Another common misconception about people who have OCD is that we're all clean freaks. And that if you clean your house a LOT, you are obviously OCD. Seriously? I cannot even find the words to describe how much this one strikes me to my core. It is because of this view of OCD that I never believed I had the illness because I am a messy person. Lazy, is often the word used to describe my attitude towards my room and cleaning it. Thus I was pretty certain that I couldn't possibly have OCD because of this. OCD's were perfectionists in my head because that is how everyone portrays them.
And it is wrong.
I cannot even imagine what my life might have been like if I'd been diagnosed earlier. If I'd understood what OCD actually was then maybe I could have gotten help sooner and I wouldn't be struggling so much today.
But the media and society did not help me with my diagnosis. And I am so worried about everyone else who probably needs help but just does not understand because their OCD isn't what everyone says OCD is.
So in this post I also want to break down this misconception about cleanliness. I want to try and explain how I view cleanliness and how much I struggle because of it.
If you've been following this blog for a while then you will know that I have difficulties with food. That I have difficulties with my hands and constantly have to clean them with hand sanitizer or hand soap to deal with life. It was actually my issue with the cleanliness of hands that finally had me going to the doctors to find out that I did have OCD but it is actually only one of my issues, of which I have now realised I have many.
So, I'm sure you think that because I wash my hands a lot, that I am a clean freak.
But you're wrong.
And the main reason for this is that I am actually afraid of cleaning products.
I'm just going to let that soak into your mind for a moment.
One of my fears is that the cleaning products I use to clean the germs, that I am terrified of, will actually cause me to get ill and die.
Not a rational thought, right?
And yet, have you ever looked at the back of a bottle of cleaning spray? Have you read the warnings? Don't let it touch your skin. Wash your hands immediately. If you drink it, go to the hospital straight away.
All warnings which my brain have taken and blown out of proportion.
Because that is what my brain does best.
Last week I was sick on the carpet in my flat. Naturally I needed to clean it up. Had to clean it up because it was gross and I felt dirty and I wanted it gone. But to clean it up, I first had to buy disinfectant - because I didn't even have any - and then I had to wear three pairs of gloves to wash the carpet with and then I had to shower straight away. And, even though it is now clean, I am still having trouble walking on that patch of carpet. So much so that I have had to put a rug down so that I am not walking on that bit of carpet. The problem is that I am still afraid that the disinfectant will kill me and that it hasn't worked in cleaning the germs that the sick left behind.
And this is just one example of my cleaning product issues. Don't even get me started on bins.
So no, OCD is not just about being a clean freak. OCD affects everyone differently and we really need to stop normalizing and trivializing it because being clean is actually a very normal thing. Cleaning because you have OCD is not.
So if you hear it happening around you, a joke or a comment or something that makes OCD seem like an easy thing to deal with, for my sake and for the sake of people you may not even realise have the illness, could you try and correct them? Explain that unless they can't function until they clean or tidy, then they do not have OCD and need to stop using the acronym as a throwaway comment.