Isaac Clark’s busy life: Published author’s book helps others with mental health issues
We all have that friend. You know the one. That well-intended person who comes into your day and tries their best to help out, but ends up making things worse. Maybe you are that friend.
Isaac Clark, a program specialist for the ARL-RAP program, has written and self-published a children’s book about that friend.
The book is called Batchy’s Busy Day. Batchy, an adorable character that looks like a cross between the Kool-Aid Man and a bowling ball, avoids his chores by unintentionally wreaking havoc in the lives of several friends over the course of a single, busy day. When he returns home, Batchy reflects back on his day and decides, spoiler alert, to make it up to his friends by knitting them sweaters, which he delivers the next day.
“I had toyed with the idea of writing a children’s book since college. I thought it would be fun and easy to do because, you know, there are fewer words,” he said. At the same time, he knew from reading to children that they often have favorite books and memories that grow out of having the same story read to them over and over again.
“Children often want the same book read to them 900 times in a row and that’s the only book they want to hear. I thought it would be cool if that could be my book,” he said.
Clark was creative in college, expressing himself by writing and recording music and poetry. When he graduated and started working professionally, his creative outlets disappeared. He enjoys working at ORAU, but as he watched his friends display their creative work through their career paths, he felt the pull to create something of his own.
So he teamed with childhood-friend Molly Perry, who illustrated the book. Clark said he and Perry thought about children’s book ideas together throughout college and never landed on anything until Batchy was born.
“In October 2019, I decided to start writing the book. It was a long, interesting, and very fun process, but somewhere in the midst of that process I had something of a mental health crisis,” he said, candidly.
Clark has experienced obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) his entire life. OCD is a common, long-lasting, chronic, and highly misunderstood disorder in which a person’s anxiety produces uncontrollable, recurring, anxiety-inducing thoughts (obsessions) that lead to physical/mental behaviors (compulsions) in an effort to reduce anxiety.
In popular media, OCD is often characterized by overt compulsions: people compelled to wash their hands every few minutes, flip a light switch on and off a certain number of times before leaving a room, or make sure all of their pens are lined up in order on their desks.
For Clark, OCD manifests itself predominantly in obsessive thoughts and mental compulsions.
“It’s not so much that one might have to have the pens in their office lined up. Rather, one would fear that if not aligned, the pens may fall to the floor, and that someone may then trip and be impaled or killed. So to deal with this anxiety, one might stare at the pens for hours to make sure they stay aligned, or they may turn around on their commute home from the office several times to go back in and check that the pens are lined up” he said. “And this cycle of irrational, obsessive fear and compulsion can go on for hours.”
Though Clark has experienced the ups-and downs of OCD his entire life, he links his recent mental health dip in-part to the pandemic. According the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than four in ten adults reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, four times the number reported in pre-pandemic times.
Listen to Isaac Clark speak about his book on the Further Together Podcast!
Clark was able to work during his mental health flare-up, adding that he appreciates the flexibility of working from home and the caring nature of his co-workers who supported him. Clark exercises daily, maintains a healthy diet, and takes medication to manage his OCD, and is appreciative of the many mental health resources offered by ORAU, including the Employee Assistance Service and his health insurance.
Because not everyone with OCD has access to such resources, Clark is donating 25 percent of the profits from the sale of Batchy’s Busy Day to the International OCD Foundation. IOCDF is an international organization that helps people with OCD access mental health services and support resources.
“I don’t know if anyone else has tried to access mental health services, but it really is like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he said. “It has illuminated for me the shattered state of the mental healthcare system in the United States.”Perhaps his next book will tell the story of how Batchy, like Clark, helped other people.