In David Sedaris’ “Plague of Tics” readers learn quickly about Sedaris’ OCD behaviors and how they affect not only himself but also the others around him. I have certain compassion towards Sedaris as I learned through the “Plague of Tics” we shared a connection relating between our views and past events. His family is clearly used to the odd behaviors but rather than being worried they tease him and think the tics are voluntarily practiced. Due to his unique routines annually his teachers make a point to meet with Sedaris’ mother.
Every meeting, Mrs. Sedaris offers the teacher’s drinks evolving from scotch to sherry and entertains the teachers with exaggerated stories to lighten the seriousness of his actions. As Sedaris grows older his traditions lengthen such as: touching, counting, rocking, self inflicting pain, rolling his eyes, violently shaking his head, to saying tiny voices. College brought a bitter-sweet change for Sedaris; it became more difficult to make legitimate excuses for his tics, and he no longer could practice them in private. Also, once college started, Sedaris took up the habit of smoking cigarettes which is more “sociably acceptable” and eased his mind about his tics. In the essay “Plague of Tics,” Sedaris’ characteristics and strange OCD behaviors might be difficult for some to understand, yet reminded me much of my own actions.
From this essay, as a person suffering with a smaller case of OCD it was all very familiar. Sedaris’ OCD made him come to a certain compromise with his identity, he felt trapped; as anyone else does with a disability they cannot help. Sedaris was not viewed as normal to the public. I felt sympathetic towards him, not even his family took his disorder seriously. Instead of being supportive his mother was always sarcastic about it and thought he would get out of it soon enough; his father threatened him if he kept doing the rituals. They never understood why he did the things he did and made it seem negative he was different. He could have been a lot more positive about life if he had his family support him versus make him feel like an outcast. Sedaris never fully lived or loved in my opinion. Rather than him trying to overcome his everyday battles, he let the thought and judgements of others around him alter the person he could have become.
He would have rather been socially accepted by putting himself in danger by smoking cigarettes in place of performing his rituals. Since so many people smoke cigarettes Sedaris wanted to fall in the percentage of Americans as a smoker versus falling in the minority and being categorized as someone with OCD. From the way Sedaris’ mind-set to the reactions of others recalled a lot of memories. It was easy to relate to his situations and a certain comfort came from “Plague of Tics.”
Still to this day for as long as I can remember, I have had weird habits that bother me if I do not do them. Locking my car is one of them, once I get out I have to lock the doors repeatedly until it seems that my car is actually locked; I might pull the door handle at least 15 times. Not only with car doors but also with the front door to my house or my dorm room, I have to pull the handle so hard sometimes to make sure it is locked. Other people look at me while I am locking my door on my car and I can tell they get annoyed but I have to keep locking it until it feels right.
Also If I try and get something out of a bag, especially my purse, I have to look over and over to make sure every item that is important is in there. This is the most time consuming ritual, I have to count in my head until five on every item I see to put me at peace, I might have to count to five at least four times on every object. My mind is telling me it is not actually there until I count and see that the object is still in the same place. Lastly, if I have an important document or something that is very valuable I will have to stare at it until I can talk myself into knowing I still have the object. Sometimes I have to confirm what I see with my close friends to put my mind at ease faster, yes I understand this is odd, but I get bad anxiety if I do not follow these traditions. I am not exactly sure why or when these habits started but it seems the more I follow what my head is telling me then the worse my own tics get. My behaviors put me at ease but also bring anxiety and anger, because I know it is not normal and to a certain extent I can control these traditions but in reality, overall I cannot and that adds a greater anxiety.
I try and not let a lot of people realize or know about my OCD habits because like Sedaris I do not want them to perceive me for being a strange person because I am not. Another thing is I like having assurance and control but over time it seems the tics are starting to control me instead of me controlling them. Overall, David Sedaris’ essay exemplifies the harsh reality what a person living with OCD
has to deal with. Throughout the “Plague of Tics” I found Sedaris’ actions and emotions mirrored much of my own which evoked much sympathy from me. Some people may not be able to relate or understand and may view the way he thinks as abnormal. Who considers what normal is? What is considered normal?