreading the word, that there is help for OCD sufferers!

  10. This good book will reach many through me. I run groups as a therapist, and look forward to sharing the terrific information in my therapy groups in Louisiana. Thank you for sending me information and thanks so much for writing the book, of great benefit. We have almost no ocd resources in Louisiana, none for post-traumatic stress in New Orleans, none for ocd in Baton Rouge, La. and none for trichotillomania and hoarding. Thanks, Diana

  11. Oh, we need your book!! My son (13) is struggling with OCD. We see a psychiatrist but I think reading a book from someone witih personal experience would be so beneficial! There are very few resources for teens with OCD. Thank you for sharing your story! I cannot wait to get it and read it with my son.

  12. This is the kind of book I’ve always wanted to read. It is not only relevant to me, but if the excerpt sets the tone for the book, then I’m definitely wanting more!

    • Hi, Nat! I do think (and hope) this sets the tone for the book! I share a lot of personal details–certainly more than I ever thought I would! There are also essays by others with OCD, and I think that helps balance it out. Thanks for your comment!

  13. “‘It’s almost as though whatever I think is the worst possible thing a person can be at that time of my life—that’s what I believe myself to be.’ I struggled through my explanation, but Dr. Grant understood.” So succinctly put; so terrifyingly real for those of us who have been there. It took me 20 years of trying — and suffering (I use the term advisedly) — to find a Dr. Grant, but I did, and it turned my life around. Thanks so much for your courageous sharing.

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