Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Life 2: Are you sure you can't catch things from watching tv shows about diseases?

Just Checking: Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive by Emily Colas

an only slightly less objective book blog...

“Scars are great. They’re this outward symbol of some personal pain. Just by looking at a scar, you know that person has suffered. Usually, or maybe almost exclusively, medically. But what about the suffering insane? We have no scars. That’s why we have to make them ourselves.”

“It was like some god somewhere was telling me, “We have something else for you. Something special.” I was honored. Until I realized that special treat was insanity.”

Like most all ocd memoirs, this one hits a little too close to home. Admittedly, she has it much worse than I do now. My early to mid-teen bout of scrupulosity and possibly some pieces of my more recent life are close, but I could at least leave the house; she couldn’t. What I was so happy to see was her description of the “crazier than you” thoughts. She has this one-up conversation with her close friend who is a recovering heroin addict about who is crazier, who has it worse. While I don’t remember ever having this conversation with anyone, there is a variation that occurs in my mind on a fairly constant basis. OCD is not generally an outwardly noticeable disorder, or at least not to people who don’t know you well. So, you end up discussing with yourself whether you can safely call yourself crazy, insane, in need of help. Maybe it’s just me blowing my symptoms out of proportion. Obviously I’m not crazy. I do not see little orange people who aren’t there. I have not randomly tried to stab a loved one or a stranger (though being in close proximity to a sharp instrument has often caused the fear that I might without intending or wanting to). So I must not be crazy…or at least not as crazy as other people. And it would be selfish to assume I am and suck up sympathy or help or time with my overblown crap. But we are nuts. And what makes it worse is that we know we’re nuts. In general, we know that the things we do have no basis in rationality. It makes no sense to check that the car door is locked 3, 6, 9, or 17 times. It makes no sense to eat candies in threes and give the leftovers to one’s wife. It makes no sense to arrange shirts by color (spectrum then shade order) and in alphabetical order. But I do it. It pisses me off that I feel I have to do it and that I know it’s nuts and still proceed with it.

That is our special curse—what colas calls “insanity lite”: “All the taste, none of the good stuff. It was as if I was suffering as much as anyone else who had lost their mind, but since I was still able to be rational, since I knew what I was doing was bizarre, I wasn’t really crazy. I had this belief that somehow life would be easier if I was just completely mad.”

One thing I envy about colas’ ocd: it was constant. That may sound strange, and I am positive that she wished it was not. But like her belief that it would be easier to be completely mad, somehow, I think it would be better if my symptoms were constant and not in this unpredictable cycle. I never know what I’ll wake up to—crazy Dawn or regular Dawn. Will I be able to open a public bathroom door with three layers of paper towels today or will I wait insanely by the door to catch it with my foot as someone else comes in? Who knows? And that is what makes me so damned unbalanced…well, a piece of it anyway…

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