I’d like to conclude this “series” with a clip from Dr. Drew. Not normally a favorite show of mine—I like to stick to classier ones such as “Secret Life of an American Teenager” and “Bachelorette”. However, this one contains great information about OCD.
In 2009, Howie Mandel, the famous comedian, actor, and TV game show host revealed that he battles severe OCD. His “coming out” was completely accidental—it was during a moment of an OCD induced panic attack when he needed help. I try to be very intentional about revealing my mental illness for two reasons. One, to save the world by raising awareness—so altruistic of me I know! But two, selfishly—when I’m in crisis the last thing I want to do is explain the illness. Instead I just want to be able to reach out for help.
I love the way Howie describes OCD as a broken record. I’ve spent three posts trying to explain it—and he sums it up in about 100 words! This analogy does a good job of explaining a key part of OCD—the thoughts are not abnormal, it’s the inability to transfer away from those thoughts. This is more obvious in Howie’s struggle with germs than my struggles with repugnant obsessions.
I know the people in my company must have thoughts about avoiding germs—one of the main swag we give away is hand sanitizer. At a recent conference, I stole the entire basket of them and started passing them around to friends and strangers alike. I even demonstrated the proper use of them! Now, I’d had a few drinks, so my co-workers think it’s just a fun “drunken” story. In fact, it still gets retold at happy hour. What they don’t know is that I had spent all morning obsessing about the germs I was getting shaking hands as I was meeting new people and well with the lowered inhibitions I did what I had been fantasizing about all day!
Howie has similar experiences where to the outside eye his compulsions are “funny” or “cool”, such as his fist bumps on TV shows instead of handshakes or his shaved head. What the outsider does not know is the intense anxiety that causes these actions.
One other interesting issue raised in the interview is just mentioned in passing. Dr. Drew mentions that in some way OCD can be a “gift” as there can be benefits from it, such as the ability to intensely focus on something. Howie responds “if this is a gift, I’d love to return it”. Normally, I totally agree with this point of view—I’d even be willing to pay for someone to take it back! However, I did write a post of why my husband is lucky I’m bipolar, so in some ways I do think there can be good in the disease. What do you think? Should I look for the good in the disease? Is there benefit to acknowledging the slight benefits of the disease (you’ll never convince me these benefits outweigh the costs!)?
In conclusion, while I do not envy Howie’s intense struggle with OCD, I do envy his ability to reach so many people and begin to fight the stigma of mental illness. While I share with friends and family, I don’t have a nationally televised audience listening to me! But hopefully, I’m taking small steps in raising awareness and being able to say to fellow strugglers, “me too”.
There’s several other interviewsout there about Howie. The one by ABC 20/20 is particularly interesting as it focuses more on the compulsions he has related to his OCD.
Here’s the link for the video I’ve been talking about.