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Whenever I go out with my friends, they often joke about OCD. For example, if a tile is out of place on the floor or their clothing is wrinkled, they’ll say “OMG, I’m so OCD!” and we all laugh. It’s a running joke and while I don’t really mind, what they don’t know is that I actually have OCD. Every day, I struggle with how many times to turn the lights on and off, I have trouble walking normally because of the compulsions in my mind telling me to avoid certain spots or to create specific patterns. This is a very real thing for me, but I’m taking medication and doing therapy to be able to seem ‘normal’ when I’m in public, at least for a few hours. I’m thinking about telling my friends that I have OCD, but I have no idea how to explain it to them or where they can find more detailed info about this disorder. I don’t know where to start. Can you help me? Thank you!
■ Thanks a lot for your question. As I’m sure you know, OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is when normal, everyday anxieties—such as ensuring we turn the lights off, or being careful about where we walk—get pushed to the extreme in our minds and we become obsessed by them. Whenever any of us feels very anxious, we find ways to try to ease our discomfort and anxiety. With OCD, we develop behaviours that aim to ease the anxiety we’re feeling and then tend to do these behaviours compulsively, for example by switching off lights a certain number of times, or avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. Sometimes these behaviours ease our anxiety, but sometimes they don’t work as well as we hope.
Many people learn to manage their OCD very well and it’s an issue that is generally quite treatable. It’s great that you’re dealing with your OCD and have found ways to appear “normal” in public. However, I can imagine it would be a relief to not have to hide this from your friends as much as you do now.
It can be difficult discussing something like this with other people, but there is no reason for you to feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. The fact is, people have all varieties of health issues, and mental health issues are no different from physical health issues, in that there’s often no logical reason why one person is more affected by an issue than someone else. Like any health issue, you need to find a treatment that works for you and some ways to manage it so you can live your life the way you want to as much as possible.
Bringing up this issue can be awkward, especially in a group setting, but that depends on the group dynamic. Is there someone in your friend group who you think would be more understanding? Or someone who would be easier for you to talk to initially? If so, talk to them individually at first, so that at least one person in your group knows, which could make it easier when you tell your other friends. Prepare what you want to say to them beforehand and trust that your friends will be OK with you being honest about this.
Regarding the jokes, I think it would be good to tell them how you feel. You might really be OK with them still joking about OCD and then it can be an inside joke between you all, but if you would rather they didn’t make jokes about this then you should tell them so. I’m sure if one of your friends asked you to stop joking about something because it affects them personally, then you would respect that, so hopefully your friends will also understand and do the same for you.
There are many good websites with useful information about OCD to help you understand it better and explain it to others, and also for others to know how they can support you. Here is one that may be helpful: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/about-ocd/
All the best with continuing to deal with this issue and in discussing it with your friends.
I am 5 months pregnant and excited to meet my little one! However, when discussing pregnancy, I have heard a lot of people talk about postpartum depression. It seems to be a terrible thing, but I don’t really know what it means. What is postpartum depression, how common is it, and what can I do to prevent it?
Dear Happily Pregnant,
■ First of all, my congratulations on your pregnancy! Parenthood is a life changing experience and I am glad that you are excited to meet your little one. To answer your question, postpartum depression (PPD) is a condition that happens to some new mothers. When we deliver a baby, the experience requires an enormous amount of energy and strength from a woman. Although our bodies are generally able to do this, it is nevertheless a “top performance.” After a top performance it is not uncommon to feel kind of empty and uncertain about what is to come. We call this the ‘baby blues’. The third day after giving birth to a child a young mother can be teary or vulnerable. In general this goes away, but if the feelings persist and start to affect our daily functioning, we may possibly have a case of postpartum depression. It often starts within one month after birth. The causes can be numerous: physical (like the change of hormonal patterns), emotional (mood swings, feeling different than before giving birth) or social (worries about heavy responsibility or family dynamics). Postpartum depression can be experienced in many gradations and it seems to happen roughly in 15% of pregnancies.
Your question ‘What can I do to prevent it?’ is a hard question. First and foremost, take care of yourself by eating healthy, taking care of your body, and being prepared for the delivery. This, of course, is something you do already as it is a vital part of being pregnant. It might be wise to have help in place after the birth by asking someone to be around for advice or to take over some tasks.
1) Talk with others when you feel sad and just share your feelings. Know that it is normal to feel sad/confused/overwhelmed and sometimes wanting to be free of this new responsibility, while at the same time feeling so happy with the baby, a proud and glad mother.
2) Acknowledge your feelings of sadness or confusion regarding your new role and the baby.
3) Recognise that things are perhaps not as dreamy and rosy as you thought they would be, because life is not always that easy. Acknowledging these feelings does not make you a bad parent. Evaluate your expectations and lower them if you can, and understand that you do not have to live up the expectations of others.
4) Ask for practical help (so you will get sufficient sleep).
5) Take good care of yourself by having some time for self-care, such as pursuing a hobby, a visit with a friend, exercising, or whatever nurtures you.
If the sadness stays all day, for several days and you feel that you want to be free of your child, please seek professional help. Again, this does not mean you are a bad person, but just that you are overwhelmed and need to be cared for. If you question yourself all the time, wondering whether you truly love your child, this a sign that you do need to talk with an experienced mother or a professional counsellor or doctor. Postpartum depression can cause these doubts; please know that it does NOT mean that you are a bad mother, but it is caused by the psychological situation you are in. There is help available in medication and/or by therapy.
I hope this answer helps you and otherwise feel free to connect to talk more about it as this is a vast topic with many aspects to consider.