I once got“the look.”
You know… the look you get when you may have over shared. I’m at a place in life where I can be open about my OCD, my faith and the history that created their journey together. It’s my hope by doing so I can help someone else overcome the stigma of saying they are afraid to be vulnerable and authentic and overcome the fear of having a silent illness, whatever theirs may be.
I’m versed in emotional intelligence. I take a lot of training on it for the work I do; however, not enough to make me any sort of expert but enough that I can use it daily. After being in a training for awhile, I shared a thought with my workshop partner, a total stranger until this class. We were speaking on how personalities can get in the way of critical conversations and brainstorming strategies to overcome that roadblock. I shared that I’ve been told that when people first meet me I seemed cold. Once they came to know me though, they shared they were happy to find I was the complete opposite.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.~Psalm 34:4-5
What they didn’t know upon their first introduction to me is that I have a mental illness. My silence is nothing more than finding a safe place for my mind to be. I have to study people and new situations to make sure I’m comfortable with all of it. The last thing I want is to be triggered into a state that has me in tears and a cycle of obsession. My workshop partner looked at me as if to say, “you’re mentally ill?” I could tell by his expression and body language that he was trying to figure out how he didn’t know that from day one.
It doesn’t work that way with the silent diseases. I lay odds that society has no idea how many people suffer from mental illness because it is not always obvious, especially with Pure O. Frankly, it’s not always comfortable to be candid and admit my OCD diagnosis. But I think it’s vital.
Later my partner asked if I thought the seating assignments would be rearranged for the next class. I said I hoped not because I’m not a huge fan of change once I get things organized in my mind. I’d have to get used to the differences and spend time getting comfortable all over again.
He laughed and said, “I hate it too. Things like that are what really stirs up my–”
…. and it’s that pause that is so essential. The odds are he was going to say “his OCD” for it looked like he had it perched on his lips and the tell- tale emphasis he placed on “my” is usually a dead giveaway. If I had a dime for every time someone used OCD as a designer term for a quirk or a preference, I’d be a millionaire. Only on a rare few occasions have I met someone who legitimately shared my struggle. Instead, he stopped, regrouped, and said it “bugs” him.
I’m left to wonder…. was he one of the millions out there suffering and unable to trust vulnerability enough to share it? Or was he one of the few to learn that this is a serious illness and deserves respect? If it’s the former, I hope my vulnerability helps him find the courage to speak his story. If the latter, kudos and thanks for rephrasing.
I show my vulnerability to helps others. I’ve seen the power speaking out can have in finding a path to healing. I show my soul to prove what abilities hide in the weaknesses we THINK we have. Shame can be turned into a strength if all trust and faith are placed in God. I’m vulnerable here on my blog, using a platform that is for my career as a writer to speak about OCD and my faith. There are some out there that would say I am wrong to do that here and I’d alienate readers by not being “PC” and mum on such topics.
I’ve my corner of the web and I intend to use it.
Let’s speak honestly and say that all struggles come with a healthy dose of shame. Stepping outside of that prison and sharing a story can open doors. Just… share it truthfully. Don’t hide behind false social media profiles, phony pictures of yourself or bogus stories about your life. Leave your story to be yours sans embellishments to hide your shame or fear. I believe we need to be in authentic relationships with our neighbors in the hope that ignorance ends and awareness begins.
Here’s the thing. If you don’t have it, don’t own it.
This post has been on my mind for awhile now. It gets under my skin when folks mirror those with OCD, thinking that at some level their idiosyncratic ways are the same as having a diagnosis.
They way to relate to a person with a mental illness is just to be who you are. I respect that more. There is zero need to exclaim how you are “so OCD” yourself. Saying that is a dead give away that you do not have the disorder and in no way creates empathy. Sharing stories of how you prefer things neat or how stressed you may get when things don’t match, without sharing the level of devastation created in the wake of your obsessive thoughts (not to mention what your mind and body were forced to do to find relief), creates skepticism, distance, and mistrust. I’ve met folks who toss around that they have OCD as a method to excuse away their habits or explain their quirky behavior. They do this even though they know I have Pure O. Perhaps they have some form of anxiety, which is painful enough as is, yet respect the disorder and the diagnosis by not tossing it around as a casual term if you don’t know—concretely—that you suffer with it.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you ~1 Peter 5:6
Help end stigma. Mental illness, and especially OCD, is stigmatized too much as it is and using the disorder as a global label is damaging. Diagnosing OCD is a lengthy process. It cannot be self-assessed and it requires psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
I’m blessed. My Pure O is being controlled (it’s a daily process) and, in my opinion, mild compared to others who suffer the same. I think that is why I can stand up as I do and speak out like this.
Just be who you are. That’s far more respectable.
It’s the wrap up of #OCDWeekOfAction, an initiative of a UK based charity for those with OCD. So I invite everyone who takes those online OCD “tests” that cycle around Facebook to donate to support the mental illness they so quickly discovered they were afflicted with.
I’ve said it once and will say it again… it’s not funny anymore. I’ve pondered if I should get a thicker skin, if I should “lighten” up over these obviously fluff tests likely designed to phish information from Facebook accounts… but I find I fail. This is a mental illness I have watched get trivialized repeatedly. So my action, in what small corner of the web I own, is to say, again, please stop it. Stop degrading and spreading false ideas about what OCD is all about. It is not about your eyesight or color standards. It is not about perfectionism and attention to detail.
The tests for OCD suck. They suck because you’re alone in a room being asked a battery of questions, some which make no sense to your racing mind, all while your heart is flat on your shoes. You wonder if you will be leaving that doctor’s office “fixed” and “normal” or will keep on living a life “faking normal.” They are scary and confusing, and since you are not diagnosed yet, you are left with hours (to days) of waiting as your symptoms get worse because of the anxiety you just went through. Then your results come back and you are staring down bottles of mind-bending, extremely powerful drugs that literally alter your personality.
But instead society has this idea that OCD is the kid to pick on in the “playground” of mental illness. It’s fun to say, easy for celebrities to make into a “designer” illness, and profitable to slap on tee-shirts and coffee mugs.
I wonder if folks who take these online “tests” on Facebook, and then proudly say they are 100% OCD afterward will remember the day of their diagnoses for all their lives. I’d like them to post on the blog in reply and let me know. And if you really do have OCD, post in reply and let me know if you remember the day you were diagnosed. Help to spread knowledge and crush the ignorance. I remember mine. I came home scared out of my wits, angry as all hell, and for days later was sick as a dog. Since I was terrified back then of letting anyone know I had a mental illness I went on with life and suffered through work with debilitating migraines as the meds tried to work. Then I would sleep every second I could.
I had to be a wife, I had to be a mother to an infant, I had to “fake normal.” I had to try to forget the exact circumstance that woke this sleeping giant in me.
I have Pure O-OCD. I can’t forget as much as I want to and I assure you it was not the moment I took a “test” on Facebook.
But… I can vent to my corner of the world and ask again that OCD not be commercialized or trivialized. Think about the cancer a friend had, or the Alzheimers a parent died of, think of the darkest diagnosis in your life and how it impacted your family and friends, then think of what it would be like if that diagnosis was constantly disrespected. It’s not just disrespectful to the illness, but to the person afflicted.
Take the online GAMES but when you go to post results be sure to mention that it was a fun way to see if you had quirk, to test your eyesight, or finickiness. Call it for what it is. This mental illness would have a greater understanding and a lot more support if those who didn’t suffer from OCD helped to spread the word about what it really is.
I suppose I’m never going to lighten up about this. If I have the opportunities take a stand on it, I will.