This is a trigger warning for anyone that has intrusive thoughts, has OCD, can’t handle reading gross stuff, etc. I don’t want to set anyone off, so read with caution.
‘I have diagnosed OCD.’
This is what I say to people when we’re talking about my obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s what I’ve defaulted to saying instead of just ‘OCD’. What is diagnosed OCD? It’s real life, legitimate, life consuming obsessive compulsive disorder. Why not just say OCD? Because people without it have turned it into a joke. I literally feel the need to legitimize my mental health disorder to others because people without it feel the need to make light of it. I’m not sure when exactly it became trendy/cute/funny to have a mental health disorder, but let me be the one to tell you – you don’t want OCD.
‘I hate when my house is messy, I have to keep it clean and tidy – I’m so OCD!’
‘I’m SO OCD about my eyeliner/hair/nails/handwriting/etc, it has to be perfect.’
‘I’m always on time for everything, everyone says I’m so OCD.’
I’ve heard the above things so many times, along with many other examples. You’ve probably heard them too. It might not seem like a big deal, but words are important. The things you say matter. They cause a ripple effect, they cause trends, they cause other people to be inspired by you and repeat you.
At 13 I was diagnosed by a clinical psychiatrist with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD for short.
(I’ve now been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and I’m now learning these things can be linked.)I had explained to her how I spent the last 13 years of my life not sharing drinks or food with other people (including family members) and opening door knobs with my elbows or with my sleeves pulled over my hands. I also explained how my thought process worked. How I would repeat things in my head over and over – usually specific words but sometimes numbers or sounds as well. I told her how it seemed like I couldn’t control my thoughts, usually these were triggered by something, like hearing a story on the news. After being triggered my thoughts would take over my mind and I’d think about these things no matter how hard I tried not to.
I ended up diagnosed.
I will openly talk about having OCD but I don’t usually go into deep detail. Usually it’s not necessary, and it’s also uncomfortable for me as I don’t want people to think I’m ‘crazy’ or scary or violent. It can be super hard for people to understand what’s going on with someone else if they don’t have the same experience. Anyways, to get down to it – I think super gruesome thoughts on a fairly regular basis. They’re called intrusive thoughts. As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed coping skills and I’m a lot better with getting past them or even avoiding them all together, but it’s something that I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember and will continue to do so.
So, what are intrusive thoughts exactly? They’re involuntary thoughts, images or ideas that the person becomes obsessed with. Generally they’re something distressing or unpleasant. While most people will have some sort of intrusive thoughts sometimes, it’s usually just annoying. For someone with OCD, these thoughts aren’t just an annoyance – they’re consuming. They’re paralyzing. You cannot ignore them. They are distressing and time consuming. The nature of the thoughts varies from person to person but common subjects are sex, religion and violence/aggression. Mine are violent/aggressive. I don’t think about hurting other people, though a lot of people suffer from that. My thoughts are more so things I’ve heard that will get stuck in my head, I will picture these gruesome images and I can’t shake them out. Sometimes it lasts a few minutes, sometimes hours or days, sometimes even years. I still think about two specific thoughts that triggered me like 10+ years ago. Not on a daily basis but something will come up and remind me of these exact thoughts and my head spirals again. One of my big triggers is anything to do with animal abuse, usually these are news cases but sometimes stuff that happens in movies or tv shows or whatever. This effects me so much that on multiple occasions my husband or mother have phoned me to tell me not to watch the news or go on Facebook because something big has happened and gone viral. These things will consume me. I will ugly cry for hours, to the point where my entire body is in physical pain. To the point where I will think about it 10 years later. Another one is razors. I have this terrifying razor phobia! Which seems super weird and random and I mean I still shave my legs but I do it very cautiously and I hate it the whole time. I will spare you my main intrusive thought I suffer from with this subject, but I’ll leave you with the fact that it was triggered from watching Cabin Fever for the first time. Gross.
I’m not trying to weird you out by explaining this to you. It’s not my goal to make you look at me differently. However, I’m hoping that the next time you go to say ‘ugh yeah I’m SO OCD’, you think twice. Because I’ve found that when I do talk about my OCD with someone, I feel the need to legitimize myself by saying ‘ Because you liking your home clean is not OCD. You liking things organized a certain way is not OCD. You liking even numbers better than odd numbers is not OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very real mental disorder that is diagnosed by professionals.
It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. It’s not cute.