In my mission to more fully address how OCD, depression and anxiety affect my life, I’ve been considering how others might perceive me.
In other words, do I seem like a person with OCD or depression?
I’m not trying to focus on what others’ opinions of me are. Rather, if my ailments have affected my life in ways even I haven’t yet recognized (I think they have), do others recognize in me signs of mental health disorders?
I did not knowingly meet another person with OCD until I was in my early 30s. This was years before the “I am so OCD” trend started.
At the time, I was part of a women writers group. I don’t remember the details about how the subject came up, but a few of us started talking about odd habits that we had.
What I said and what this woman (I’ll call her G) said sounded eerily similar.
We looked at each other.
I said, “I have OCD.”
She said, “I do, too.”
It turned out I was the first person that she had knowingly met with OCD.
I was completely surprised that G had OCD and had suffered from it since she was a child, as I had.
G didn’t look like someone who had such problem. She was very hip and cool and seemed totally together. I admired her. In fact, I was a little surprised that she seemed to like me and had invited me to join the group. I was decidedly not hip and cool.
But in so many ways, she was just like me.
I learned from that experience. Outside appearances don’t always give a clue to what is going on in a person’s life. Just because someone isn’t acting out compulsions in front of us doesn’t mean they aren’t being done. Just because a person doesn’t talk about obsessions doesn’t mean they aren’t running through his or her mind.
Apparently I do give out some aura of OCD, especially in work environments. I think it’s because I tend to focus on details and am extremely conscientious.
And there has been a lot of information in the media over the last 10 years or so about OCD, so the general public is more aware of it and the stereotypical symptoms.
For example, I worked as a health educator at one point, and I was very careful with the wording of information when I wrote health-related handouts to give to patients.
A nurse asked me one day, “Are you anal retentive?”
I simply replied no. I didn’t tell her that in fact I had OCD. I could be wrong, but I didn’t sense that she cared that I might be having a problem, but was judging me.
She knew something was going on.
What experiences have you had with recognizing or being recognized as having OCD or depression? What have you learned from it? If you think an acquaintance or co-worker may be suffering from one or both, how do you respond?