ocd snobbery

I got pissed off at the gym today, as I was sitting there on the exercise bike, emitting my new fragrance and reading a sticky, old issue of Newsweek. There was an article in it by a woman who, after giving birth to her son, started having OCD-like symptoms, and it got me all fired up. Heres a quote from the article (which I ripped out of the sweat-soaked magazine and stuffed into my sock before leaving):

When my son was between 5 and 7 weeks old, it really hit me. One night while burping him with a burp cloth I wondered what would happen if I smothered him with it I began to have even more such thoughts, and I became extremely frightened. I though about dropping him the stairs. Or accidentally drowning him in the bathtub. Id shake my head and think, I know Id never hurt him. Whats wrong with me?

Fortunately, she got diagnosed with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder relatively quickly, started seeing a therapist, and went on medication. And now, everythings apparently just fine.

I feel stupid for being pissed, but I am. This woman lived for a few weeks with something that Ive dealt with my entire life and she writes a story about her ordeal. I dont want to get into the specifics, but intrusive thoughts concerning violent acts are something that a lot of us with OCD deal with daily, even hourly. Once, I met a woman in a group therapy setting, who was so troubled by the graphic thoughts she had of murdering her parents and siblings, that she moved away from home without telling them where she was going. It literally gets that bad, and medication and therapy dont work for everyone. The woman that I mentioned, by the time I had met her, had been diagnosed with OCD and she knew that just because she had these thoughts didnt mean that she was going to act on them. She knew that, but she still didnt contact her family. And the medications didnt stop that.

I feel like the author of this piece in Newsweek got off at my bus stop by accident, was stranded there for a little while, and now thinks that shes entitled to write about the horror of it all as though its her story to tell.

I know its wrong to think this way and Im embarrassed. The article was good, and it might actually help people who are suffering from this form of the disease. I know thats a good thing, and I appreciate the author taking the time to share it. I cant, however, help but feel this inner anger, like Im a black guy watching a documentary about a white sociologist who wore blackface for a week and then proceeded to write a book about discrimination. I guess theres a kind of elitism when it comes to mental illness, the same way there is with everything else.

The woman who wrote this Newsweek piece, by the way, has been spending her time as of late lobbying congress to invest in mental illness research. Meanwhile, Im sitting here, the OCD snob, wasting my time on Omarosas new site, wondering if anyone would pay $3.95 a minute to hear me discuss my delusions of grandeur.

On the subject of OCD, my friend Kez Panel (a fellow traveler in the world of obsession), just wrote to tell me that theres a big OC Foundation conference at the end of July in Chicago. As part of the event, theyre having a judged art show, and Im thinking about entering something. (The grand prize is $1,000… which would buy a hell of a lot of moist towelettes.) If the baby werent coming in July, I might have even considered going to the event. The line-up of speakers and topics looks good. Plus, I think it would just be interesting to wander around the Hyatt with a thousand other people who are also afraid of touching contaminated surfaces Id love to see surveillance tapes from the elevators Can someone please arrange that?

Kez also, in his note, told me about the human clock.

Kez is good about telling me things.

So, the OC Foundation art show is another thing that Im adding to this weeks to-do list. Ive got to think of something really obsessive. The competition is going to be fierce. Im sure that the woman who creates things from dryer lint will be there, and that OC performance artist who just stands there, obsessively popping bubble wrap bubbles. This is like the best of the best. This is my Olympics. Wish me luck.

Oh, I didnt mention it earlier, but my comic for the next issue of the Ann Arbor Paper has to do with my violent intrusive thoughts concerning my wife and our baby. I just submitted it last night Its really weird that I should see that article, entitled I Was Scared I Might Hurt My Baby, today of all days.

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One Comment

  1. Mark
    Posted June 22, 2004 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It’s not something I’m proud of, this OCD-elitism. I just can’t stop it. I’ve found myself doing the same thing in group therapy settings, turning up my nose at the woman who somehow got into the group because she hoards plastic bags. That was the depth of her problem, hoarding plastic bags, and she was sitting at a table with people who, in one case, had brain surgery to alleviate the effects of OCD, people that couldn’t leave their homes without hours of rituals. I don’t like the fact that I think this way, but I do. I sat there for a great many sessions thinking, “Who are you to say you have OCD?” Not my best moment The truth is, its a illness thats very difficult for some of us and, yes, it made me angry the other day to read that the author of this piece had no symptoms after a few short weeks. I guess it was jealousy.

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