I know, I’m supposed to be on my sort-of blogging break. However, when I read about a certain article published by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday (31st March), I had to come out of my box and address it. To be honest, I didn’t really want to taint my blog with this fantastic piece of journalism, and part of me was thinking “don’t do it, you might just kick the shit out of your laptop in the process.” However, as I was washing up this evening I found the rage building up and I needed to get it out.
If you’re not sure what the F I’m on about, earlier this week The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled We All Need OCD Now. I’m sure you’ll probably know why I have a problem with this just from the title. Now, the eagle eyed among you will see that you can’t actually read the full article without paying £1 to subscribe, however, charity OCD-UK, who have openly challenged The WSJ on the article have given us plenty of highlights.
Essentially, the bottom line of the article is that given the current Covid-19 outbreak, the entire population would benefit from having OCD, and actually uses the phrase “a little OCD, right now, wouldn’t be so bad.” The scary thing? It’s written by a clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. In all honesty, I can’t quite put into words how angry this article makes me, but I’m going to certainly try in this post. I’m going to try my best to address this like a grown up, but I will warn you upfront that I will likely get very animated and there will be a lot of swearing. To give you an idea of the utter fucking drivel that they’ve published, each heading in this post is a snippet of the article.
“We All Need OCD Now”
Essentially, this comes from the government’s guidelines that we should be washing our hands for 20 seconds. I have a few thoughts on this:
- Washing your hands for 20 seconds isn’t OCD. Given the current pandemic, it’s fucking common sense. I’ll be honest, since this advice came out, my hand washing compulsions have gotten significantly worse and it’s getting increasingly more difficult to silence them. I would love to be able to wash them once for 20 seconds. Instead, I wash them for 20 seconds, 3 times, plus more if my brain decides they’re not clean enough, which at the moment, is pretty much every time I need to wash them.
- Being told to wash your hands for 20 seconds doesn’t impact on your daily life. In the case of someone with OCD, those 20 seconds will turn into 20 minutes very quickly, and more often than not, even longer. THAT’S when it has an impact on your life.
- Let’s also point out that as I’ve said before – OCD is NOT just handwashing. It’s this kind of ignorance around the condition that reinforces the stigma that it’s all about being clean.
Likewise, I have never seen OCD as something I’ve needed. Washing my hands until they bleed, losing friendships, spending ridiculous amounts of money replacing phones, coats and bags; and mentally torturing myself over whether or not I’ve hit a child in my car are all things I haven’t needed. However, thanks to OCD, I’ve done them anyway. Multiple times.
“OCD is No Longer Something We Have. It’s Something We’re Under County, State and Public Health Authorities’ Orders to Become”
SINCE WHEN? Show me ANY PART of the fucking literature that says we are to ‘become’ OCD. Washing your hands for those 20 seconds and staying indoors for the foreseeable future does not equate to a diagnosis of OCD. Also, you don’t ‘become’ OCD. It’s not a personality trait or an adjective. It’s an illness that ruins lives. It’s a shame that the writer of this article is clearly incapable of realising that.
“Social Distancing and Hand Washing Guidelines Often Are Heeded Improperly or Only Briefly Before “OCD Fatigue” Sets in and Caution is Abandoned”
I would love to say that as soon as I get tired or bored or fed up, I can switch off the compulsions. Unfortunately that’s not the case. There is no logic with OCD. The intensity of the intrusive thoughts that come with it don’t just disappear because you’re tired. You continue to carry out the compulsion for as long as it takes, until your brain tells you it’s okay to stop. That can be in ten minutes, it can be an hour, or it could be even longer. If anything, when you’re tired, it just gets worse.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that this article struck a chord with me. I admit that I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten as far as I did with my recovery, but others aren’t that lucky. For so many people with OCD, this bitch of an illness destroys their lives. In my case, the truth of the matter is that had it not been for me getting the help when I did back in 2016, there’s a chance I wouldn’t be here now. There are people who, unlike me, haven’t been so lucky. How on earth is it okay to say that the public needs something – an illness – that destroys someone that much?
The irony of this whole thing? 100%, I would have been able to handle this whole pandemic a lot better if I didn’t have the thing this article says we all need. Having contamination based OCD – or any form of OCD for that matter – during a global pandemic is not useful. It’s fucking torture. My hands are dry, cracked and bleeding on a daily basis, I haven’t left my house in three weeks, and I’m trying my absolute best not to Dettol wipe my groceries. I’m drinking A LOT more than I should, in the hope of shutting up my brain and because it helps me feel normal. I’ve spent numerous nights crying because of the fear of this bastard and of a virus, and the fact that I can’t drink wine with my best friend, go for a cup of tea at my Mum’s house or cuddle my baby fur-sister. But you know, apparently I need all of that, so it’s fine.
I feel this article conveys the idea that once this is all over, we can switch off our OCD and go back to normal. Another little touch of irony is that for those of us with OCD, it will not switch off. If anything, it’s been turned up stupidly loud to the point where you can’t concentrate on anything else. I worked ridiculously hard to get to the point where I did in my recovery, and I feel as though this virus is very slowly pushing me back to square one. I’m terrified of how long this lockdown will last, but I’m also terrified of how bad my compulsions will get once things go back to normal and public gatherings start again.
I appreciate that I’m a bit of a hypocrite when I say OCD isn’t just about hand-washing, given that it’s the main component of mine. However, what I want to get across is the point that I don’t just wash my hands a lot. The intrusive thoughts happening in my mind while I’m washing my hands and using copious amounts of hand sanitiser are what I want to draw attention to. The hand washing is just half the story.
So, my message to The Wall Street Journal? Educate yourself. Just because something is written by someone with a Stanford education, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right. Before you publish an absolute piece of drivel like this, consider the people that are actually living with OCD. This article does nothing more than reinforce the stigma around OCD – that it’s all about cleanliness and hygiene. That it’s a quirk or a personality trait for people who like things clean and tidy. OCD is not a personality trait that comes in useful during a global pandemic. It’s an illness. It tortures, it bullies and it ruins lives. The sooner you get that into your heads, the sooner we’ll stop being subjected to damaging articles like this.
If you’re in need of any additional support regarding OCD, be sure to check out OCD-UK’s website.