I had a class with a really dumb girl once (well, woman—but a woman with girl-level dumbness). Unfortunately for everyone, the class was creative writing, so she communicated her dumbness through cop novel clichés. And in this double-spaced 15-page load of tripe—which managed to encompass two entire chapters, by the way—there was a cop whose workaholic nature she ascribed to “what doctors said was a form of OCD.”
I have OCD. Mild, controllable OCD, but OCD nonetheless. Of course, OCD manifests itself in a metric shit ton of different ways, and I would hardly try to say that my particular version of it is the gold standard by which all subsequent cases should be measured, but. That girl was full of crap.
Morons who try to create disorder-plagued characters seem to take one of two positions: either that the disorder is horrific and debilitating, and causes the sufferer to, say, mutilate live bunnies while gnawing on the bones of brave social activists, or (my favorite) that the alleged sufferer is in fact a tortured, eccentric genius with a unique and valuable view of the entire goddamn universe, a view often accompanied by some vague, new-agey sort of mysticism.
Both of these portrayals are incredibly offensive, of course, but I think the tortured genius trope pisses me off more. Because mental disorders don’t make you brilliant—they make you miserable. And not everyone who has a mental disorder is smart—sometimes they’re complete fucking morons.
Which is fine. A mentally ill neurosurgeon has no more intrinsic value than a mentally ill c-store cashier, or a mentally ill homeless person. (Of course, I choose to believe that homeless men—and they’re always men, of course—are just drug-addled rapists who cuddle crack bulbs in their sleep. Otherwise, I might actually have to care about them.)
But my point: Anyone can have a mental disorder. Those disorders can take many forms. And every one of those forms fucking blows.
Also, every single one of them deserves to be helped.
And can I just say that it is possible, god damn it, to have OCD minus the obsessive hand-washing? My symptoms, for example, include:
Counting. Of everything, but especially of objects that are arranged in easily-discernible patterns, like tiles.
Rearranging numbers into mathematical equations. I usually do this with home addresses, zip codes, and phone numbers. Because my math skills are limited, the equations are limited to those using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, parentheses (for the order of operations), and occasionally, when I feel all smart and stuff, fractions.
Rhythmic clicking in the back of my throat.
Ending stairs on my left foot—which is weird, because I’m right-handed and extremely right-dominant in every area (except politics, this being Pepper and Paprika after all). I can’t even use my left hand to zip my jacket. I have memorized the number of steps on many a staircase so I know which foot to start on, because I really hate having to skip a step to finish the stairs correctly.
Fitting two steps into each sidewalk block (left foot, then right foot, so I step over the cracks with my left). I really wish sidewalks didn’t have blocks; it would make my life so much easier.
Counting the letters in words, then the syllables; dividing the number of syllables into the number of letters to see if it comes out evenly. Words that do, I remember. But words like “beautiful,” despite fulfilling that requirement, are not among my favorites, because each syllable, as pronounced, does not have three letters. It’s beau / ti / ful, not bea / uti / ful, amirite? Words like bookcase (book / case) are nice, though. And words of three or more syllables that follow this pattern are great.
Most people will never pick up on my habits. I’m good at hiding them. But, trust, I engage in them constantly, and utterly against my will.
It’s not always bad, I guess. Counting soothes me when I’m stressed. The letter/syllable thing means that I spend a lot of time observing the patterns of people’s speech, which probably improves my dialogue-writing abilities. But generally, it’s stupid, and annoying, and it distracts me from shit that actually matters.
Which is why, during the full-class critique for creative writing dumbass’s cop drama, I made a point of basically saying, look. I don’t mean to use my experience as the ultimate example of OCD—especially since my case is so manageable—but OCD is not generally something that improves your career. It fucks things up. On account of it being a disorder. On account of it sucking. On account of it being something that nobody should ever want ever.
OCD doesn’t signal an Einsteinian brain, nor is it quirky and fun. And I would venture to say that Schizophrenic hallucinations don’t allow one to commune with a higher power, either.
So what I’m trying to say here is that Monk is a good show, because it depicts a character who is both helped and hindered by his disorder. I really wish that more shows/books/movies/people would take on such a wonderfully nuanced view.
See? You can be OCD and still write a rambling, disorganized blog post. Misconceptions, I SHATTER THEM.