Making a list and checking it thrice 


I've talked in this column before about how I know a lot of people who take brain medication. From some of the mail I've received, I can tell some readers think brain meds might be a good move for me, perhaps even surgery involving a shoe horn and a handful of Crisco to dislodge the offending brain from my nether regions. I'm in favor of shoe horns and cooking lotions as unwholesome party favors, but at-home surgery just seems like a stupid hobby, so I'll pass.

Anyway, the brain pills are the kind we've all seen in the commercial where the disembodied head wanders moodily across the land, the victim of depression. The head is also apparently the victim of an artist with attention-deficit disorder, as it has no arms or feet.

"You may find yourself losing interest in things you once loved," the voiceover says, and here the head encounters a ladybug. We presume that in happier times the head loved ladybugs, and this one would have sent him into orbits of joy, but now he just mopes along wondering, "What's the point?" and "What kind of god would allow me to live as a disembodied head?" Or so we infer.

Primped for success

Whenever I learn I have another close connection who is taking meds, I wonder if my own quirks are pill-worthy and imagine walking away from the doctor's office with enough prescriptions to start a cozy fire. My moods go back and forth like a well-played match at Wimbledon, and I think I might have some symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. I even catch myself checking for those symptoms. One hundred times.

But I know I don't suffer from OCD like people I've seen suffering on TV. Neither am I nearly as serious or interesting as Carolyn Humphrey from California. Carolyn's OCD manifested itself in obsessive primping. She'd groom in the morning, sometimes repeating the process, doing her hair (including washing and rewashing) for up to three hours. Guys who complain that women take long to get ready should never complain again.

While stories about Carolyn's peculiar case never say whether the primping helped and she looked fabulous when she was done, they do say her mental trap caused her to be late for her job as a medical transcriptionist. The hospital where she worked allowed her to have flexible hours but would not let her work from home (which some other transcriptionists did) and she was fired. She filed a discrimination suit and last spring a court ruled her employer had to take more steps to accommodate her under the Americans with Diasabilities Act.

There are a lot of people who don't appear to look in the mirror even once before they go out the door, and they could use a little of Carolyn's tenacity (which I'm sure she'd give them, if she could). She definitely beats the hand-washers and stove-checkers for style. But it's too bad she had to go to so much trouble over her job when, if she had a regular disorder without the VO5 and the White Rain, she might be able to find a profession that could really benefit from her attention to detail. Constant checking and cleanliness on specific jobs would be more cause for a raise than a firing: proofreader, parachute packer, restaurant inspector, computer programmer, fireworks technician, accountant, IRS auditor, air-traffic controller, pharmacist, butcher, to name a few. I'd be thrilled to know that employees who compulsively checked and rechecked their work had just completed the maintenance job on any plane I was about to board.

The re-med-y

Plus, if you hired obsessive-compulsive people, it would be easy to match their skills with specific needs. Many older people can't remember whether they took their medicines -- including the pills they may require to control their obsessive compulsions; what younger OCD patient wouldn't be happy to check for them, and to be paid for it? Who better to do background investigations into people who want to buy guns? Condom companies ought to seek out keen-eyed obsessives as their quality-control employees, at double the salary. We'd all feel safer knowing someone who was fixated on accuracy, caution and prevention was looking out for us. These are tendencies to be sought out, not medicated.

Speaking thereof, I think I just talked my way out of antidepressants: Anyone who can see the bright side of chemical imbalances probably can't qualify as having one. Just because people close to me take meds doesn't mean I have to. What it actually means is that I've been right the whole time. I am and always have been the only one around here who makes any sense.


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