When this has been said to me on more times than I care to remember, it always sounds more like a statement than a question. OCD is one of the most misunderstood, stigmatised mental illnesses, and I think this is one of the things people say that gets to me the most. Not only does it belittle and underestimate the condition, but it unintentionally makes a mockery of the people who fight OCD on a daily basis and prevents an understanding of what the illness actually is being taught.
I could rant about this for days, but I'll stop (for now) or this will turn into the world's longest blog post.
2. "OH YOU HAVE OCD? DO YOU WANT TO COME AND CLEAN MY HOUSE FOR ME?"
Honestly, I don't think I've ever wanted to commit an act of violence as much as I did in that moment. (I'm kidding...a bit). It is the stereotype of all stereotypes. For one, I don't suffer from contamination OCD. And for those brave individuals that do, they do NOT enjoy cleaning. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is the most common stigma attached to OCD, which is unfortunately enforced by the media and certain TV shows...*cough* Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners *cough*...
3. "YOU DON'T SEEM LIKE YOU HAVE OCD."
I don't know what they were expecting. Am I meant to be acting like some kind of maniac or be rocking in a corner? Or perhaps I'm meant to be running round the house wearing a pinny with a feather duster.
When I figured out that I had a problem but I was too embarrassed and scared to tell someone, I got quite good at performing my compulsions subtlety so I didn't get teased. Other rituals I perform mentally, whether that be counting in even numbers or repeating certain phrases over and over again so bad things don't happen. This is constant, whether I'm sat at my desk at work, or I'm with friends or in bed.
What about the days I cannot leave the house or have to cancel plans because I am terrified the unthinkable will happen? It is exhausting having to be on constant high alert and feeling responsible for every awful thing that happens. I would not wish this illness on anyone.
4. "IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD."
Yeah, you're right. It is. A mental illness is one of the mind, which the last time I checked, was in my head. In seriousness though, most OCD sufferers know their intrusive thoughts are not logical, but it is driven by doubt. The illness creates things for me to worry about. I may think 'If I don't touch every light switch that I pass twice, my mum will die.' But if I try to ignore it and tell myself nothing bad will happen, the 'what ifs' dismiss the rational protests of the tiny logical voice trying to challenge OCD. I'm too terrified to ignore it. So yes, it is all in my head - it's a constant raging war.
5. "JUST STOP WORRYING. NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN."
Gee, thanks. I never thought of trying that! If only it was that easy to ignore the constant, unwelcome and quite frankly, terrifying dread that something awful is going to happen. My OCD tricks me into thinking the only way I will be able to stop these bad things happening it to complete my compulsions to prevent it. The OCD voice will get louder and louder; refusing to be ignored. It will reward me with a short relief, only to creep up behind me again soon after. OCD is like a boomerang. No matter how many times you throw it away, it will always come back.
6. "YOU'RE BEING RIDICULOUS!"
Yep, and don't I feel it. OCD is a ridiculous disease that does not make sense in the slightest because we know everything we have to do is not logical. I am fully aware that agonising over everything that could possibly go wrong - ignoring the probability of whether or not it could actually happen - is ridiculous. I know that believing I have 'magical thinking' that can stop bad things happening is ridiculous. But logic is mouse compared the roar of OCD. I am not my illness, therefore it is not me that is being ridiculous, it is OCD.
7. "YOU'RE NOT OCD, YOUR ROOM IS MESSY!"
Okay, so there are two things wrong with that statement. For one, the use of the term OCD as an adjective. IT IS NOT A BLOODY ADJECTIVE. And two, FYI messy people can have OCD too. I have clothes all over my floor and I can't even remember the last time I dusted the top shelf. Yes, for some people with OCD, obsessive cleanliness and tidying is an awful trait of the illness, but it is fuelled by intrusive thoughts and fear. Not everyone with OCD has a fear of germs or contamination. There are many different types of the illness, so please do not assume we are all the same.
8. "IT CAN'T BE THAT BAD!"
This one actually made me laugh. If only they could enter my mind for a minute, then they would understand. The obsessive thoughts are beyond awful. My OCD is capable of convincing me of anything. It can convince me that I killed my nan, even though it was cancer that took her away. Every bad thing that happens to anyone I love - it is my fault. It will convince me that my boyfriend is cheating on me, or my best friend secretly hates me. It convinces me that I am capable of killing someone, or have inappropriate thoughts about certain people. I can't even to explain how overwhelming and upsetting this is. It's a different level of paranoia. Some thoughts I still can't bear to share with anyone. It makes me feel like the most awful person in the world.
I am being held at ransom. But I still have a little bit of hope to cling on to - and that is the tiny voice of logic. Yes, it might always be beaten, but it's still there somewhere at the back of my head, hiding. The whisper has not yet been silenced completely.