Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hi I'm Melanie and I have OCD #OCDWeek Part 7

As today is the last day of #OCDWeek, I'm ending my disclosure series with one of my most powerful disclosures: sharing my diagnosis with my colleagues.

Shame works in mysterious ways. I gradually built up an impressive resume of disclosures to numerous counselors, friends and even some co-workers, all with varying levels of embarrassment and methods of delivery. 

But I still hadn’t told my best friend. Let alone my mom.

My mom and best friend were in the dark. I wanted to keep up the facade that I was “normal," that I was just the worrywart Melanie they knew and loved. They couldn’t discover I worried about killing people when I drove. That wasn’t the Melanie they knew.

I channeled my energy towards letting my coworkers in on my secrets. My supervisor supported my idea to create a presentation to help my colleagues better understand me and the subtypes of OCD I experienced.

This had to be the mother of all presentations.

I came across a quote by Brené Brown that offered me courage: 
"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light"
I took solace that my team didn't know what I was working on. I could still back out. This was voluntary, after all.

But my reveal was approaching and before I knew it, I found myself in a room full of my coworkers about to spill the beans. And I was going all in. I needed their attention. I needed them to know this was important. I fought off tears as I disclosed off the hop. It took effort to control the shakiness in my voice.

This was happening. I was saying the words "hit-and-run OCD" to a room full of people. I had taken what had been trapped inside of me for years and created a PowerPoint presentation. This was of my own volition. This was terrifying.

It was hard to look everyone in the eye. The few people I did manage to catch glimpses of looked at me with encouragement, as if to say, "keep going. You got this."

I shared more of Brené Brown's wisdom: 
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.”
My supervisor commended me on my courage. She cried. I cried. A co-worker cried. Someone quipped that I should show the city my presentation for incentive to fix the potholes. We chuckled.

And I'll never forget the moment when one member from my team stood up and began a standing ovation.

I was left empowered but with an incredible sense of guilt. My mom still didn't know. I felt as though I had betrayed her. I had walked the red carpet and didn’t send her an invite.

A month or two went by and the guilt lingered. I didn't want her to hear through the grapevine that her daughter has OCD. She had to know. The amount of time I had waited had created a sense of urgency. I needed her to understand I was more than Melanie the worrywart. The disclosures I had done throughout the years gave me a sense of confidence while being utterly terrified. 

I found myself in her living room, clumsily explaining the type of OCD I experienced. I tried to study her reaction, as I felt my face turning red.

It was anti-climactic. She was neutral. It wasn’t emotional like when I shared with her how intense my anxiety was a year prior.

I awkwardly presented her with a fact sheet I had created for the purpose of the disclosure. I tried to break the ice by sharing how when I was in grade 1, we learned about the garbage in landfill sites. I explained how when I threw things out, I would push them as far into the garbage as possible, trying to save the planet from being consumed by trash.

We laughed.

For something I had held onto for so long, for quite possibly my biggest reveal, it was neutral. I was unsure how I felt afterwards. I was proud that it was done with but now what? Would she ask me follow-up questions? Would there be follow-up discussions?

There weren't.

I was disappointed that she didn’t bring it up when I saw her next while another part of me was relieved. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. Or maybe it was. Maybe she didn’t know how to talk about this. Maybe I had been right all along in not wanting to share with her. Maybe it was too much for someone from an older generation to digest. 

But then something happened that became a buffer. I won free admission through a random draw to the International OCD Foundation's (IOCDF) Annual OCD Conference in Los Angeles.

This meant travel. 

This meant the risk of my cats dying.

My mom became an outlet to process this with. We processed giving the admission to someone else, the pros and cons of going versus not going. Ultimately, I chose to embrace it as a sign that I was meant to attend. But this meant Brandon's parents had to know.

It was unacceptable that they would find out I was going to California after having missed trips for Christmas, for Easter. It was time they knew. Anxiety could only explain so much.

They took it in stride.

As summer came to a close the IOCDF announced they’d be hosting an OCD awareness video contest, with first prize being a trip to the next conference. You could enter by uploading a video to YouTube. YouTube--a public domain, a place anyone could find me.

And YouTube is exactly where I found myself. I created a video where I stirred and mixed and explained OCD in a cooking show format.

But first, you had to be chosen by the judges as a finalist. It was possible very few would see my video.

I got chosen. 

Second, you had to get enough votes to win. This meant I was going public.

I said to the world, "Hi I'm Melanie and I have OCD."

And I won.

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