I wasn’t going to write about this topic today. I had another post scheduled but alas, we are interrupting the regularly scheduled programming for this special announcement:
DO NOT TAKE THAT OCD TEST GOING AROUND FACEBOOK.
Why? Because it is an eye test, not an OCD test. Do you want a real test for obsessive compulsive disorder? Do you really? Well, here you go: Screening for OCD
Sorry, maybe I’m coming on a little strong. Maybe you are saying, “Oh, it’s just for fun, don’t worry about it so much…” But I think the time has come that those of us with mental health problems (real mental health problems that are diagnosed and debilitating and require professional help) stand up for ourselves. It’s because of things like that ridiculous quiz (that does not actually test for OCD but rather tests if you can tell which shape is moved a few pixels off or is a slightly different color than the others) that make people with OCD or other mental health problems afraid to be open. Afraid to get help. Embarrassed to admit to themselves or others that they have a real problem. Ashamed of their issues because they know that people will just laugh it off or say “oh, me too! I’m so OCD (or depressed or whatnot)!”
Stop. Just stop.
I shouldn’t have to go to church and hear people talking about how they took that test and “are so OCD but they already knew that” (as they are arranging something on a table and want to make it look perfect). I shouldn’t have to sit there and breathe deeply when the teacher is trying to close a box and says something to the class like, “Oh, I have to close it just right because of my OCD!” Oh really? Is your mind blaring obsessive thoughts at you that someone you love will die if you don’t close the box like that? Will you have to check and double check after you close the box to make sure it’s perfect? Will you worry about it the rest of the day and think that something terrible will happen if you somehow didn’t close the box perfectly? Because maybe then I would take you seriously when you say you have “OCD.”
When you comment on someone’s Facebook status or on that quiz that you are OCD and you already knew that because you like to keep your house organized or something, you may not be intending any offense. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t causing it. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t making one of your friends who actually suffers (and I am not using the word suffer ironically) from obsessive compulsive disorder feel pain, shame, anger, or sadness. You wouldn’t take your temperature, realize you have a fever, and then say, “Oh my gosh! I totally have cancer. I knew it!”
Increase your vocabulary
Please stop using the names of actual mental illnesses to describe personality traits, quirks, or habits that you have. If you like things to be organized, say “I’m super organized.” If you like things to be clean, say, “I’m a clean freak.” If you are really particular in how things are arranged, say “I’m really particular and like things to be a certain way.” If you are a little sad one day because something rough happened, say, “I’m feeling a little down today.” If you are scared to give a presentation or talk, say, “Man, I’m pretty nervous.” PLEASE don’t say “I’m so OCD,” “I am totally depressed today,” or “I have such bad anxiety!”
Why it matters
It might not seem like a big deal to you (or to the majority of the population) and THAT IS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. Our society and culture are so engrained to use these phrases as off hand comments, adjectives, or even jokes. And because of this, people who actually do suffer from those mental illness feel like they can’t be open about them. We feel stigmatized before even announcing that we have a mental health problem. We feel like even if we did try to tell people about it, they would not understand because of the way our culture has trash talked and trivialized very real, terrifying, and extreme problems.
There are reasons it takes so long for most people to actually be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, and I’m willing to bet a big one is because of the way our society and media portrays OCD. But it is not a joke. It is not funny to have hours of your day taken over with obsessive thoughts that something terrible will happen if you don’t wash your hands one more time, check the front door, use that hand sanitizer, or turn off the light seven times in a row. It’s not a silly personality quirk to have bleeding hands from the compulsion to wash your hands over and over, or to be an hour late for work because you had to go back to your house to check something again and again. It’s not a silly habit to not be able to sleep at night because you have to keep going back to the bathroom because you are worried you will have an accident in your bed if you don’t. It’s not something you should trivialize if you pray that you will die in your sleep because it would be easier than living with the obsessive thoughts and compulsions that plague your mind every waking second (and even sometimes in your dreams).
Am I making sense?
So please stop taking that “OCD” test. And please don’t say that you are OCD unless you actually do have obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s not a personality trait. It’s not something you should joke about. It’s real, and you never know who around you actually suffers from it. It could be your friend, your neighbor, even your child or parent. We have gotten really good at hiding it because that’s what we feel like we have to do in order to survive. That’s not how we should have to live, though. Please stop perpetuating stigmas. It is a big deal, and it does matter.