OCD, and why it isn’t a joke!

I saw this yesterday on my news feed and it made me really angry. Far too often, OCD is used as a term to apply to people who are perfectionists, or who like things done a certain way. This does not mean that they have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I saw another meme online a while ago, which stated “Just because I like things a certain way, doesn’t mean that I have OCD, it just means that I like shit done right”. This is so true. People are always so quick to say that their “OCD” makes them do something as if it’s just some kind of random quirk. Take it from someone who suffers on a daily basis (yes, SUFFERS)! This illness is not a quirk that I can pick up and put down. Tell that to my aching muscles that are so tight from twitching already, but I can’t stop until it feels just right. Tell that to my red and swollen hands that I’ve just had to scald with water. Tell that to my chin, where I have picked and picked, just to get that single hair that has suddenly appeared from nowhere, that no one else but me can see.

How I wish that I could just pick these things up and put them down when I want to. Imagine sitting on the floor, almost in tears because you haven’t managed to complete your routine ‘just right’ and now you have to start again. Does that sound like a fun quirk to you?

Yes, being a perfectionist is part of it. We tend to see them: all of the small, insignificant things that no-one else notices, but what all of these memes and “How OCD are you?” Quizzes miss out on are the crippling fear of these things not all being lined up in a neat little row. Imagine seeing a pencil on a desk that’s not straight and worrying that if you don’t straighten it out, then your Mum will die. Imagine straightening it up, and a moment of calm before the doubts that maybe it’s not straightened up enough come creeping in, and you’re left feeling like you have no choice but to keep straightening it over and over again until it feels ‘just right’. Is it funny now?

I’m not saying that this research is untrue, but really, it just helps to further the misconception. I, too, correct grammar when I see a mistake. I do the same with spelling. This is not a part of my illness. I do it because I think grammar and spelling is important. There is a right, and a wrong way for it to be. This is not the case with my other obsessive compulsive tendencies. A lot of the time, there is no right or wrong for these, only my perception of them.

Imagine if I were to say that my ‘diabetes’ was going into a hyper just by looking at that dessert on the menu… would that be amusing? I think, more likely, I would get some very strange looks, and some very judgemental ones, and yet, when people say that their ‘OCD’ is not happy, people just smile and laugh and nod.

In the UK alone, approximately 12 out of every 1000 people suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For them, this illness (because that is what it is) is a crippling, life consuming thing that they must try and live their life around. It isn’t just a case of “Oh, that sign is slightly crooked, let me correct it because it offends my eyes”, it is more a case of “Oh my goodness! That sign. It’s not straight. I must straighten it. If I don’t, then my house will burn down, possibly with my family inside it” It is a completely unrealistic, and irrational fear, and do you know the craziest thing? More often than not we know it’s stupid and often spend hours telling ourselves this; telling ourselves off, but when it comes down to it, we still have to do it. We still have to make that sign straight, and then check it, and check it again.

This is something I can’t even imagine choosing to label myself with. I would give anything to not have this label, but it’s one I am cursed with, and one that I have to live with.

So, to all of you out there, that choose to do these ‘OCD’ Tests, please, just think a little before you share them on social media. I understand that to you, it is just a fun quiz, and a bit of a time killer, but if you really had OCD, you would be begging for that little bit of time back, because we sacrifice so much time to our illness on an daily basis, that we can sometimes lose hours at a time, just trying to get away from the most recent compulsion that threatens to completely overwhelm us.

This is my reality. This is my life. It is not a joke. It is not fun, and it is not something that should be ‘tested’ for and commented about in such a flippant manner. I wouldn’t dream of making a joke about asthma, or cancer, or pneumonia, so why is it ok for you to make a joke about an illness that makes me and thousands of other people worldwide’s lives miserable.

I would give anything not to have this condition. It is the dark shadow always hanging over my shoulder, and the chain I must carry behind me. Please don’t try to give yourself the same chain, and please don’t make light of mine. If you can joke about it, then you clearly have no idea what it’s actually like to live with it.

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