The Clouds Are Big With Mercy
by Alicia Adams

"When I was fifteen I wanted nothing more than to get rid of the OCD at once and forget that I had ever had it."

Alicia Adams is just fourteen when accosted by repetitive thoughts she feels are the result of not having enough faith in her Christian beliefs. She also assumes the fault lies within her character rather than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a glitch with neurological function and chemistry treatable with cognitive therapy and medication. Her parents’ responses compound her problem. She has a good mother unwilling to grasp the complexity of her daughter’s situation, and a strong father enmeshed in religious logic, who is angered by Alicia’s despair. Her school experiences are sketchy, colored either by students bullying her or by her loneliness due to her lack of social skills. A school transfer helps to buoy her spirits, but the undiagnosed OCD soon resurfaces and leads to clinical depression. Luckily, her parents eventually respond to Alicia’s declining mental health by seeking help from a minister with a strong background in psychology and counseling.

This heartrending memoir is a tough but enlightening read. The third-person narrative about Alicia’s struggles reads like a novel and is interspersed with sections of clinical information about OCD. This seesaw method of telling Alicia’s story feels intrusive at first but ultimately is evocative and sheds a great deal of light on why treatment plans for mental health issues are paramount. The writing is sound through most of the book but lapses into some uneven prose near the end. Alicia finally experiences the relief of a correct diagnosis, and along the way, finds she also has Asperger’s syndrome, which explains her social discomfort. Still, she bravely confronts many obstacles in her long recovery and must persevere by strictly adhering to her medication and therapy. Her parents’ eagerness to see a complete return to normalcy compromises Alicia’s fragile progress until she courageously attends college and controls her own destiny.

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