[Tw: suicide] My mental illness is my superpower in a pandemic

Bitmoji image of author wearing a red cape & standing on top of a building in a superhero pose. Cityscape of crowded together buildings in background. Bitmoji character is wearing gray pants, blue long sleeve shirt, gray newsboy hat with a yellow flower, blue eyeglasses and red cape.

As I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog, I have contamination OCD. Now usually this is specifically focused on avoiding stuff I’m actually allergic to: mold, pets, dust, pollen. [which makes it harder to treat than some other forms of contamination OCD because my fears aren’t irrational but likely excessive]

So when I’m out and about, I often wear gloves to touch things and garbage bags to sit on etc. Normally this elicits stares and awkward questions. But for the last couple of weeks, people have been congratulating me for being really smart with news of COVID-19 trickling in.

Now that everyone is worrying about contamination and avoidance measures, myself and other folks on OCD groups I’m in have noticed that we’re actually calmer than healthy folks around us.

For me, I think this is because I don’t actually have to change my daily habits of contamination control. Though the goal of OCD treatment is to reduce or end avoidance measures, right now mine and fellow OCD sufferers compulsions are coming in pretty handy. Though there is some worry in the OCD community that this might lead to regression of symptoms because stuff we’ve been told is irrational contamination control is what everyone suddenly doing now. Still, having contamination OCD in this moment feels like a superpower.

Apart from contamination OCD, another important thing to mention re mental illness and relative lack of worry and panic over COVID-19 is being passively suicidal. Many ppl with OCD have comorbid mood disorders and one of the symptoms is suicidal thoughts. Passive suicidal ideation that many of us experience is usually in the form of wishing we’d die in our sleep or another passive method. There is a really excellent article about this that I read a few months ago that I highly recommend reading:

I am not always very attached to being alive

In this moment, this too feels like a superpower. To stay calm because we are not afraid of dying but rather welcome it. It feels like a wish coming true. While I am personally making efforts to stay safe from the virus and not go outside, it feels very much like I’m doing it for show and to model what responsible citizens are supposed to do in a pandemic re social distancing. And also because my family would be devastated if I got sick and died thousands of km away from them.

Anyway if you’re feeling high levels of anxiety and a dread going through your day, it’s a small glimpse of how many of us with anxiety feel every day. So I hope healthy folks come out of what feels like a major moment in world history with an increased understanding and compassion towards those with mental illness and any other kind of health problem.

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