OC kasi ako, eh.”
Just last week, I heard my coworker say this while she photocopied the same page of the book she was photocopying because it wasn’t straight enough for her. And although I got what she meant, I felt the cold traveling through my spine, making me shiver. Thoughts raced through my mind; they were so fast I could not make a single thing out of them. Needless to say, I was affected.
I actually have obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.
When my psychiatrist confirmed this to me, I did not know how to feel. I was “happy” that there was finally an explanation for some of the inexplicable actions I did in the past. But at the same time, I was appalled that I was diagnosed with another mental disorder—my fifth one. Interestingly enough, it was also the most difficult to accept. Perhaps because whenever I hear people use OC, they actually use it as a compliment, some sort of badge—a proof that they are clean, organized and meticulous. But none of these are true for me. None of these things can really describe me.
My OCD manifests in a lot of ways. Most of them are unknown to people I care about.
Every day I have to battle with it. It influences the decisions I make, from the most trivial to the life-changing ones. On good days, I feel like I’ve won against it when the worst thing I did was ugly-cry in public.
Even things as mundane as commuting are more complicated when you have OCD.
For instance, when I’m commuting to and from the office, I imagine germs crawling on my skin, contaminating me. I scratch my skin, I spray it with alcohol and, eventually losing control, I cry. But after doing all these, the clear picture of tiny green blobs with uncountable black feet slowly killing me remains in my mind.
This is relatively easier to shrug off than those that actually lead me to harm myself.
I vividly remember two commute-related instances when my OCD took full control of my actions. I remember going home with a friend and she insisted that we take the shorter route instead of the one I religiously take. I managed to go home without anyone noticing something was wrong. But I was so obsessed about the change in my route that I had scraped the skin off my thumb. The blood and the pain took my mind off the change momentarily, and they served as reasonable punishment for my “wrongdoing.”
There was also a time when I had to take another route, and I was so distraught with my decision that I crossed two streets without looking. Dying seemed like the only thing that could stop me from obsessing over the change.
I wish I could easily accept these bizarre, if not dangerous, actions and reactions with one simple nonchalant statement: “OC kasi ako eh.” I wish having OCD were as simple as just creating perfectly aligned documents or properly labeling things stored in nice boxes. But that’s just not the case.
I am still ashamed of having OCD despite the numerous times my psychiatrist, my therapist and even the resident doctors in the psychiatric ward I was admitted in insist that I shouldn’t be. I don’t think my family even knows I’m suffering from it.
It’s hard to accept something that no one talks about earnestly. When the thing that actually eats you alive is trivialized or, worse, joked about, you start to doubt the truthfulness and the seriousness of your experience. Self-hate and self-doubt creep in, making your already miserable situation unbearable.
True, there are a lot of steps being done to shed light on mental illnesses. There are already numerous efforts done by different communities and organizations to educate people about mental health. Some come in the form of articles, forums and events.
But even small daily actions can also be helpful. Listening to friends who open up about their struggles is one of the simplest and easiest ones. Another is politely reminding people to be more mindful about using loaded terms. After all, truth and accuracy in language are extremely important. Because as long as there are people who are careless with their words, who throw away heavy terms such as “OC” or “bipolar” or make mental illnesses a punch line, acceptance and understanding will be far from reach.
Patriz Biliran, 26, is a University of the Philippines Diliman graduate. She currently works as a full-time writer and part-time tutor in Makati City.
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