Unpopular Mental Health Opinion?
Being told that the term “OCD” is offensive when you actually have OCD
Today I was told not to use the words “OCD” to describe myself because people really do have OCD, and it’s not something to say lightly. The problem is, I have OCD. So does my grandma. It runs in our family and it’s something I’ve struggled with since I was 10 when I was washing my hands raw every day and trying to jump out of moving cars when my brother said he felt sick. Even though it runs in my family, I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until I was 23. And I didn’t find medication to help my OCD until I was 27. So if I don’t look like I have OCD today, at 28, that’s fucking great. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and had many people support me as I learned more about this part of myself. Also, people with OCD are really good at hiding their compulsions and obsessions, so if you don’t know what I’m obsessing over, you might not notice my compulsion as such, as I will try to push it off as something else. Anything else.
That’s why, today, I flippantly said “I’m OCD”, because it makes it easier for me to talk about, and less scary to myself and other people. If I were to say “my OCD diagnosis,” the fearful part of me worries people would treat me different. Like a crazy person, which I am. But I get to choose that label for myself and reclaim it, not you. So I don’t mind when other people without full blown OCD like me call themselves “OCD,” because it normalizes it. It shows that OCD is something we all are, something useful, and something on the spectrum in a part of our basic brains. Just like anxiety, depression, etc are pieces of all of us. But when OCD takes over and starts interfering with your life, as it has done mine, you get the nice title of an OCD disorder. But you might have to first go through diagnosis with depression and take the wrong meds for four years, then be diagnosed with anxiety and think you can handle it with running and healthy food alone, and finally your psychiatrist tells you, you have OCD. Didn’t you know?
Not really. I didn’t realize until I was 28 what it really is that’s happening in my brain, and how I can help myself. Also how I can advocate for myself by letting family and friends know I’m “having and OCD day”, and letting coworkers know “I’m kind of OCD.” But I never before realized that by minimizing my OCD diagnosis, though it’s still better than saying nothing at all about it, is not giving others the full story of what I’m speaking about. And like I said, part of that misleading is on me, because I want my OCD to be like everyone else’s “quirks”, but it’s not. And I should probably make that more clear from now on.
On the other hand, it was funny getting explained to about what “real” OCD was, and why I should not use the term lightly by someone without OCD. Though they meant well, they are also perpetuating this gate-keepy form of mental health where it has to be loud and presenting for it to be considered a valid struggle. There are so many silent mental health struggles. And there are so many people who are functioning well, or at least they seem to be from an outside vantage point, who have a real mental illness. And you never know what someone is going through, like this person talking me to didn’t today, and thus you should never assume. If someone says “I’m OCD today,” don’t lecture them on why it’s bad to use OCD as an adjective because it minimizes peoples pain, but ask them more about what they mean. Do they have OCD as a mental illness? Or do they find themselves on the compulsive side of the “normal mental health” spectrum? Either way, I don’t fucking care. But please, I hope I’m never lectured as to what OCD is again by someone without it. It felt similar to what I imagine a person of color feels when a white person lectures to them about what it’s like to be a black person in America. Or when a man lectures to a woman about what they believe feminism should be. Totally out of touch, and not even considering the fact that the person in front of you might be able to teach you something, instead of vice versa.