Living with OCD is nothing for you to pity

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Graphic by Jessi Wood

“Hello, I’m Madeline McInnis, and before I start, I just want you to know that I have obsessive compulsive disorder so that you can judge me now instead of changing your opinion about me later.”

True? Yeah. Unnecessary? Absolutely.

Then why does the conversation suddenly have to change when we find out that someone does have a mental illness after getting to know them for a while? I mean, they were the same person they were before you found out, right?

Once we know, we tiptoe around certain subjects, hesitate before speaking and generally just change topics of conversation entirely.

Wading the waters of how to talk to a friend with a mental illness shouldn’t be difficult. We are just people — and should be treated as such.

Quite frankly, I don’t want anyone to pity me because of my mental illness.

My OCD is part of who I am and to pity my mental illness is to reduce me to it.

I genuinely think that my OCD helps me to succeed in school and in work-life more generally. As an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, I have a keen sense for detail, I’m good at problem solving and I have learned to work well in stressful situations.

We’re everywhere. We may do things differently than you do. We are people, just like everyone else. We should be treated with humility, regardless of whether you know about our brain waves.

Of course, sometimes that means staying up all night, not eating, needing complete silence or being completely narrowed into a task.

Mental illness is nothing to glorify, but it’s nothing to pity either.

I realize that some aspects of what it makes me do are shitty. I know that and I don’t need anyone to tiptoe around that.

This is my life and I deal with it in the best way I can. What I do is what I need to do to stay in control of my mind and my body.

Whether you’re afraid to remind me to eat — like you would to any other friend — or just avoiding talking about your “obsessions” entirely, it shows me that you value me as a medical patient more than you value me as a person.

Just because I have to think differently from other people does not by any means represent that I am lesser.

My value is in what I do and who I am. I can do things just as well as people without mental illnesses and sometimes even better.

Pitying me or treating me differently because of a three letter designation shows more about you than it does about me, after all.

We are disabled, we are not stupid.

We have to do things differently, but there is nothing we can’t do that an able-minded person can.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your friend with anxiety about how you’re stressed about class. Don’t be afraid to open up about being sad to your roommate with depression.
If anything, we understand.

And by God, if you don’t have any knowledge about OCD, please don’t tiptoe around any notion of cleaning and hand washing — that’s a stereotype and the only way you’re going to learn that is if you care enough to ask.

I guarantee that no one can tell you the experience of the mentally ill better than the mentally ill can.

One-in-five Canadians have a mental illness. Statistically, you probably talk to several people with a mental illness every day.

We’re everywhere. We may do things differently than you do. We are people, just like everyone else.

We should be treated with humility, regardless of whether you know about our brain waves.

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