When a writer needs help, what do fellow writers do? We write! (Let’s be honest, it’s all we know how to do. We literally have zero other skills.) Due to his debilitating mental illnesses, fellow writer Robison Wells (Variant) and his family have crippling debt. In support of Robison Wells, his brother Dan Wells (I Am Not a Serial Killer) and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Steelheart) have put together Altered Perceptions, a stellar anthology with contributions from 30 professional authors. For $10 buy the ebook, for $25 a hardcopy, with every dime going to the Wells’ family debt (Brandon Sanderson is swallowing all the overhead).
Please go to the Indiegogo page and pledge your money! Great stuff for a great cause! My own contribution is a short story. As of this moment, the only people in the world who have read this short story are my husband and Kiersten White. I hesitate to describe it for fear of spoiling it. But it’s safe to say my readers haven’t read anything like it from me before. I anticipate some people might be shocked by it, but I like it.
I wanted to participate in this fundraiser not only because I know and like Robison, but because mental illness is a personal matter for me. Like all of you I’m sure, there are dear people in my life who have to claw their way through every day battling a mental illness. It’s common. It’s biological. It’s not their fault. It’s not laziness or a bad attitude or a result of bad choices. It’s a disease like cancer or any other. I appreciate how open Robison is about his own struggles. He is helping to remove the stigma of mental illness. It’s something we could all acknowledge a little more.
One of Robison’s illnesses is OCD. I think this may be the most misunderstood of all mental illnesses. I hear people say, “I’m so OCD. I have to have my house clean” or such, as if OCD and cleanliness or fastidiousness were the same thing. In fact, OCD is a neurobiological disorder. If you don’t have OCD, you clean your house because you like it that way, and you feel satisfied when it is. If you have OCD, you are crawling with horrible feelings and compulsions, you have intrusive thoughts you wish would leave you alone but they shout inside your head over and over and over again, and you don’t want to wash your hands one more time or check the light switch twenty times before leaving the room or mumble a chant you loathe every time you have a certain thought, but if you don’t you feel sure that something horrible, horrible, horrible will happen and it will be all your fault so you do these things over and over again and worry that you’re crazy and don’t know how to stop and sometimes hate yourself for it all. OCD is a terrible taskmaster. OCD is frightening. OCD is exhausting. OCD is not a joke for those who suffer from it. The good news is there are treatments for OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy and often medications can help put a patient back in control of their life. The bad news is mental health services aren’t widely available or affordable for many in the country, and the accompanying stigma of mental illness keeps many from seeking help. I hope we can change this, and I hope this conversation and this anthology is one small step forward.