It occurs to me that because of the media portrayal of OCD that many think we enjoy our compulsions, our issues, our attempt to control our surroundings. I find it painful and frustrating that this is how people see us. Further frustrating to me is when the idea is reiterated by people calling themselves OCD in general reference to being neat and tidy or organized. It makes what we as sufferers go through seem trivial and promotes more misunderstanding of the condition.
The big difference to being just quirky or extremely retentive, is that those people take pleasure in being those things. It is an enjoyment to those who color code their shirts in a closet or arrange their pens in order from biggest to smallest. It becomes a sense of pride for them. Away to be different.
As sufferers, we don't want to be different. We don't like to feel ostracized and odd. No one takes pleasure in being OCD, at least no one that has OCD does. It isn't something that feels good or makes you happy. There is no joy or satisfaction when it comes to the rituals, mental or otherwise, that we do. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Unlike our quirky counterparts that claim to be OCD, we do not want to do these things. We would rather be normal. The kicker being, we can never be normal. So, in fear of living in rejection, we mock being normal to the rest of the world. We pretend and we have become masters at it. Unlike people that think they are OCD and aren't, we don't love to tell people the truth. We don't tend to celebrate our rituals and triggers. Our truth is often times too painful for that. Most people don't even know that we do suffer from OCD. We don't have that sense of being safe because of it.
I can tell you what we do have. We have a sense of shame. A sense of overwhelming guilt. A sense of being different and wrong. We know what we do is weird. We know that our rituals and thoughts make no sense and are irrational. It's part of what makes having OCD so scary. We are aware that our minds are broken and our perceptions are faulty. We have a sense of being judged. We have a sense of being poked fun at, misunderstood, and rejected. And we now have a sense of people using our debilitating devastating illness as fodder to explain away why they like things orderly. I can't tell you how many times I have heard," Everyone has a little OCD."
So, everyone has unwanted violent/sexual/blasphemous thoughts running through their heads 24/7? Everyone is worried about accidentally poisoning their loved ones by not washing their hands enough? Everyone has issues with triggers? Everyone is afraid if they don't touch the doorknobs twenty seven times that their family will die horribly in an accident and it all depends on how many times they touch that door knob correctly? Everyone has other OCD spectrum disorders like pulling out their hair, repeating themselves, starving themselves? Everyone has this? I had no idea. Or how about scrubbing the floor to the point of damaging the tile, or scrubbing the tables till the finish is gone? Or hoarding so much stuff that your house could be condemned? What about the picking your skin till it bleeds? Or washing your hands till they are raw and burning? Hating yourself because you feel ugly and your body seems out of proportion? What about being afraid you will hurt the ones to love because you see it in your head and so you avoid them because you are scared what the OCD shows you could become a reality? Even though you know it wont and yet you are still terrified.
Does any of this seem enjoyable or exciting?
You see we don't do our rituals or compulsions because we like them. We do them because the OCD makes us. We do them to prevent the anxiety provoking thoughts. We do it to control our environment because our minds are going crazy and we just want one thing to feel like it's going right. We want a day without triggers and since that isn't going to happen, we do things other people don't understand. IT then gets misrepresented and we end being the butt of everyone's jokes or worse yet we have our mental illness associated with being anal retentive or being treated as if it something small and quirky.
It's not small and quirky. It is not less important than other mental illnesses, and sadly it isn't less deadly either. People with untreated OCD can become suicidal. People assume that OCD centers around what the media has presented as our most common symptoms and they are wrong. That is not what OCD looks like nor is it what it does to us.
And just to add two more recent examples of just how wrong OCD depictions can be I would like to offer up these two tidbits:
On the soap opera Days of Our Lives, the character Nicole was talking about a doctor and referred to him as being "the typical OCD" because he kept impeccable paper work and wrote lists...
On the popular television show Grey's Anatomy, the writers gave a beloved character MIranda OCD tendencies by making her repeatedly twitch her fingers and needing everything in place...not because she was born that way or had OCD tendencies before but because she had a trauma happen to her.....
If we were to go by those two depictions we would think OCD is about making lists and being organized and about keeping everything in place while twitching your fingers.
Nowhere is there talk about intrusive thoughts or images. Nor is there an implication that OCD is generally thought to be a genetic or hereditary, not trauma induced as Grey's has implied.
It's frustrating to watch the mental illness that has haunted me for over 31 years being used as entertainment value. I mean, if you are going to go there, then please actually go there and get your facts straight first. Portray OCD as it really is and not how you want it to be. Show it as a agonizing illness that steals away bits of your soul a day at a time. Show the therapy involved to deal with it. Show how it affects our loved ones and family. Show how it forms and grows. And make damn sure that you show how OCD really is and not just the stereotypical symptoms that many of us don't even have.
I am all for showing it and bringing out to the public, but do it right. Show that it is a hereditary mental illness. Show that it is an anxiety disorder. Show that it isn't about organization, washing hands, and making lists.
Represent us but represent us in true form. Represent us as strong intelligent individuals that suffer from something we don't enjoy. Something we know is wrong with us. Something we are trying to live with every day. Represent us fully and unequivocally as who we are not just what makes t.v. more interesting.
Please stop taking our mental illness and making it into something it's not. It's not fun. It's not cute. It's not amusing when you are the one suffering from it. We deserve better than a general mention and a goofy context that is completely wrong, and hurtful at the same time.
Until next time,