The Woman Who Thought Too Much

Joanne Limburg’s searingly honest memoir The Woman Who Thought Too Much explores a life plagued by paralysing anxiety and depression, culminating in a diagnosis of OCD after the birth of her son. Limburg is an accomplished poet and wordsmith which means she brilliantly conveys the torture of knowing the irrationality of her anxious thoughts, while being unable to dampen down the terror state they can activate. Being very clever and insightful isn’t enough to ‘cure’ her OCD, and we get to understand exactly why. This is a very brave book, and her footnotes bring to life just how much anxiety she had to bear in its making.

Limburg shares the long journey she is still on to tackle her “Unbearable Feeling”, including trips to GPs, psychoanalysis, an academic study of psychoanalysis, CBT, anti-depressants, friendships and her husband. She also has an unquenchable thirst for reading around the subject (references are rich and varied), including contemporary neuroscientific thoughts on anxious ‘wiring’ of the brain. Her humour isn’t morbid or uncomfortable, but adds a bounce to what could have been a very difficult read.

I imagine this book could be of help and support to others suffering at the behest of debilitating ruminations -I think I’m right in saying there aren’t many memoirs of OCD, unlike depression and eating disorders or addictions.. OCD is far more common than most realise and is notoriously diagnosed late in the day.

For another brilliant memoir of anxiety, we’d also recommend Monkey Mind.