Book Review – I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands

Wednesday has arrived and with it the first ever Madhouse Book Review! I was so excited to be asked to participate in the TLC Book Tour for J.J. Keeler’s I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands; I read the book, highlighted, made notes, I was prepared. Then I woke up this morning and remembered I haven’t written a book report (review) since high school!! That was 20 years ago (I can’t believe I’m old enough to use that expression!). I have no idea what I’m doing!

I am one of those people who freezes at the thought of doing something new (or in this case something I haven’t done in a long time). I fear that it won’t be done “right”; people will judge me and I will be found a failure; I’ll say the wrong thing and offend someone…the list goes on and on. It can be quite debilitating.

If I let these thoughts run rampant very little gets accomplished. Today I forced myself to rein in my self-deprecating thoughts and reminded myself – this is my blog; anything goes at the Madhouse. I can’t do it wrong because I’m in charge of how it gets done. So here we go.

In I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands, Keeler describes in great, and often humourous, detail her life with OCD. Keeler suffers from harming obsessions rather than the germaphobe-obsessive-hand-washing-neat-freak type of obsessions that are popular in media (the TV show Monk for example). From her childhood fear that her teddy bear had a bomb in it to adult fears of strangling children, Keeler paints a picture of a life lived in constant mental turmoil.

“It’s not like I went to career day at school and thought, “Being a lawyer sounds neat. Being a doctor sounds cool. But, I really want to grow up to be in the depths of despair.”
from I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands

(I wonder if she’s an Anne of Green Gables fan – Anne sighed. “I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair.”
I could just be clawing for a Canadian connection. I’m like that.)

 This book was very eye-opening for me. Especially when it comes to my daughter. I’ve never understood my daughter’s distress at killing a spider. “Mom, I feel like a serial killer.”  Now, I know I have my own “quirks” that border on compulsive or obsessive; but they’re mine and I’m used to them. Kind of like when you have to jiggle the lock just right in order for the key to fit? It seems weird at first, but once you get used it to you start doing it with every lock you encounter. I don’t think my own quirks are weird or need therapy to deal with, but Rian’s obsessions with her role in the genocide of spiders was just weird. Or at least it was until I read this book.  In it, Keeler describes how, as a child, she would pray for the eternal soul of the mosquito she killed while it sucked her blood. Rian’s not being melodramatic, there are others out there. Who knew? I didn’t, until now.

Keeler explains how responsible she feels for everyone and everything. That I can understand, I’ve had more than one therapist tell me I have an overdeveloped-sense-of- responsibility for other people. The more I read, the more sense Rian’s OCD began to make (at least as much sense as OCD can ever make).

“…OCD is not driven by rationality; it is a disease where fear is the driver, while imagination sits shotgun.”
from I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands

Imagination is something my daughter has is good supply…she came by it naturally enough. Both her father and I have active imaginations and creative tendencies – he is a gifted artist while I am an avid day dreamer. I have binders full of stories I’ve written down based on those daydreams. I know that your own imagination can prove to be your worst enemy. I’ve suffered the consequences more than once.

“OCD is not a disease that bothers, it is a disease that tortures.”
from I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands

Keeler describes how she deals with her OCD by enhancing her obsessive thoughts with the absurd or choosing to trust herself rather than the OCD. She also understands that every coping tool, be it meds, therapy or self-talk, won’t work the same for every person. Her closing chapter, an open letter to other OCD sufferers, is compassionate and empathetic, reminding her peers that they are not alone.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. That’s saying a lot since I normally avoid non-fiction like the plague; I live on a steady diet of fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries and westerns. I don’t seek out memoirs or biographical accounts of tragedies or over-coming-the-odds stories – if it’s that good it’ll get made into a movie – I’ll watch that, thanks. Having said that, I’m glad I did read Keeler’s account of her mental illness. Her off-beat sense of humour and ability to laugh at herself make the accounts of her mental turmoil much more palatable. And as everyone who reads my blog knows, humour reigns supreme at the Madhouse.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out these other bloggers who are reviewing this title:

J.J.’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 10th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, July 16th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, July 17th: Oh! Paper Pages

Wednesday, July 18th: Surviving the Madhouse

Thursday, July 19th: 50 Books Project

Friday, July 20th: Peppermint PhD

Monday, July 23rd: Lolly’s Hope

Tuesday, July 24th: I’m a mom. I have OCD.

Wednesday, July 25th: Bringing along OCD

Thursday, July 26th: she treads softly

Monday, July 30th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, July 31st: The Beat OCD Blog

Wednesday, August 1st: 71° & Sunny: One Christian’s Odyssey 

Thursday, August 2nd: Adventures in Anxiety Land

Friday, August 3rd: OCD BloggerGirl’s Blog

Monday, August 6th: Expoing OCD

Tuesday, August 7th: OCD Talk

Friday, August 10th: An Unconventional Librarian

Date TBD: A Musing Reviews

About J.J. Keeler

A successful freelance writer, designer of custom children’s books, and muralist, J.J. Keeler

Author biography from TLC Book Tours.

has a degree in English Literature from the University of Colorado. In addition to her current work as an artist and freelance writer, Keeler has been a technical writer, greeting card copywriter, and illustrator of coloring and picture books for children. She has produced freelance articles for a number of magazines, including a featured bimonthly column, From the Horse’s Mouth, in Twins Magazine and a comic strip,Greetings from Mars, which ran in the Denver Daily Newspaper. Keeler currently resides in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, and five pets.


About Holly

I hope you're able to glean something from this blog, a nugget of wisdom, a new perspective, a smile or even a laugh. I enjoy getting feedback so please comment, share your story with me too. After all, we're here to help each other.
This entry was posted in children's mental health, OCD, parenting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Book Review – I Hardly Ever Wash My Hands

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Your teachers would be proud of your most recent book report.

    • Holly says:

      Whew, I haven’t lost my touch. It was a good read. I’d recommend it for anyone who is dealing with OCD or knows someone who has OCD.

  2. Kailana says:

    I wouldn’t over-think things too much. You did a great job with your first book review. 🙂

  3. Patti Smith says:

    You were spot on, Holly, when you said, “this is my blog; anything goes at the Madhouse. I can’t do it wrong because I’m in charge of how it gets done.” Realizing that is half the battle with honest blogging, I think. I love non-fiction as much as fiction and this was a fast read for me. I do think it’s an important one as we struggle to educate society on mental illness. Glad to meet you on the TLC Tour!

    • Holly says:

      Thanks for your encouragement!! It is a struggle to educate society on mental illness, but it it will be worth it in the end, of that, I have no doubt. It was nice to meet you too!

  4. Your daughter’s concern over spiders does crack me up, but only because I feel the same way from time to time. You are so right that our own quirks make sense to us while other people’s quirks are just weird. 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to read and review this book for the tour. You did a GREAT job with your review!

    • Holly says:

      Thanks so much for your encouragement and for inviting to be part of the tour. It’s been a wonderful experience and I hope to take part in future tours as well!

  5. JJ Keeler says:

    Thank you for such a nice review. I totally understand your daughter’s reluctance to kill spiders. I will not kill them either. As a result, we have about 10 in our house at any given time. I do let my cats play with them though, which is sort of mean but I justify it with the whole “circle of life” thing. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the book!
    All the best,
    JJ Keeler

    • Holly says:


      Thanks for commenting. I did enjoy the read and have passed it on to a friend. In regards to the spiders, my brother always says they’re great in the house because all the other bugs at bay by eating them. So you’re doing the right thing for your home!

      Best wishes to you,

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