Owning Our Burdens

One of my favorite episodes of Scrubs is the one with Michael J. Fox in which he plays Dr. Kevin Casey who has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I wasn’t entirely sure why it had the affect on me that it did, but just that I felt it was extrememely well done. He was a dr. who was envied by many because he was an incredible surgeon and medical attending.

Throughout the episode, JD, Turk, and Dr. Cox all developed a bone to pick with him. JD because Dr. Casey had insulted his need for a mentor, Turk felt inadequate because Dr. Casey performed a surgery much faster than his previous record time, and dr. Cox was insecure because Dr. Casey was quicker with diagnoses and one-upped him as the best dr. at Sacred Heart.

In the end, JD looks for Dr. Casey to confront him and finds him washing his hands after surgery. As JD begins to speak with him JD realizes that he has been washing his hands for the past two hours. Then we see Turk and Dr. Cox both appear at the door in succession each to show realization without confronting Dr. Casey and then fading away or turning to leave. This is when JD has his characteristic inner monologue and realizes that as successful as some people seem, we all have our burdens and as hard as it is for him, “it’s not that daunting if you look around and see what other people have to deal with”.

Looking back now, I understand better why it spoke to me the way it did.

Every day is a struggle and always has been as long as I can remember. I wasn’t ever entirely sure why, only that one day I would try feverently to leave the house, but repeatedly convince myself there was one more thing I must do before leaving because I was so terrified to leave home and on another day I would sit on the kitchen floor and cry because I was famished and there was nothing I could bring myself to eat because I was convinced it was all shit that would make me gag.

The worst part is that I couldn’t explain it to anyone. I’d meet an angry friend 15 minutes late and wouldn’t be able to explain that I felt panic when I tried to cross the threshold. I’d show up late to work because I couldn’t fall asleep the night before due to being in the midst of a tense argument with someone who wasn’t there while Dave slept soundly next to me unaware that I was still awake, tormenting myself.

I’ve always made an effort to be very open about my battles with mental illness because I’d rather face discrimination than have anyone out there feel they are alone in fighting it themselves. I know that one day it will no longer be taboo, but simply be viewed as exactly what it is, a sickness just like diabetes or epilepsy.

I never kept details about my episodes from friends and family because I was hiding them or ashamed of being mentally ill, but rather because what I fear most is being pitied. I would like understanding and patience, but am terrified of being viewed as weak. If there is anything I am not, it is weak. When I die and my life is summarized in a eulogy from those who understood me best, I want them to not only say, but really understand, how much strength I have. I don’t want sympathetic well-wishers to munch on catered sandwiches and whisper, “poor Katie, she was always so troubled”. I want them to be inspired by the winning battle I found every day and how much I was able to accomplish despite the constant struggle.

That is why I felt so strongly about the episode with Dr. Kevin Casey. Three people he worked with witnessed how incredible he was and the raging current he had to wade through to get there. Often times my episodes are private, internal. No one will ever know the panic I feel when attempting to complete a simple task they face without even a second thought. It’s likely no one but Dave will see me burst into tears and punch the wall bloodying my fist because I can’t get myself to leave the house and I don’t have a reason why.

I know it’s better that way and I plan to keep it that way, but if I continue to communicate with the strength and honesty that is in my character, I know I’ll see those of us who are dealing with serious illness treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.

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5 thoughts on “Owning Our Burdens

  1. Thanks for the post, it really hit home for me. I’m struggling with some things that are really hard for me by going back to school and even my friends tend to give me, “just do it”. It’s nice to know that someone else knows what it’s like, even if she is far away. :o)

  2. @dethbuni: It’s good to hear that you appreciate my post. It’s sometimes tough to post really honest stuff, but it’s worth it if, like I mentioned, it helps someone else to know s/he is not the only one facing these challenges. There are those of us who know that to “just do it” doesn’t magically make us well. That’s why we have to be stronger than other people, smile politely, and thank them for their advice. They mean well. 😉

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