Can you create a world where you live your life within the persona as another person whose hiding within you? Can you use this second person or personality to hide your fears about how you perceive yourself? Lily convinced herself that she was and is bad. In order to explain her actions she refers to herself not as I but we as if she is divorcing herself from her own thoughts and actions. Life seemed as if she was living it from the outside looking in. Worried every night that her sister was not breathing she or We as she called herself checked on her several times and completed several rituals before trying to sleep herself. When it was time for her to leave for boarding school things changed but her OCD seemed worse. The rituals grew longer and her way of dealing with other students was not typical of anyone her age.
The story is told in what you might call the third person narrative as the author refers to herself as WE. It covers her childhood up until age 20.
Within every lesson and in every class the author or We goes through certain rituals in her head and when interrupted she becomes fearful and stressed out hoping to complete the numbers, words, letters and sequences until she can move on. Each different section of the school she attends has many different requirements and realizing that testing or test taking is not her best attribute, she asks to be tested for the Special Needs Program to extra time on tests and she is granted that yet some of the other students cannot understand why. OCD is not something to take lightly and this particular problem or disorder disrupted the author’s life each and every day that is described within this eye -opening memoir. The We is Lily Bailey and at times you wonder which one of her personalities is running her day. Even competing against her friend Georgia who is training to enter the Olympics, Lily just wants to beat her time or win the race. Repetitive actions, rechecking door locks, reclosing drawers, rechecking on her sister plus even counting steps to different places, her life was one big OCD compulsion. Even when taking her major tests she relates lists within her head or mind and everything had to be done to perfection and she spent hours each day and week reflecting and revising
. After awhile she begins making lists in her head of all of the things she may have done that weren’t perfect, then spending hours and hours each day reviewing this behavior her lists.
Straightforward, honest and told in her own voice you get to understand and know the author in many different lights.
When she leaves school for a week and returns someone there decides to have her evaluated and then the diagnosis is finally out in the open and she learns about OCD and is about to go for treatment. Dr. Finch seems concerned about Lily and she describes in detail for readers how the process and treatment works which is really enlightening. Unfortunately it took until she was 16 to learn about it. So obsessed with her daily routines, rituals and having to be perfect when asked by Dr. Finch why she had to be perfect she never really gave it a crucial thought.
Lily’s voice changes throughout the book as she turns into several different people although the We has been eliminated and her friend gone she reverts to drinking, over thinking, creating more lists, no longer seeing Dr. Finch, in different psychiatric facilities, arrested, her parents and her stepfather concerned yet shutting everyone out. The many people she meets have varied mental issues and then she even isolates herself from her family and her sister Ella who is really worried about her even more. Lily seems on a road to self-destruction but will she change her path before it’s too late?
Lily analyzes every situation and rethinks it through and is fixated on her routines, which at times hampers her actions and her ability to move ahead. Many people try to befriend her and help her and yet it’s up to her to decide her own course of action. Leaving on institution and going back to work at a nursery with small children at first seems great but then other issues take over and she feels the need to leave again. Dr. Finch seems to be her rock and her only source of solace and yet others try but in her mind they fail. Friendships are there but her actions require more control and then she is offered a job as a journalist and she just might be on an upward slide.
One theme that runs through the book is her feelings of being BAD. If things are not perfect, if her routines are not done properly or if she makes an error of any type she considers herself bad. So convinced that she is not good that she over analyzes the actions in order to decide if she is really bad and if that is what she should think or believe.
Every day is a challenge even now to Lily and although she has come a long way and has tried to move ahead there are times she needs to reevaluate herself and push forward in a positive way. The ending will surprise readers and her encounter and meeting with someone named Dean is quite expressive as his actions and words are encouraging but it’s up to her to decide to move ahead with him or not.
Imagine living in a world where you have to make lists of things that might go wrong instead of right. Sessions with many therapists and others that try to help you cope with OCD and at times they work and others she rebels. Even her father who is concerned wants her to change therapists and get off the medications that he feels are hampering her even more.
Lists, more lists and doubts about herself never really realizing her full potential and having confidence in her abilities to soar. Her mom becomes her champion and her sister; Ella wants her to be okay but when she stops worrying about her and whether she will live or die, when she starts finding out whom Lily really is that she will know that she no longer has to consider herself as BECAUSE WE ARE BAD!
Told in the first person and third person narrative this is an important book to use as a resource for others who have OCD to understand that help is available, you are not alone and to speak out and learn more about OCD before it takes over your life. The information is invaluable and the last chapter titled the TRUTH will allow readers to know that Lily is moving ahead and has a way to go but her journey is moving in the right direction. Thank you for sharing your story.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine