Monday, August 26, 2013

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones.......

Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me......Anyone who has been bullied or in an abusive relationship begs to differ. It's a child's saying to show solidarity. To deflect ugly insults and damaging words being flung in their direction and it isn't true. Words can hurt, deeply. In fact, words shape the very confines on how we look at things, how we define our surroundings and relationships, how we communicate. Words shape our lives. Words have the power to heal, to enlighten, and often times devastate.

I have come to realize that there is a problem with how mental illness is viewed. Not just in the actions of stigma but in the words we use to describe our symptoms as well. It can often leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Certain words used for OCD symptoms, I find to be harmful, at least in my opinion. I feel they promote more confusion rather than clarity. With these words comes preconceived notions and ideals that can harm the sufferer more than we realize.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post about OCD. I had the distinct niggling voice in the back of my head that told me not to read it because I had read one or two other posts about other mental illnesses  from this place and I thought they were kinda.... well, odd. The niggling surmised the post would probably rile me up. I read it anyway and the voice was right. It totally irritated me. Why? Because it had bad comparisons and contained what I deem to be the holy trinity of words that I find to be harmful to those of us that suffer from OCD. No, they are not curse words but the wound  just the same.




Just think about word association when you hear these three words and bear with me. Let these words roll on your tongue and fill your mind and then decide what they convey to you.


Definition of Superstition: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation

Often times you will hear someone describe some OCD symptoms as our superstitions. In fact, the post I read was comparing OCD to carrying a rabbit's foot or opening an umbrella in the house. Things we have all heard that derive images of bad luck or good luck. It's a terrible comparison and is strictly untrue. OCD sufferers are not doing or avoiding things because we are concerned with luck. We do them to cease the agonizing intrusive thoughts. It's rather hard for a person like me to believe or occupy my time with the delusion of luck when I am trying to fight off unwanted horrifying images of people I love being massacred, in an accident, poisoned, or being hurt in some fashion running through my brain constantly. I am a tad too busy for worrying about the likes of luck.

We are brought up to believe that superstitions are silly. Therefore this word is associated with silly contexts like black cats crossing your path, broken mirrors, and walking under ladders. Bad luck and good luck is what makes a superstition. First off we don't need your silly old-timey superstitions we can and do make our own. Secondly if what we do has nothing to do with luck is it really a superstition or is it simply an avoidance of something that makes us uncomfortable?

Hearing us say we have superstitions makes others think that we are preoccupied with silly beliefs and are obsessed with the idea of luck whether it be good or bad. That what we have can not be that serious or painful because superstitions are not based in reality and are ridiculous past times from ancient ancestors that didn't know any better. It makes others think we are silly. Just because it may seem silly to others makes it no less painful for us. In fact, the implications of what we go through as being silly hurts us and stigmatizes us even further.


Definition of Irrational: not endowed with reason or understanding

Another word thrown around a lot is irrational. We have irrational fears. We suffer from irrational thoughts. We have irrational emotions....ect. I get that. I understand that our fears are not based in reality. I understand that our intrusive thoughts are just horrid images and thoughts that are not real nor do they have the possibility of becoming so. All OCD sufferers understand this fact. It in no way takes away the anxiety or mental torture of them. It does not lessen our pain. When you are talking to someone about irrational fears they automatically assume that since they are not based in reality that you are either being overly dramatic or that it can not be painful to be afraid of something that isn't going to happen. It can, it does, and it is painful. The irrationality of it all is what tortures us most. We know that what we go through is not based on any form of rationale and yet we still have the thoughts, the compulsions, and the overwhelming sense of guilt. The fears may not be real to others but they are ever so real to us. They hurt us deeply.


Definition of Rituals: a ceremonial act or action

Of all of these three words, I dislike the word rituals the most. The first time I heard this I almost fainted from horror. Word association for me when I hear the word rituals is not a pleasant thought. I never say I do rituals. I don't know what mental picture you get when you hear the word rituals but I'll be damned if I am going to use a word that makes me think of sacrificing harmless chickens or standing in my front yard with a giant boiling cauldron, stirring a potion made from frog legs and eye of newt, while cackling hysterically and sporting a pointy black hat. It's not going to happen. I use the word compulsions because that's what they are. There is no mystery to be had here. There is no reason to make touching doorknobs, counting lines in the pavement, or excessive hand washing sound so ominous or sinister. We simply have compulsions whether it be mental or physical they are just  compulsions.Nothing supernatural or spooky about them. They are and can be painful, time consuming, and frustrating but they are not evil or scary.

I really think that if we want people to understand what we go through on a daily basis we need to look at the words we use to describe our symptoms more carefully and realize that they might have past connotations already attached to them. Connotations that we may be uncomfortable with assigning to our mental illness. Connotations that may or may not be true. Notions that can confuse the person we are trying to explain it to, frighten them, make them think we do not suffer seriously, or blur the lines of truth.

Yes, I avoid things that tend to stress me out. That doesn't mean that they are superstitions. That does not mean that they don't affect or hurt me. Avoidance tends to be lonely. Yes, my fears and intrusive thoughts are not based in reality but that does not mean that I can simply wave a magic wand and no longer have anxiety or phobias. They still paralyze me with fear and they are still agonizing. Real or perceived they hurt period. Yes, I have things I do in a certain way at a certain time. That is not a ritual to me. It is a compulsion and I accept that. It doesn't need a big scary confusing word to describe it and make everyone else in the room uncomfortable by using it. I can achieve making everyone in the room uncomfortable all by myself just by doing whatever the compulsion is in the first place. I don't need help in that department. But I do explain to them what I suffer from and what I do. Usually, they are made more comfortable by the honesty in which I present it and I dare say the word ritual would not help set them at ease. So please be mindful of the words you use. They have the ability to help or the ability to harm........

Neurotic Nelly

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