The Tyrant who is OCD

It has been over a month since the 2012 International OCD Foundation Conference, but one particular presentation I attended still easily brings tears to my eyes. In a session titled “OCD in the Media: The Opportunities and the Challenges,” John Tessitore discussed and presented the documentary film that he wrote, directed, and edited during his senior year at Fairfield University: Heroes Get Remembered but Legends Never Die.

I highly recommend watching this tribute to the filmmaker’s lifelong friend, John Cleaver Kelly, who ended his own life a week before his 25th birthday. He suffered from severe OCD centered around hyper-responsibility, and so many of his friends said they had no idea of the extent of his pain. He hid it well. John Kelly’s parents attended this session, and I found their strength and compassion inspirational.

This film has many sides to it. There are interviews with John’s close friends and his loving and supportive parents, and from these we get to know this amazing young man. We are privy to John’s thoughts and feelings about his OCD through excerpts taken from his many journal entries. What affected me the most were all the clips of John: happy, smiling, and full of life. The way he was when OCD loosened its grip. The way he should have always been. The way he should still be.

Though he fought courageously against the tyrant who is OCD, he ultimately lost the battle. If you think OCD is a cute, quirky, trendy disorder, please watch this film. And we all need to keep fighting against OCD however we can, so that no more movies like this will have to be made.

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14 Responses to The Tyrant who is OCD

  1. Lori says:

    This so worries me. My 17 year old has severe OCD. He’s been under treatment for 1 year but I know has had it longer. He has a lot of social anxieties with it and depression. I worry that he’ll give up. That the anxieity of it all will wear on him. Especailly the more we push him.

    It can be a dibilating problem. It’s not cute and funny like “Monk,” the TV show people always coorelate with OCD. I only wish it was that easy. As a mother I struggle on how to help him. I’m torn between trying to shelter him and nurter or be firm and strong and let him know he can do this (get through the anxiety of it all). Of course the latter is suppose to work best. I sometimes feel I’m on a tight rope of being firm and letting him know he’s capable and it seeming like I don’t care about his anxiety and his OCD.

    It’s the biggest struggle I’ve ever had to face as an individual and as a parent. I want my kid to grow up and live happily. But, it’s hard to find that happiness when you are constantly struggling with the anxieties. He’s been in a residential program and has learned coping skills, but he says they don’t always work. He’s learning social skills too which seem to help some. But it doesn’t change the feelings of anxiety – they are always there in the background he says.

    I can only hope that it gets better as he matures and can live a full life. My heart goes out to anyone that is a parent with an OCD child. – Lori

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lori. I’ve always found it ironic that the very thing those with OCD grapple with……..learning to live with uncertainty, is what we, as parents, also need to learn to do.We can only take one minute at a time, do our best, and trust in the universe. You also bring up how difficult it is, as a parent, to know how to react to your son. I’m guessing you’ve gotten professional advice in this area, but if you haven’t, I’d highly recommend talking to an OCD specialist regarding your role in your son’s treatment. And lastly, your comment about your son saying the anxiety is always there. He may not be able to make the anxiety disappear, but he can learn how to deal with it. Believe me, I know this is easier said than done. I am wishing you both the best. Keep in touch and let me know how things are going. I’m rooting for you.

  2. 71º & Sunny says:

    What a wonderful tribute John Tessitore created for his friend.

    I think one of the most important aspects of this film is that it shows a side of OCD that many do not even know exists. It is so much more than the “hand washing disease” and this film also shows how tormenting and unrelenting OCD can be.

    This movie is a powerful tool in the fight against OCD. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I will absolutely share it myself.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks, Sunny. As much as I’d rather only share “success stories,” it is important to share ALL stories involving OCD, to give a real depiction of the disorder and how totally devastating it can be.

  3. Lisa Douglas says:

    As always, Janet, this is an excellent post.
    Thank you, Lisa

  4. Tina Barbour says:

    Janet, Thank you so much for sharing this. Yes, we must all fight this OCD so that no more films like this have to be made. God bless John Kelly.

  5. krystallynn says:

    The film was very, very difficult for me to watch. I am glad I did though, and I am glad you shared this with us. I was warmed by how, despite OCD, John’s friends were so supportive of him. One friend was very open and honest about feeling frustrated-even irritated by the OCD (the pink tie incident) and yet there was love, acceptance and understanding. So many of us with OCD, like me, are ashamed we have this disorder and I think it makes us isolate ourselves. (As John’s father implicated); No, I would not be ashamed of a brain tumor, why is it that I have to feel less of a person because I have a mental disorder? There are so many people who could be helped but are ashamed to even go to a doctor for this. I think this film is also a warning as to how very serious OCD is..and like you said Janet, not cute, quirky or trendy.

  6. ocdtalk says:

    Krystallynn, I agree that this film is important to share. If it can help even one person not feel ashamed of having OCD, than it has done its job. Thank you for commenting and for your insights. I know it is not an easy film to watch.

  7. Lolly says:

    Wow, I am so sorry I missed this presentation. Being an OCD sufferer and a anti-suicide crusader, I feel I would have benefitted from it. It is through stories like these, however sad they are, that people get to really learn how debilitating OCD can be to one’s spirit and soul. God bless his family and I hope his story and all of the resources out there for OCD will help others feel like there is hope in the face of OCD.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Hi Lolly, There were so many good choices at the conference; I almost didn’t go to this session myself. But I’m so glad I did. As you say, as sad as it is, these stories need to be shared.

  8. “Tyrant”–what a perfect label for OCD. It pretends to protect the person who has it while actually destroying the person’s life (if left untreated)–what we often refer to as the “irony of OCD.” And your description of OCD as not being “cute, quirky, or trendy” is exactly right. Thank you for sharing your perspective in this post and for the movie information–I plan to watch it.

  9. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for commenting, Seth. The irony of OCD was obvious to me from “day one” of Dan’s struggle. Here he was, compelled to perform all kinds of rituals to keep himself and his family from harm, when in reality these behaviors (his OCD) were inflicting harm (as in destroying our lives).

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