Written by Jenna Borrelli
Managing my mental health disorders is an experience laced with complex and nuanced emotions. There are days where I am grappling, clinging to my sick identity. There are moments where I consider groveling with the devil – to sell my soul in exchange for a neurotypical brain. I am never experiencing one consistent feeling, however this is one thing for certain – there is nothing blessed/delightful/wonderful about the often overwhelming and challenging experiences.
When I was in middle school, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 13 years later, there are still plenty of debilitating moments, but with therapy, EMDR, a peer support group and creative outlets for coping, I’ve been afforded the head space to advocate for others who suffer with their mental health. I’ve found ways to cope and heal.
There are moments where I consider groveling with the devil – to sell my soul in exchange for a neurotypical brain.
Beyond my community, I find there are quite a few problematic instances in media and pop culture where mental health is wrongfully displayed and trivialised, especially in terms of OCD. When a celebrity refers to a disorder as a blessing and something to make a profit off of, it makes it really difficult for sufferers to feel like their experiences will be taken seriously.
In this case, it’s Khloé Kardashian’s declaration of OCD. Now, before I dig into the problematic nature of her display and exploitation of this disorder, I would like to disclose that I did some digging in regards to whether or not Khloé does indeed have OCD or receive treatment for her obsessive tendencies.
Khloé is known as the “clean freak” in the Kardashian clan. With a cleanily house and color coded pantry, she takes pride in her ability to maintain and organize her home. However, much of this behavior is maintained by anxiety and obsession, which as those who suffer understand can be extremely debilitating. Kris Jenner was worried about her daughter’s incessant cleaning and sent her to a therapist to actually work on exposures and learning how to sit with the anxiety. I do see this as a big win. However, let’s dive a little deeper.
The way she labels her cleaning … is negatively aligned with how many others in pop culture talk about mental illness.
Celebrities going to therapy on television is HUGE and incredibly impactful, so I will throw Khloé a bone there. But the way she labels her cleaning, the way her siblings interact with her orderliness, and the way she posts about it on social media/partners with brands, is negatively aligned with how many others in pop culture talk about mental illness. When she partners with brands like Febreze and her sisters make comments on her Instagram by saying things like, “You’re such a neat freak” or she makes a Youtube channel called Kloh-C-D, I can’t sit there and feed into that narrative. I think the biggest kicker for me is when she completely construes and denies the experiences of others with OCD. As mentioned in this article, in a Khlo-C-D Pantry video, Khloé declares, “You say OCD is a disease, but I say it’s a blessing.”
Khloé speaks to OCD as if it’s purely an anxiety cleaning disorder, with such a massive platform she actually has the opportunity to advocate for and educate her millions of followers on the incredibly deep and nuanced (and often complex) experience of suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sure Khloé, let your privilege show. Sure it’s a blessing for you, but for me and millions of others Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is NOT a blessing. It is debilitating, life altering and can be all consuming.
With such a massive platform she actually has the opportunity to advocate for and educate her millions of followers on the incredibly deep and nuanced … experience of suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Let’s start with a definition.
The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IODCF) describes OCD as,
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.”
There are many different themes or ways that OCD expresses itself. Physical compulsions can look like hand washing or skin picking. There are folks like myself who have “pure OCD” where the majority of our compulsions are mental. Regardless of the rituals, or compulsions, or right to stop intrusive thoughts – these experiences can feel consistent and exhausting.
Regardless of the rituals, or compulsions, or right to stop intrusive thoughts – these experiences can feel consistent and exhausting.
How OCD has expressed itself for me
Like many sufferers, I have experienced a variety of different obsessions and fears. For me, it’s never been ‘just’ keeping my pantry clean.
In my years of OCD I’ve had many obsession themes including the following:
- Relationships – romantic, intimate, platonic
- Moral Scrupulosity
- Cleanliness of Food
As a result, my OCD has attacked the following things in my life:
- My memory
- My self worth/body image
- My relationship with loved ones
- My sleep
- My sex life
As you can see, OCD is so much more than a cleaning disorder.
It is SO important to seek help if you have OCD. There is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) which is the most effective method for treatment. It’s not just exposing yourself to your fears, it’s teaching yourself to recondition the responses to those fears. It’s providing you a safe space to explore your reactions in a healthy way. You learn to sit with those thoughts, no matter how painful they are. ERP is not easy work but it is life changing.
What’s also important is to make sure celebrities and pop culture are speaking correctly about mental health, especially about complicated disorders like OCD. Celebrities have the biggest platform to dismantle misinformation yet so often they are the ones who continue to spread it while trivialising everyday peoples’ mental health. If you think about mental health in terms of blessings, it’s not the cleanliness or obsessions or anxiety – it’s the resilience. It’s in the healing. The true miracles are learning how to be vulnerable and love yourself, even when you don’t feel lovable. So no Khloé, OCD is not a blessing, but my healing journey sure as fuck is.
About The Author
Jenna Borrelli (she/her) is a Chicago-based writer, poet, and mental health advocate. She has found her voice by sharing stories about her experiences with mental health and identity, and continues to explore themes of intimacy and vulnerable as a means to help herself and others heal.
Follow on IG: @jenna.borrelli.life