Part 6 of my #disclosure series for #OCDWeek.
I was officially diagnosed with OCD about five years ago. The psychologist gave a bleak prognosis: she warned things would get worse. Her words were hollow. The diagnosis felt like a punch to the gut--a punch I had been anticipating yet resented when it finally happened.
I assumed the psychologist had to be wrong. Sure, I had symptoms of OCD but there was no way I had a mental illness. I was functional; I was working full-time; I was in a committed relationship.
It was unintentional discrimination. It was black and white thinking: if I could work, I was fine. If I couldn't work, then I wasn't fine.
A couple years later, another professional provided me with the same diagnosis but with a finesse; there was a softness in her tone that let me feel safe to share my apprehension.
The second diagnosis gave me a framework for making sense of myself. I realized that mental illness was not simply divided into functional versus non-functional. Rather than feeling like I had been labelled, I began to view it as information to help me better understand myself. And I wanted others to better understand me too.
After all, how would I have a close bond with someone without revealing the darker parts of myself?
Well, I could.
There’s no contract that says you must reveal your innermost thoughts with friends. But I wanted to. I felt like I was hiding something.
I avoided friends when I was triggered by OCD. The friend I had already chosen to disclose to was an exception-there was no way others could be as patient and understanding.
Telling any other friends felt like a legitimate risk of losing them. I feared I would be judged and that they wouldn't want me in their lives anymore. Writing this feels surreal now but you forget how all-consuming shame is.
I experimented with different ways of disclosing. I had entered an OCD awareness writing contest in hopes to provide education for hit-and-run OCD. I wanted to shed knowledge on a topic I wished had been more accessible when I needed the information.
I spent hours pouring my soul into the piece, trying to show the world that it’s a thing. I needed to entice people, keep them reading. I called it, “Why I’m Not a Serial Killer.”
But then the fear set in. What on earth was I about to do? What if I actually won? My name would be attached to having hit-and-run OCD. What would my neighbours think? There’d be gossip. People wouldn’t want to live near me. My mom would find out about this side of me. It felt like a legitimate risk.
So I found a loophole--I used ambiguous wording when describing my entry. I could be an intellect intrigued by the condition, a psychologist toying with her creative side. No one had to know. I was putting myself out there but with a safety net.
Until I was ready to put a name to my story. I gave a friend a copy, cryptically sharing that I needed her to know something about me.
15 minutes went by. No response.
Okay, maybe she was still reading.
30 minutes went by. No response.
She must be writing me some feedback.
It took everything in me not to pick up the phone and call her. I knew I could challenge myself by holding off, by resisting the compulsion. I didn’t like it but I decided I’d wait.
Was she in shock?
There was no way she hadn’t finished reading it.
She was calling the police.
I heard sirens and part of me wondered whether they were coming for me. Like I had written a confession and handed it to my friend to turn me in.
Turns out she had gotten distracted and hadn't yet read it. My fear of being taken away in a cop car broke the ice and we laughed.
One might say I underestimated my friends but every disclosure was new. Every disclosure was a chance for rejection. Each sub-type of OCD felt risky. Maybe they’d be okay with learning about my scrupulosity OCD but hit-and-run OCD could be the deal breaker.
|A photo from my first #OCDweek: experimenting with advocacy but not yet ready to publicly disclose.|