Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Author Bites - Janet Ruth Young on Secret OCD

When I first read Young's THE BABYSITTER MURDERS, I was like yes! This is awesome! It focuses on an issue that many people, especially many young people, have: OCD. Usually when people thing of OCD they gear more towards the counting aspect (taps, knocks) or the germ thing (constant hand-washing/antibacterial goop application). But there are so many facets of OCD that other lesser-known attributes, like the kind of thoughts like the protagonist Dani struggles with, go overlooked. People have a tendency of forgetting that the obsession in OCD can be anything. Not everyone's Monk. So I asked Janet if she'd stop on by and talk about why she decided to take the road less traveled with OCD and quite frankly, her answer shocked me! But in a good way. Read on to find out why. Thanks for stopping by, Janet!

The premise of The Babysitter Murders is autobiographical. Like Dani Solomon, I quit a babysitting job because I had unwanted but persistent thoughts about harming the children.

Also like Dani, I told the children's mother why I had to stop babysitting. But I was already in treatment at the time, and I quit the babysitting job over the phone, not in person, so obviously there was no immediate danger to the kids. The children's mother may have been shocked by what I told her, but she didn't react the way Alex's mother did. In fact, I went away quietly and got better, and several years later, when the kids were teenagers, she asked me if I was feeling okay and if I would like to start babysitting again.

That's the germ of reality in this story. But my motivation to write about it is much greater than that.

Although my situation occurred more than 20 years ago, I'm angry and appalled that most people, including doctors and therapists, still have no idea that what happened to me (and what happens to Dani) is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. That's the main reason I wrote this book.

Additionally, I believe there's a large invisible population of babysitters, teachers, priests, grandparents, and others who have stopped being around kids because of unwanted thoughts. These people will never find the resources to get better, and their absence is a loss to the kids.

Finally, the paradox of needing to put yourself in the situation that causes the thoughts in order to get better is inherently good novel material. I'm glad that readers seem to think so, too.
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