Just Checking by Emily Colas

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Synopsis

As my friend the heroin addict says, "You're only as sick as your secrets." Emily Colas -- young, intelligent, well-educated wife and mother of two -- had a secret that was getting in the way of certain activities. Like touching people. Having a normal relationship with her husband. Socializing. Getting a job. Eating out. Like leaving the house. Don't get me wrong. I have no hallucinations, no aliens telling me what to do. Just extreme and intrusive neurotic thoughts. Insanity lite. This raw, darkly comic series of astonishing vignettes is Emily Colas' achingly honest chronicle of her twisted journey through the obsessive-compulsive disorder that came to dominate her world. In the beginning it was germs and food -- to her mind, anything from ground-up hypodermic needles to disease-tainted blood could be on her restaurant plate. By the time she faced the fact that she was really "losing it," Colas had become a slave to her own "hobbies," from the frenetic daily hair trims she gave herself to the incessant inspections of her children's clothes for bloodstains, the carpet for dangerous debris, packaged goods for possible tampering. Soon there was no interval in Colas' life when she was not just checking. In order to create harmonious home environment, I decided to become a liar. I decided to stop telling my husband about my worries. Although at first Colas confided her myriad fears to her husband -- who for years colluded by serving as his wife's shield from the world -- eventually the "worries" she tried to hide took an inevitable toll on their marriage. They agreed she would seek therapy. It was not an easy outing. Struggling to reassure herself that she hadn't been exposed to pernicious germs on her "get well" trip, that the therapist didn't have any cuts or cold sores, that her quick scan of the chair she'd sat in hadn't missed any bloodstains, she rushed home to lock herself in the bathroom. As her husband pounded on the door, Colas was busy figuring out a way to convince him that she didn't really need therapy. While she scoured the tiles. When I can't handle the world, I clean it. Even when her behavior is at its most peculiar, Colas is talented at taking us inside her head, exposing a soul tormented but balanced by a judicious self-view -- and a piercing sense of humor that may be her saving grace. Her obsessions spiral out of control, yet a buoyance of spirit deep within Emily Colas conveys the possibility of hope. We sense that if there is a way out of this madness, she will find it. Just Checking is a shocking, hilarious, enormously appealing account of a young woman struggling to gain control of her life -- and of the important distinction between garden-variety neuroses and a life-altering disorder.
 

About Emily Colas

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Emily Colas is thirty-two years old and lives in Michigan with her two children. Just Checking is her first book.
 
Published June 1, 1999 by Washington Square Press. 176 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Just Checking

Kirkus Reviews

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She tells her story in brief scenes, not necessarily in chronological order, from her childhood at summer camp, where a compulsive neatness was already evident, to her post-divorce job as a bar waitress, where she can “smoke, drink, and be sarcastic, all while earning an honest living.” With its ...

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Publishers Weekly

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Colas can be funny --(an episode of the stranger's underpants in the laundromat dryer is especially amusing (""I called my OB to ask her if she'd be willing to test me for gonorrhea"")--but her flat prose and superficial approach mask an intelligence that's never sufficiently engaged with this ma...

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AV Club

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Colas is afraid of many things, but contamination via blood and germs is a big one: Just Checking documents her sad routines, from an elaborate, painfully methodical way of taking out the trash to the way she monitors the use of the toilet, toilet paper, and knives.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Just Checking

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75%

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