I only recently came across a situation in the OCD community that I suppose I should address- from my own vantage point as both someone with OCD, and someone that tends to not think with the crowd. Even in my own community.
While I am positive similar things cropped up well before this, Target stores apparently caught some shit for selling a sweater that said “Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” And obvious play on a mental illness many, including myself, have. And in looking more into this within the community, I’ve found that any noun that starts with “C” has been used in this fashion. Obsessive Coffee Disorder mugs, you get the point. There are quite a bit1.
I’ll start with this. I do not speak for everyone with OCD. This is because I do not believe there is a nomination process for such a gig. We don’t have a President of OCD. Joking aside, this actually will come into play here when discussing mental illness and how it finds its way into culture, and thus how real mental illness is seen as a result of this. Which I will offer a viewpoint for. In fact I will offer many viewpoints, all mine.
I am not at all offended by this at all. And do note, as should be obvious by the time and effort I spend on this site, and the content therein, I have very extreme OCD. Different, but debilitating and horrible nonetheless. But I’ll say it again- these things do not offend me at all. Not just because I can look beyond them (they ARE stupid, but stupid is ok. However, stupid is not even the point here at all, so we’ll leave that off the table). Rather, I come from a school of thought that anything (and I mean anything) can be joked about in the right scenario. I very much like comedians that can go to that place no one else dares go (Louis C.K. is a favorite of mine.) Name a subject, I can probably joke about it2
I am an outlier in the OCD community about this. Most people with OCD or who are concerned with mental illness are offended by the Target sweater and other similar jokes about OCD. But, hell, I am an outlier in everything in life, even my mental illness, so that’s just going to be that. But I am totally supportive of those offended by OCD jokes.
And let’s move beyond this singular example of an joke on the acronym “OCD” and move into joking about or taking lightly OCD in general. There is another type of speech that those with OCD and mental illness have an issue with. That is people not diagnosed with OCD, saying things like “I am so OCD about ______.” Fill in the blank with “my closet,” “my cupboard,” even “my underwear3.”
The offense taken from speech like this seems to suggest that only those diagnosed with OCD can talk about OCD. And joking about it? I am not sure that some with OCD wouldn’t be offended by fellow people with OCD joking about their own condition4!
To all of this I would suggest: we’re all trying to remove the stigma of mental illness. That is our goal. That we hope is the goal of many, many people. So let’s think about that in terms of joking about OCD (and go ahead and conflate any or all mental illness into this, I will focus on OCD.)
I think of most conditions in life as a scale we are all within. That is to say, any condition at all, we all have it somewhere within a scale. Say 1 to 10. I would suggest, but am not sure of: 0 to 11 With 1-10 being segmented out as the sheer majority, 0 being (only) possibly not at all, and 11 being a rare place that only some of us have ever reached. I have been asked to, and been observed as having what could be considered an 11 out of 10 on certain mental illness states. But that is for another article. Let’s stick with 1 to 10, I am getting off track.
Thus! (Ok, back on track now.) Thus, if we look at all conditions as a scale, we include everyone on that scale. Some people truly have OCD at a 1 out of 10. I would classify these people as the ones that say things like “I am so OCD about my closet.” Flippantly? No! They are on the same scale as the rest of us with OCD, they are just way down there near 1 or 2, and we’re way up there at 7, 8, 9 or fuck- 10.
Reaching 7 and above you begin to be or are completely debilitated. But for those at a 1 or 2, that is real OCD! Here is my key point:
For them to understand OCD at a level 1, we at a higher level can have conversations with them and reference that, and ask them to imagine that much simpler condition they have at 10,0005 or more times the magnitude. Then imagine that simple act of you organizing your clothes according to color being something your brain obsesses over all day long- to the point where you cannot get work done, you cannot take care of your house, you lose everything else in your mind except for the clothes being in order of color. And never being right.
See? This helps! This helps people understand us, and helps (admittedly only a little) to remove the stigma of mental illness. Because if we can give people a reference point- even if it is a 1 out of 10. We can then show them that A. they are on the scale and B. that scale really goes to 10,000 for some.
Now, “Who wants to laugh?!”
1 This site really doesn’t use images (yet?) for a variety of reasons. But ya know, you can do a simple Google Image Search. Here I came up with a fun way to see a bunch of examples.
2 The only thing my OCD does not allow me to joke about at all is omens. Anything that could call out something bad happening to me, ups my anxiety and I avoid it. DO NOT joke about electrical fire around me.
3 Would it surprise you that I rotate my underwear like a grocery clerk rotates yogurt? Last in, last out. Even wear, that way- try it!
4 I do. Ask me for some. They’re cerebral jokes, they often fall flat. They won’t be included in this site for now.
5 I believe the scale referenced above of 1 to 10 is logarithmic