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OCD and Cartooning

When I began cartooning in 2007, I was still ten years away from an official OCD diagnosis.  But I was definitely “a little bit” OCD. (i.e., raging)  Now, thirteen years later, I wish I had discovered cartooning when I was a child. Or anything as highly detailed and super-focused like cartooning. Because cartooning provided a perfect vehicle for letting my brain over-focus and burn off all the crazy without me having to actually do anything crazy.

Point blank.

It’s so obvious that OCD was relieved by and soothed by cartooning. It enabled me to manage my brain during a particularly rough time in my life when I needed something I could rely on. I needed an activity to be waiting for me each day after work – to distract me from the messaging I was receiving from my brain.

And cartooning was there for me each day. From day one – the first cartoon I drew – I “had to” produce a cartoon. It’s just the way my OCD and creative brain works. If I do something, it has to be maniacally. So cartooning became daily.

Eventually I became syndicated. So cartooning officially became daily per contract.

But seriously, cartooning was there for me. Everyday. No matter what was going on in my head, I still had to do my cartooning. I still had to write a line, punchline or joke and draw a corresponding picture.

At the very least, I needed a picture and some words that somebody somewhere would like.

Plus my editor. It needed to make my editor smile at least.

A laugh was great! A smile was the minimum. An “awwww” was special.

I know. TMI. 🤎

Anyway, cartooning enabled me to manage the OCD so that I could otherwise function in the real world (i.e., work a day job) without carrying out the compulsions and urges that ran through my head.

For those of you not obsessively familiar with OCD, here’s the quick study from PsychCentral:

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness. Obsessions involve having distressing, intrusive thoughts that won’t go away, while compulsions are urges to take certain actions.

People with OCD participate in those compulsions not because they want to but because they feel — on some level — that it will bring them temporary relief.

So FIRST, there is a BAD THOUGHT that won’t go away. THEN, there is an URGE. And that URGE is to take a certain action.

NOTE *My bad thoughts involved tragic events and violent acts. My urges also involved tragic events and violent acts.  I was only diagnosed as “depressed” for decades because when I shared those visions with professionals, they diagnosed suicidal ideation and focused primarily on the urgency of the thoughts, not the character of thoughts as “obsessive” or OCD. 

So, anyway, getting back to it, the obsessive person engages in obsessive behaviors in order to experience relief from the disturbing thoughts or upsetting urges.

Okay, lesson over. Now you are an expert!

Before I began cartooning, I was a writer and a runner.  I just alternated the two. I wrote, then ran, then wrote, then ran.

There may have been some other stuff in there. Like I was a total workaholic. Which is, of course, obsessive behavior.

But whatever. I had writing and running to help manage my obsessive thoughts. I was able to reach a state of flow – an antidote to obsessive thinking – through work, writing and running. It’s ironic because people who urged me to work less didn’t realize that work was the safest place for me. I was always the most relaxed at work where there was so much to think about that my mind was distracted from the morbid and violent thoughts of my obsessions.

Needless to say, my partners did not like this quality at all.

But I had no choice. I had to turn off my brain so I could keep functioning.

So I just worked and ran and wrote non-stop. My exes are my witnesses.

But when I discovered cartooning, well THAT was a really good fit.  With cartooning, my brain could get into a zone – into a state of flow – almost immediately – and all from home.  Cartooning didn’t earn me the money that work did or the steps on my FitBit…..and it definitely didn’t get me the strong body that running did….but it gave me much more.  It gave me the cartooning community, new comrades in art and writing, and new editorial besties.  So cartooning was a win-win-win-win-win.

So look – whether you’ve got the easiest brain in the world or you’re on the anxiety spectrum, find something. Maybe you’re just mildly neurotic in the “good anxiety” way.  Or maybe you’re raging OCD like yours truly. But  try doing something.  Something easy. And enjoyable. Maybe even something fun.

Okay, that’s enough OCD for one day.

I need to write another essay rehashing the UTMOST IMPORTANCE of the GO TO LIST.

Because today I did something stupid.

Today I reached out to someone in pain and forgot all of my own good advice.

I reached out with the best intentions to someone who was upset but I forgot to have a list of suggestions in front of me.

So when that person was so upset, I forgot to say potentially helpful things like “make some cookies” or “turn on your favorite movie” or “set Pandora to the year you got your driver’s license” or “wash all of your windows for spring.”

I forgot that I have cartooning so sometimes I don’t have to work as hard as other people to find a distraction. I always have a distraction.


But I also already have a hundred Go To’s ready to go to because of my own GO TO LIST. It’s my list of ANYTHING TO DO WHEN I NEED SOMETHING TO DO RIGHT NOW (because the pain is too bad).

I need to tell that person I got caught up in her pain and forgot my own best advice.

Make a list of a hundred Go To’s.

Actually, if you can just reach three, that would be great.

Or one. That would be great too.

Do it today.

Because when your brain is working overtime and sending you too much information that is too painful to process, you need to give it some relief.

So make a list.

And laminate it. (figuratively)

Okay. I will let you go find your something or make your list. I will ‘let you go’ as they say.

There are some amazing OCD-related cartoonist and anime links below.

And more about OCD HERE. And more about CARTOONING HERE.

Happy Sunday.

xoxoxo, d (and bella)






This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Interesting idea. I do like lists, and writing things down in general. And I have my go-to distractions, but I don’t have an actual list.

    Tangent: do you know the Go-Go’s song, “Girl of 100 Lists”? 🙂

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