(A picture of a person wearing eyeglasses looking to the side with a wide eyed, sad expression on the face. Both hands are raised up. The head and one side to the level of just below the shoulder are surrounded by the word AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! in an arc. Caricature of something wafting up from both arms is seen.)
Text: Last week, I had a panic attack because my hands smelled like onions. That sounds like a joke, but it’s not.
(A person is sitting at a table in front of a plate heaped with food. Caricature of something wafting up from the food is seen. Two onions are seen, one on either side of the person. There are three containers, one tall one in the middle with two short ones on either side, in the foreground in front of the plate. In the background, the words “Please go away” is seen multiple times, surrounding the person from just above the head to the shoulder level. The person is wearing eyeglasses and looking sad with a downturned mouth and wide eyes.)
Text: It turns out my nail polish had absorbed the smell, which is why I couldn’t get rid of it by showering, washing my hands a bunch, or laundering my clothes.
(A person who is wearing eyeglasses is sitting with the legs drawn up against the body and both hands hugging the knees with a forlorn look on the face. Caricature of onions and something wafting around surrounds the person.)
Text: The problem wasn’t that I imagined the smell (I had other people confirm it). The problem was that after three days of stinky hands, I was convinced that I was going to smell like onions forever, which would drive away my friends and husband and dog, that I’d contaminate everything I touched until I died, and then they’d have to cremate me to eradicate the odor completely.
(A picture of two people standing beside a washing machine. The person on the left is standing with one hand holding to the washing machine with a concerned expression on the face. The person on the right has tears running down the face and has clothes slung over one arm while placing clothes into the washing machine with the other arm.)
Person 1: Hon, what’s wrong?
Person 2: Nothing! Hahaha. *sob* It’s stupid, I’m sorry. *sob* My hands, God, I’m an idiot, ha, my hand smell like onions. *sob*
Text: My husband caught me in full-blown freak-out mode, stripping the bed I was convinced I’d contaminated while crying uncontrollably and laughing at myself for being so stupid. But here’s the real question: Why did I feel caught, and why did I hide what had been bothering me for three days?
The answer is: Because I know I’m “crazy,” and I also know that society doesn’t like (or even come close to understanding) “crazy” people.
(A person standing with legs slightly apart, both hands spread out and held up.)
Person 1: Like Monk, right? Does my messy desk bug you? Will you clean my apartment?
Text: When people find out that I have OCD, they think I’m a quirky neat-freak.
(A picture of a person wearing spectacles with a small smile on the face and a desk in front with multiple things scattered across the surface.)
Text: Really, I ritually reorganize and discard my stuff specifically because if I don’t do that, I will drown in a sea of comforting, filthy belongings.
(A picture of a person standing amidst heaps of cartons on one side and a bed piled high with stuff on the other. The person has a sad expression.)
Text: It took two years after I’d moved out to clean my childhood room because it was so packed with things I was scared to get rid of in case I needed them. When I did finally tackle it, I threw out over 100 pounds of magazines and found dog shit and three dead lizards under the piles of crap. So my OCD makes my life an episode of Hoarders, not Monk, and I hate it.
(A picture of a person who is smiling and jaunty looking, standing with legs slightly apart and hands a little away from the body, holding a long-stemmed flower in one hand.)
Person: Oh gosh, I’m just so silly!
(A picture of a person with both hands on top of the head with a pained expression on the face, mouth curved downwards, and wearing eyeglasses.)
Person: Oh crap! People are looking at me! Make it stop!
Text: People hear “social anxiety” and think of cute-awkward Zooey Deschanel tropes, not things like puking because a Tumblr post gets a lot of notes, or hiding in a bathroom for an hour because you choked on your drink at a wedding, or blushing so hard that someone asks if you’re okay, and then crying because they saw you blush.
(A picture with three people in the foreground and three people in the background. The two people on the left in the background are walking arm in arm. The first person on the left has one arm held away from the body while the other is holding the arm of the second person. The second person is looking at the third person on the right, has one leg crossed over the other and one arm waving to the third person on the right in the background while the other is holding the arm of the first person on the left. The third person on the right in the background is standing with legs slightly apart, one hand waving to the second person and the other held away from the body. The third person is wearing spectacles.)
(In the foreground, the persons on the left and middle are wearing spectacles. The person on the left is looking sad with downturned mouth. One hand is hanging down on the side and the other is held to the chest in front. The person in the middle is looking at the person on the right with a sad expression and downturned mouth. Both hands are held in front touching the chest. The person on the right is looking at the person in the middle with an accusing expression. The forefinger of one hand is pointing accusingly at the person in the middle, while the other hand is holding the waist.)
Person 1: You can’t have kids! They’d be fucked up, just like you.
Text: Because of my depression, anxiety, and OCD, I’ve lost jobs, lost friends, and even had my fitness to reproduce called into question, and it’s because society’s perception of mental illness is wrong at best and is demonizing at the worst end of the spectrum.
(Two pictures. The left side picture shows a person within bars holding onto the bars with both hands and looking out with a forlorn expression. The words “Crazies Only!” are printed on top of the bars. The picture on the right shows two people. The person on the left has a sad expression with downturned mouth. The person on the right is within a thought bubble. Both hands are thrown wide and up. One hand is holding a knife. There is a half mask over the lower part of the face from below the eyes.)
Text: People with “scarier” sounding mental illness are told they should be locked up or forced to register because people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or who are experiencing psychosis are seen as raving maniacs and a threat in spite of that fact that people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victim, rather than the perpetrator, of violence – and all for an illness that is not their fault.
(A picture of a person wearing spectacles and holding one arm at the back and the other slightly away from the body in the front. The person is wearing a T-shirt with the word “crazy” on the front that is crossed out.)
Text: So I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s time for a change. People with mental illnesses hide their issues until it’s a problem because they know they’re stigmatized and changing that stigma starts with language. Your friend who like order is organized, not OCD. You’re sad when a TV series ends, not depressed. Your aggressive employer is pushy, not “a psycho.” Making this small change in language may start to dilute the stigma enough that some of us who have been hiding can come in out of the dark.