It started off well enough.
I was assigned to a group in a graduate school social work class. It was HBSE, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, a mandatory course for master’s level social work students.
We were talking about a case study that we had read for homework that week. The case study described a woman’s mental health symptoms.
I love talking about mental health, and I’m very comfortable about my mental health journey. Some people call it oversharing. I just call it keeping it real. It’s more enjoyable to just be open and honest about something that most people deal with at some point in their lives.
There was a natural pause in the conversation. So I started talking about some of the OCD symptoms that I’ve dealt with.
“Yeah, I’ve even dealt with skin picking. It’s not fun, and it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s the thing about OCD, it doesn’t have to make sense. You know you shouldn’t be doing it but still you do it.”
There was an immediate reaction from a classmate.
“You don’t seem like the kind of person who has OCD.”
I can’t even remember what I said exactly. I think I was mainly stunned and just looked at the floor for a bit. Then, I tried to explain that there are different forms of OCD and they are not always noticeable. People who deal with anxiety and OCD are often very good at hiding their symptoms–at least, for a while.
Then something beautiful happened.
Someone I didn’t know well at all at the time spoke up.
“I pick my skin too!”
She then went onto to tell this beautifully heartfelt story about the issues she had–and has–with anxiety and how she can get lost in her head for long periods of time and pick at her skin while feeling anxious. She spoke in trance-like way and smiled as she talked.
The 3 other group members looked on in silence, their faces a mixture of puzzlement and shock.
My comment about my own struggles led to this moment. Being vulnerable opens the door to connection.