Earlier this year, I turned down a job opportunity that would involve training employees at my current company’s new locations. There were a lot of reasons I turned down the job, but I definitely fantasized about what I would tell my trainees. Later, I learned I would basically use a training script. Occasionally, I would wonder how I could incorporate OCD and mental health into the training.
When I first started my job, I had only been receiving treatment for about two and a half months. There were moments when I would freeze because of my OCD. I continued counseling and was taking medication, and over time, these moments occurred less frequently.
One part that still freaks me out is cleaning restrooms. Now, I don’t really mind using public restrooms- although I don’t like that the stall doors usually open into the stall. But cleaning them isn’t fun. Wiping questionable materials off toilet seats, cleaning disgusting toilets, changing out sanitary disposal boxes…UGH. I remember one night when the back of that tampon box touched my pants. I didn’t do much after that. When I told my co-worker about the incident, I was relieved to know she would have freaked out if it had happened to her.
Having a mental illness can make work more difficult. There are good days and bad days. Some nights, I just say, “Screw this. I’m not doing it. I can’t do it.” Disposal boxes are not completely emptied. Hands are washed multiple times. I’m not always a step ahead of OCD. But luckily, the good days outweigh the bad. There used to be days when I couldn’t get out of bed or wash my hair or even make it to my former job on time. What I want to say is that I’ve held this job for two years now. I’ve succeeded at it. My OCD struggles aren’t over, but life moves on. Have hope.
Today I was going through old drafts for blog posts, and this was number one. Last semester in my Personal and Social Adjustment psychology class, we discussed mental illness, and it made my eyes well up with tears. We were given questions to answer before we broke into small groups for discussion. Finally, we came back together as a class for further discussion.
The questions immediately hit me. The stigma is so real. Nobody in the class really laughed or made immature comments; for the most part, everyone was understanding. Many had either experienced or knew someone who was experiencing some sort of mental disorder. However, the stigma I felt about myself hit hard.
The thing about mental illness is that every case is unique. I think the term “mental illness” brings certain disorders to mind, but the fact is that there are different types of mental disorders. Take a look at the DSM, and you’ll see many possible disorders affecting such a wide variety of people. Each person’s situation is different, so judging people who are based on a diagnosis alone doesn’t make much sense. Two people may be diagnosed with one disorder, but their symptoms may be on opposite sides of the spectrum. Maybe that’s one reason some people find it so hard to admit they have a mental disorder–they are afraid of the stereotypes that come with diagnosis.
Personally, I think people who have sought treatment for mental illness are probably better adjusted than those who have not; they have learned problem solving skills. Compare a person like that to someone who self-medicates; one is receiving professional treatment and is using various methods to cope with their feelings. Those who self-medicate have fairly ineffective methods. So why do we as a society welcome those who self-medicate and shun those who face their problems head on?
Finally, when I looked around that class, my heart was happy to see people who are accepting, who do not view mental illness as something to be hidden. These people were open about their experiences and expressed concern for others. I’ve never understood how you can look at someone struggling and shrug, say, “They’re crazy/weird,” and walk away. How can they not see people need help? How can they not address the struggles of others? Not only did my classmates sympathize, but some students even nodded in agreement as I spoke about my OCD, saying they too had done some of the things I thought made me crazy. That class as a whole was a great experience, a highlight in a bleak semester, a class I will not soon forget.