Tag Archives: ocd

about traci foust

9 Dec

“Foust writes like a possessed Lynda Barry” – D.A. Kodelenko, San Diego City Beat Magazine

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.

Her recent short story, The Cruelty of Children, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and will appear in the Fall 2011 issue Echo Ink Review and the Trey Stories Award Series.

She is currently working on her second book Love and Xanax, 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. She lives in a place where her love of cigarettes and bacon is frowned upon.


msnbc-today show website interview by joan raymond

25 Jul

By Joan Raymond, TODAY.com contributor

When other young girls worried about boys and lip gloss, Traci Foust worried about worrying. She also worried about swallowing pencils and knives and whether she would inadvertently burn down her house, kill her family, be sent to an orphanage and then be murdered herself.

For nearly three decades, Foust has lived with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

To help calm her fears, she pulled her hair, snapped her fingers after hearing the word “God,” made sure her collection of Catholic saint statues always faced north, and forced her cat to scratch her.

In her memoir, “Nowhere Near Normal” (Simon & Schuster 2011), Foust, 39, chronicles her OCD journey as a child and young adult. She talks to Today.com about what it’s like living with OCD then and now.

Q: Popular media often portrays people with OCD as simply quirky. What’s the reality?

A: The reality is that you have a hard time holding down a job; you have a hard time being with people. We’re afraid of a lot of things, and we’re irritated most of the time because of over-sensory issues. For me, it’s bright lights, noise and a lot of people.


Q: So OCD is still a struggle?

A: I don’t want anyone to get the idea that everything is sunshine and rainbows. I still have to control the OCD with therapy and medication.

Q: It’s 2011, but according to studies there’s still a huge stigma attached to mental health issues. Do you feel stigmatized?

A: Absolutely. I hear people say: “Oh my God, you’re in your thirties, you should be off your meds.” People can make you feel like a loser because of the medication, without even knowing how the drugs work. Some people think you should be able to control these (mental health) problems on your own. If someone can control what they believe is a mental health issue on their own I guarantee they don’t have a clinical diagnosis.

Q: Do you remember when you first felt, well, different?

A: I think if you ask this question to anyone with OCD, they’ll tell you the same thing: I always felt weird; I always felt something wasn’t right. I don’t even remember ever being completely relaxed or being able to have fun in the moment. There was always a continuous running dialogue of “what-ifs.”

Q: When were you diagnosed?

A: At about age 12. I was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic before that because a neurologist misunderstood me. When he asked me if I heard voices, I told him my mom and sister talked about me behind my back. He told my mom I was schizophrenic. That set off a lot of drama. About six months later my psychiatrist stepped in and said it was OCD, not schizophrenia.

Q: So that was better?

A: It felt like a relief. I was given all kinds of pamphlets to read. It comforted me that kids my age had this, too. One of the pamphlets said that teens spent 83 percent of time worried about what other people think of them. That helped. One of the things they tell you in group therapy is that nobody is looking at you. They’re worried about what people are thinking about them. That’s such a release.

Q: When did you go on medication?

A: Not until my early 20s. I was put on Buspar and Prozac, and I felt like an entirely different person. I was able to read two gigantic books without worrying about germs or worrying about worrying about germs.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are concerned about their kids?

A: The most important thing I can tell any parent that suspects anxiety issues is that for everything that you hear from your child there is something horrific that your child isn’t telling you because they’re embarrassed by it. Parents have to say: I feel there is more you want to me tell me, and when you’re ready, know that nothing is going to make me think you’re a bad person.

Q: What’s life like today?

A: I still have a fear of fire and I don’t go out in the sun. I still have rituals, like checking under the beds, and checking the windows.

Q: What about relationships?

A: I’ve been married three times and have two wonderful sons. I have a great boyfriend now, who understands me. Anxiety issues make you feel like you have to be in control of everything. I don’t blame my OCD for failed relationships. I blame my lack of knowledge on what a relationship was supposed to be.

Q: I’ve had people tell me that they’re glad they have a particular mental health disorder since it makes them more creative, able to see the world differently.

A: I don’t know about that. I wonder what life would be like if I was diagnosed earlier or if I got medication earlier. There are times when I would love to go to the mall or movies without having a pill in my purse.

Q: In your book you talk about problems with germs and lunch meat and your fear of killing your family if the lunch meat wasn’t wrapped properly. What’s it like making a sandwich today?

A: No one goes hungry. It just takes me longer and there’s a lot of plastic and counter wiping. I’d be lost without antibacterial wipes and a dust buster.

Joan Raymond is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared on msnbc.com, Newsweek, the New York Times, MORE and Woman’s Day.

Read complete interview here.

review from Sarah Handel- NPR Talk of the Nation (AP)

5 May

Tweeted Review from Sarah Handel- NPR Talk of the Nation

Mar 28 2011
1 note

Nowhere Near Normal, by Traci Foust

I read this book last weekend. First, this is awesome because I was home this weekend, not traveling (a rarity), and I read an entire book. It’s not hard for me to do, in terms of words and page counts, but I’m just never home for a full weekend, with the time to do so. But even on weekends when I do have the time to take a book from cover to cover, I often don’t. Sometimes a book is just a bummer, and finishing it is too much like work.

This is not that book. I have always had a few OCD-ish tendencies, which made Foust’s memoir appeal to me when I pulled it from its mailer envelope at work. But she’s the real deal, and her writing captures that truth with such twisty-turny clarity (it sounds impossible, but in OCD land, it definitely isn’t) that you zip right through the pages. It’s not about watching a freak show, though there are moments that made me gasp with disbelief. It’s about understanding how a child’s mind can go so awry, how thoughts you know aren’t normal — however loaded that word may be — can take over when your brain’s chemistry isn’t enough to correct them.

There’s no happy ending, but Foust impressed me profoundly. She writes beautifully, the kind of prose that you tear through because it’s so seamless, till that one perfect turn of phrase catches you, nearly breathless. Her ability to recall her past is impressive (my own memories of life as say, a second-grader, are shadowy at best). The way she tells the sometimes-horrific stories of her childhood and adolescence is brutal, but you end up believing the stories are both accurate, and important. Recommended.

On sale now wherever books are sold (follow the Amazon link and look inside!)


Seattlest Book Review:

3 May

Book Review: Traci Foust Talks OCD, Family Fun and Burning Eyeballs in Nowhere Near Normal

By Heather Logue on Apr 29, 2011

nowhere.jpg While the majority of California youth were skipping rope and collecting beetles, Traci Foust was scrubbing her hands with Ajax until her skin peeled off, and locking her best friend in a sweltering car, wondering if maybe she would kill her. Yes, these activities are…different, but that is the beauty of Foust’s memoir, Nowhere Near Normal, its utterly distinctive take on childhood. For any of us who have ever turned the car around on the way to work because we’re positive the stove could miraculously have turned itself on (ahem, just once or twice), learning about a girl’s struggle growing up with severe OCD is captivating. The story unfolds with the Foust parents divorcing—the family splitting apart into two locations, and Traci really beginning to struggle with the compulsions and anxieties that make her “abnormal” and drive her family insane. Who needs to unplug all of the appliances every night and lick the electrical sockets? Traci does, because otherwise her family may burn to death in their beds. This frank, strange, and unapologetic logic is what makes Traci a likable (though complicated) narrator. The story leads us through her increasingly complex relationships with her mother and sister, and through the haze of their cigarette smoke we see how lonely it is to be such a different kind of girl. The glance at various approaches to child psychology also intrigues—especially when seeing which professional methods actually have any affect on Traci’s recovery.
As Traci continues to grow up the story electrifies with things at a breaking point with her newly, and zealously, religious mother—culminating in Traci’s impromptu trip to Santa Cruz, a land of sex, drugs, and poetry. Though she eventually returns home, Traci still feels lost, and when Part Three of the memoir opens with news of her mother’s death (a subject touched upon much too briefly)…things seems bleak. The lack of emphasis on her family connectivity towards the end of the book is my only complaint—it feels a little insufficient in contrast to the palpable emotions early on.
But Nowhere Near Normal does inspire in the end, with a conclusion as distinctive as the entertaining and hilarious voice that has been leading us on this trip. Foust has a knack for making you love her, even if her character isn’t always likeable, and even a description of how her great-grandmother tried to burn her own eyeballs with matches is somehow lyrical.
As Edgar Allen Poe (her favorite poet growing up) once wrote, “From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were; I have not seen as others saw; I could not bring my passions from a common spring. From the same source I have not taken my sorrow; I could not awaken my heart to joy at the same tone; And all I loved, I loved alone.”
And really, I couldn’t sum it up any better.

On Sale Now Anywhere Books are Sold (or click on the Amazon Link)


TNB Non Fiction Interview

18 Apr

“One book reviewer called you Augusten Burroughs with bleach”

Link to TNB Interview


Marie Claire Interview

18 Apr

Link to Marie Claire Interview


a girl. a pill. the beauty of cold medicine.

25 Feb

Excerpt from Nowhere Near Normal

“She was cute, but what was the deal with her fingernails?” –Michael Cera, “Pinecone”

In the hallway, my mother held me while I sobbed. “I’m just so tired,” I said. “I can’t sleep, Mom. I’m so tired. You can’t even believe how tired I am.”

My Grandmother leaned over my mom and rubbed my back.

“She’s not feeling well,” my mom said. “I don’t know what it is.” Then she whispered, “Something is really wrong.”

Grammie said she was worried about the insomnia. “She’s up at all hours, typing all night long—I try to make her hot toddies but she won’t drink them.”

“I don’t know if I like the idea of giving her alcohol” my mom said. “Maybe half a Halcion would help.”

Sleeping pills.

I knew some of the residents of the nursing home took them from all the times I lined up and counted everyone’s medication bottles. I also knew my mother liked them almost as much as M*A*S*H and Jesus Christ. That one time I snuck one from her purse, it did help me. I couldn’t deny that. But now it was being discussed as something that would no longer have to be kept secret. How was I supposed to respond to that?

I rubbed the snot from my nose and said to my mom, “Maybe you’re right.”

That felt weird. Secret things were all I knew: the embarrassment I thought I would die from if anyone found out about my obsession with Ethiopian hunger spreading to America and killing everyone in my family; how Gorbachev would let loose his missiles if I didn’t keep writing down song lyrics with the word war in them; my new way of shaving my legs hard and fast so that each bloody scrape along my shinbone represented one person in the world who wouldn’t succumb to famine or war.

Now the 8pm  med round would include me and my sleeping pills. I’d wait like everyone else, ticking off the minutes until peace floated in as pure as a changeling through the window. I would get excited about shows that came on at six o’clock because that meant I only had two hours left—the evening news meant one hour—and so on. I would never again be able to associate the opening music to Punky Brewster with anything other than T-minus thirty minutes to blastoff.

At first it was easy. At first Halcion was gorgeous. All warm eclipses and moon breath. I would lie in my bed and wait for sleep to cover me. These weren’t the Bible flames I was used to, no Devil bombs being cast down to crush the skulls of the non-believers. These were slow blooming candle flowers. This was the word b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l lined up across the sky.

My pills actually gave me three days in a row of good sleep. I took a shower like a regular person, stayed out of the nurses office in school for a full week and completed all of my math homework. I even finished a long division quiz in class (only got a 46 percent but I finished it).

Then, just like that, the pills stopped working. I downed my little 8 o’clock half, laid in my bed with some Edgar Allan Poe or my taped reruns of Bewitched and waited for my fading.

Nothing happened.

“Sometimes they do that” my mom said, but more than half a pill was never offered.

One night, while waiting to see if my half pill—and the whole one I took from the medicine cabinet—would kick in, Marisol caught me coming out of the bathroom with my eyes all puffy and full of my familiar woe-is-me-will-this-ever-end tears. “Joo come here, honey.” She clutched my arm sat me down on her bed, and told me all I needed was a giant gulp of Nyquil. “I never in my life have good rest with no somesing to help me.” She opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out an econo-size bottle of bright green slush. The light caught the liquid inside and made me think of magic trees and enchanted bugs. I took a long swig. Tinkerbell was all lit up in my mouth. Under my Strawberry Shortcake comforter I was a little flying thing—then a great big flying thing with my own wings and ambitions. A leaf sparkled from the ceiling then dripped into my face. I caught it under my eyelash then blinked it into two leaves, then ten, then a hundred. I did this until I couldn’t count anymore, until I was so smart and glowing, you could have made a whole woodland poem out of me. One that you would eventually know by heart and want to hear again and again.

Pretty soon the only thing I wanted was Nyquil. One capful every night. Eight o’clock. I promised myself that this much happiness would have to stay at one capful, and only at bedtime, and even if I could divide fractions better with two capfuls I made myself say it out loud: “Only when it’s bedtime.”

Then I got a lead role in my sophomore class production of The Matchmaker. It only took a week for me to change my mind about that one capful.

Nowhere Near Normal- a memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books) PRE-ORDER from Amazon.


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