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What Happened When I Told a Manicurist About My OCD Hand Washing


Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

I am extremely self-conscious of my hands. They are dry and cracked and often bleeding due to my obsessive hand washing. I live with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and unfortunately you can see it when you look at my hands. My hand washing isn’t my only compulsion, but it is the most painful. My hands look about 30 years older than I do.

But I decided to get my nails done, even though I was extremely anxious about it. I was worried that the manicurist would be disgusted by my hands or ask what was wrong with me. I was prepared for the worst, as usual.

However, she didn’t say anything about my hands until she started to apply lotion. She said, “Your hands are very dry.”
Prepared for this comment, I replied, “I wash my hands a lot.”

She gave me a confused face and started to ask if I had skin conditions, such as psoriasis. I shook my head and said, “No, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

She stared at me for a moment until she realized that obsessive-compulsive disorder was the same as OCD. Then she laughed. She said, “Oh wow. I love how you said that with a straight face!” and continued to laugh.

I understand that many people don’t know what OCD really is, but it still hurt. The fact that she thought it was a joke broke my heart. It took a lot out of me to admit to having OCD, but then my disorder got laughed at. Unfortunately, this is why I don’t speak out about my OCD often. So many people think OCD is just being really neat or clean. But most of the time, OCD doesn’t even manifest in that way. I’m so tired of my illness being used so flippantly. And I know I shouldn’t be too upset about people really not knowing what it means — it’s not necessarily their fault — but it still hurts.

This is why I’m writing this — in the hopes someone somewhere will come across this and finally understand that OCD is not an adjective. It’s not being “anal” or “neat” or even particular about certain things. That’s just being a human.

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