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Better Safe Than Sorry

Better Safe Than Sorry

Better Safe Than Sorry

Respectfully Portraying Psychological States in Storytelling

Better Safe Than Sorry is a short story about the paranoia of checking locks to make sure the house is secure. Storytelling has long been a medium for humans to explore complex emotions, conditions, and situations, giving us a deeper understanding of each other and ourselves. One such complexity is the portrayal of psychological states or disorders, which requires sensitivity, accuracy, and a deep respect for those who experience them in real life.

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Dramatizing Psychological Illness

Dramatizing psychological illness in narratives can be a delicate but rewarding process. By carefully and respectfully portraying these conditions, we create a platform for understanding, empathy, and dialogue. It’s about bringing to light the realities that many individuals face, often in silence. It not only contributes to character development, but also makes the narrative more engaging and relatable.

When we dramatize psychological illness, we humanize it. We give it a face, a name, an identity beyond the labels. This helps in dispelling stereotypes and myths associated with these conditions. It’s a chance to shed light on the various nuances and complexities that are often overlooked in everyday conversations.

However, it’s crucial to remember that dramatizing doesn’t mean exaggerating. The portrayal should always be grounded in research, personal experiences, and authentic stories from those who live with these conditions. This ensures we do justice to their experiences, rather than creating an inaccurate and potentially harmful portrayal.

Dramatizing psychological illness also provides an opportunity for self-reflection for the reader. As they follow the character’s journey, they experience their struggles, triumphs, and growth. This can create a profound sense of connection and empathy, possibly leading to a more compassionate and understanding society.

Lastly, incorporating psychological illness into storytelling serves an educational purpose. It’s a subtle way of raising awareness and promoting mental health advocacy. The narrative acts as a vehicle to communicate the realities of these conditions, fostering a deeper understanding among the readers. It’s about challenging stigmas, opening conversations, and hopefully paving the way for societal acceptance and support.

Examples of Mediums Portraying Mental Health

Literature

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – This novel offers a deep and moving account of a young woman’s struggle with depression, mirroring Plath’s own experiences.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: This book provides a vivid depiction of the Vietnam War and its aftermath, including the experiences of soldiers dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – It is a novel about a man with bipolar disorder working to rebuild his life after a stay in a psychiatric hospital.

Film

A Beautiful Mind (2001) – This biographical drama based on the life of John Nash offers a poignant depiction of schizophrenia.

Rain Man (1988) – The film showcases a realistic portrayal of autism through the character of Raymond Babbitt.

Girl, Interrupted (1999) – This film is based on Susanna Kaysen’s memoir, exploring her experience with borderline personality disorder.

Personal Experience

Growing up, I grappled with unique challenges in my educational journey. Traditional learning methods seemed unyielding, and my engagement with schoolwork was less than ideal. It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with a learning disability, requiring additional academic support. Yet, even with this specialized assistance, my struggle with learning, reading, and writing persisted. The lack of motivation was almost palpable, as the assigned work held little to no appeal for me. The only class that brought me any semblance of joy was gym. A class that allowed me to channel my hyperactivity, providing a much-needed release.

Fast forward to many years later, I sought therapy to combat feelings of depression. This journey led to an additional revelation… I was living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This diagnosis shed light on my struggles, giving a name to the constant distractions and the inability to concentrate that still haunted me. The idea of psychotropic drugs targeting my brain was fearful. So, I decided to manage my ADHD in a different way.

Today, I’ve learnt to adhere to a routine and maintain a schedule to help me navigate the daily distractions. There are times when the overwhelming nature of it all bears down on me. However, I’ve realized that it’s a part of my journey, a testament to my continued resilience, as I learn to adapt and navigate my life with ADHD.

Portraying OCD in Better Safe Than Sorry

Back in 2008, when I moved into my new house, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. But something strange happened as the day ended. I kept checking the locks of my house, over and over again. A fear would creep in each time I tried to stop, making me check again. For almost thirty minutes, I was stuck in this loop. It made me wonder, was I showing signs of OCD, or was I just paranoid?

This experience inspired me to write this story for a class at Brooklyn College in 2012. But the story I’m sharing now, while inspired by that time, is completely new.

When I first set out to write ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’, my aim was to create an authentic portrayal of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I wanted to craft a narrative that resonated with reality, offering readers a glimpse into the internal struggles and external impacts of this often misunderstood disorder.

The story revolves around Dan, a family man residing in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York. He leads an ordinary life until an increase in citywide crime sends him spiraling into a fear of burglary. His safe neighborhood no longer feels secure to him, leading to compulsive nightly checks of all the house’s locks. His obsession starts to wear thin on his family, straining their relationships.

I strived to depict OCD accurately through Dan’s experiences. His persistent fear, despite being in a safe environment, mirrors the irrational fears often associated with OCD. The ritualistic lock checking highlights the compulsive behaviors, while the frustration and incomprehension of his family reflect the common societal responses towards such behaviors.

A critical turning point in the story occurs when a minor household incident heightens Dan’s obsession. The incident pushes family dynamics to a breaking point, and his wife, Lora, urges him to seek help. This part of the narrative showcases the impact of OCD on family relationships, highlighting the importance of understanding and addressing the issue.

The story ends with a suspense-filled cliffhanger, inviting readers to question the boundaries between imagined fears and reality. Through this, I aimed to portray the blurred lines individuals with OCD often grapple with, caught between their anxieties and the objective reality.

Creating Better Safe Than Sorry was an attempt to present an honest, respectful, and accurate depiction of OCD, humanizing the disorder and hopefully fostering understanding and empathy among readers.

The Delicate Balance of Storytelling and Reality

When writing about psychological states, it is essential to do so with the utmost respect. While it’s an intriguing subject matter, there’s a fine line between respectful exploration and harmful misrepresentation. The intent is not to diagnose characters or provide a clinical explanation but to go into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, providing readers with a glimpse into their world.

To depict authenticity, we need to understand the human side of psychological conditions: the inner battles, the fears, and the victories. It’s about painting a picture with words that does justice to the experiences of those who live with these conditions daily.

Real stories are the backbone of authenticity, but it’s crucial to respect privacy and prevent any potential harm. It’s about capturing the essence, the feelings, and the struggles without exploiting the experiences of real individuals.

The Writer’s Responsibility: Portrayal Without Offense

As writers, we bear a significant responsibility when portraying psychological states. We must strive to portray them sensitively and accurately, avoiding any harm or offense. 

Choosing the right words is crucial. We should use language that is respectful, empathetic, and non-stigmatizing. It’s not about sugarcoating the truth, but about portraying it in a way that respects the experiences of those who live with these conditions.

Final Thoughts

Addressing psychological disorders in storytelling presents a unique challenge. As writers, we must strive to be sensitive, respectful, and accurate in our depictions, to honor the experiences of those who live with these conditions in reality. My personal experiences and my desire to illuminate such unseen struggles have led me to create narratives that intertwine these elements seamlessly.

Through stories like Better Safe Than Sorry, we have the opportunity to understand the complexities of disorders like OCD. By dramatizing these conditions responsibly, we not only engage readers but also educate them, challenging stereotypes, and sparking necessary conversations.

In the end, it’s about more than just storytelling. It’s about painting a picture of the human experience in all its varied forms, fostering understanding and empathy, and using our words to make a difference. The narratives we create can, and should, be a platform for enlightenment, connection, and change.

Enjoy Better Safe Than Sorry and check out my other short stories if you haven’t yet.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Check the Locks (short script)

This is a short script with a similar concept of checking the locks often. The difference is I wrote this with the protagonist a schizophrenic. So, there is paranoia and madness in this.

It was originally supposed to be shot a couple of years ago with a crew, but things fell through and I dropped the project. At least you get to enjoy reading it for now. Maybe one day I’ll shoot it.