An Open Letter to the Girl Who Used OCD as an Adjective

Subject: An Open Letter to the Girl Who Used OCD as an Adjective
Date: 6 Jun 2017

You are the description of perfectionist. You held yourself to a high standard, wanted all the assignments you turned in spotless, and you would flip out if you had a 49/50 on a test. I don’t blame you, it is good to hold yourself accountable and always try your best. But you are a perfectionist that is perfect at everything except for one thing: using the term OCD to describe yourself. This interaction occurred in Spanish class. To jog your memory, it was the day of the post it note project. We were placing post it notes on a window in the school hallway to make a figure relating to Spanish. Our group was trying to remake Dora. Your task was cutting the post it notes and my task was placing them on the window. I placed down one post it note. To me it looked fine, but for you it was not straight enough for your liking. You reached over me saying, “Sorry I have to fix this post it note, I am so OCD!” And in that moment I thought to myself, “Do you really have OCD? Or are you just trying to say you like things to be organized?” I tried shrugging it off because people say this phrase all the time. But for some reason, this stuck with me.
We hear this term frequently because in our society today we associate the term OCD with clean and tidy. No, making sure everything is neat and tidy does not mean you have OCD. It means you are neat and tidy. No, making sure you cut your paper straight and on the dotted line does not mean you have OCD, it means you like your paper straight. Being a perfectionist does not mean you have OCD. As a woman that has OCD, you belittling the subject and describing yourself as OCD condescends me. It makes me wonder what people actually think of the subject. To me, OCD ruined my life. It ruined my childhood. I was an anxious little girl growing up not knowing what was wrong with me. But to you, it is merely a cool and different way of describing yourself as a perfectionist. To you, it was no big deal. But for me, it was my daily life.
Let us solve this at the root of the problem. Not a lot of people actually know what OCD really means. In today’s society, we use the term to describe people that are organized and clean. OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is actually a mental illness caused by chemical and functional abnormalities in the brain. It causes a person to have unwanted and repeating thoughts that drive them to do certain actions over and over. It’s like a voice inside your mind blackmailing you. You have to do a certain action or actions or else something bad would happen. This causes the fear and anxiety. It also gets extremely exhausting mentally. You want to live your life normally but you cannot because sometimes, that voice pops in your mind frequently. The actions and the worrying just pile up in your mind. It honestly gets overwhelming. You can either ignore it and cause the worry and anxiety, or you can keep doing these senseless actions to satisfy the worry. So yes, someone’s actions that they have to do could be simple tasks like washing your hands frequently, making sure an area is clean, etc. But there are other actions that can drive a person crazy. For me personally, the major action that I have to do is touch/look at things four times. “Touch that thing four times or else your dog will die. Touch that thing four times or else you will die in your sleep. Flick your lights on and off four times or else you will get in a car accident on the way to school. Look at the front and back of your phone four times or else the screen will crack.” It makes me look crazy when I do it in public, but thankfully I am so used to these thoughts occurring that I have mastered the art of making it unnoticeable.
Whenever I hear this term being thrown around, it just makes me feel uncomfortable. I know the stereotype associated with OCD. I do not get mad at all whenever I hear it. Having it being thrown around, however, causes the meaning to be dug down deeper in a hole away from understanding. Whenever I hear it being thrown around like it is nothing makes me think about my childhood self. OCD has really affected me mentally growing up. It made me become an anxious child. One of the things that I had to do from the voice inside my head was “Say goodbye to your mom before she drops you off to school or else she would die”. My mom would have to look at me and wave every time I would walk inside my class. Sometimes she would be distracted talking to other teachers or parents, and she would not wave back. Those days I spent my time in the counselor's office rather than in class, crying and having anxiety take over. Those days I spent wondering why I was like that instead of being in class and having fun and making friends and actually being a kid. Knowing what I have now is comforting and it has helped me accept it. But as a child I wish I knew what was wrong with me. I wish I had an ally. But instead I was alone with my own thoughts.
If you have ever used the term OCD to describe yourself, think before you speak. Whenever you feel hungry you would not describe yourself as anorexic. Whenever you do something stupid you would not describe yourself as retarded. It would be frowned upon in public. Those are topics that are touchy and should not be ways to describe yourself. The same goes for OCD. Think about what people with OCD have to go through on a daily basis. Think about the anxiety and fear that gets left out of the equation when people talk about it. Think about the abundance of different ways to describe yourself. Do not make someone’s day with OCD harder. And if you have OCD just know you are not alone. You are loved and accepted. If it gets overwhelming try to take a deep breath and remember you should not have anxiety from that voice in your head. That voice inside your head is only a voice, and it should not stop you from living your life worry free.