It’s All About Perception

This week has seen a lot of discussion, debate and complaint from the OCD and Mental Health community, from sufferers, friends, family, charity workers and professionals.

The over-riding theme i’ve been reading and hearing is the fear of misrepresentation and trivialization of OCD as a condition.

I’d like to address this from my personal point of view, that of a recovering sufferer, a father, a husband, an awareness and fund-raiser and a bloke who spent a lot of years working in the typical male environments of building sites.

I feel fortunate that these experiences and surroundings allow me to look at things from varying points of view and hopefully with an open mind.

One of the more ridiculous suggestions i heard this week was that viewers of a TV programme which contained references to OCD were in some way commiting a Hate Crime.

Now i could describe some viewers of certain trashy throwaway programmes as a few things, but criminals and haters aren’t what spring to mind.

Viewers of a TV programme are in most cases just that – viewers.  The rights and wrongs of the TV company, producers and editors are another matter and are something that the monitoring authorities certainly need to look in to.

The trivialization of OCD is the one major part of this whole mess that concerns me the most going forward.

The actual term OCD has a long way to go to be taken seriously by the uninformed.  For those in the know, it’s a term that produces images of sadness, frustration and ruined lives – akin to the seriousness of words like cancer or heart attack.

To many others, the i’m a little bit OCD masses, this doesn’t resonate the same fearsome dread.

Now i’m not going to start blaming or pointing fingers at everyone who has ever put their desk in order and claimed to be A Bit OCD.  It’s a pretty fair bet that they have never had the misfortune to have been exposed to the harsh reality the condition can be in its various guises and, unless they are heartless tactless swines that, if they had then they probably wouldn’t say it again.

The old Really, when were you diagnosed? tends to stop that one in its tracks if needs must.

What i would say is that since coming out as being a sufferer/fighter, not one person in the know has used the term OCD in a negative way in my company.

That’s not to say that some don’t take the mickey, and rightly so.  In an office full of builders, the gloves are off, and since it has become common knowledge that i have a mental condition a new line of piss take has been opened.

And you know what? I haven’t got a single problem with that, because it is INFORMED! 

The lads know what i have been through and still struggle with and are as supportive as i could ask them to be and none of the banter is made in any way to put me or the condition down.  This is good honest, if a little dark, humour.  I think the first thing that was said to break the ice was along the lines of ‘so that’s how you got a job here you tosser, to keep the equality and diversity figures up.  You must be the token mental bloke’.

This is at the same level and seriousness as the jokes about the bloke who sits next to me having a kidney removed due to cancer, the fella with no teeth and the lad who had to give up site work with a bad back. 

As i said, INFORMED with an underlying respect for the seriousness involved.

I’m not saying this is something to aspire to.  Builders are a strange breed who will laugh with/at pretty much anything, but if a bunch of hairy arsed blokes can understand the utter bleakness of OCD, then surely more sensitive souls definetely could, given time and the CORRECT information.

A programme of obsessive cleaners enjoying their compulsions IS NOT the correct information!

How do we rescue the letters OCD?

Good question.  I have taken to telling people i have a mental health condition primarily, before saying i have OCD, to pre-empt the current disposableness of the statement.

I wish i didn’t have to.  It’s just that at it’s current rating on the radar of the general public OCD doesn’t have the credibility of other illnesses.  I’m pretty sure i’ve never heard anyone say I’m a little bit cancery or a little bit diabetic as something to be proud of or to make them sound quirky and interesting.

Other mental health conditions seem a bit further down the line to acceptance than us.  People may joke about being schizophrenic if they have mood swings, but deep down they are fully aware of the seriousness of the condition and would certainly never say it with any real belief.

Tourettes is an interesting one.  Let’s face it, initially and with no background information it is easy to see how the idea of someone randomly shouting obscenities could be funny. But i think the public are now informed enough to know the serious nature and misery the sufferers go through and i am never likely to hear anyone say with any conviction I’m a bit Touretty or I wish i had Touretttes.

Every programme i have seen involving Tourettes has shown within the first few minutes the awkwardness, embarrasment and frustrations felt and this appears something it seems hard to portray about OCD.

IT IS POSSIBLE.  The Undateables episode featuring Heather, a severe OCD sufferer was, once you got past the viewer grabbing title, a very touching insightful watch.

Jon Richardsons A Little Bit OCD show and Jasmine Harmans My Hoarder Mum and Me and Britain’s Biggest Hoarders have shown it can be done.

Maybe we’re sort of where eating disorders were a couple of decades ago.  In the public eye but not really understood or taken too seriously.

Nowadays, as much as many of us would love to lose a few pounds, we’re never going to think or say I wish i had Anorexia or Bulimia.

Hopefully, sometime soon, the same will become an automatic mindset when someone wishes they had a cleaner house or an organised CD collection.

In the meantime, until we get to that place where it is socially accepted that OCD is a, admittedly somewhat odd or even initially amusing looking but ultimately, crushing, spiteful, frustrating and life destroying condition, i will carry on fighting my corner as i suspect will all the others who find themselves in a similar situation of feeling well enough to try and do a bit for the many who don’t. 


Thanks for caring enough to read.




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