The Courtroom Battle In My Brain - OCD

Here’s a list of general questions and assumptions that I’ve come across about OCD and eating disorders. It’s exhausting having to navigate peoples’ misinformation. I encourage you to do some research on mental illness—and the many different kinds there are—so that you can be supportive instead of offensive. Without further ado…

What not to say to someone living with severe OCD and an eating disorder:

“Oh, yeah, I have OCD, too! I’m so OCD about…”

The people that say this almost never have OCD. These people aren’t trying to be mean. They’re just uneducated on the subject. As human beings, we all have our weird habits and behaviours that we can’t fully explain. The difference between my rituals and someone’s weird habit (ex. volume on the TV has to be an even number) is that my rituals are prompted by an intrusive thought. I’m afraid something bad is going to happen to me if I don’t do my rituals. Unless you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts alongside your weird habit, then you probably don’t have OCD. You just like to do things in a specific way, and that’s okay and totally normal!

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“Why don’t you just, like, not do a ritual?”

Oh, my God! You just cured my OCD! I never thought to just not do my rituals. What a wild concept. I’ve had people ask me this, and it is infuriating. I can’t help but do my rituals. Just like anybody else, I do certain things when I’m incredibly anxious because it’s my way of coping. That being said, I had to unlearn some of these rituals because they took control of my life. Anyway, don’t say that shit! It’s annoying!

“You have OCD? But you’re so messy.”

One of my best friends actually said this to me. For the sake of our friendship, I needed to not see him for a week to recollect myself. This is one of the stereotypes of OCD (perpetuated by shows like Friends). There are some people with OCD who are incredibly clean and/or worried about germs. I’m not really one of those people. My apartment is medium-messy. 

Mental illnesses are typically framed through stereotypes because it’s easier to make sense of them that way. BUT stereotypes are harmful, and in many cases untrue. Mental illnesses are complex and multifaceted. 

“Are you sure you’re sick? You’re in graduate school.”

I’ve had well-meaning friends question the legitimacy of my mental illnesses. I come across as a very high-functioning person. To a degree, I am. However, I’m very good at hiding my illnesses while engaging in classes, with professors, etc, etc. I mostly engage with my compulsions in private. 

For example, my mom knows how much I’ve struggled with school. On a few occasions—when my symptoms were extreme—she suggested I drop out of school. There were plenty of times she wanted me to move back home because she worried for my safety. 

Anyway, just because you’re high-functioning, it doesn’t mean that you’re not struggling with your illness.

“You have an eating disorder? But you eat every day!”

There seems to be a general assumption that all people with eating disorders fast 24/7. This isn’t true. Maybe some people do to an extent, but I certainly ate/eat every day. I just restricted how much I ate (and still sometimes do). That being said, my diagnosis aligns with anorexia. People with binge eating disorder or bulimia may eat excessively in order to purge themselves of the food they eat. 

Basically, people with eating disorders have a weird and complicated relationship with food. 

“You’re not allowed to talk about eating disorders because you’re thin.”

I see this a lot online. I am someone who is naturally thin, so I’ve never had to deal with fatphobia. I’m aware of my privilege. That being said, my thoughts—everyone’s thoughts—should be equally heard on the subject of eating disorders. We all have bodies, so we all have a right to talk about bodily insecurities and eating disorders. 

“If you’re underweight, then why aren’t you in the hospital getting treated?” 

When I was at one of my lowest weights, one of my friends told me their friend was heavier than me but was in in-patient treatment. We’re two different weights, two different bodies. Not everyone has the same “danger weight.” There is no universal standard imposed on the body that determines when someone is in need of treatment (although our healthcare system does try to impose these standards—BMIs—despite medical evidence that renders these measures invalid). 

In other words, ALL BODIES ARE DIFFERENT. Everyone will have a different experience with their eating disorder.

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