PASSING FOR NORMAL by Amy Wilensky

PASSING FOR NORMAL

A Memoir of Compulsion
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A compulsive telling of what it is like to have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) combined with the vocal and muscular tics that are characteristic of Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder that runs in families. Wilensky was eight when she first developed the involuntary head and body jerks that would plague her from then on. Not long after, she found that counting up to 60 or repeating actions in multiples of six had an anxiety-relieving effect. The OCD symptoms grew to compulsions to write the alphabet repeatedly, make lists of little words from big words, to avoid (actually hate) odd numbers, to get up or move only at even times, to an ever-expanding repertoire of rites and rituals, most of which she tried to hide (now, in revealing all, the writing itself becomes excessive, elaborate, self-preoccupied). The family was convinced her problem was “psychological,” and her father in particular was devastating in his criticism. (Readers will clue in early to the fact that he actually had OCD himself—of the excessive tidy-fit variety.) Because she was very bright, the endless hours in obedience to Tourette’s and OCD didn—t prevent her achieving well enough to go from prep school to Vassar to Columbia’s graduate program in creative writing. Along the way, she managed to pass from fear and loathing at being touched to love and marriage. She was in her mid-20s when she realized she had OCD and got a referral from the family doctor. This led to the full diagnosis of Tourette’s with OCD and medication—haloperidol for tics and Prozac and behavioral therapy for OCD. The new knowledge also led to Dad’s diagnosis and treatment. That the diagnosis should come so late and that an intelligent family and friends should be so uninformed suggests the need for books like Wilensky’s. That it has helped the author in her own journey to self-revelation is abundantly clear.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7679-0185-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999