Stop the Stigma

Today is the #BellLetsTalk “Talk About It” day. I’m here to talk about living with OCD and to encourage others to talk about mental health. It is important for us to support one another and be kind to one another. You don’t know what someone may be facing every day when they wake up.

From a young age my family knew there was something special about me. As a toddler I could organize my toys into categories and colour code my blocks, but they figured I was practicing my shapes, colours and numbers skills I was learning. As time progressed, so too did the obsessive categorizing and eventually, as a young child, I was taken to see a therapist to help figure out what may be causing these behaviours. After many hours in a typical therapists’ office, it was decided that I was simply craving attention from my mother and that she should spend a little more time with me.

When my mother was 3 months pregnant with me, my father passed away from cancer. This, the therapist decided, was the cause of my obsessiveness and that because my mother worked full time it was negatively impacting my behaviour and I was acting out. My mother, being committed to me chose to quit her job and work part time from home in order to provide the attention I was supposedly craving.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the problem and as time went on my obsessiveness got worse. I learned from a young age that others saw these behaviours as weird, annoying or stupid, so I tried to hide them from friends, classmates and my family. Because my mother wasn’t seeing the behaviours anymore she figured things had been fixed. Sadly, the problem had become internalized and my obsessiveness now was impacting daily thoughts. Many years later, my mother still doesn’t know the obsessive thoughts I struggle with every day.

I have gone through life as a happy and determined individual. Having completed two college diplomas and an undergraduate degree since graduating highschool, I have learned to use my obsessiveness as a strength as a student. However, there are days when it gets the better of me, and functioning at work or school is a challenge. It definitely isn’t all rainbows and blue skies, but having people around me that can listen and be kind when I’m having a tough day is important to my success and feeling supported.

Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can often feel isolating because many people think OCD only impacts someone’s behaviours. But OCD affects my thoughts and the way I think- which people can’t see. They can’t see me repeating words to myself, replaying the conversation I had with someone earlier that day, or analyzing the things I have thought or said during the week. OCD can be silent and invisible.

cdoOCD can also feel like a joke because in recent years it’s become a way for people to “explain” their organizational tendencies. It’s great to be organized, especially as a student! Organization helps us keep track of what we need to do, and how we should go about doing it. But organization is not OCD, and it is difficult for someone who lives with OCD to hear others brush it off as simply a way to explain why they prefer things a certain way.

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OCD affects my daily life more than people know. In society we are trained to not want to talk about the things that make us different than others. Assimilate and be accepted. Not everyone in my life knows that I have OCD. I don’t want it to define me or impact the way others see or treat me. But those that do know, also help make me feel supported and that I can make it through the challenging times.

We shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about mental health. Help to stop the stigma today by sharing your story with someone or reaching out to someone to tell them you are available to listen if they need you.

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