I was recently interviewed on camera about what it’s been like to live with severe OCD. The producers were making a 2-minute spot intended to encourage people who are struggling to reach out and get help.
I’ve seen more and more of these kinds of videos and while they’re well intended, they often leave me feeling kind of empty, if not slightly annoyed. Do you know the ones I’m talking about?
The subject speaks in a quiet, confessional tone of voice. S/he looks serene, perhaps a little fragile. At the end, s/he gazes into the distance with the same expression I get when I manage to get my income tax forms off on time; s/he doesn’t actually look happy, just mildly relieved. Maybe s/he walks through away from the camera through a field of ripened grain as the focus goes soft. A gull flies overhead. It could be a commercial for a stool softener. How do you spell ‘relief’?
Before I agreed to participate in the project, I had had a good exchange with the producers about my apprehensions, and we seemed to have similar views. We agreed that I would have meaningful input into the final edit of the video. I enjoyed working with her and her crew, and I came away feeling satisfied.
Last week, I saw a rough edit. In it, I spoke in a quiet, confessional tone of voice. I looked serene, perhaps a little fragile. I didn’t gaze into the distance – no, it was worse – I gazed down at a drawing I was working on. Yes, I was a sedated-looking crazy lady ‘doing’ art, maybe even ‘art therapy.’
What had happened to the footage of me cracking jokes and laughing with the cameraman? Why did I look mildly relieved instead of happy? And even though in real life I am healthy, exuberant, and living my dream, why did the video make it seem like I had quietly resigned myself to barely being okay?
A friend and colleague of mine once said, “It is not a matter of answering all the questions, but questioning all the answers.” In this video, I looked good. I sounded articulate. My studio seemed interesting. I was well dressed. You can’t even see the pimple that had erupted the night before on my cheek. I wanted to like the video.
I wondered what the story was actually telling, though. Was it saying, “This intelligent, creative woman went through a really rough time with obsessive-compulsive disorder, then got some great help and worked her butt off, and now look at her go!”? Or was it saying, “This madwoman was lucky she was properly diagnosed and saved by her doctors. Now we keep her away from coffee and sugar and just let her draw all day”?
I have asked the producers for some changes. I’ll have to see what they say. Ultimately, I know I can’t control what people think about me. I will not, however, go quietly into that stool softener commercial.