By now you’ve probably heard of the controversy over a holiday sweater Target is carrying this season. It reads “OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” On the surface, it’s “just a sweater.” At least that’s what people keep telling me. They’ve also told me it isn’t making fun of OCD, and that “compulsive” is a pretty key word to the whole term. Of course, I think “obsessive” and “disorder” are pretty key words as well, and they’re included on the shirt.
An alternative title to this blog post could be “When Advocacy Turns Ugly” because I’ve been getting some nasty tweets in response to the one I sent to Target on Tuesday:
Usually when I open Twitter I’ll have somewhere between two and five notifications. The morning after I sent this tweet I had 22. What?! I soon realized why: My tweet was included in a Mashable article about the issue.
I didn’t attack anyone or call anyone names, but you wouldn’t have guessed that from some of the responses. I’d include screen shots of them here, but so many of the people who initiated an argument with me ended up blocking me. Here’s a general sampling of quotes, though:
- “THIS IS SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS. GET THE FUCK OVER IT.” (Alongside a photo of people protesting rape — for the record, I am against rape as well as the perpetuation of stigma and misinformation. Empathy is a superhero power I have.)
- “She’s just doing this to get attention for her book. Take a seat.”
- “If you can’t see the humor in anything — what a sad person you are.”
- “We the people should not have to be forced to deal with your situation.” (Very presidential sounding!)
- “This PC bullshit is out of control. JUST STOP!”
- “Stop trivializing people who can separate reality from a sweater.”
- “Just because you wrote a book does not mean you know everything.”
The last one is priceless because the person linked to an article written by my friend and fellow advocate Janet Singer, in which she noted how beneficial it can be to use humor as a coping method. Nowhere in the piece did Janet suggest that being made fun of is an effective therapeutic solution. Her point was that being able to laugh at oneself can be helpful.
Now this I laughed at! (Thanks, Janet, for defending me when I invited you into a less-than-fun conversation.)
The OCD community is pretty tight-knit, so in the future I’d do a little research before pitting us against one another.
In the midst of all of this, a reporter from KARE 11, the Minneapolis NBC affiliate, asked if I’d be interested in chatting about the topic. Since I’d already seen so many icky tweets I was nervous about more backlash, but of course I said yes to the interview. I won’t read the comments on the piece, so I don’t know if people are bashing my views or not. In this case ignorance is a little blissful, if not a means of self-preservation.
What I can’t believe about this whole social media war is how many people have told me I must not have a sense of humor because I didn’t find the sweater funny. I love to laugh! I love The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Dumb and Dumber, Parks and Recreation, The Office — I’m not exactly highbrow. I probably joke too much, in fact. But OCD isn’t funny to me. Call me all the names you want — if you must — but it’s very difficult to see the humor in something so painful. My obsessions made me wish I were dead. When I was in my darkest, lowest points I thought there was no way out. The tremendous guilt I felt was overwhelming. Come up with a clever pun to make me laugh. If you’re my dog, chase your tail. You can even make fun of me! But don’t trivialize the single worst aspect of my life and tell me to get over it. And please don’t swear at me. Geesh. That’s just rude.
I may be thin-skinned, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My empathy doesn’t begin and end with OCD. I will stand up for any marginalized group and won’t back down just because some mean people think I’m whining. Taking a stand is how we effect change. Pushing an unpopular opinion and being shouted down and harassed isn’t easy — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.
So, yes, this week has been strange. But the mean tweets were just a part of it. I also got wonderful notes and messages from people thanking me for working on their behalf. That’s who I do this type of thing for, others with OCD whose voice isn’t quite out there yet, for whatever reason. I can’t speak for everyone, but I will voice my opinion in the hopes that it will bring about change for all of us.