The staff at Free Spirit is privileged to work with many amazing authors. We will be sharing more author spotlights with you, and hope you enjoy learning about these writers who are dedicated to helping kids succeed. The following spotlight was recently published in our newsletter, Upbeat News. Click here to subscribe.
Alison Dotson, author of Being Me with OCD, was diagnosed with OCD at age 26, after suffering from “taboo” obsessions for more than a decade. Today, she still has occasional bad thoughts, but she now knows how to deal with them in healthy ways. Alison is the president of OCD Twin Cities, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Below she lets us know what makes her a Free Spirit and how understanding the way her brain works helped improve her quality of life.
Q: Thanks for sitting down to chat with us, Alison! Tell us, what compelled you to write your book Being Me with OCD?
A: After I was diagnosed at age 26, I started to write everything down. I never thought I’d be able to put everything on paper because I was so ashamed of the nature of my obsessions. But once I had that diagnosis I felt validated—I wasn’t a bad person, I just had a mental illness. After I filled a notebook I typed everything into my computer. I knew I wanted to do something with it, to tell my story so I could help others. Then an editor at Free Spirit encouraged me to submit a proposal. Reading success stories had always made me feel better in the recovery process, so my hope was to help others with OCD by telling the more embarrassing and vulnerable parts of my story—maybe they’d see themselves in me and feel encouraged that they could get better, too. And the teenage years are a particularly important time to learn coping skills and feel less alone.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of developing your book?
A: You know, I wasn’t sure my editors would want to keep so much of my personal story. But they did, and that made the process so rewarding for me. I loved sharing anecdotes—I hope my readers can relate to them and learn something from them. I also had several young people contribute essays, and that was so inspiring. They were all diagnosed so much earlier in life than I had been, and it was great to see how well they were doing and how willing they were to help out by telling their personal stories. My book wouldn’t be complete without their help.
Q: Were you a big reader as a kid/teen? Did you have a favorite book?
A: Oh, man. Every book! I loved to read. It was my absolute favorite thing to do, other than play outside and imagine I was living off the grid in my own backyard. I read all of Judy Blume’s books, sometimes several times—my copy of Tiger Eyes is missing a page—books about babysitting, horses, surviving middle school, classics. Anything I could get my hands on.
Q: What was the best part of school for you?
A: English was my favorite subject. I loved to read and write, and I loved that it was a subject I excelled in. I had such a hard time with math—equations still make me shudder—that it was a relief to be in a class I felt comfortable in. My fifth-grade teacher had me correct other students’ spelling tests, and that made me feel valued.
Q: Do you have any specific habits or traits that make you a “Free Spirit”?
A: I listen to my gut. I don’t want to live a totally conventional life, so I do things my way. I lived with crippling anxiety for so long that I long to live freely from now on.
Q: What do you want your readers to take away from your book?
A: That they are not alone. Actually, my working title for the book was “You’re Not Alone.” For me, one of the hardest parts of having OCD was feeling that no one else had the same obsessions, that I couldn’t possibly tell anyone because they wouldn’t understand and would judge me. I want my readers to know that while they are unique and special in many ways, others have felt the despair they’re feeling and have pulled through. Others have had similar weird, scary, or disturbing obsessions. I’m here to help, and so are countless others in the OCD community.
Alison Dotson is the author of Being Me with OCD: How I Learned to Obsess Less and Live My Life.
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