Disclosure: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I’m working in Disability Studies in my current grad program, and one of the loudest themes to emerge from 21st century disabled communities is the importance of VISIBILITY. Disability visibility–narratives of the lived experiences of disabled people–is crucial in combatting the stigma, misconceptions, and marginalization of people with disabilities, mental illness, and chronic illness, for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here, because I’m writing about particular misconceptions about a specific mental illness.

I want to right these misconceptions not because I love being right (which I do), but because misconceptions lead to misdiagnosis, lack of diagnosis, and in some cases, worsening of symptoms, incarceration, institutionalization, and suicide. Visibility is not just beneficial, it’s essential for the surviving and thriving of disabled people. As I read and learn, the more I have begun to realize that I myself am not living visibly as a person with a disabling mental illness. I haven’t told most people in my life, because of my own internalized ableism–I’m afraid of the resulting stigma, that I won’t be believed, that I’ll be treated differently, a whole bunch of stuff. 

Anyway, I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I will write about my personal experiences with it elsewhere, as it’s a long and interesting story that’s not super relevant here. I was diagnosed in my thirties, but I have had it since childhood. Everyone that knows me well knows that I’ve struggled with debilitating anxiety since I was a child. I have had a lot of really difficult years. When my first psychiatrist diagnosed me, she was surprised I’d made it till my thirties without institutionalization or worse. I was strong, I was lucky, but mostly, I was privileged enough to stay well that long without any professional support. She also warned me that I needed treatment, and I didn’t take that seriously until my forties. 

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