From the Introduction to Leaving the OCD Circus

When I was nine, I started developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). And I lived in its grip for over twenty years. People without OCD often ask me what it feels like. Imagine you are building a house of cards. Your OCD is the blowing fan right next to it. You can’t stop yourself from building the house of cards because your brain has a hiccup, and the fan will never shut off. And, oh yeah, there is someone holding a gun to your head demanding that you perform perfectly.

Frustrating doesn’t come close to describing it, but complete madness does.

I have learned how to stop building the house of cards, doing what my OCD tells me to do, and most importantly, I have shut off the fan.

In this book I tell the story of how I learned to take down my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I will show you how to do the same thing. Yes, you heard that right. YOU are BIGGER than YOUR OCD, and of this I am sure. What’s different about this book than others you may have read is that it’s written not by a doctor or therapist or expert, but from the perspective of someone who has lived through the disorder—from what my editor calls “the street level.” I’ve read a lot of books, met with a lot of doctors, and fought a lot of OCD battles, and this book gives me the opportunity to share with you what I’ve learned about what OCD is and how to work with it until you are back in charge of your life. I know it might sound cliché, but if I can do it, so can you.

Artist: Doug Pagacz
Artist: Doug Pagacz

OCD comes in many different forms; it all depends on the person. Some people are afraid and crippled by the thought of contaminants and are cleaners; others are driven to madness with the overwhelming need to be perfect; there are compulsive checkers, hoarders, and repeaters, also orderers, those who require that the things around them be arranged in a particular and rigid way; there are thinking ritualizers; and the list goes on from there. However, we are all human, and we are all so much more than these labels! Maybe we don’t fear the same things, maybe the form of your OCD is different from mine (I experienced most of the things on that list), but we all want the same peace, don’t we? That’s why we do such crazy things! We’re chasing that elusive mental stillness. My intention is to give you a book that is protein-packed for the mind and the soul.

I constructed this book—text and pictures—to help you out of your own constriction.

I have been collecting imagery, especially vintage art and ephemera, nearly all my life. Pictures and words that really spoke to me at a core level. Some seemed to capture exactly what I was feeling. Some reminded me of pain, some of hope or freedom. I have a feeling these images and words will hit you like that, too, and I’ve sprinkled them like bread crumbs throughout the book to help guide you out of your dark forest or show you a different path. I want you to feel seen and heard. I hope these pictures help you feel my presence in your life. I hear you. I get you.

Sufferers will relate; the people who love us will learn. If you are an OCD hostage like I once was, or if you wish to understand and help someone who suffers from OCD, this book is for you. It is about claiming your freedom and getting your life back. If you feel alone and isolated, or know and love someone who does, I hope this book will become a good friend and a valuable resource. We are all at different places on the OCD and wellness spectrum, and I wrote this book with the intention to meet you right where you are, wherever you are.

Kirsten Pagacz is the founder of Retro-A-Go-Go, an online seller of retro kitsch. She suffered from OCD for two decades before discovering that it had a name (and a cure). Before founding her own company, she worked in marketing and sales for a number of Fortune 500 companies. She is a member of the International OCD Foundation and won first place in one of their art competitions.


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