Love is…Finding the "Fun" in Dysfunctional

By Heather

Growing up I used to think that most of my friends’ families were so normal and healthy, and that mine was the only one with quirks and cracks.  Now I know the truth: every family is nuts. And if you think you know a perfectly healthy family, you don’t know them well enough.

Granted, some people’s brand of crazy is more socially acceptable than others.  For example, in my home we appeared on the outside to be well behaved high achievers, which was a mask for a control freak mom and an emotionally remote, success obsessed dad. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I realize that on the crazy scale my family was dented but functional. Not bad at all. (btw I am the needy thumsucker pictured above)

I have a family of my own now and see many of our idiosyncrasies. And at least today we have a better vocabulary for labeling our neurosis. Terms like OCD, ADD, MPD, BPD, SAD, etc. etc. allow us to name what ails us, and naming things is delightful because it gives us control, or at least the illusion of it.

A few years ago I came across an acronym for a condition that I knew intimately but had never quite put my finger on: ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  These are the people that cannot resist challenging authority and playing the devil’s advocate. Oh how I love to tease my contrarian friend about how she suffers acutely from this. And her response just confirms the diagnosis: “No I don’t!” I love these people. Just when everything is getting so boring in Relief Society, everyone sitting there nodding their heads “yes, we ALL agree” and along comes someone with ODD and makes a comment that turns everything upside down.

She in turn diagnosed one of my less than desirable traits. I suffer from SVS, shock value syndrome. As the youngest member of a hyper proper family, it was my duty to make my mother blush at the dinner table. And even now at 42, whenever I get around people that seem a bit too uptight, I get the irresistible urge to say/do something borderline inappropriate. So I skinny dip at Girls Camp and give sacrament talks on the virtues of Harry Potter. Recently when my 12 year old son told me that he hated it when I called him “friend,” I replied, “Well then how about ‘douche bag,’ because that’s what you’re acting like.” Show me an envelope, and I’ll push it.

Here are a few other conditions the American Psychiatric Association might want to add to their books:

CBR-Chronic Buyer’s Remorse: Perpetually malcontent, these poor souls are convinced that whatever choice they make is the wrong one. Filled with self doubt and a touch of bitterness (related syndrome: GIGD–Grass is Greener Disorder).

RSS-Refusal to be Served Syndrome: You know who you are. You are forever volunteering to bring meals, babysit, work at the Bishop’s Storehouse as if every act of service added another brick to your mansion on high; but hell would have to freeze over before you would let someone bring you a casserole. In their heart of pious hearts, these folks believe that the strong give and the weak receive.

CV-Compulsive Volunteerism: A sister syndrome to RSS (with more guilt, less pride), CV manifest itself in an inability to pass a sign-up sheet without committing to doing whatever is requested. One friend had such a severe case of this that I created an organization just for her—Volunteers Anonymous. I became her sponsor and she was not allowed to agree to do anything without first consulting me. A typical conversation went like this, “Heather, I’ve been asked to be PTA President. Tell me again why I should say no?” “Because you just gave birth to twins, your husband is YM President and travels, and you Visit Teach a black hole of needs.” “Oh. Okay. So should I say maybe?”

Tanorexia: When sufferers of this disorder look in the mirror all they see is pasty whiteness, even if their true color is closer to a Slim Jim.

Appsberger’s: The compulsion to download apps for completely useless things. And then talk endlessly about them with other sufferers. “Look, I can use my phone as a harmonica!!!”  “Well mine can show me the time…in Braille!” “Mine makes a cowbell noise. Get it? ‘More cowbell?’!”

Topperism-No matter what you’ve been through, these one-uppers can top your experience and raise it a notch.  So while you’re delighted that you are training for a 5k, the Topper is quick to inform you that she ran the Boston Marathon. And won. While pregnant. With triplets.

So my question is not “are you crazy” but “what kind of crazy are you?”  And can you find a way to live with it and laugh about it?  If you can’t, your crazies will make you nuts.

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14 Responses

  1. corktree says:

    What a brilliantly funny post! And SO spot on.

  2. Keri Brooks says:

    Hilarious! I definitely think I suffer from ODD. I’ve never met a devil whose case I didn’t attempt to advocate.

  3. mValiant says:

    Heather, what a funny and honest post, I love it!

    Nothing has opened my eyes to my and my family’s crazy like getting married. Of course my husband’s family seems so crazy to me — they never talk about anything important or real but are always sharing the same benign facts and stories over and over. This is a tiny example that always amazes me — if someone farts, no one admits that they did it and no one else says “Ewwww-ie, Does that smell! Who’s the foul one??” Everyone just sits there basking in the foul stench without letting on that there is anything amiss. It makes me laugh and gag every time. In my family, whoever “dealt it” would immediately be at the bottom of a dog-pile of siblings.
    And my husband pointed out to me that my family’s favorite past time is to sit around the house and talk about how stupid everyone else in the world is and how smart we all are. I observed a few holidays after that. He’s right! That’s our crazy.

    Fun reflections. Thanks. 🙂

  4. I have CBR. It’s impossible for me to buy anything costing more than $5 without thinking, as soon as I get it home, that the alternative weed-whacker or spaghetti strainer or whatever would have been a better choice.

    People like me would save much time and angst in a controlled-economy with state-run stores and no choice of products.

  5. Andrea says:

    I have observed in many families the Needs to be Needed or N2bN syndrome. This is most commonly exhibited by mothers with dysfunctional adult children. Mothers have also been found to exhibit these behaviors 500% more often towards the younger adult children. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following: irrational financial support, excessive defense of, excessive worrying about, and profuse praise of the biggest idiots amoung her children. The syndrome does not develop until empty nest status has arrived, or is within sight.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    Oh! My husband suffers from SVS and ODD–often at the same time and with people we’ve just met!

    I want a name for the disorder that so many Mormon women have where they do something (or everything) flawlessly and when you compliment them on it, they are so self-depreciating that while you still believe the compliment, you feel dumb that you offerred it.

    Example: This cake is delicious!

    Response: No, no. It didn’t rise right, it’s not chocolately enough because it was a new recipe that clearly didn’t work. I’ll never make it again.

  7. anon says:

    How about DID/DIS: Debilitating Indecisiveness Disorder/Syndrome? This is manifest by a person’s inability to make a decision. It is further compounded by the continual dwelling on said decision, putting everything else on hold while decision is made (which never seems to happen). Outside forces can attempt to sway the decision maker, but (s)he will instinctively push against the force until a clear, indecisive center ground is achieved.

  8. Belmomma says:

    So perfect H, love it

  9. Petra says:

    And don’t forget ME, Myopia of the Ego, which mostly manifests itself in an unerring ability to spot disorders in others while being unable to diagnose them in oneself? If I didn’t have such a strong case of this one, I might confess how often I criticize my husband’s family without being able to find similar faults in my own.

    Of course, I don’t have it at all. But I bet you do.

    Heather, you’re hilarious, as usual.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I am the proud mother of 9 children. I have 6 girls and 3 boys. I am constantly reminding the kids that “yes, we are crazy too.” My kids think we should be a reality TV show. Yeah, wouldn’t that be great 🙂

    Great post.

  11. Fantastic! This would make a good party game! Well, until someone diagnosed someone too cleverly, and the diagnosed runs out of the room crying or slams a fist into the spinach dip. Maybe I’ll try at the next time I’m at the in-laws 😉

  12. Stella says:

    I’ve got a list of acronyms that describe me too…however, many of them have lessened as I’ve distanced myself from being the “perfect Christian” and just tried to be me.

  13. Lacy says:

    My entire family has been diagnosed with ASS: Arnett Self-Assured Syndrome. Major symptoms include:

    -You prefer the sound of your own voice
    -you have an unreasonably high opinion of yourself
    -you think you can do anything
    -you are punctually impaired
    -you must be in charge
    -“if it’s not about me, I’m not interested”

    Fittingly, we’ve got business cards and movies dedicated to this thing. It’s wonderfully ridiculous.

    Great post!

  14. Lorene says:

    I laughed out loud. Thanks for posting and making my day. 🙂

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