Talking about mental illness to the masses is hard. It is hard to deal with it's misrepresented preconceived notions and it is hard to deal with the media's silence. We are often times villainized or sanitized but very often totally ignored.
That being said, because my diagnoses is severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I do not necessarily deal with as many of the violent misconceptions other mental illness diagnosis come with.
Many people have the incorrect idea that OCD is somehow less life changing or devastating than it actually is. We can blame many things for this but the biggest issue is the idea that OCD is inherently about organization and cleanliness. Leaving people to use the term OCD for things that are not actually OCD and that is a problem. Because if we desensitize the diagnoses to being more about how a person likes their morning coffee, we are saying that it is not a scary, upsetting, life altering mental illness. And it minimizes the very real , very terrorizing issues people that actually suffer from OCD face.
Make no mistake, I do not want to limit people's discussions on OCD. I have no issue with people using the term OCD. I just want people to know what it actually stands for and the disorder it describes. I want open debates. I want people to ask me about OCD. I want people to learn. I want us all to educate each other.
OCD has devastated my life. People see me as a happy go lucky thirty six year old house wife. I am, in essence, an anxiety ridden thirty six year old hermit. I tell people that I am a house wife but I do not tell them the reason I am a house wife has nothing to do with my dreams of being a stay at home mother. The reality is that because of my severe OCD I was unable to finish high school. I was then unable to attend college and I am currently and have always been, unable to hold down a job. I say I am a house wife because I do stay at home and take care of my home and children but I do not go into the details that I do this because I am unable to do anything else. I am for lack of a better description, unemployable.
I had dreams of graduating high school and my grades were very good. My panic attacks made my attendance extremely poor. I had high hopes of trying to get into Julliard. I wanted to sing on Broadway. I am talented enough to do so. I could have graduated and at the very least tried out, but this disorder prevented me from being who I thought I could be. Instead of me trying out for a musical college, I struggled to leave my home. Instead of me making plans for my future, I became unable to be in crowds of people without having panic attacks.
Those options were torn away from me. Not in one fell swoop like other disorders but by little bits and pieces over time. One tiny fear after another. Anxiety attacks on replay over and over again .
This disorder has damaged my relationships. It has made me hard to understand and harder to live with. I am under no illusions that being married to me is a cake walk. I know better. I know how stressful it is to live with someone who is almost constantly stressed out. I am afraid. I am afraid of everything, all of the time.
It has made me unable to do things that other people do on a daily basis without ever thinking about it. I have issues going to public places. I am unable to take medications to help because my OCD is medication resistant.
I am a thirty six year old hermit, with no diploma or higher education, who does not drive, who is too unreliable to employ, and who can not even make doctor appointments on the phone without fending off a panic attack. That is my reality. That is what OCD has done to me.
We can discuss semantics and pretend that I have made a go of it and accomplished a great deal despite my anxiety but the reality is still reality and it has been my reality for thirty two years. I do not make excuses or shy away from the truth that this disorder, my disorder, has effectively unabashedly and irrevocably changed my life.
OCD comes with extra baggage. The kind of baggage you don't see on television or movies. The kind of ugly sludge green, hard plastic, Bakelite luggage no one wants to claim at the baggage check because it is unbelievably heavy and embarrassing to be seen with. It comes with hesitations and freak outs. It comes with phobias, panic attacks, devastating intrusive thoughts, and mental or physical compulsions. It comes with sexual, blasphemous, or harm fears. It comes with suicidal ideologies and avoidance behaviors. It comes with triggers and life altering consequences.
And yes, I am doing well for someone that lives with severe OCD but let's not pretend that it hasn't shaped the person I have become because it has.
It marks the things I do on a regular basis.
I cannot deal with certain things like germs, contaminations, or other people breathing on me or touching me. My life has become a life of avoidance. I avoid, it is the hallmark of what I do.
This is the reality of what OCD has done to me.
I strive to continue to work on it. I strive to be better accepting of all that comes with having a mental illness. I am happy to be where I am today even if it isn't what I thought I would achieve when I was younger. I actually enjoy being a stay at home mom.
I do have family and friends and a fantastic support system. I do have really good days. I do know that I do not suffer alone. There are many people who suffer from OCD.
I am not bitter about how my life has been affected but I refuse to be obtuse and pretend. OCD is hard. Shit happens.
I also hold on to being proud of the things that I can do and the small victories I am able to achieve. Waking up and getting out of bed on a bad day is a feat. Taking a shower after I get out of bed on a bad day is a victory. Walking outside amongst other people and interacting with them after I have taken that shower, after getting out of bed on a bad day is a fucking act of heroism. I don't need the things I can do to be big to be proud of them. I just need to acknowledge that I did them and because I have done them, I get stronger from it.
Victories do not have to be big. They just have to be victories.