My Life in Mental Chains Author Ruth Hartman

Inspiration, Mental Fitness, Motivational

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My Life in Mental Chains by Ruth HartmanI’m so happy to have a guest author on Out of Bounds today. Her name is Ruth J. Hartman and her story is a very inspiring and motivational one.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I read or hear about someone taking on a personal battle, I sit forward in my seat. My eyes and attention fixate on the situation, as though I’m there beside them, wondering what they’re going to do. Will they back down, will they fight with all they have, will they fight for a while then give up?

When the person not only refuses to back down but refuses to give even an inch, I move to the edge of my seat.

When, like Ruth J. Hartman, they cause the enemy to tuck tail and run, I want to stand up and shout. When one person faces their battle and wins, it’s encouraging to all of us – the best kind of encouragement because it attests to the human spirit. I think what I love most about Ruth’s situation is that the battle didn’t make her bitter. It made her better.

But it didn’t stop there! She could have sat happily at home. But her heart and spirit went out to the thousands of other people who are struggling to find their way in the dark along the path she has, herself, taken.

She’s going back for them to show them the way!

Didn’t I Used To Be Normal?

By Ruth J. Hartman

Until I turned 27, I thought the weird things I did were normal. Didn’t everyone count their steps as they walked? Or “type” some of the words in their head as they said them or heard them? But a couple of weeks after my birthday, that all changed.

I’m a dental hygienist, so I work in spit and blood on a regular basis. That fact never really bothered me all that much before. Then one day, and I literally mean one day, that all changed. As I cleaned my treatment room after finishing one of my patients, bizarre thoughts entered my mind: What if I didn’t get the chair and equipment clean enough? What if my next patient contracted some disease from the patient who just exited my room? If that were to happen, I would be to blame. And then the ultimate in fearful thoughts occurred. What if I got some awful disease from one of my patients?

At that moment, I began to exhibit some of the classic signs of panic. I started to sweat profusely. My hands shook. I felt sick to my stomach. But that wasn’t all. Not only did I keep thinking about contamination and the cleanliness of my room, I physically couldn’t stop scrubbing every surface in sight. I’m not even sure how many times I wiped down everything. But every time I thought it was clean, doubts immediately zipped back into my head: What if I was wrong? What if I needed to clean it one more time? The only problem was, cleaning it once didn’t satisfy this new, alien need for perfection. The more I cleaned, the worse I felt. I was stuck in a repetitive loop. But stopping wasn’t an option. If that were to happen, there would be dire consequences for all involved.

For some, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is slight. More of an annoyance, really. But for me, my life was forever changed. What happened to me that day is a memory that’s seared into my brain. No one around me understood why I had changed. My husband couldn’t fathom why I was suddenly afraid to touch certain things, or go certain places. My family and friends tried to understand, but they couldn’t. And how could I expect them to, when I didn’t understand it either?

Blessedly, there is hope. Mine came in the form of medication and therapy. I began seeing my psychiatrist three times a week. Now I see him once a year. My first medication was Anafranil. Unfortunately, all it really did was cause me to gain ten pounds and be excessively sleepy. My next try, though, was the winner. Prozac, friend to many, including me, has been a daily staple in my life for 15 years.

So take heart, anyone who’s reading this. If you suffer from OCD, or mental illness in any form, please don’t give up. There are so many treatments available. There’s something out there for you. Waiting to help you live your life to the fullest once again!

About Ruth Hartman:

Ruth J. Hartman was once “normal.” She perceived the world around her as any other person would-until she turned 27. That’s when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) dug in its claws and refused to let her go. Her world (and her family’s) was turned inside out.

Working as a dental hygienist was difficult enough, but trying to balance her work life with the challenges of OCD was overwhelming. Ruth’s family, friends, and co-workers didn’t understand why she suddenly acted so bizarre. She wanted to help them understand, but she couldn’t. She didn’t understand it herself.

My Life in Mental Chains is moving and tragic, yet in the end, it’s an uplifting story of personal faith and inner strength. Ruth’s insight will be a great comfort to OCD sufferers, their families, and their friends.

Ruth graduated from the Indiana University School of Dentistry with a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene. Her interest in writing, which began in high school, led her to earn her diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in “Writing for Children and Teenagers.”

She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two cats.

Visit her website at, or contact her at

Buy Ruth Hartman’s book: My Life in Mental Chains can be ordered from the website: . The simplest
way is to e-mail them at and request “My Life in Mental Chains” by Ruth J. Hartman.

I just read more about Ruth on her blog and discovered that we have a great deal in common. We both love walking, writing, and cats. My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Happy Feet are two of her favorite movies, and I’m in love with both of them. Plus, she lives in “rural Indiana.” Although I was born and raised in Kentucky (and live here now), I’ve lived in four different “Hoosier towns.” Friendly and warm people, those Hoosiers, and can they ever cook?!

Make each moment count double,
~ Joi

7 comments… add one
  • Hi, each time I read about your book it strengthens my resolve to get a copy of the book. But not for me. At least 50 copies to give to family members and friends. Then maybe they would understand. Thank you so much for writing this book. I can only imagine how difficult it must of been. Thank you.
    Jo Ann Hernandez

  • Jo Ann, I would imagine that it’s difficult to make people understand. Unfortunately most people don’t put themselves in the other person’s place and try to see the world as they see it. Without meaning to, people can be so intolerant. Not just towards people with OCD, of course, they’re also intolerant of people with hearing loss, weight problems, etc – and, certainly, older people suffer from intolerance.

    How can they not realize that if anyone could magically change what they’re struggling with, they would! And they certainly aren’t doing it to annoy them. Okay, rant over.

    I think Ruth’s book could give people who live with OCD ideas for getting the message across. It would be a wonderful book for the individual and family to read and discuss. I wish I could put a copy in every person’s hands who’s life is touched by OCD.

    Best wishes, Jo Ann. Stay strong!

  • Hi Ruth,

    What a great post. I could vividly picture what you were going through. I have a question: did your co-workers notice the sudden change in you? (Extra scrubbing and cleaning etc.) And how did they react, and how did you deal with them?

    Thanks for lending your insight. I’m learning so much!



  • Hi everybody!

    I meant to comment sooner, but I just got home from work. The dental office where I practice dental hygiene at is 25 miles away. But today it took me an hour to get home. We’ve been blasted with freezing rain and several inches of snow!!!

    Jo Ann, thank you for your post. I really feel for you. It’s not easy being the one who has OCD. Of course you don’t want to have it. To do the things you do, or think the thoughts you think. People sometimes think it’s something to get over with “mind over matter.” If they only knew!
    I sincerely hope the book helps you and your family.

    Thank you so much for the terrific job you did on the blog!! It’s wonderful. I can’t thank you enough!


  • Hi Ang,
    Thanks for the question!
    My co-workers did notice my strange behavior. At first, I heard whispers in the hallway outside my treatment room. Then there was an extremely uncomfortable “lunch-time lynching” without the lunch, where I was practically interrogated about why I was falling behind in the schedule (that’s when all the scrubbing took place.) At first, I tried to cover it up. Soon,however, that was impossible. I ended up quitting my job. It was too unbearable to stay there.


  • Ruth,
    While my heart breaks for what you’ve been through, I can hear the strength in your words. Going through this nightmare has obviously made you such a strong person. I wish I could put you in touch with every individual in the world who’s in the middle of their own nightmare.

  • Thank you Joi. That’s very sweet of you. I just hope all that I’ve expereinced helps someone else.


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