I’ve thought on and off, for weeks, about writing about my mental illness and posting about it here. Part of me wants to get it out. Another part, the self-deprecating part, tells me that nobody cares about my craziness. That it will make me look needy and stupid or, worse, people who are thinking about giving me a job will look me up and see this, and they won’t want to hire me anymore. But I’ve decided I want to write about it. There is so much to say; I have suffered from mental illness since I was five, but I’m going to focus today on the recent issues, particularly my latest hospital stay. Continue reading My Depression Post
So, I did the unthinkable last night, I watched a remake of a foreign movie before viewing the original. The Road Within is a remake of the 2010 German film, Vincent Wants to Sea, and I’ve heard it is a very faithful adaptation. Anyway, if that is the case, I might as well cross Vincent off my itinerary. The Road Within may be an independent film, but it feels as pedestrian as they come.
Let’s cut to the chase; the real problem here isn’t the script (trite and hokey as it is,) but Dev Patel. Fucking Dev Patel, man, Robert Sheehan plays Vincent, a Tourette’s Syndrome victim with a anger management problem in this movie, and he’s quite good. He’s making a monumental effort against a weak script with his solid performance.
Following his alcoholic mother’s death, Vincent is sent to a behavioral therapy program by his cold-hearted politician father (Robert Patrick) and so sooner has he been dropped off and virtually abandoned by pops he befriends a flirty pixyish anorexic (Zoe Kravitz) and hits the road in his therapist’s stolen car to scatter his mother’s ashes at sea.
Of course there’s one small problem, besides that whole ‘wanted felons in a stolen car’ thing. Vincent and the Anorexic, Marie have taken Vincent’s annoying roommate, Alex (Dev Patel) with them, quite forcibly (to prevent him from narcing them out to the doctors at the facility,) and that’s where the film really falters.
Don’t watch this if you’re an Obsessive-compulsive Disorder victim like me; it will just infuriate and baffle you. Alex is a pedantic clean freak who suffers from OCD, and that’s where the filmmaker’s development of his character ends. His character more often than not provides some kind of ghastly slapstick, his eyes bulging out like a deranged Marty Feldman incarnate, jumping about comically like a spastic and screaming about ‘poo’ and ‘contamination’ whenever someone touches him.
It’s pretty much the tackiest OCD stereotype one can imagine, and I felt almost embarrassed for the actor and the filmmaker in that (a they treated a complex and serious illness this way and (b that they thought people with OCD actually act like this. While Sheehan’s part is underwritten and pretty cliche as far as depictions of Tourette’s Syndrome go (choosing to portray the uncontrollable cursing that sometimes- but not typically- goes with the illness,) his character is written with some finesse and sympathy, and the actor creates a somewhat likable protagonist with admittedly limited resources. He seems, more or less, like someone who could exist in the real world.
Contrary to this movie’s depiction of OCD, people suffering from the illness are not psychotic or retarded (we may in fact be borderline crazy, if ‘insanity’ is defined by having an unfortunate mental condition that hinders our day-to-day functioning, but I desist.) The director, Gren Wells, could just as well have hired Adam Sandler (Happy Madison productions Sandler, not Punch-Drunk Love Sandler) to play Alex and it probably would have been just as convincing a portrayal. Patel’s shtick gets old fast, and by fast I mean the minute he’s introduced into the movie.
Besides the unfortunate depiction of certain psychological conditions, the setup of The Road Within is painfully standard, with characters apparently reaching recovery from a healing road trip and lots and lots of big discussions about the trio’s illnesses effect on their lives. Robert Patrick does a good job (and actually has a touching monologue near the end) but his character is just too unbelievable, going full circle from uncaring jerk to genuinely loving dad thanks to a few short conversations with Vincent’s shrink (Kyra Sedgwick.) The transformation just isn’t plausible with you consider the father, Robert’s years of being a total asshole to his son.
It all ties into a neat tidy bundle at the end and despite some good scenes and performances, ultimately has little to say about the character’s conditions. Comedies, whether convivial or dark, about mental illness can be effective; just look at Benny & Joon, The Silver Linings Playbook, and The bizarro black comedy The Voices. The Voices was offensive as offensive can be, but it didn’t try to be anything other than a pitch black comedy. The Silver Linings Playbook performed the high wire act between being light and funny and not trivializing the characters’ illnesses. The Road Within has it’s moments, but ultimately it’s just not a substantial flick, obtaining cheap laughs from the character’s respective maladies and telling a well-meaning yet tired story with no real surprises.
As a sufferer of severe OCD, stories about the disorder have been of interest to me throughout my life. Although I wished that the boy who actually had the disorder, Corey Friedman, had written the book instead of his father (writing in his son’s voice) and bestseller James Patterson, I have to admit that they did a good job of bringing Corey’s voice to life. In this case, Corey was doubly unlucky- instead of just suffering Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, he was also afflicted with a particularly extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome. His woes began, like me, when he was five years old, when he began to tic daily, a cycle that included shaking his head violently, breaking his teeth by biting down on them with brute force, and tearing his muscles with jarring bodily movements.
Corey’s life came to a stand-still as his body began to turn against him. As he grew into a troubled teen, he found that more often than not psychiatric medications had drastic side effects, and the only ‘medication’ he could really count on was alcohol. Corey went to various therapist’s and tried various meds, but his devastating illness wouldn’t yield. Eventually, he found he had to fight ferociously for his life.
This is a heartwrenching story but also an inspiration to those who suffer from mental disorders, because Corey eventually beat his illness. I loved the subject matter of this book but sometimes found the writing a little underwhelming. It seems like Corey’s dad has to explain his son’s behavior and apologize for him in a overblown way. It also features a lot of cliche and hyperbole typically attributed to the young adult genre, i.e. ‘my face burned, my heart ached’ that I think should be cut back on. Hal Friedman often tried too hard to speak in a ‘teen voice,’ which could be just plain awkward at times.
Despite these setbacks, this is really a good read, especially for someone like me who has been on a ton of medications throughout their life. Your body gets used to the medicines to the point where they don’t even take effect anymore. It’s true, I’ve lived it. Then you go through the hassle of going on a new medication that might make you sleep all the time, etc. Except in Corey’s case, the symptoms were much more severe. This book made me realize how lucky I was when for years I felt like the most wretched person in the world because of my uncontrollable thoughts.
This book has it’s drawbacks, but it tells a good story poignantly. I was disappointed to find out that ‘Med Head: my Knock-Down, Drag-Out, Drugged-Up Battle With My Brain’ was just an adaptation of this book written to appeal to teens rather than a separate work written by Corey himself, as I thought it was at first. It was obvious Corey had a good mind beneath his ticcing, twitching, ineffectual body and I really wish him the best as he begins his normal life free of the symptoms that plagued him for years.
In describing my life with OCD, Asperger’s, and Depression, I will abstain from histrionics and blame-placing, because that does no good for anybody. Instead, I will try to put you in the shoes of someone suffering from the disorders. Of the three conditions, I consider Asperger’s to be the one I ‘suffer’ least from- especially since I am blessed enough to be high-functioning on the spectrum and can relate to and socialize with people to some extent.
If you do not know what Asperger’s is, look it up Here– I have explained Asperger’s far too many times and too far too many people. I often like to compare Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to a clogged drain- there’s water somewhere down in the pipe system, but all the scum and slime rises too the top, making drinking unappealing if not downright impossible.
Here is me when I was 9. My OCD raised it’s ugly head when I was five, not that you’d guess it was that early from looking at this picture. I look quite happy. I was a weird kid. Think of the Thomas Robinson character from the Jason Bateman-Jennifer Aniston character “The Switch” and you’re heading in the right direction. I was a worrier, a dreamer, and most of all, I had a big heart. I’m quite sure my heart has shriveled and compressed since I was a child, but I digress.
Every time I go out and talk to people (horrors!) I worry that I’m freaking people out. I have intense obsessions and can go only so long without discussing them. I pace constantly. My hair is a wild beast I do not even bother to tame, my hygiene is questionable, and I have a mild speech impediment that makes me sound ever so slightly like Kripke in the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
When I do go out, manage to appear normal, and possibly make people laugh (with me, not at me, there is a distinction there,) I am pleased and surprised that the occasion wasn’t the horror show I anticipated. When it is a horror show (like the time I had some problems with some girls and the teacher told me I spoke in a way that made the students think I was mentally deficient,) I tend to throw up my arms and curse the world. I have never been one to persist at something that was challenging for me.
My OCD revolves around sexual obsessions, religious/occult/demonic beliefs and anxieties, violent images and ideas, and blinking and tapping rituals. I joke that I am the most pious agnostic you will ever meet. Alone, I am plagued by demonic presences and harbor a recurring fear that I am being watched and examined by evil forces. I suffer crushing self-loathing and exhibit suicidal thoughts and actions. I do things in threes and reading, I may have to read many paragraphs three or more times to finish the book.
OCD is not about hand-washing or lock-checking, at least, not exclusively. It is about the skeletons in your closet emerging the said closet and performing a tap-dancing routine around you. Cheeky bastards.
A visual representation of OCD-like behavior from the great film “Buddy Boy.”
The reason I wrote this article is (a I like to write about my problems, and (b I want to get in touch with more people suffering from anxiety disorders. Feel free to talk about your issues/obsessions/faults, but please don’t leave Borderline-ish, angst-filled comments about your drug abuse/previous suicide attempts/self-injuring. You don’t have to put a happy face on things, because y’know– sometimes there is no fuckin’ flip side!– but disturbed comments about your favorite razor and what song you want played at your funeral only hurt others, and can be triggering to other mental illness sufferers,
My parents are spending loads of money on my therapy, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I like my therapist a lot- to the point where I’d rather chat and swap movie recommendations rather than get to the root of my problems. My sexual guilt is getting more intense (closet Catholic!) and I’m becoming convinced that sexually there is something very wrong with me. I hate my body and my face, but lack the will to dress nicely, apply make-up, or lose weight. My friends are far and few between and I do better chatting online than talking face-to-face.
Have you ever had experiences with OCD-like behavior? Do you have a mental illness, and what does it prevent you from doing/enjoying? Ordinary folks/Aspies also welcome!
Buddy Boy, Mark Hanlon’s debut, is a haunting and potent film about dead end lives that provokes more questions than answers but remains bizarrely interesting throughout.
The film provides a look into the surrealistic existence of emotionally stunted, stuttering misfit Francis (Aidan Gillen), who lives with his trollish invalid stepmother (actual amputee Susan Tyrrell), in a squalid apartment.
Suffering from overwhelming guilt concerning his sexuality, his religion, and himself, he goes to confession monthly, admitting every impure thought and indiscretion. The contrast between faith and the id is revealed in the opening, which presents the viewer with a montage of religious imagery followed by Francis, uh… pleasuring himself to a pair of voluptuous breasts in a magazine.
Like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, this is the high point of his day, which soon descends into woeful monotony. He finds a new pasttime in spying on his attractive neighbor Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner, controversial Polish director Roman Polanski’s wife) through a hole in his apartment.
Then they meet. Gloria is strangely attracted to Francis, which would be unfeasible if she weren’t clearly lonely and desperate too. She tells him she is a vegan, a word he doesn’t understand, but he catches on. According to her, she doesn’t care what he eats, but then she buys him a “Meat Is Murder” t-shirt, which is a mixed message if I ever saw one. This further accentuates the character’s conflicting beliefs and desires.
Gloria is pretty and nice, too nice, and Francis begins believing irrational things about her pastimes, focusing on her eating habits. Meanwhile he becomes increasingly psychotic (?) and has a falling out with God. Is Francis going insane? Or is meat back on the menu? Buddy Boy is an enigma — although declared a religious allegory by IMDB users it at times seems to be making a statement against Christianity.
In fact Francis spends so much time obsessing about his masturbating, sinning ways that the viewer wishes the poor guy would just snap out of it. The movie is a triumph of atmosphere — the bleakness and decay of Francis and Sal’s apartment is palpable, while Gloria’s big-windowed, pleasingly green abode seems to spell change for the troubled young man.
The problem, it seems, is the vast contrast in acting styles between Aidan Gillen (Francis) and Susan Tyrrell (his stepmom, Sal). Gillen, from the GLBTQ show Queer as Folk (which I haven’t seen), plays his character sensitively and gently, as a fundamentally benevolent albeit strange outcast damaged by trauma and psychosis. Susan Tyrrell plays his abusive stepmom more like a SNL skit. Maybe her broad performance is the fault of the material.
When an actress’ character is scripted to beat a plumber over the head with her artificial leg (one of the stranger scenes in this story), maybe there isn’t much room for subtlety. Buddy Boy, nevertheless, is an intriguing first feature and a fascinating story.
It walks a fine line between being campy and profound, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like the humanization of Francis, a character who might be written off as a scummy voyeur, or worse, as white trash. It raises interesting questions, contains twists, and transports you, which is something films should accomplish, but rarely do.