“I’m not crazy. The fact I know what I am thinking and doing is outside the norm is what defines my disease! It’s the reason I asked for help.”
That was my 15 year old son, voice slightly raised, standing in our kitchen last Monday night. On his way upstairs to prepare for bed, he had found me standing in the kitchen, bent over my phone shaking my head, with a look of consternation on my face. He automatically assumed he had done something wrong; that I was angry or disappointed with him.
This is also a symptom of his disease. The continuous feeling of having done something wrong, something to offend, something dangerous. The checking in—repeatedly looking for reassurance—which followed is another symptom.
I assured him that it wasn’t him; I was horrified and mystified at the Time article flooding my Facebook newsfeed. It was titled: “Redefining Crazy: Changes to the Bible of Psychiatric Disorders,” and it really just got worse from there.
My teenage son has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. We, as a culture, like to joke a lot about OCD. OCD, though, is more than being picky. It’s more than being a perfectionist with a type-A personality.
It’s debilitating. It’s time-consuming. It’s dangerous. And it is defined by the fact that the person who suffers knows the obsessive, anxiety-producing thoughts they just can’t get rid of, and the compulsive acts—oftentimes which make no sense—they do to get rid of those horrible thoughts are not normal; are not the way other people do things. In order to be diagnosed with OCD, one must realize AND state what they are thinking and what they are doing are outside the norm.
Thankfully, there’s decades of intensive research and advancements in treatment for OCD that is allowing my son to return to a normal life with each passing day. In fact, one of the changes in the DSM-V will be separating Hoarders from the diagnosis of OCD, and allowing research and treatment growth to occur specifically for this disorder. There are other changes as well: allowing depression to be diagnosed in the bereaved, creating a true spectrum (with multiple examples) for Autism and related disorders, adding binge eating (without purging) to the list of eating disorders, and ameliorative acts to reduce the number of children who are misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder…
Not that you would have seen the positives of this in the article, however. All you would see is an author, criticizing—by his own admission—over 1500 professionals who spent the last 13 years pouring over every disorder and diagnostic list, hoping to make it easier to identify and treat patients—all the while battling cultural stigma, insurance companies, and the poor care choices of the past.
“He is ridiculing their life’s work!” my son exclaimed, as he read further into the article I had shared with him. The author discussed how these changes really benefit researchers and insurance companies, criticized the ‘diagnosis creep’ inherent in adding new disorders, disparaged Temple Grandin, perpetuated the belief that ‘disruptive mood dysregulation disorder’ is nothing more than the ‘tantrum diagnosis’ and much more.
But the biggest problem is that the author called them crazy. Those with post-partum depression. Those with autism. Those with OCD. Those with an eating disorder. All of them—he called them CRAZY.
It’s only been about two months since my son started speaking to anyone about his diagnosis and the start of treatment this summer. We went several months where he refused to tell anyone—friends, teachers, family members—because of what they would say or what they would think. He had enough on his plate; he didn’t need people thinking he was crazy on top of it. That’s another thing about OCD—people don’t want to share the obsessions they have or the compulsive things they do to try and get rid of the thoughts. We worked with him extensively to end this line of thinking—a line of thinking that many others, such as bloggers Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) have been battling as well. Those with mental health disorders should not fear telling others about their diagnosis, they should not avoid seeking treatment, and they should not hide in the corners of our society.
It took quite a while for him to realize that he can say it aloud to others and still deserve a certain level of decorum and respect. That he can speak his truth and teach others what OCD means and not be labeled as ‘crazy’. And yet, this author—this man whom we’ve never met—attempted to erase that for my son and countless others with a glib headline and little forethought to how readers might respond.
My son, having finished the article, leveled his gaze at me in the middle of the kitchen on Monday night, squared his shoulders, and said, “You can tell them. I don’t want you to use my name, but you can say that your son has OCD and that he’s not crazy and that the best thing he ever did was ask for help, and that the author was wrong. You can tell them that. You can tell him that he needs to apologize. You can tell them that the story needs to be pulled.”
And so, I will: Mr. Cloud, what you did was wrong. You should apologize. And then apologize again. And your story should be pulled.