DiversifYA: Summer Heacock

Summer Heacock–also known as the super amazing Fizzygrrl–is a writer, wife, mother, geek. She is a force of nature online (if you haven’t read her blog posts, you really should change that) and off (as a member of the Midwest Writers Workshop Planning Committee, for example). Summer alternates between talking like a Disney cartoon character and swearing with a fucking flourish. She is represented by Uwe Stender and Brent Taylor. Follow her on Twitter here.

1. How do you identify yourself?

As…me. Which is kind of boring, right? I’m not sure, really. I just sort of do what I do and it lands where it lands. I am very much a minivan driving soccer mom who says, “Oh buttermilk!” when I stub my toe. But I have blue hair and an outrageously foul mouth once the kids are asleep. I write things. I’m involved with my slow-cooker. I show-slam things on Netflix with my husband because babysitters are expensive and we will take quality time where we can get it.

But I’m also someone with a very prominent disorder that trickles into everything I do, no matter how hard I try to keep it from trickling.

So, basically I’m just your average punk-haired, graphic tee wearing, Mary Poppins-ish, foul mouthed, author-in-training, OCD housewife.

2. What did it feel like growing up with OCD?

Awful. I’m not going to mince words on that. It was horrible. I grew up in a ridiculously small town during a time where mental health was not a priority. When I was first diagnosed with OCD, the doctor who did the diagnosing told my parents I’d be fine because I was a girl, and “girls are just dramatic anyway.”

Plus, I was adopted so we didn’t have any medical history to go off of. Had my parents known that these types of disorders were common in my biological family, they would have been better prepared to handle the situations that came about.

And then there was school. I was weird. I knew I was, but I both didn’t care to change to suit others, and couldn’t control some of the things I did. So, I got beat up a lot. Ate lunch in the bathroom, skipped class to hide in the back stacks of the library, etc. Teachers didn’t know what to do with me. Hell, sometimes the teachers did the bullying.

I understand why I was picked on a lot, I do. I didn’t understand what was happening to me at the time, so I don’t think it would have been reasonable to expect other kids to. It doesn’t take away the sting exactly, but it helps.

I can’t change how I experienced life growing up.

But I can write books about it. (Please imagine me cackling as I say that. Because I totally am.)

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

I think my biggest challenge is other people. I know what I’m doing, what I’m capable of. Other people don’t. I’m very open about OCD and how it affects my life, but I can’t control how other people will respond to it.

A lot of people are really understanding. I appreciate the hell out of these people. They may not “get” what’s happening, but they respect that it is, and know I just have to work through it. They offer help, and they understand if there’s no way for them to help.

Some people…well, some people suck. I’ve had people tell me they feel sorry for my kids for having a mother with OCD. Some people say I’m just selfish and do what I do on purpose. Or I could stop if I reeeeeally wanted to.

I still get crap as an adult from other adults. Just recently I had someone poking at me online and it came out they were just seeing if they could get me to do things I’d said on my blog I had a hard time doing.

I tend to be a naïve people pleaser, so it never occurs to me until it’s too late that someone might be messing with me. While I’d rather not have to deal with jerky people, I’m glad I haven’t yet gone full jaded.

Perks. Hmm.

Well, I’d love to say I have a sparklingly clean house! But alas, that’s a disorder cliché that doesn’t apply to me.

Oh! I know. Focus. When I get down to it, I have excellent focus. I’m pretty spacy in general, like, distracted by shiny things, but when it comes time to hunker down and get something done? It will get done right, damn it.

4. What do you wish people knew about having OCD?

Truly, I wish people understood that people with OCD aren’t acting the way we act on purpose. I’m always shocked when someone thinks that. As if we like mentally torturing ourselves constantly. Or that maybe we enjoy not being able to leave the house until rituals are completed.

OCD is an anxiety disorder. Sometimes I think people don’t put that together. There are panic attacks. Sometimes often. Sometimes debilitating. I think generally we are some high-strung folks. I know I am.

In the movie The Avengers, Bruce Banner says being the Hulk is like being an exposed nerve. That stuck with me because it’s how I feel. I don’t ever know what’s going to trigger a new compulsion. Or what I might see that sets off disabling obsessive thoughts.

I’ll joke sometimes that my brain is like a hamster ball of nightmares and cats on meth. But I have a perfectly rational side in there as well. The side that is perfectly aware what I’m doing isn’t “normal” or that I in fact, would not die if I stopped. That side is where I am. The light-hearted, quippy, happy Summer hangs out there.

The rational side can be heard loud and clear at all times. However, the methy cat side can be equally loud.

I work very hard to keep myself in check. Most of the time I can maintain myself and live peacefully with my disorder. Sometimes, it punches me in the face and no one outside our house sees me for a few days while I sort things out.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

  1. My house is not perfectly clean at all times. I do not spend hours daily scrubbing everything we own. I’ve got two kids. Not gonna happen.
  2. I do not wash my hands 742 times a day.
  3. Pretty much anything you will see on TV/movies is not going to be totally accurate. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disorder. We all have our own little “things” and they suck.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

Research, research, research. And I don’t mean watch As Good as it Gets and think you understand OCD.

Talk to people who are going through what you want to write about. Not just one person, but as many as you can. No life experience is going to be exactly the same for two people, so it helps to hear as many angles as possible.

And be respectful. Anything you write is a story for you, but might very well be real life for someone else. That’s a big responsibility. Treat it as such.

That was all serious and stuff. If we were on my blog, I’d throw in a GIF of Robert Downey Jr. cats or something…because I’m a total grown-up.

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