International OCD Awareness week - OCD Slam Poetry by Neil Hilborn

Sometimes hearing things in someone else's words makes my own experiences easier to understand; and sometimes, it just makes my heart hurt.

The first time I heard this poem, I froze. I took in every vocal inflection and pained nuance on  Hilborn's face. While each person's experience with OCD is unique, I think that anyone with OCD can relate to Neil's words, I know I could. Although mine is very different than the poem describes, I saw myself reflected back at me in many ways. 

I first stumbled across this poem on - a great new website that is connecting people with OCD from around the world. As we head into OCD awareness week I'd love to challenge each person who sees this to think of the people around them that have OCD. There are many of us, approximately 1 in every 100 adults. We are everywhere - our thoughts are always "on." Sometimes we are exhausting to be with, and sometimes we are exhausted ourselves; but we aren't that different from anyone else. 

If you've read my young adult novel OC Me, you can probably see some characteristics of Amy and Matt in the above poem. I wrote the book because I wanted to read a story of an average girl with OCD. I didn't want to read about someone with the worst case ever, or the funniest case ever (which is what tends to be the standard portrayal of OCD in the media); I wanted to read a story of of someone who struggled but would ultimately figure things out. If you haven't read OC Me yet, you're in luck. It will be free on kindle on October 16th-18th 2014 in honor of OCD awareness week. Tell your friends and spread some awareness. 

My "research" for OC Me - a young adult novel

I knew I would eventually be asked questions about my book, OC Me. I knew someone would ask why I wrote it or what inspired it. Despite knowing the questions were coming, I was unprepared to answer them. Then a couple of nights ago (on twitter) I got into a conversation with a fellow writer and told her about my books. She asked if I had to do a lot of research to write OC Me. There wasn't a simple answer to the question, so I took the easy way out and told her yes. And that was an honest answer... I did do a lot of research on OCD, but the research wasn't done to write the book; it was done when I was diagnosed.

Like many other people that have OCD, I wasn't born with specific fears or compulsions. I lived more than two decades of my life thinking there was nothing different about me or the way my brain worked. Most people with OCD aren't diagnosed until they are in their teens or early twenties; I was a 23 year old first-year teacher when I found out I had OCD. And it was a hard diagnosis for me to come to terms with. This blog post - is the first time I've "spoken" publicly about having OCD.

I need to take a second to point out that OC Me is not my story - it is in no way a memoir. It is the fictional coming of age story of Amy, a high school girl who struggles with the onset and diagnosis of OCD. I wrote it because I struggled with my own onset and diagnosis of OCD and this was a book I needed to read; I needed a protagonist that I could root on and relate to. When I was first diagnosed, I looked for a novel with OCD as a main theme and at the time, all I found were self-help books. 

In OC Me, Amy really is a regular girl; she could sit next to you in calculus or babysit your neighbor's children. She doesn't check her locker door 14 times before she leaves for class, she doesn't wear gloves to touch door knobs, and she's not upset by a messy room. In other words, you would not see that she has OCD because her anxiety is not visible in the stereotypical ways that movies and tv shows like to illustrate. Perhaps her case of OCD is on the milder side, but it is a scenario that should be understood. With one in every 40 people in the US estimated to have OCD, it is likely that you know multiple people like Amy - like me. 

I wrote the book slowly over the course of several years and went through the process of querying agents and publishing companies. I did have one company that was interested enough to communicate with me about the project, but they closed down during the time period that they were considering my manuscript. The shut-down meant that all potential acquisitions were halted so I never got their final feedback.

Fast forward to the present. With the accessibility of ebooks and the technological advances that have made self-publishing a viable option, I decided that was the route I wanted to pursue.  I have just started going over things with my editor one last time, and am currently researching cover designers. I hope OC Me will be available by the end of the summer (2014). An updated blurb should be available on the book page soon.

So back to the original question... research? Yes, I researched this book as authentically as anyone could. Then, going beyond my own experience, I gave a draft to a friend who is a licensed therapist that works with youth with OCD. Amy's story is not my story, but I drew from my own experience to write hers. I hope it can help readers understand that OCD is a unique experience for each person affected.

So there it is...I guess this post is a good example of what happens when a question can't be answered in 140 characters :)