Last night, I watched The Aviator for the first time. A movie that I have purposely avoided watching till now. I sat there, palms sweaty, terrified of the mirror that would be held in front of my face. Before I hit the play button, I swallowed the lump in my throat that felt like a mini bus and asked my husband, "How much of myself am I going to see in this film?" He had seen parts of it before. "A lot." he said.
"Wonderful." I thought in my purely sarcastic tone.
I have avoided watching this film for fears of triggers. You see, Howard had contamination fears and so do I. I was very afraid of having to sit through and hour and a half, triggering while Howard was triggering and trying not to completely freak out alongside the main character. It was daunting. It was unsettling. It was... magical.
For the first time, I saw a movie that did not glaze over my disorder. It did not present my disorder as something to laugh at. It did not show the character as being unaware of what was going on. Something that many OCD depictions overlook and try to cover up with humor. He clearly saw that what he was doing made no sense. It showed the clear agony of OCD on his face when he compulsed. It showed the hesitations. The little pauses we take when triggered. I had never seen that before in any film or read that in any book. It was like my typical day of what social dictations demand vs what my mind forces me to feel and I was blown away and thankful. I mean, I do not have all of Howard Hughes's symptoms, but I totally understood them and it was, for me, a relief.
The raw meat scenes.....totally my reactions. With the door in the public restroom scene, I could feel the complete panic. Not just because of the superb writing of the script and terrific acting of the actor, but because I do that. I look at the door knob with fear of knowing that I just washed wash my hands and I do not want to do it again. The complete panic and dread that sets in.
( WARNING possible TRIGGERS on video )
(I do not own this video or any part of this video)
There is this part when he is in the plane with Kathrine Hepburn and he drinks after her. The hesitation before he takes a sip. I was yelling at the television. Oh my God. I don't think people understand what that means for a person with contamination fears. I do, but I am not sure other people can. I remember the first time I found someone I could drink or eat after. It was freeing and it is the first time I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to be like everyone else. To be not OCD.
Yes, I was triggered watching this movie but it moved me. It made me want to scream when they used Howard's OCD against him. It made me hold back tears when he was in pain and isolated himself. It made OCD real for the viewers and no, maybe they don't understand every nuance but they got the gist. And that means something. More than anyone else (normal) will ever know.
The hardest part of the film was the reality that many of us joke about. The dirty, unshaven naked man, reduced to peeing in his recycled milk bottles because he is afraid of being contaminated. I have often said I am one step away from being Howard Hughes. That isn't true, really. I am not to the point Howard got to but the idea of that I could become like that, terrifies me. That is what has kept me from watching this film, despite it's raving reviews, for eleven years. It was too close. It was too real for me because I can not simply walk out of the movie theater and pretend it was all just a movie. I live it everyday. I can not simply just turn off the television and go on about my day like everyone else. It wasn't a film that taught me about OCD because I know it too intimately, already. No, I am not peeing in milk bottles. No, I am not unwashed living in one tiny room afraid of contamination. No, I am not repeating myself over and over and over again. But I could have been and that is the point. I didn't really need to learn about Howard because I already am Howard Hughes on some small level. I knew him even before I didn't. And I think most OCD sufferers would understand that because I know them too. Just as they know me like only we can. Because only we know what it is like to live with this disorder. But now, because of this movie, maybe others will start to know too and that is....beyond gratifying. It is magical.