Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental disorder, we all know that. But we don’t always treat it like a disorder. A lot of people treat it like it is some handy character trait people have when they organize their folders alphabetically or keep their house nice and tidy. I can’t stress enough how misconstrued that perception is. But as I said, OCD is a mental disorder, and it is hard to perceive something that goes on inside somebody else’s mind. Mental disorders aren’t exactly known for being diseases obvious to human perception. People do not easily see how OCD can be dangerous. People do not easily see how OCD can be painful. People do not easily see how OCD does more harm than good.
So what do people easily see? Their hands. I remember reading some article online about how you see your own hands more than you see anything else in the course of your day and I have no problem believing that to be true. And this idea of the common sight of your own hand reinforces the eerily symbolic relevance behind a concrete outcome of one of the most commonly known OCD compulsions, hand washing.
The ugly results of frequent and vigorous hand washing was the closest thing to a physical side effect of my obsessive compulsive disorder. The arid patches and deep cuts coating my knuckles, palms, and fingers were literally and figuratively raw proof of the OCD. Through a persistent urge to sterilize the skin on my hands, an urge that I still can’t shake to this day, the mental illness going on inside of me had manifested itself on the outside as well. And although I manage it better now, in the thick of my battle with OCD my hands would bleed and burn at the slightest tightening of a grip or bend of a finger. Each bloody fissure carving its way through the sandpaper flesh on my hands was raw proof that OCD is not just some cute quirky habitual personality trait, but actually a very painful and harmful disorder.
– Valerie Parente (5-9-16)