Assume Good Intentions

You know when you’re at the gynecologist, you’re sitting there half naked, vulnerable as heck, you’re already super nervous, and finally the doctor comes in to get this over with, but then she makes an OCD joke?

No, too specific to my life today?

This is an accurate depiction of the stages my face went through when my doctor made an OCD joke today.

I tend to get really nervous at the doctor’s (duh, because I have OCD), and this makes it difficult to express myself or answer questions. So, I like to bring notes with me. I’m much better at expressing myself through writing than verbally.

This was my first time bringing notes with this doctor, however, and when she saw them she laughed, “Wow, did you type them up?”

“Yes…” I replied, thinking she would find it more helpful than my heinous handwriting.

The doctor continued, “Well, it does say OCD next to your name.”

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My jaw probably dropped. “Close your mouth, Morgan. Don’t let your jaw hang open too far,” I tell myself. “Remember, assume good intentions.”

Honestly, I didn’t say as much in terms of education as I wish I had. After seeing my face, she continued that “it’s a good thing, being organized” to which I replied, “If it was a good thing, it wouldn’t be OCD.” I was trying to get at OCD being debilitating and painful, rather than helpful. But largely, I think she missed my point. I could have said more, but you have to choose your battles. After all, I am an imperfect advocate.

After I was first diagnosed with OCD and still within the depths of severe pain, I used to get quite angry at OCD jokes. What keeps me from getting as angry as I used to now is assuming good intentions.

I learned “assume good intentions” from a fellow Mental Health First Aid instructor when we were teaching together. It means that even though people may say things that are hurtful, assume they did not do it to maliciously to cause harm. Perhaps, they just didn’t know better yet.

This obviously is not applicable to every situation, but I think it is fitting with this context with my doctor. I think she was just trying to be friendly. I think she was trying to ease my anxiety. I think she was even trying to give me a compliment. She probably genuinely didn’t know that OCD isn’t about enjoying organizing and being neat.

That, of course, doesn’t make her comments okay. However, it makes them, at least, understandable. It becomes a chance to focus on education and advocacy, even if I didn’t say as much as I wanted to in the moment. It becomes a chance to think about how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go when it comes to awareness of OCD.


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