OSWEGO — After decades of hiding her uncontrollable self-abuse, Maggie Lamond Simone of SUNY Oswego’s communication studies faculty exposes her life’s experiences in the recently published book “Body Punishment: OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal.”
Simone, an adjunct instructor in journalism and public speaking courses at the college and a freelance writer, had written frequently about her alcoholism — she has been in recovery for nearly 25 years — but had not spoken to her two children about her obsessive-compulsive disorder, which carried with it bouts of anxiety, anorexia, eyelash and eyebrow-pulling, skin-picking, suicidal thoughts, misdiagnoses and long years of self-loathing.
Then her son, at age 7, made a disturbing leap of logic after reading a book with his mother in which a hard-drinking character covers up an environmental crime that his autistic son committed. “Well,” Simone’s son said, “he was an alcoholic, so alcoholics must be bad people.”
Simone had a heartfelt, reassuring series of discussions with her son about her own alcoholism. Her other child, a daughter, had been diagnosed with OCD at a young age, but Simone had never really talked about it with her.
“I realized then that if I was going to be honest, I needed to be all the way honest,” she said.
The 192-page memoir in paperback from Central Recovery Press has drawn attention from, among others, Psychology Today, Celebrity Parents Magazine, The Post-Standard and from Family Times, frequent publishers of her columns and other freelance work.
“I am surprised by any publicity that this gets,” Simone said. “I spent 50 years thinking no one would ‘get it.’ The attention is somewhat validating, but no less surprising.”
In a testimonial on the Barnes & Noble website, Dr. Kaushal B. Nanavati, director of integrative medicine in Upstate Medical University’s department of family medicine, wrote, “Sarcastic, witty, insightful! Maggie Lamond Simone writes with a sincerity that is endearing and frank, giving a voice to the internal conversations that lead to silent suffering for many. ‘Body Punishment’ is an insight into the life and mind of an innocent being conditioned by OCD. The book drifts back and forth through various stages of her life painting a kaleidoscopic vision through her eyes — highly colorful, dramatic, passionate, sharp, and disruptive at times, though beautiful when seeing it as a whole. It is easy for a reader to find his or her own voice somewhere in the pages of this meaningful work!”
To write the book as honestly and authentically as possible, Simone said she had to summon decades of disturbing memories, requiring her to get away from the place she was happiest and calmest, her home.
So she went away on weekends — a house on Seneca Lake, local hotels, wherever she could find. With many starts and stops, it took Simone seven years to write and three weeks to sell “Body Punishment.”
Simone realizes there are still people who will not “get it.”
She went years not understanding her disorder, finally learning that other people have OCD, other people can exhibit trichotillomania and excoriation – compulsive acts of pulling out hair and abrading skin — and other people suffer in fear and embarrassment.
She also learned that other people successfully undergo therapy and drug treatment.
“I hope the book says a lot to people who struggle with all sorts of disorders,” she said. “I hope it says, ‘You’re not the only one.'”
Simone has discussed her OCD with students in her classes. Some have approached her after class to share their own and family members’ stories about dealing with challenges such as OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome. She encourages students to write about their own issues.
“The shame is not in the disease, it’s in feeling you have to hide it, that you are alone,” she said.
Her daughter’s ability to manage her own OCD, including having an “OCD buddy” in elementary and middle school for episodes of anxiety attacks, continues to inspire Simone. “The other kids don’t bat an eye,” she said. “Another student has a ‘seizure buddy’ to summon the nurse if symptoms are bad. It’s a microcosm of how I’ve love society to be.”
Previous publications of Maggie Lamond Simone include an anthology of her columns, “From Beer to Maternity,” and essays in three “Chicken Soup for the Soul” editions.
For more about her book and writing career, visit maggielamondsimone.com