Has this ever happened to you?
You’re sitting in your lawyer’s office waiting to take an ungrateful child out of your will, when you get to talking with a very bored receptionist there about how you, too, once worked in a legal torture chamber. A discussion unfolds about how you now write a blog for Psychology Today about living with a rare disorder that makes office work intolerable. Then, this receptionist brags that she has a daughter who is living with a very famous disorder—Tourette syndrome—and that this young woman also likes to write and is trying to find ways to make money working from home.
Well, it happened to me just the other day, so this is what I did:
I started to compare medical condition notes with the receptionist. I was too embarrassed to tell her the name of my rare disorder, because I knew that with its bizarre symptoms, I would automatically be labeled “mentally ill.”
I avoided that humiliation by explaining that working in an office had been unbearable for me because certain sounds emanating from my coworkers had made me very, very irritated. She told me that office work had been intolerable for her daughter because she had tics that made her feel like ripping her coworkers’ teeth out with pliers (at this point, I realized I really hadn’t had it so bad, after all).
The receptionist went on to tell me that her daughter had discovered an ingenious way to make money writing from home. She said her daughter had left positive comments about a “Fifty Shades of Grey” watercolor set she had bought online, and with her Internet technology skills, she had been able to prove that these comments resulted in a tenfold increase in the sales of multicolored, used condoms. So she had asked the retailer if she could actually get paid to leave reviews on their website, and they seemed to be amenable.
I told the receptionist that I would love to do that, but I could only sell products that I believed in, like nonprofits dedicated to rescuing abandoned middle-aged cats and repurposed garbage bag twist ties, but there was no money in either of those pursuits.
She then suggested that I write a book about my rare disorder. She said her daughter had wanted to do this about her battle with Tourette, but her tics had prevented her from concentrating for long stretches.
I told her that I had just written a comic rant about the collapse of the United States and my mind and had uploaded it to Kobo but that the market for my work was so small (consisting mainly of the cultural elite, insane homosexual psychiatrists, and the British) that I had made no money on this enterprise either.
Then I was summoned into my lawyer’s lair. Navigating through the cubicle concentration camp, it seemed like the hissing s was assaulting me from every hushed conversation. As soon as I was deposited in a frigid space and left to rot for another year with a cold cup of coffee, I discreetly placed the curative earplugs my psychiatrist had given me into my ears and pondered the situation.
Perhaps, I thought, I could approach my shrink about a book project. After all, he was always yawning during our sessions. Maybe he was looking for something more interesting to do. In addition, his medical credentials seemed perfect for the job, and he had steered me in the direction of relevant research. Finally, and most importantly, based on his reports, I had been the first person in the country to be awarded federal benefits for my inability to tolerate working with idiots in an office setting.
So, at our next session, I gathered all my courage, marched into Dr. Alexander Sherman’s office, and asked him point blank if he wanted to get in on this fabulous ground-floor opportunity: having a new medical condition that no one knew or cared about named after him.
“Remind me of what I’m treating you for,” he said.
“Anxiety, depression, and a splash of OCD,” I said. “Plus, that hypomanic episode that led to the rant I foisted on you.” I told him that I, myself, had diagnosed my personality disorder in one of my blog posts but that I needed him to make it legit.
He said that he had read that post and thought it was a stroke of genius.
“Huh?” I said.
“You’re one of the most creative and imaginative patients I’ve ever had,” he said, “so I think you’re a genius.”
“I’m not a genius,” I said. “My mother’s a genius and my family is full of them, but all I do all day is stare out the window and daydream about running away with Prince Harry’s polo pony.”
“That’s what Einstein did,” my shrink replied. “Wouldn’t you call him a genius?”
“Yes,” I said. “But…if I had to describe myself as anything, it would be ingenious, quickly followed by a sloth.”
“Well, it would be a fun topic to explore further, but unfortunately, your time is up.”
As usual, I wandered out of Dr. Sherman’s office in a daze. On the drive home, I remembered reading a post onPsych Central, written by a psychologist named Dr. Matthew Leahy. The post argued that many children who are labeled “mentally ill” are actually just kids who had survived untreated childhood trauma. It all seemed eerily reminiscent of my own experience. Maybe, I thought, I should contact him.
As soon as I got home, I sent an e-mail to Dr. Leahy, asking him if he was interested in having a major mental health hygiene movement named after him. I told him we could name it the “Leahy Aron Movement,” or the “Aron Leahy Jazz Duo,” or maybe just the “Healy High-Wire Act.”
“Are you out of your mind?” he e-mailed me back.
I was positive that Dr. Sherman concurred with this assessment. So, at my next appointment, I stormed into his office and demanded that he somehow take my Psychology Today blog and my written and verbal rants, add some psychiatric mumbo jumbo, and make a book out of them.
He leaned back in his imitation Freudian leather chair, rubbed his chin, and took a puff on his pipe. Then he said, “I’ll do it on one condition—that we also use the name of my devoted butler, Colins.”
“Sherman Colins disorder it will be,” I said. “And because you’re such a great guy, I’ll throw in ‘genius disorder’ as complimentary gift.”
“Okay, I’m totally in,” said my psychiatrist.
I can’t wait to tell that legal receptionist that I have devised an ingenious way to make money from home writing about an even more glamorous personality lifestyle than her daughter’s.