JUST CHECKING by Emily Colas


Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive
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A frank and funny first-person account of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Colas, a young woman obsessed with the notion of being poisoned by drugs slipped into her food or contaminated by germs from ground-up hypodermic needles or diseased blood, tells of her life as a neurotic. At first she shares her fears with her husband, requiring him to taste the food on her plate before she will eat it, to question waiters about possible nicks and cuts on their hands, and to remove his shoes before entering the house. He complies with her demands, even performing extraordinarily complicated rituals when disposing of the kitchen garbage. After the birth of her second child , with her husband’s patience wearing thin, she begins trying to conceal her fears from him while still compulsively checking everything from the soles of shoes to breakfast cereal. The power of her obsessions can be seen in her totally irrational belief that simply viewing a bleeding man on television could cause her to become infected with his germs. Not surprisingly, the marriage eventually fails, and Colas goes to a therapist who prescribes Prozac, which frees her from the grip of her obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals. In outline, the story sounds bleak if not dull, but Colas has a sure comic touch and a mocking self-awareness that makes her memoir a delight. She tells her story in brief scenes, not necessarily in chronological order, from her childhood at summer camp, where a compulsive neatness was already evident, to her post-divorce job as a bar waitress, where she can “smoke, drink, and be sarcastic, all while earning an honest living.” With its unique patient’s-eye viewpoint and perceptive honesty, a valuable contribution to the literature on obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-671-02437-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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