When I Overheard Someone Judge Me for Having OCD


“You know how Nikki is.” Five words I was never meant to hear.

Someone who is supposed to care about me, love and protect me said: “You know how Nikki is.”

It wasn’t said in a “nudge nudge, wink wink” way. It wasn’t “You know how Nikki is funny?”

No.

It was said with judgment and oozing with eye rolls and condescending sighs.

I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I was diagnosed more than a decade ago after my father’s death. I know a lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to truly have OCD. It’s become a bit of a joke really. A cute little thing we say in passing when we’re talking about liking something a certain way. “Oh, I’m so OCD about my linen closet” and the like.

The thing is, there is nothing “cute” about OCD. At its worst, it can take over your life. Hours are spent obsessing on things and then of course completing “tasks” to ease those obsessions for just a moment until the next terrifying thing rears its ugly head and then it all starts over. At its best, you learn to manage it, but to do so you must go through hell and face every demon you have lurking inside you. You have to look every fear you have in the face and have a figurative staring contest. A staring contest you have to win. Eyes watering, yet dried out over and over again until that one thought is something you have semi-mastered and can move on to the next horrifying one and then the game continues. Repeatedly. For as long as it takes you to find a way to manage them all.

I’m a washer. My obsessions are all based around germs and how to avoid them. I wash my hands a lot and avoid contact with things I feel are contaminated. But in truth, when you look at the world through OCD eyes, most of the world looks contaminated.

I’ve worked hard for many years to learn how to manage my OCD. At first I learned how to hide it and how to do things in ways that allowed me to not touch things. I can open doors without really touching them. I can clean things with no one noticing. I traveled across the country by car and never once used a public restroom.

Fear can make you extremely creative. But when this creativity became too time-consuming and overwhelming, I started to really learn how to manage my anxiety. This in turn lessens my intrusive, obsessive thoughts and actions.

So to hear someone I care about, someone who is supposed to be on my side, someone I’ve confided in, say “you know how Nikki is” I was left feeling hurt, confused and frustrated. It brought up a sense of shame I hadn’t felt in a long time. That shame made me realize in some cases, with some people, no matter how far I’ve come, I’ll always be labeled in their mind. In that moment, I felt like I would never be good enough and no matter how far I move away from OCD, it would never be enough for some people.

Today, when I think back to the moment I heard those words I was never supposed to hear, words that felt like a slap across my face, words that, in the moment brought up such a deep-seated sense of shame, I can only smile and think to myself: you have no idea how Nikki is.

Nikki is strong and resilient.

Nikki fights against every intrusive thought that enters her mind.

Nikki battles against a mental illness that nearly destroyed her life.

Nikki stares her fears in the face until she wins.

Nikki will never allow you to make her feel small or weak or less than because of something you do not understand.

That is “how Nikki is.”

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