Achieving anything under the influence of OCD is like having to climb over a sheer concrete wall with rocks in your boots. I find the same with depression; the black dog sinking its fangs into your calf, snarling, head shaking from side to side, dragging you down to the ground like a convict in spotlights. I look at my OCD as a crow, but I’ve heard others describe their own demon as a goblin, a monkey, a swarm of flies. I’ve been scolded by a psychologist for giving OCD a face but, like I told the doctor at the time, it helps me to fight it, and you don’t suffer with it, so thanks for the advice but…
Either way, mental illness is a bag of lead ingots, slung across your back.
“Ok,” says the Crow, with mischief on his mind. “Let’s see how far up the wall you can get today!”
So I fight it.
But it’s tough to fight an opponent who knows your every move. It’s like playing poker with yourself and trying to bluff your hand.
“You’re wasting your life, make a decision and do something,” some might say.
I am doing something, I tell them. I’m wrestling an electric eel every second of every day. The fact that I’m not banging my head against that concrete wall is a huge achievement for me.
They say they understand, but I don’t think ‘THEY’ actually do. And I don’t blame them, because I don’t know much about the other hundred thousand illnesses and disorders that I don’t suffer with. In fact, there are legions of diseases out there, killing people every day, that I don’t even realise exist. It doesn’t mean I disrespect those afflicted by them.
I read many tweets, facebook messages and social media comments jovially describing OCD as an eccentric distraction. “I’m so OCD because I group all my clothes by colour,” wrote a former work colleague on his facebook wall last year. Huddled under the bed sheets, I yelled my disdain but soon went back to fighting my own irrational thoughts before they ruined another day for me. There was no need to get aggressive with him for an off-the-cuff comment, to troll him and vilify him and bite and scratch and kick him into a corner; it wouldn’t help my condition one bit. If you want a fight, then take on ISIS, or the bully at work, or the drunk causing aggro at the bar. But go easy with the miseducated teenager arranging her shampoo’s by the colour of the bottle-caps.
I hear people complain, “They don’t understand my condition.” Well educate them, and if they still don’t agree, or lack empathy, then that’s their prerogative. Bosses at work come under fire for not allowing someone with depression take six months off every year. I struggled at work in factories for years, the last thing I expected was to take a day off every time I battled a spike. I’d never have worked a day in my life. I knew someone who was paralysed from the waist down, and the first thing he admitted to me was that he’d never be a fireman! Imagine if he argued that the fire service should invest and create a special ladder that could winch him up a tree to rescue the old ladies cat. Of course, I agree with sick days, but I think that if you need to take every other day off work, then you need to find a new career. If a restaurant owner employed six staff, all suffering from a mental illness, and each employee took half the week off sick, that person wouldn’t be in the restaurant business for very long. The bank would send in the bailiffs and come Monday, there would be seven depressed people filing into the unemployment office instead of six.
Cancer isn’t pleasant either, or AIDS, or Spina Bifida, or Schizophrenia, or acne, or war, or racism, or homophobia, or… the world isn’t fair, it’s full of creatures – from dogs to human beings – struggling to survive. And we fight the injustice as much as we can, but essentially, no-one owes us anything. There are over seven billion people on the planet. SEVEN BILLION! And I’d bet my thumbs that not many of those seven billion live a perfect life. Every one of us has a list of problems, obstacles lined up like gravestones, vultures perched on telephone wires, shadows under our eyes from restless nights worrying about money, injustice, death. Maybe one in three will get Cancer, and one in four might suffer mental health issues during a life raising children who will also suffer the consequences of being born. Every one of them will know grief and pity and envy and will be a victim of someone else at some point in their life. Because that’s what life is, a series of problems, of walls to scale, of paths to tread with backpacks full of lead, with black dogs snapping at our heels.
Of course, I would like everyone to understand my daily plight. Of course, it would make life a little easier for me if everyone were able to empathise with my disorder. Yes, I roll my eyes when I hear someone say that depression is all in your head! – Oh the irony! – Of course, I try to educate people when they say “Isn’t OCD that thing when you can’t stop hovering?” But I won’t be angry, because I don’t know much about Alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency…do you?
It’s another problem in a world of f*****g problems. And ideally, everyone should know everything about everything. And I understand that we have to continually educate ourselves and others, and constantly push forward with mental health awareness, but we shouldn’t get angry with those that don’t quite get it yet – let’s not vilify them like they are the next Ted Bundy or Chairman Mao. Yes, of course, it is ignorance, but there’s a lot of things in this world I’m ignorant of. I wouldn’t have been able to write a paragraph on OCD if I didn’t suffer so badly from it myself. Why would I? I don’t know much about cerebral palsy either, or world trade, or basketball, or athlete’s foot. If someone makes the comment, “I’m so OCD because I’m always rearranging my shoe closet,” then instead of screaming at them like you’ve stumbled across a dead body in the woods, educate them – politely – and don’t tie them to a railway track. When my OCDemon is thrashing drums in my head, I couldn’t care less if a friend thinks he’s OCD because he can’t wear odd socks on weekdays. He may not have OCD, but for sure, he’ll have other problems in his life. He might have a voice telling him to jump off the church roof. He might be waiting for test results at the hospital, or owe twice his wages to his landlord, or have to visit a terminally ill relative at a hospice later in the day. Why the hell would they be learning about OCD? If nothing bad is going on in their life right now, be happy for them. By all means, reveal your issues to people, but know they’ll have issues of their own. Punching and spitting won’t get the monkey off your back. It’s too easy to vent our frustration at a soft target rather than the beast itself. If the scourge of the ocean is too cunning and strong, don’t take your frustration out on the sardines.
“They don’t understand the trouble the Kraken causes us, I hate those fucking sardines! Let’s kill all the fish!”
The world is a tough place to live in. To fit into. To negotiate. Every person you pass on the street has their own circling crow. I know it can be irritating but let’s not be spiteful to those that don’t understand. You can’t beat ignorance with hate. (Trust me, they’ll just hate you back.) It’s love we need to load into our guns, or we’ll all suffer the consequences.