Pure OCD: A Life Story

How to Change Your Brain By Accepting that it Can’t be Changed

It’s not easy for me to confess just how often I cried in the fall of 2009. I wish I didn’t care, but I’m still a slave to some old notions. All of which is to say that I cried quite a lot, and I’m ashamed to admit it.

If you found yourself in midtown Manhattan that autumn, around noon, you may have witnessed a 26-year-old man with his hands jammed in his pockets, marching across the city. He’d usually head south to the Village, but sometimes he’d go west to Hell’s Kitchen or east to the river. He’d be wearing an outfit that just barely met the standards of “business casual”—ink-stained khakis a size too big, untucked polo, brown sneakers doing a poor imitation of dress shoes. And if you committed the ultimate New York faux pas and actually looked him in the eyes, you’d see the tears.

The forgettable 26-year-old was me, and I was crying for joy—for the beauty of the world. Who knows what inspired these tears, exactly? Maybe I had watched an old woman teach a young blind girl how to use her cane to detect a sidewalk curb, and maybe I thought, this is someone with real problems, and look at her courage. Or maybe I had phoned my mother in a panic, and she had restored my self-belief with a convincing pep talk. In any case, the bracing truth reached me: “Yes, of course! Life is wonderful, and you never want to leave! You idiot!” So the tears flowed—tears of relief and salvation.  more

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