Friday, May 22, 2009

#77 - "Life in Rewind" by Terry Weible Murphy

I am quite the sucker for books on display at the library and bookstore. I think that's the main reason I could never compile a list of 100 books to read for the next year. I have no idea what book or books will catch my interest or what I will feel like reading. And Life in Rewind is one of those I spotted at the library. Actually the full title is: Life in Rewind: The Story of a Young Courageous Man Who Persevered Over OCD and the Harvard Doctor Who Broke All the Rules to Help Him (2009) by Terry Weible Murphy with Edward E. Zine and Michael A. Jenike. I've obviously heard of OCD and sometimes wondered if I had some light OCD tendencies, but most of my knowledge of the disease comes from a vaguely remembered documentary that might have aired on MTV. I like reading real stories about people and I wanted to learn more about OCD, so I picked up the book.

Murphy tells the story of Ed Zine, a young man who has lost his life and humanity to the extreme demands of OCD, and Michael Jenike, a renowned specialist in OCD who went out of his way to help Ed. Although Murphy does not discuss this until the end of the book, her personal interest in the subject is that her son was diagnosed as having the disease when he was seventeen. Ed had a rather difficult childhood. His distant, sometimes abusive, and military father raised Ed after his beloved mother died when Ed was a young boy. Ed was often alone, uprooted, and never addressed the grief from his mother's death. He became obsessed with "rewinding" everything in his mind in order to keep his family member's safe. At his lowest point, which lasted for years, Ed had stopped showering, brushing his teeth, or changing his clothes. He lived and stayed alone in the "safe" basement of his father's house, keeping his bodily excretions in gatorade bottles and plastic bags, and eating noodles delivered to the basement door in plastic bags by concerned family members. Walking down the basement hall to use the telephone could all day.

After a forced stay in a psychiatric ward with disastrous results, Ed's concerned family learned of Dr. Michael Jenike and contacted him, asking for help. Murphy delves briefly into Jenike's history; she mentions Jenike's traumatic time in the Vietnam War, his urge to help people, and his philosophy as a doctor. Jenike tries to focus on providing the best care possible for his patients without concern for the requirements and dictates of the insurance industry. Therefore, when Jenike hears of Ed Zine's problems, he drives three hours one-way to Cape Cod in order to help him. And even though Ed Zine is too sick to leave his basement, Jenike keeps coming back and even pays his daughter to work with Ed through behavioral therapy. Jenike's compassionate concern and relaxed demeanor quickly create trust between the two and they considered each other friends. Even though Jenike tried everything he knew, however, he couldn't get Ed to make any noticable improvement and eventually stopped visiting Cape Cod, still making himself available by phone.

Ed greatly admired Dr. Jenike and wanted more than anything to repay him for the many hours that Jenike had devoted to him for nothing. With a combination of pure willpower, mainly inspired by Dr. Jenike, and the specifics of the disease Ed had learned, he combatted the disease on his own and made great progress. In the end, although Ed is still constantly fighting with his demons, he was able to take some control of his life. And the feel-good ending includes a marriage and two beautiful daughters.

I found this book compelling and easy to read. Both Ed and Michael seem like extraordinary people and I admire both of them for what they accomplished. But this isn't one of my favorites. While I was reading it, I felt like I was watching a special on OCD and Ed Zine on the Oprah show. It never went into enough detail for me to really understand OCD or relate to what Ed Zine was going through. Murphy mentions that Jenike suffered from PTSD and some depression long after the end of the Vietnam War. Although I felt like she was somehow trying to connect Ed and Michael, the couple of sentences about Michael's struggle didn't give me a much clearer picture of the doctor. And maybe this comes from the fact that Terry Murphy is a mother whose son is suffering from OCD, but I felt it had an almost forced feel-good aspect to it. I am very impressed by Ed and his accomplishments, but Murphy would describe Ed's moments of triumph and then seemingly gloss over some major problems with his marriage. On the whole, a good story, but I didn't learn too much about OCD and I wish it had been a little more in-depth.

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