by Traci Foust
Though it’s been almost a year since the release of my book Nowhere Near Normal a memoir of OCD, the messages I receive from people who have actually read the book still jam up my email at a computer-crashing rate of at least two a month. Most of the responses come from smart, sensitive readers who make me feel worthy of baring my soul—and causing a few members of my family to never speak to me again—into a book that one Goodreads reviewer called “An excruciating long read” about what it was like to grow up with obsessive compulsive disorder.
But every so often I’ll get an email from someone who is angry, crazy and/or telling me the secret to curing my OCD lies within the bulging fibers of his jeans.
One morning I came home from an NPR interview believing my career may actually deserve the same amount of attention I put into making my Hulu playlists, only to find two hate mails accusing me of exploiting the mentally ill (even though a memoir is usually about exploiting yourself)and three thoughtfully, yet obviously PhotoShopped attachments of giant penises.
Here’s a compilation of my scariest emails from 2011. The responses shown represent the things I should have said had I possessed enough balls not to worry about someone writing a bad review on Amazon, even though one woman did just this when I wouldn’t Facebook chat with her all night about Project Runway.
Dear Traci: I just finished your book. You have inspired me to stop drinking and make a pledge to myself to get things in order. I’m going back to school to learn court reporting. I’ve asked my boyfriend to quit drinking with me and he said he would seriously think about it. It must have been awful to do so much traveling while detoxing and without access to a medical facility. I’m always in awe at how people can quit these things cold turkey, and for you in a foreign country! Let’s just say you’re number one in my book.
Tara R., Demp OK
You know what I’m in awe about? That you clearly have no idea you’re writing to the wrong author. I’m not sure whose book you read but I never wrote a book about detoxing or traveling or giving up alcohol. It’s obvious you have me confused with someone else and you were completely smashed when you sent this email. I wrote a book about OCD and growing up in a nursing home and how much I love Nyquil because it totally gets you mushroomy if you mix it with Benadryl. Seriously, what author are you are writing to? Nick Flynn maybe? Also, I’m guessing this sober “pledge” you made to yourself was probably the result of a Christmas party and a boss with boundary issues. Kudos on the court reporting but unless you’re writing to me from jail or rehab, getting your life in order usually doesn’t included sending away for a correspondence course magazine and checking a box next to a “career” that alphabetically falls between calf massager and dog groomer. Can I ask why you would want to drag your boyfriend into this nonsense? You say he’s thinking about giving up alcohol, but you and I both know he’s at a bar right now remembering how fun you used to be when you were wasted. So chances are he’s not thinking about quitting anything except maybe a relationship with you. But cheers anyway. You’re number one on the list of people who haven’t read my book.
PS: I’ve never heard of this Oklahoma town. What kind of name is Demp? Not that it matters, it’s still Oklahoma so take everything I said and times it by ten.
Dear Traci: I’ve just started the same medications as you for OCD and I’m worried because one of them says it may cause serious side effects like body tremors and loss of sex drive (not that this means anything. LOL. It’s been forever since I’ve been in the company of a lovely lady) What should I do while I’m waiting for the medication to kick in? I sleep a lot because I’m not working so maybe being tired won’t be such a huge deal. Naps help with the anxiety.I should get a job as a professional napper. Guess it’s going to take a long time to heal. I have great family support. Here is a picture of me and my parents last year in Yosemite right before my dad died in our cabin from a pulmonary embolism. It was a huge shock. But that’s another email.
Thanks for writing to me about your naps. Can I ask how you know what meds I take right now? I end the book in 1991 so I think you should know my current list of meds has been amped upped higher than I am right now as I write this. Until you stop using words like lovely lady I wouldn’t worry too much about sex drive. You won’t be needing it. So you should totally get excited about the up and coming body tremors. Sorry you’re unemployed and super sleepy and cannot find work as Rip Van Winkle. That sucks. But while you’re waiting for the meds to kick in you could probably apply for a tech support job at RadioShack. That’s kind of like napping. You should also check out Big Lots!. Have you ever been to a Big Lots!? I just bought a blood pressure monitor that talks to you, but it skips the word “pressure” so it says “Your blood is…”, then it gives you a number and lets you fill in the blanks which makes for lots of room to get creative with hypochondria: “You’re blood is 110% HIV positive because of the way you acted in your 20s.” It’s totally funny. You should pick one up.
So there you have it, N.P. Napping and Big Lots! Now look how filled your days are going to be while you wait to get normal. By the way, your dad is halfway cut from the Yosemite picture. It’s weird. Did you guys get a huge life insurance settlement? And no, that’s NOT another email because I think I need to make a few phone calls.
Warm Regards, Traci
We’re both from the San Francisco Bay Area. Hmm… Coinkidink ? I’m in Tampa at the moment, enjoying life with my new hubby who also has anxiety problems same as me. (Or should I say, all three of us) LOL! It’s so beautiful here, we were first in Colorado Springs but moved here to open a jet-ski store with my brother in law. HaHa! Life has changed so much for us. I’m sure it’s changed for you as well. I know there are beautiful beaches in Southern California but we have them here too. Oh wait, do you still have a thing about bacteria and stuff? I don’t know if you go into the water. LOL, OK if you come to visit me we’ll take a jet ski to the lake in back of our house. I am so proud that we are both OCD free.
Giant Kisses and Ultra Good Vibes,
Hey There Melanie,
What is so funny about your brother in law? Why are you writing to me like we are lifetime besties? In a million years I would never hang out with someone who fucks up the air and water with a jet ski. LOL. If you really had OCD you would know how dangerous they are. Haha. ;; &^ $ . You would also know from watching Monsters Inside Me never to be caught dead swimming in a freshwater lake. There’s more bacteria and parasitic infections hiding behind the word “fresh” than there are suture scars behind Cathy Griffin’s ears. But thanks for buying my book and please tell your friends about it, except tell them to read it all the way to the end because I’m not sure how you got the idea of me being OCD free. I’d still like to know what is so funny about your brother-in-law. Does he have an extra nipple? Does he do a little John Cleese walk when people are sad about their jet skis? Now you’ve got me all excited about your brother- in -law.
Your Friend as Long as you Tell Other Friends About my Book
I suffered a lot with OCD when I was younger and your book made me think about how so many people do not understand the difference between mental and magical illness. These days, I’m back into my poetry to help with the memories of what my childhood was like. I guess ours were similar. I’d love to do a Skype chat with you or exchange pictures or something.
Orange County, CA
The word “magical” makes me wonder. Please take me off your contact list.
Traci Foust is the Author of the newly released book Nowhere Near Normal- a Memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster/Gallery) acclaimed by National Public Radio, the San Diego Union Tribune and Marie Claire. Her work has appeared in several journals including The Nervous Breakdown and the Southern Review. She is currently working on her second book We’re Taking you to a Place Where you can Get Some Rest, A cautionary collection of essays on mixing Vicodin with Vodka and why dating your psychiatrist isn’t always the best way to get your own prescription pad.