“OC87” is a term coined by one of my therapists. It refers to the year 1987: the year I wanted to control everyone and everything.
The year before, life had been significantly out of control for me. I was a freelancer in the film industry in Philadelphia. For a guy just a year-and-a-half out of college, that meant a lot of unsteady employment and a big lack of structure. This is a transitional period that most college graduates are able to weather but I have always had problems dealing with unclear situations. I get stuck and scared when a journey of mine has no clear destination. Since I have obsessive compulsive disorder and I am still trying to cope with uncertainty in life, (the core of OCD is a need for one hundred percent, absolute certainty), I was literally going crazy back in 1986.
The way I attempted to cope with this loss of structure was to force myself to take a full time job in a store that sold and rented video tapes (this was pre-internet and pre-Netflix). For me, the job was avoidance — a misdirected attempt to structure my time and life, but also an easy escape from the field that I loved: filmmaking.
Because I was out of control in my head and my mood swings fluctuated from manic to depressive (I had not been diagnosed with OCD or bipolar yet) I felt I needed to be in control and in charge of my external world. Financially, I could do this because I was self-sufficient through the graciousness of my family. Therefore, in my mind, I was in control of everything and everyone. Why? Well, it didn’t matter how I acted or behaved socially at a job. If I got fired I would get another job — all that mattered was that I believed I was in charge.
That year, 1987, later became known as Obsessive Compulsive 87; the year when I tried to control everything and everyone. Luckily, my plan never worked because, if it had, or if I had believed fully in it, I would have continued to go severely psychotic.
Even though, at the time, I told myself that I didn’t need social attachments, I did need them. I was going psychotic because I was very lonely and because I was trying to do everything myself. The psychosis set in for the simple reason that, with very few meaningful relationships, I resorted to navigating my world by totally using my mind. For example, I would be in a conversation with two people at my job and, instead of being emotionally connected to them, I would tell myself,
“Stay connected, look at Steve. Now look at Dan — pay attention — watch yourself! Look back at Steve, now Dan….”
I still do this a little bit. As you can see, this would be maddening for anybody, let alone somebody who was frightened, angry, and paranoid. Back then, I trusted no one!
Eventually, my psychiatrist said that enough was enough and I was placed in the outpatient, day program at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. It was there, in 1990, that I developed my first meaningful friendships since I left high school in 1979. It was eleven years before I started to experience any type of re-bonding process with other human beings. I had been hurt by a friend’s nasty remark right after twelfth grade (we have since mended our relationship) so life was empty for me until I began my “work” in this program. I use the term “work” because Friends stretched me out of my comfort zone.
Another social milestone was the making of the film documentary, OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie. Because of that film, the term OC87 has taken on new meaning for me because now it also represents a giving up of control and an ability to trust people outside of myself. Even though I was making a film about my life, film is never a solitary process– it is always collaborative. And for somebody with anger and trust issues such as me, making that film was a very challenging task. I had to deal with not getting my way on many occasions — challenging for most, very difficult for me. I knew that, if I wanted the film to be good, (which I believe it is), that I had to rely on individuals who possessed technical and artistic skills beyond my own in some respects. Every project that somebody makes is important but this one I hoped would help others — and I hoped it would help me.
And it did.
The film helped me begin to trust people again. For the viewers, I hope they feel that they, too, can tell their stories, which is one of the reasons we started OC87 Recovery Diaries. This ability to rely on others is also transformational for recovery, and one of the reasons our site is named OC87 Recovery Diaries. We want the site to help and guide people who are in their own recovery. And it’s important for me to say that, even though I am the Publisher of the site, I don’t control everything that happens here. Even when I was Editor in Chief, I had to pay attention to, and acknowledge, other people’s ideas, especially when they were better than mine.
The old term that “nature abhors a vacuum” is particularly true for me. In 1987, I was so hurt and so angry that I wanted to live in my own vortex of a world — an alternative universe. That is why I wanted to live totally in the intellectual caverns of my mind. Luckily, it didn’t work because, even though life is still difficult for me, I realize that I’m not alone in this world anymore. Life is difficult for everyone! And, perhaps, it’s in that shared struggle that we begin to heal.
For many artists, that’s what their chosen profession is all about: healing. OC87 Recovery Diaries is a journey of struggle and healing. Now that you’ve read about a 1,000 word definition of what OC87 means I hope is it is no longer a curious hieroglyphic but, instead, a term that means transformation, hope, and connection; for me, and, maybe, for you, too.
Publisher; OC87 Recovery Diaries
EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman
It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Gabriel Nathan as editor in chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries. Gabe brings with him many years of editing experience as he takes on this new role at our website. (more…)
In the concluding part of my interview with Dr. Larry Real, we discuss such issues as mental illness stigma, how peer specialists are helping to combat that stigma, and how there is even stigma within the mental health field itself. This I find particularly alarming because it is hard enough for people like me to come out and say “I have a mental illness,” and then not be able to get adequate help.
But that is why we have psychiatrists like Larry, who are dedicated to transforming the mental health system into a recovery-oriented model, which is what people who are suffering need most. We need organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to step up to the plate and help families provide the support that they and their loved ones need.
Before I met Larry, my family was kept out of my treatment, but that inclusive support is crucial to recovery. (more…)
Dr. Larry Real and Bud Clayman
This is part one of a two part interview. Follow this link to read part two of Bud Clayman’s interview with Dr. Larry Real.
I first met Dr. Larry Real in 1992, when I was mentally sick and in a lot of emotional trouble. I had already begun to show symptoms of bipolar disorder, and was not sleeping well, no matter when I tried. My mom, Lila, had been part of a family group that was sponsored by AJMI (Alliance for the Jewish Mentally Ill) which later became the Jewish support group, Tikvah. When she saw that I was beginning to lose it, she contacted Larry, who was a co-founder of the group, and he suggested that the three of us meet.
I was very reluctant because I wanted to be left alone, and God only knew what he had planned for me! When we first met, I was zoned out and very fearful. But Larry laid it all out on the line for me: I needed some type of assisted living facility for people with mental illness. I needed to learn how to become independent again and manage my illness, because I did have an illness, whether I wanted to admit it or not. At the end of the meeting Larry said something like, “And you’ll need to learn how to flip a burger again for yourself.” I was always ordering take-out and eating unhealthy foods during my illness.
I have reminded him about that statement over the years and we both always have a good laugh, but it was true. And although I have been out of assisted living and on my own for fifteen years now, I still owe a lot to Larry and my mom for getting me on the road to recovery. I am proud to say that I can now call Larry a friend and colleague and not just another doctor who has passed though my life.
As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s very difficult for me to take the perspective of other people. I feel as though I’m giving up too much control to the other person. I feel that the person may take advantage of me emotionally by either making fun of me or looking down on me.
But this past week, I made a breakthrough in this area.
I came out to Los Angeles again for the first time in two years with much trepidation. But isn’t that what life is all about — facing your fears??!!!
Why did I come out here to push myself beyond what most people with my OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome conditions wouldn’t do? For starters, I’m motivated to succeed in life and overcome all my fears. I’m sure there are better and nobler causes but for now this where I am.
The second reason is I love Los Angeles and have “unfinished” business here.
And now I feel good doing that little thing, over and over again and see, that I just wish that some day I’ll have, I’ll have the control over me. –Chelsea Rae Phillips, lyrics from OCDani
Listen To The Song & Read The Interview
This is the fourth and final part of an interview series on OCD with specialist Jon Hershfield. Read the other installments “Defining OCD,” “More On OCD,” “An OCD Therapist’s Story,” and please comment on this post with your feedback.
Bud Clayman: I’ve been told that it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 years to be diagnosed with OCD and get into treatment [at least that’s what it took for me]. If that’s true, how does someone reading this interview recognize if they even have OCD [and why does it take so long to recognize that you have the disease]?
This is part three of a four-part interview series on OCD with specialist Jon Hershfield. Read part one, “Defining OCD,” part two, “More On OCD,” and tune in next week for the fourth installment.
Bud Clayman: I [would like] to talk about your life a bit. How long have you been a therapist? I know you started out as an actor. Is that true?
Jon Hershfield: Yeah, it’s been a long strange journey indeed.
This is part two of a four-part interview series on OCD with specialist Jon Hershfield. Read part one “Defining OCD” and tune in next week for the third installment.
Bud Clayman: So talk about the therapist [in] cognitive behavioral therapy.
Jon Hershfield: Cognitive behavioral therapy is divided into the ‘C’ and the ‘B’ of CBT. The C is for cognitive, which refers to “thought” and one of the things we know about OCD is that while you can’t control the thoughts you have, you have some influence over how you respond to those thoughts and how you think about those thoughts.
This is part one of a four part interview with Bud Clayman and Jon Hershfield.
Bud Clayman: I’m going to jump right in. What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Please define it for me.
Jon Hershfield: That’s an easy one. That’s what I work with all day, every day.
While I haven’t been diagnosed with Haphephobia (a fear of having your personal space violated), I do have a tough time being hugged. For me a hug—or the threat of being hugged—is more a threat of intimacy, even if it means just being close with somebody, whether on a romantic level or just as a friend.
In a series of recurring essays on films that relate to mental health, I would like to remember as they say, an oldie but goodie. That film is Ordinary People, which won the Best Picture Oscar for 1980. This film actually makes me tear up every time I watch it.
“Once I got stable, I thought to myself, this is why I’m on the planet . . . to be a voice for the countless number of people with mental illness who feel like they don’t have their own voice.” —Michael Solomon
Watch The Video & Read More
I went into the film Silver Linings Playbook somewhat skeptical. A friend of mine who is in the mental health field and has direct family experience with Bipolar Disorder felt the film treaded lightly over Pat Solatano’s (Bradley Cooper) own Bipolar illness. I also went into the film with my own life experience with Bipolar Disorder. I suffered for a good ten years—at least—from the illness.