Getting an acceptance letter from Princeton is an occasion for celebration, but when Matt Bieber ’04 received his, he felt concerned. “My brain was wired to worry,” he writes in his new book, Life in the Loop: Essays on OCD, which chronicles how it feels to have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
People with OCD repeatedly perform certain routines and have certain thoughts, impinging on day-to-day life. In Bieber’s case, he felt a preoccupation with how his teeth looked and whether they were moving. He describes OCD as an “overly active alarm system [that] gets tripped,” the effects of which can be debilitating. He suffered “an often constant assault of painful, intrusive thoughts.”
Although OCD was present during his childhood, it first erupted in Bieber’s life just before he arrived on campus. He created rituals and rules for himself, checking the mirror over and over again to look at his teeth. These rituals “played a huge role in my college career — stealing much of the time, energy, and attention that I’d hoped to devote to my studies,” says Bieber, who works as a freelance writer from Bangkok, Thailand.
The 19 essays in the self-published book also discuss Bieber’s experiences with Buddhism and OCD, and how he coped while living abroad. He hopes they offer “a raw and naked account of a disease that is too often trivialized or misunderstood.”