Anti-Jump Muscles

Let’s talk about OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A lot of people say they have OCD because they, for example, like to keep things ordered or do things in a certain way every time–the kind of people who separate all their M&Ms by color before they eat them, that kind of thing. That’s not OCD, that’s just “being really organized.” Actual OCD, the mental disorder, is crippling and dangerous and potentially deadly.

When my brother was first diagnosed with OCD, and described the symptoms to me, I was shocked. His brain would tell him to do things, like throw himself down the stairs or punch the wall until his hand bled, and he was literally compelled to do it–as in, manipulated by an outside force. When your brain tells you to do something it’s every bit as un-ignorable as when your body does it. Imagine that you have to pee, and you try to ignore it, and it just gets worse and worse until you’re squeezing your legs together and dancing in place because if you don’t go pee RIGHT NOW you’re going to explode. Now imagine that instead of peeing, you get the same urge with the same intensity about making your head bleed. You have to make your head bleed RIGHT NOW or your entire life will be a disaster, and come on what are you waiting for you’re miserable and horrible and your head needs to bleed and why won’t you let it because it would make everything better just do it. You know, objectively, that making your head bleed is wrong, and harmful, and a bad thing. But your brain is sick, and it wants what it wants, and you have to live like that for the rest of your life.

I remember an old comic by the cartoonist R. Kliban, who did a lot of stuff in the 70s and 80s, including several about cats that you may have seen somewhere. The one that always stuck in my mind was “Anti-Jump Muscles”:

The idea of muscles that work in reverse is funny, but this is the reality that people with OCD live with every day. When my brother’s brain tells him to break his hand, or hurt himself or (on a couple of terrifying occasions) his family, it takes all his willpower to not act. His Anti-Jump Muscles are fully flexed, day in and day out, just to live a normal life. It is scary and lonely and utterly exhausting, and he is only one of millions of people in the world who have to suffer through that.

If you know someone with OCD, give them a hug or send them an email, and tell them you love them. Tell them you support them. Do what you can to help.

And if you’d like to help my brother, and to raise awareness for other people with mental health issues, take a look at our Altered Perceptions campaign that just opened today. Dozens of amazing authors have contributed alternate versions of their published works to an anthology, and none of us are getting a penny from it–every cent goes to help Rob and, if we reach our goals, others like him.

6 Responses to “Anti-Jump Muscles”

  1. This is how I feel when people say they have ADHD because they forget things. Real ADHD is the total inability to make yourself do something when your brain decides not to, even when you know it’s REALLY important. Or the hyper focus that completely cancels out everything else around you. I love and applaud yours and Rob’s determination to bring mental illness out of the dark and make it a topic of discussion. It’s something people have to cope with every day and we shouldn’t have to be ashamed of something we can’t change. Thank you so much. And thank Rob too. :-)

  2. Ron Oakes says:

    I was the chair of DucKon IX, near Chicago in 2001. The oldest son in one of the families who regularly attended had OCD that compelled him to attempt to strangle of hang himself..

    On Saturday night, he went missing, setting off a controlled panic in the staff, especially the security staff, and his family. Eventually, he was located in the bathroom of the con suite. When he was found, it was already too late, he had died.

    Now more than a dozen years on, and having chaired two more conventions since moving to San Diego, this still impacts me from time to time, as I believe it does many others involved.

  3. Evan says:

    Oh man, I would love to be killed in one of your books, and want to contribute, but can’t really afford the full $500 much as I would like to.

    If I could find someone to go halves with me, any chance I could be killed in your book and they in Robs?



  4. Random Person says:

    As a fellow sufferer of OCD, I just wanted to say I can relate, in some small way, to what you and your brother are going through, and I wish you both the best of luck with this wonderful project. I thankfully lack any compulsions to self-harm, but I do understand the severity of illogical nature of those compulsions. I think you’re both fantastically brave to be undergoing this project, and raising awareness.

  5. Ritchie says:

    I empathize. I’m an aspiring writer, but I suffer from ADHD, which makes it difficult to get stuff down on a page. I didn’t know Rob had any sort of mental condition. That’s a terrible thing, but it’s inspiring to me, in a way. If he can be a writer despite his condition, then so can I. People like us just have to try harder. $10 for the ebook is well spent.

  6. Terrell Sanders says:

    I have to admit to having used the term OCD that way myself a few times – I think it comes with the territory of having watered down versions of mental illness portrayed in popular media and used in the vernacular. Your description is eye opening. I have contributed what I can to the Altered Perceptions project and greatly appreciate your and other authors’ attempts to shed more light on this illness.

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