My Experience with OCD

Jess Kurs-Lasky
November 1, 2013
December 22, 2005: MTV’s “True Life: I Have
OCD” aired
Diagnosis of OCD suggested April 2009
Officially diagnosed with OCD in the winter of
2010 (freshman year of college)
◦ Hindsight is 20/20
Attended my first ever IOCDF Conference, July
18-21, 2013
“When disabilities are visible, others are more
likely to readily accept that there is a problem
that needs to be taken into account. On the
other hand, when culturally accepted markers
for disability are missing, the problem for the
invisibly disabled becomes one of
presentation of self” (Stone 295).
◦ Source of shame
◦ Lack “legitimacy” (unlike visible disability)
Important to recognize
Not always easy to detect
Severe cases
◦ Disclosure could be path to success
◦ Interfere with daily life
◦ Can be debilitating
Ability to live in the moment
Ability to trust myself
◦ “Everything is made unknown and unsafe”
(Wortmann 10).
Ease of daily tasks (e.g. laundry)
Described own behavior as “quirky”
◦ At first, this seemed easier / better
My compulsions: mostly unobservable to the
◦ Even to professionals, I denied suffering from OCD
◦ “While unmistakable in retrospect, at the time my
symptoms resisted easy diagnosis” (Wortmann 31).
“This is how the disorder perpetuates itself:
by occasionally rewarding trauma and
neurosis with brief moments of relief. Every
so often, everything will work, and you will
somehow convince yourself that you are safe,
and the disorder will claim credit” (Wortmann
Weigh pros/cons
5 Ws, 1 H (who, what, where, when, why,
“Explanations not excuses” (Katie, speaker at
IOCDF Conference)
Distinction between “helping” and “enabling”
(Liz, speaker at IOCDF Conference)
Purely a choice (when invisible disability)
Difficult when disability is a mental illness
◦ Stigma associated
Myths about OCD
Assumptions regarding OCD, invisible
disability, and mental illness
Common feelings around disclosure
◦ Shame
◦ Guilt
◦ Inadequacy
Interference can be confused for laziness,
Constant process, constant decision
Framework suggested by Wright
◦ “coping versus succumbing” (Dunn and Burcaw 4).
“No matter how unlikely a feared
consequence, if there exists even the fraction
of a percent of a possibility that it could
occur, the disorder is able to find purchase”
(Wortmann 10).
“OCD insinuates itself delicately until you are
utterly constrained, until every moment of
existence is a choice between submission to
the rule of an absurd tyrant and absolute
terror” (Wortmann 11).
Black-and-white thinking (often associated with
perfectionism characteristics), i.e., regarding
school assignments
Avoidance of high-anxiety situations / people
◦ Note difference between high-anxiety and high-risk
“Easy” tasks are harder to begin, harder to
complete, and take longer than they would for
the *neurotypical person
Avoidance re: disclosure
◦ *term used by a professor of mine upon my disclosure
of suffering from OCD in the spring 2013, rather than
using the word “normal”
Willingness to go toward high-anxiety
situations / people
Disclosure (especially in academic setting)
Enjoyment from things such as reading
Engaging in “easy” tasks
A person’s “best” looks different every day
Progress not perfection
Comparison to neurotypical people will not
◦ Usually will hurt
OCD as a “chronic” condition
Celebrate the “small” victories
Not fighting my OCD is essentially egging it
◦ “As you accept its reasoning, as you begin to work
with it, it tightens its hold on you” (Wortmann 11).
Strength in numbers
My journey toward radical acceptance
Bring the concept of disability into a specific,
individual context
Disclosure: path to success?
“One part of my OCD is wrapped up in the really
terrible, ominous feeling of being wrong. What if
I’m wrong and I don’t have OCD? I feel like a
hamster in a hamster wheel, trying to scour my
mind for evidence that can reassure me. I finally
settle on knowing that I have been officially
diagnosed with OCD and so it has to be true. But
aren’t psychiatric diagnoses based on subjective
assessment? What if I’m remembering incorrectly
and reporting false information?” (J. Kurs-Lasky,
Abstract “Disclosing an Invisible Disability: My
Experience with OCD, A Narrative” 2013)
Dunn, Dana S., and Shane Burcaw. "Disability Identity: Exploring Narrative Accounts of
Disability." Rehabilitation Psychology (2013): 1-10. PsycINFO. Web.
Grayson, Jonathan B. The GOAL Handbook: Running A Successful Support Group For ObsessiveCompulsive Disorder. Publication. Philadelphia: Anxiety and OCD Treatment Center of Philadelphia,
n.d. The GOAL Handbook: Running A Successful Support Group For Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
International OCD Foundation. Web.
Hatzenbuehler, Mark L., Jo C. Phelan, and Bruce G. Link. "Framing Health Matters: Stigma as a
Fundamental Cause of Population Health Inequalities." American Journal of Public Health 103.5 (2013):
813-21. May 2013. Web.
McIngvale, Elizabeth. "Conquering School & Your OCD: Tips and Tricks for High School, College, and
Graduate School." International OCD Foundation: 20th Annual OCD Conference. Hyatt Regency Atlanta,
Atlanta. 19 July 2013. Speech.
Murphy, Terry W., Edward E. Zine, and Michael A. Jenike. Life in Rewind: The Story of a Young,
Courageous Man Who Persevered over OCD and the Harvard Doctor Who Broke All the Rules to Help
Him. New York: William Morrow, 2009. Print.
Stone, Sharon D. "Reactions to Invisible Disability: The Experiences of Young Women Survivors of
Hemorrhagic Stroke." Disability and Rehabilitation: An International, Multidisciplinary Journal 27.6
(2005): 293-304. PsycINFO. Web.
Strang, Katie. "Conquering School & Your OCD: Tips and Tricks for High School, College, and Graduate
School." International OCD Foundation: 20th Annual OCD Conference. Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta.
19 July 2013. Speech.
""True Life" I Have OCD (2005)." IMDb., 2013. Web.
Wortmann, Fletcher. Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. New York: Thomas
Dunne, 2012. Print.

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