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Opinion, Staff Editorial

On Being “OCD”

I love God. I love God. I love God… 

When I was eight, I recited this mantra every night before I went to bed, knowing that–if I did not–the opposite would be true.

One night, I woke up my parents, crying because I was becoming too tired to repeat the phrase over and over again, because I did not want to continue this ritual because that little voice in my head refused to retreat to wherever it was living a year or so ago.

It was only a matter of time before I went to therapy. I sat on a couch in an office that resembled a living room while a lady I had never met before read me a story about a little boy who learned he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a disease that was personified in this book as a little creature whispering into the boy’s ear (I suppose to help me envision it as something outside of myself).

In the next five or so years, I would go to two more therapists and make one trip to the adolescent psychiatric ward for OCD treatment in order to help tackle my “Pure-O” form of the mental illness, a version in which there are no visible compulsions to go along with worrisome (and, in my case, suicidal) thoughts. It is difficult to describe the exact turmoil of my brain at that point–the sleepless nights, the panic attacks in school bathrooms, the fits of tears on my living room floor, the pounding of my heart in my chest every time I took a step, the overall experience of having a “second mind” whispering my worst fears–but I will tell you this: it was Hell.

It did not help that–at the same time when I felt as though I was drowning in waves of anxiety–I was first coming into the world as a young adult, which also meant I was first coming face-to-face with the reality that not everyone understood my disease. All around me, I heard teachers, friends, acquaintances, family members saying to each other, “I am just so OCD!” Of course, this would always follow some little remark about how the person did not like how this or that was placed in the room, or about how they were very particular about correcting people’s grammar. And I was just left sitting in anger, wondering how someone could cast off the horrible, raging monster within me as something funny.

To this day, it still makes me sad and confused when I hear people joke about such a horrible illness like it’s a cute little attribute, because I know that OCD can be harmful, detrimental, devastating to one’s mental health; I know it can cause fear and sadness and distress and grief; I know that it does not look like a perfect swirl on an ice cream cone or a closet full of neat clothes–it looks like hoarding, it looks like ripping out hair, it looks like cleaning for twelve hours day in and day out, it looks like picking at flesh, it looks like nothing at all.

So this is my plea to you: Do not make light of OCD. Do not ridicule those with it. Try to understand it. Try to take it seriously.

Because the more we learn from others and their plights, the more we can create change that will benefit our society.

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