Breaking Our Stigma

Is there anything worse than having to explain the validity of your OCD?

You know how it goes - the first time you have to tell someone new about your OCD. They typically respond with something nonchalant or that they have OCD as well (when they of course don't). Overall, their response usually takes away a shade of seriousness from your disorder. I believe this is mostly because people love to have something wrong with them to talk about for either attention or pity. People often end up exaggerating or creating in their own minds their illnesses or disorders. This takes away from those of us who really do have the serious disorder or illness. If you actually have OCD, you are very well aware the last thing on earth you want is attention or pity for it. 

The way that I have broken the stigma of my OCD has always been by the cold hard evidence of my OCD itself. A few years ago, you couldn't have passed me on the street and NOT have known something was seriously wrong with me. I was always performing various compulsions while walking, or touching things in weird ways. It was actually a relief for people when I told them it was OCD, because they realized I was less insane than they originally thought. 

Nowadays, you wouldn't know I have OCD unless I told you. It has been much harder to break the stigma of my OCD the past couple of years because I show no evident signs of having OCD since I learned how to manage my obsessions and compulsions. It's always hard when I form a new friendship or relationship because I don't ever want anyone to look at me and think I am exaggerating or making up my OCD. I typically refrain from telling anyone until I get to know them really well. If I tell people too soon, it's as though they don't believe me because I come off as such a normal person. If only they had a clue what I looked like and acted like only a few years ago. I can feel myself let down the moment it comes out of my mouth and I realize they have no idea how serious it is.  It has definitely helped people understand the extent of my OCD since I quit everything and have turned it into my career - they have to know how serious it is now. 

It would be an incredible help if we held people accountable who claimed to have OCD when they don't. There is nothing worse than someone saying, "Oh! I have OCD too!" They must think we like our pencils lined up correctly and our beds made perfectly everyday like they do. That's not OCD. OCD is not a quirk, it's not an adjective, and it's not about being a perfectionist. The stigma the world has of this mental disorder is completely inaccurate and far beneath the bar. They have no idea what this disorder really is and yet claim to be on our same page. I always refer to the stigma against OCD as I would a person with special needs. For someone to respond who hasn't been diagnosed with OCD and say they have it, is just as insulting if I were to call myself "retarded" to a person with special needs. How would they feel? Probably just as worthless as we feel by having the biggest part of our worlds mocked down to nothingness with even just one look of deflection or doubt from what is really going on inside of us.

Bottom line? People should never go around saying they have OCD or use it mockingly in a sentence unless they have been clinically diagnosed. Join me by helping hold people accountable, and setting our stigma straight.

Do you struggle with telling new people about your OCD?

Do people ever respond in a way that insults everything about you?