Food For Thought: Mara Wilson, Mental Disorders & Media Representation

(pictured below: Mara Wilson. Does she look familiar?)

mara wilson

Recently I began to follow Mara Wilson’s blog, Mara Wilson Writes Stuff. I discovered it by chance and thought she was hilarious, but I also recognized her from her child actress days in the early to mid ’90s (Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle On 34th Street, Matilda). She has been doing pretty well since then: going to school, doing theater and writing for sites like Jezebel and The Huffington Post.

Well today she posted this:

mara wilson post

Now- posted article aside- I thought this observation was interesting. This is something I have also found aggravating, although I don’t have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder myself. Despite the fact that I’m considered “neat” and “organized” I would never say, “I have OCD.” Because I don’t. And I don’t think it’s nice to co-opt other people’s suffering to make yourself sound more interesting.

I’ve often heard people casually say, “Oh, it’s my OCD” or “I’m just ADD” or “I’m having total PTSD right now” and other disorders when they… well, the truth is they don’t have them at all. In some cases they have no idea what they’re talking about.

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert either. My impression is that OCD can be a debilitating and complicated thing to live with. It isn’t to be taken lightly. I personally know people who have dealt with ADD or ADHD, so I’ve gotten glimpses of what that disorder actually means. I’ve also met and known people who suffer from other mental illnesses: Alzheimer’s, chronic anxiety, depression, PTSD and Bipolar disorder. You can only imagine how I feel when someone who is perfectly healthy says something to the effect, “Oh yeah, I have that, like, sometimes” as if to say “Hey, look at me, look at me.” I can’t help but think, “Just be lucky that you actually don’t.”

Mara Wilson is upset because she’s watching this happen in the public eye. Since the article is about celebrities it’s more likely that they will be taken seriously and pitied. I think the underlying question she’s asking is, “Are they being casual about it? Are they even educated on the subject? Are they exploiting it?”

It could be that some of these people’s words were taken out of context or they were speaking in generalities. It could also be that some of these people are for real (I’d guess some of them are). In the end there’s no way to know for sure. After all, we don’t know any of these people personally. Remember that.

However, regardless of being famous or not, there’s a big difference between being “particular” or “neurotic” about something and having a full blown mental disorder. The problem is that some people don’t want to admit that about themselves. It might make them seem difficult, or even worse (gasp!) eccentric. It’s easier to say you have a mental disorder so you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions.

And you know what? Being particular or neurotic isn’t anything to be ashamed about. It’s just part of being human.

If that’s the case, just be glad you’re human. There’s other interesting things about you, I’m sure.

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