“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
The language of film is well-suited to explore the journeys of the mind. I have been so very lucky to work with men and women who agree about the potential of this kind of storytelling; who are also invested in sharing journeys of recovery that inform and inspire. My colleagues have enthusiastically embarked with me to tap into the extremely vulnerable, but ultimately triumphant, adventure of translating these stories for the screen.
My personal history with the powerful combination of mental health and film started with OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, a feature film that I directed with Bud Clayman and Scott Johnston. OC87 is a moving, insightful, and often funny film that tells the story of Bud Clayman’s own mental health recovery journey, in which filmmaking plays a significant role. We learn about Bud’s personal history as well as his hopes to pursue a career in filmmaking. Throughout the film, everyday activities are depicted that, for Bud, (and for many others, in fact) can be quite challenging — riding a bus, walking down the street, or ordering at a restaurant. Sound design, slow motion, and other cinematic techniques are employed to recreate Bud’s lived experience for viewers. It was a risky undertaking, but it worked. Audience members strongly identified with Bud’s heroic internal struggle as he battled the everyday. “You gave my story the red carpet treatment,” said one beaming viewer to me after a screening. At that moment, I was moved to continue using my skills as a filmmaker to give more people’s stories the “red carpet treatment.”
Bud Clayman & Glenn Holsten during the filming of OC87
OC87 screenings around the country were followed by Q&A’s, where men and women would get up and share their own inspiring journeys of recovery. Each was a moving and valuable contribution to the understanding of mental health struggle, and most were filled with hope for positive and fulfilling lives. We wanted to find a home for these stories, and OC87 Recovery Diaries, the website, was born.
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to create short documentaries for the website that are inspired by the tradition started with the feature film OC87. For the past few years, Bud Clayman and I have directed stories that bring to light the lived experiences of recovery from mental illness, and show how people who live with mental health challenges create paths to meaningful lives. The rewards of crafting and sharing these short films are immense, and I’m very happy to share the news that a new, one-hour special for public television has been created, and will begin to be shared with public television stations this month. On May 18th at 10:00pm, viewers in the WHYY (Philadelphia) area can watch the film on WHYY TV 12. A wider PBS distribution will occur in October.
OC87 Recovery Diaries is a film about people, not diagnoses. The film is a collection of beautifully told short stories that inspire and empower, stories that generate discussion and awareness in an effort to dismantle stigma — all told by people moving through their own recovery journeys.
Here is a promo for the film that presents our players and their stories.
Video portraits include:
Stephanie Sikora, who uses equine therapy to help with her bipolar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Working with horses helps her control anger, frustration, and anxiety. Her trust in horses has allowed her to trust people.
Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno, aka “Crazy Cozmo,” is a Marine Corps. veteran who lives with PTSD and bipolar disorder. Extreme physical exercise is his way of coping with the challenges of the trauma he experienced as a child at the hands of an abusive stepfather.
Mike Veny attempted suicide at age ten. He was expelled from three schools for behavior problems and was hospitalized repeatedly for psychiatric issues as a child. Today, he is an outspoken mental health advocate and drummer who is searching for a definition of healthy masculinity as he deals with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. Watch Mike Veny do the (near) impossible: interview his depression.
Sheri Heller is a powerful trauma survivor who now helps others who have experienced trauma. This short animated film artfully details her journey with a mother who had schizophrenia. Sifting through the wreckage of her childhood, she uses her creativity to help her channel the hurt and the pain. As a therapist, Sheri looks for beauty in the ugliness of the world and helps others to heal.
The staff members at Montgomery County Emergency Service (MCES), a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania, rush through busy, stressful days helping people in mental health crisis. But do they ever have time to look at one another? In 2014, they stepped way out of their comfort zones to slow down, and learn, and grow by rehearsing, producing, and performing Thornton Wilder’s timeless play, Our Town as a benefit for their patients, and themselves.
Hyacinth King traveled from private school to private hell as she wrestled with the toxic combination of schizophrenia, drug abuse, and homelessness. Eighteen years ago, she discovered Project HOME, and her life as an advocate for those who have experienced homelessness began.
Monica Rose, a young transwoman, talks about her experience with mental health challenges, homelessness, and finding her chosen family at The Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia.
Danielle Hark is a passionate mental health advocate and wellness warrior. She created the website Broken Light Collective to bring together images from photographers all over the world who live with mental health challenges. Although Danielle wrestles with many of her own mental health issues, she is also a stunning photographer who explores our delicate world with her camera.
On a personal note, I am indebted to all the wonderful people who help us craft these videos, including talented producers, directors of photography, assistant directors, sound recordists, editors, composers, animators, graphic designers, production assistants. The quality of the work reflects the respect the creative team has for the storytellers. Everyone who is touched by these stories is affected by these stories.
We will continue to promote screenings of the one-hour film throughout the year on this site and our various social media platforms. I hope you enjoy meeting these men and women as much as I have. Their brave and passionate journeys of recovery continue to inspire me, long after the filming and editing is over.
Those in the WHYY viewing area can watch the one-hour film live on Thursday, May 18 at 10:00pm or via Apple TV, Roku, or On Demand via the Local Tab on your PBS On Demand section.
For those outside the WHYY viewing area, stay tuned for updates on other screenings!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a novel by Mark Haddon. It is also a play currently on Broadway in New York City. The show was recently awarded a slew of Tony awards, including Best Play, Best Direction for a Play (Marianne Elliot) Best Scenic Design for a Play (Bunny Christie and Finn Ross), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable) one for actor Alex Sharp, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play. It was adapted for the stage by Simon Stephens.
Bud Clayman is the subject (and co-director) of OC87: The Obsessive-Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie. In fact, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s during the filming of the documentary. Glenn Holsten is one of the directors of the documentary. He didn’t know a thing about Asperger’s until he met Bud.
Bud and Glenn recently saw the play together. They had two very different experiences.