Over the years, OCD has more or less become a joke in both the media and public perception, and that can be very harmful for sufferers because it leads people to believe that our metal illness cannot be serious. And when we combine that with the stigma that already surrounds mental illness, for OCD sufferers, sometimes I feel my options are to allow people to laugh at me or treat me like an unstable disease.
Thankfully, “The Secret Illness” Project is here to save the day. Trigger warning for obsessive thoughts and self-harm after the jump.
It’s only been the past couple of years that I’ve really become comfortable telling people about my mental illness issues. For anyone who knows me, they know I suffer from OCD—but those same people are probably not aware of what exactly having OCD means for my life. It’s one thing for me to joke with them about how I keep my DVDs and Blu-Rays organized. It’s quite another to tell them that certain grammatical differences, like where to put a hyphen, have given me such bad panic attacks that at one point in time I actually attempted to rip my own fingernails out.
I cannot remember a time in my life when certain things did not bother me. I’ve never been able to step on a crack on the sidewalk with one foot and not feel as though God will smite me dead unless I also step on a crack with my other foot to make it even. I’ve never hit a bump in the road and not thought, “Oh, God, was that a person or a pet?” despite how small said bump might actually be. I can’t leave my dish cupboard unorganized for fear my brother will die in a car accident, or leave my apartment without checking the heater and stove over and over again. But probably strangest and strongest of all, periodically throughout the day I worry that someone will skin my fingers and toes for no good reason whatsoever.
OCD is not the adorable quirk society makes it out to be. Those of us who have it don’t spend countless hours organizing, cleaning, or rearranging to be either cute or annoying. We do it out of genuine fear. Things feel wrong to us in a way that it doesn’t for the rest of society. Something bad might happen. We know that our thoughts can be illogical, but that knowledge doesn’t take the fear away, and this can be rather alienating.
“The Secret Illness” Project is a way to combat misconceptions and bring awareness to a serious illness that can and does destroy lives. On their About page:
What is The Secret Illness? It is a creative arts project that explores the realities of living with obsessive compulsive disorder.
What is it’s (sic) purpose? OCD is an often mis-understood and trivialised mental illness. We want to change that.
How to achieve this purpose? By telling the story of OCD through film, audio and visual arts that are co-created by OCD sufferers and creative professionals, and developed from personal narratives, interactive discussion and poetry, and to share these creative expressions on the web, in the workplace and in public spaces.
On their page’s wall, you can find numerous stories and quotes from people living with OCD. One person says, “If I can’t remember the Jurassic Park theme music then our plane will crash.” And another says:
Maybe I have AIDS. Or Hepatitis C. I might of (sic) gotten it yesterday when I went to Walmart.
Maybe I should get blood work, like I’ve done before, at least I’ll feel better for a few hours. Until I touch something else that leaves a question in my mind.
It’s always there, that uncertainty, that question. It will never leave me. It’s like the bad part of the movie was put on a loop and my remote doesn’t have any batteries. I can’t get it to just go on with the rest of the movie. I’m stuck in that one part, that horrible part.
From an outside perspective, I can understand why OCD might seem like a funny illness—after all, most people would say that remembering a theme song and a crashing plane are not related to each other, but that is what OCD does to us, and these thoughts and feelings are very real and can be debilitating. It makes us worry about things we shouldn’t have to worry about. I really appreciate what “The Secret Illness” Project is doing. It’s comforting to me to know that I am not the only person out there with OCD, and that there are people who understand what I go through. And it’s also comforting to know that those people are doing their part to bring awareness and understanding to an often misunderstood illness. The site offers both resources to learn more about OCD and ways to get involved with their project. Be sure to check out “The Secret Illness” Project here, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages, and lend them your support.