Coming Out of the Mental Health Closet, Part 1

“Something I want you to know about me is that I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and something I never want to hear again is that OCD is all about being neat, because it’s not. It’s a real disorder.”

These were the words I said to my SEL (Social Emotional Learning) class a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had ever come out in person, and the third time I had ever come out in a non-medical setting. It was absolutely terrifying, but I had expected that. What I hadn’t expected is how relieved I felt afterward. There are so many negative stereotypes associated with Mental Illnesses, and quite a few associated specifically with OCD, that I had been terrified to come out for 3 years, ever since I was diagnosed. Finally saying the words felt like a rush of all the adrenaline and relief that had been swirling in me for the last 3 years. I am very lucky that all of the people I have come out to so far have been extremely accepting, and I recognize that many people do not have safe, accepting communities they can come out to.

I want to strive for a world where I don’t have to “come out.” Where I don’t have to worry how people will react. Where I don’t have to fight stereotypes constantly. I dream of a world where society recognizes that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about. I dream of a world where the topic of mental health isn’t danced around delicately. I dream of a world where everyone has affordable access to adequate mental health treatment. I dream of a world where I can simply say “By the way, I have OCD.” and no one will assume that I am a neat freak, a faker, or someone who can’t be trusted.

Unfortunately, this is not the world that we live in.

So I’ll keep advocating. I’ll keep speaking up when I hear the term “OCD” used incorrectly. And, whenever I feel like it’s the right time, I’ll keep coming out of the mental health closet until I don’t have to any more.

(Disclaimer: I am not recommending that people come out if they are not ready to yet, especially if doing so could possibly cause them physical or emotion harm from others. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.)