Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love is...Finding the "Fun" in Dysfunctional

This week it was my turn to write for the Exponent blog. Here's my post.

Growing up I used to think that most of my friends’ families were so normal and healthy, and that mine was the only one with quirks and cracks. Now I know the truth: every family is nuts. And if you think you know a perfectly healthy family, you don’t know them well enough.

Granted, some people’s brand of crazy is more socially acceptable than others. For example, in my home we appeared on the outside to be well behaved high achievers, which was a mask for a control freak mom and an emotionally remote, success obsessed dad. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I realize that on the crazy scale my family was dented but functional. Not bad at all. (btw I am the needy thumsucker pictured above)

I have a family of my own now and see many of our idiosyncrasies. And at least today we have a better vocabulary for labeling our neurosis. Terms like OCD, ADD, MPD, BPD, SAD, etc. etc. allow us to name what ails us, and naming things is delightful because it gives us control, or at least the illusion of it.

A few years ago I came across an acronym for a condition that I knew intimately but had never quite put my finger on: ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. These are the people that cannot resist challenging authority and playing the devil’s advocate. Oh how I love to tease my contrarian friend about how she suffers acutely from this. And her response just confirms the diagnosis: “No I don’t!” I love these people. Just when everything is getting so boring in Relief Society, everyone sitting there nodding their heads “yes, we ALL agree” and along comes someone with ODD and makes a comment that turns everything upside down.

She in turn diagnosed one of my less than desirable traits. I suffer from SVS, shock value syndrome. As the youngest member of a hyper proper family, it was my duty to make my mother blush at the dinner table. And even now at 42, whenever I get around people that seem a bit too uptight, I get the irresistible urge to say/do something borderline inappropriate. So I skinny dip at Girls Camp and give sacrament talks on the virtues of Harry Potter. Recently when my 12 year old son told me that he hated it when I called him “friend,” I replied, “Well then how about ‘douche bag,’ because that’s what you’re acting like.” Show me an envelope, and I’ll push it.

Here are a few other conditions the American Psychiatric Association might want to add to their books:

CBR-Chronic Buyer’s Remorse: Perpetually malcontent, these poor souls are convinced that whatever choice they make is the wrong one. Filled with self doubt and a touch of bitterness (related syndrome: GIGD--Grass is Greener Disorder).

RSS-Refusal to be Served Syndrome: You know who you are. You are forever volunteering to bring meals, babysit, work at the Bishop’s Storehouse as if every act of service added another brick to your mansion on high; but hell would have to freeze over before you would let someone bring you a casserole. In their heart of pious hearts, these folks believe that the strong give and the weak receive.

CV-Compulsive Volunteerism: A sister syndrome to RSS (with more guilt, less pride), CV manifest itself in an inability to pass a sign-up sheet without committing to doing whatever is requested. One friend had such a severe case of this that I created an organization just for her—Volunteers Anonymous. I became her sponsor and she was not allowed to agree to do anything without first consulting me. A typical conversation went like this, “Heather, I’ve been asked to be PTA President. Tell me again why I should say no?” “Because you just gave birth to twins, your husband is YM President and travels, and you Visit Teach a black hole of needs.” “Oh. Okay. So should I say maybe?”

Tanorexia: When sufferers of this disorder look in the mirror all they see is pasty whiteness, even if their true color is closer to a Slim Jim.

Appsberger's: The compulsion to download apps for completely useless things. And then talk endlessly about them with other sufferers. "Look, I can use my phone as a harmonica!!!" "Well mine can show me the Braille!" "Mine makes a cowbell noise. Get it? 'More cowbell?'!"
Topperism-No matter what you’ve been through, these one-uppers can top your experience and raise it a notch. So while you’re delighted that you are training for a 5k, the Topper is quick to inform you that she ran the Boston Marathon. And won. While pregnant. With triplets.

So my question is not "are you crazy" but "what kind of crazy are you?" And can you find a way to live with it and laugh about it? If you can't, your crazies will make you nuts.