Puzzled: A Memoir about Growing Up with OCD by Pan Cooke

Readers looking for insight on what it’s like growing up with undiagnosed OCD should read Puzzled: A Memoir about Growing Up with OCD by Pan Cooke. Pan shares his story from different stages of childhood with a pop-in from adult Pan at the end. This was a lovely, openminded read about one person’s journey growing up with OCD.

Pan is ten years old when the anxious thoughts start to take over. They rule his brain like puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together or ones that are missing entirely. Pan has become an impossible puzzle that he can’t figure out. As he works to find answers to the swirling thoughts in his brain, he is bombarded by repeating questions and fears that can only be pacified through repeated rituals that take time to go through. His compulsions being to impact his ability to do his normal tasks. His friendships start fading, his anxiety ratchets up, and Pan is left at a loss of what to do.

After living for years with no answers, Pan learns that he has obsessive compulsive disorder. His anxious thoughts, missing puzzle pieces, and his attempts to solve the mess he feels are all evidence that he has OCD. This middle grade graphic memoir shows Pan’s journey from living with OCD to learning about OCD and what he can do to help quiet his thoughts.

While I enjoyed this middle grade graphic memoir, I was left wanting more. Many of my favorite graphic memoirs that discuss mental health list resources and sources of information in the back. While I understand that this is a graphic memoir for kids, I still would have liked some resources, websites, or organizations presented. Even though these were absent, Pan’s evolving relationships with his friends, family, doctors, and therapist all modeled changing ties between others, as well as positive and negative relationships. Showing Pan working through his thoughts on his own, while trying to find paths that worked for him and help, was very realistic. All in all, I’m glad I decided to pick up this book as Pan was incredibly candid and open about his mental health.

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