My Life in Mental Chains: My Struggle With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
by Ruth Hartman
Reviewed by Joanne Hirase-Stacey
I didn’t know much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) before I read Ruth Hartman’s true story, My Life in Mental Chains. I’d heard of people who wash their hands over and over, or constantly check appliances to make sure they’re off or unplugged, but had never given their obsession much thought. After reading Ruth’s book, I’ve come to realize that OCD is an illness that consumes its victim and overtakes his or her life.
OCD seems to strike out of nowhere. Ruth led a normal life with her husband, and was a dental hygienist. Then one day, everything changed. While cleaning her dental instruments, her thoughts became obsessive. She couldn’t stop scrubbing. Her job performance began to suffer as she got behind schedule, keeping patients waiting. After her boss and fellow employees confront her, she starts to spin out of control.
She realizes she needs professional help, and despite the stigma and worry of being labeled “crazy”, Ruth bravely meets with her doctor, but doesn’t want anyone besides her husband, to know of her OCD diagnosis. She tries to hide it, to be normal, but the OCD gets worse, and it becomes hard to leave the house.
She eventually tells her family and her husband’s family. To her relief, they embrace her, support her and love her through all her ordeals. Ruth finally takes another job to help pay the bills, only to have her boss tear her down. And someone she thought was her friend abandons her. But she continues with her treatment and faces her OCD head on.
Ruth does a fantastic job of drawing you into her dark world of fear and anxiety. You’ll find yourself saddened by those who mistreat her, and encouraged by those who stand by her. You’ll cheer for her as she fights her way back, through the agonizing steps necessary to become herself again.
This book is a must read for anyone who knows nothing about OCD, as well as those who have first hand experience with OCD either as a patient or a family member or friend. It takes you into the life of one woman and her daily struggle with OCD, and gives you comfort and hope in knowing that OCD is treatable.