It’s quite common for me to hear someone share their “OCD quirks” with me, when they discover I have OCD. I also often surprise people when they discover I’ve OCD, which makes me think that all the other people they’ve met with OCD must come with some flashing beacon alerting them to their mental health condition. I don’t go to any lengths to hide my OCD, nor do I like to tell everyone I know, that I’m diagnosed with it.
I have no issues with sharing the fact that I have OCD, which I wrote about as my invisible illness. But when you spend enough time with me, you’ll realise it’s anything but invisible. Close friends and family are quite often witnesses to my anxiety, my cracked sore hands from washing them and my constant questions to reassure me.
Growing up I’ve had to listen to jokes about lining everything up in order, not stepping on pavement cracks and using bleach to clean everything. I don’t do any of these things. My OCD has never presented itself as a way to have an obsessively tidy house (though I think Clara would appreciate this). Quite often, that joke you’ve read about OCD, is not relevant to the person you know with OCD. That “OCD quirk” that means you can’t have the volume on 11 as you don’t like it like that, might make someone who does have OCD feel that if they leave the volume at 11, then someone they love could die.
I would give anything to swap my OCD for just a quirk. Having to line up your DVDs just because you like them that way might be great for you, but I know someone that would be left having an extreme panic attack if one CD was out of place. We all have our little quirks, it what makes us who we are, but your quirk does not make you the master of all things OCD.
There are many TV shows that use OCD as the butt of jokes, as mainstream story lines or to make us just look like weirdos. But OCD is no joke, it has a dark side and that can be pretty miserable. Now don’t get me wrong, I can laugh at parts of my OCD. I even have little jokes with my best friends about moments my OCD has made an appearance, but that’s not to say I haven’t spent many days wishing I wasn’t held to ransom by something so misundersood.
I’ll never now why I have OCD or why it choose to show itself when I was 10 and about to embark on the toughest path in childhood. But I do know that I will always do my bit to smash the taboo surrounding OCD and be open and honest about the part it plays in my day to day life.
So next time someone tells you they have OCD, don’t ask them if they have a really tidy house, tell them you respect them for sharing that information. When we respect each other, so much can be achieved.