Don’t Get Too Excited is a collection of humorous personal essays by a woman living with OCD, anxiety, and more. Epstein opens the book by discussing her first signs of struggle growing up as a child in the 1980s. She learned how to read later than her peers and struggled with her fine motor skills, such as tying her shoes.
Childhood OCD and A Learning Disability
Because her parents both worked in the mental health field, they immediately noticed her struggles. She went to therapy and testing where she was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and a learning disability (specifically, perceptual impairment). While her parents were attentive to her struggles, they tended to hyper-focus on them, which made her even more self-conscious about her abilities.
Because Epstein’s father was a psychologist, she was able to chat honestly with him about her irrational fears. Whether she was discussing her fear of electric fences or her uvula falling out, she had informal “sessions” with her father after she moved in with him when her parents divorced.
As a teenager, Epstein went to a high school program in Israel where she enjoyed herself and got English awards. However, after graduating and returning to the states, she felt lost. The essays are packed with self-awareness and insight into Epstein’s own behavior. She is able to look at herself through a humorous microscope.
Despite her struggle transitioning back to the states after high school, Epstein goes on to achieve success. She received a master’s degree in media studies and works as a project manager for a nonfiction media company. She lives in New York City, and one might think she has the dream life if not for her obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Navigating Adulthood with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Panic Attacks
Her compulsive tendencies included tapping, checking, and more. Epstein would tap the burners on her kitchen stove over and over to make sure they were shut off before leaving her apartment. Her routines even made her late for work, and the emotional stress manifested physically into skin rashes and heart palpitations. The physical symptoms of emotional problems are a lot more common than many might think, and I was grateful Epstein touched on that.
One thing that stood out to me was how hard Epstein was on herself. Despite her high level of self-awareness, she writes:
“If I had been smarter, I wouldn’t have chosen to go off my meds. Or I wouldn’t have gone off them cold, but would have weaned myself off them gradually and contacted my psychiatrist before making this decision.”
Who hasn’t stopped taking their medication against the advice of their doctor? It’s less about being smart and more about being frustrated: I am taking the medication prescribed to me. I am still miserable, and now I have all these side effects. Let me just see if stopping the medication will change things even though I know my doctor will not agree…
Stopping a medication cold turkey and/or without supervision is, of course, dangerous. A lot of us have done it, though. Where Epstein chided herself, I saw a stubborn powerful woman who refused to give up.
For example, Epstein views herself as “emotionally fragile,” but she continually pushes herself to improve. She starts therapy, tries different medications, and even goes off to Costa Rica for a ten-day trip despite her high levels of anxiety.
The trip serves as exposure therapy in a way. She almost cancels several times, but she survives the trip, albeit with a questionable level of enjoyment. Her adventures are hilarious, and her ability to look at her struggles in a humorous light was the best part of the book.
The Intersection of Physical and Mental Health Problems
When Epstein begins to discuss life in her thirties as a woman who struggles with intimacy and body image, I was definitely hooked. While the backstory in the beginning of the book is necessary, I enjoyed reading about her life in the present day the most.
Epstein deals with physical health problems in addition to her mental health struggles. After getting surgery for kidney stones, she hired a nutritionist and personal trainer. Although she struggles with contamination OCD, panic attacks, and more, she has good friends and an improving relationship with her mother. Above all, she refuses to give up and continues working on herself.
Throughout the book, Epstein analyzes her behavior through a lens of humor. She writes honestly and hysterically with practical advice through lived experience. Despite the sometimes summary-heavy chapters, her ability to laugh at herself is what kept me reading. It’s a relatable book for anyone with OCD and anxiety.
The author of Don’t Get Too Excited is a neurodivergent writer, activist, and worker bee who lives in New York. Jen Esptein lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She holds a BA in communication arts and an MA in media studies. After 14 years of working in the media industry and doing project management, Epstein is taking a little break to focus on her writing projects and volunteering as a mental health awareness advocate. She’s currently looking to make a career transition into the non-profit sector and world of community organizing. So if you have any leads, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind you dropping her a line.
📖 You can purchase her book at Indie Bound or on Amazon.
About the Author:
Josie Thornhill is a freelance writer and psychology student. She writes nonfiction, poetry, and tinkers with a semi-autobiographical novel. You can read her work at Grief Dialogues, Ang(st) Magazine, Dark Marrow, and more. Stay connected with her on Instagram.