Joanne Limburg suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: she thinks things she doesn't want to think, and she does things she doesn't want to do. As a small child, she would chew her hair all day and lie awake at night wondering if heaven had a ceiling; a few years later, when she should be doing her homework, she was pacing her bedroom, agonising about the unfairness of life as a woman, and the shortness of her legs. By the time she was an adult, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours had come to dominate her life. She knew that something was wrong with her, but it would take many years before she understood what that something was.
The Woman Who Thought Too Much follows Limburg's quest to understand her predicament and to manage her symptoms - a long, twisted journey to discover all she can about rumination, scrupulosity, avoidance, thought-action fusion, fixed-action patterns, anal fixations, schemas, basal ganglia, tics and synapses. On the way, she encounters competing interpretations of her condition, as offered by psychoanalysts, neuropsychiatrists and cognitive psychologists, and does her best to come to terms with an illness which turns out to be both common, and even - sometimes - treatable.
This candid, moving and beautifully written memoir is a sometimes shocking, often sad, and yet also humorous revelation of what it is like to live with so debilitating a condition. It is also an exploration of the inner world of a poet and an intense evocation of the persistence and courage of the human spirit in the face of mental illness.
Joanne Limburg has published two poetry collections. Femenismo, was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection Prize; Paraphernalia, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son, and is currently the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Magdalen College.