Precious. Prissy. Diva. High-maintenance. These are all terms that I have had unwillingly thrust upon me during the last decade of my life. I’ll give you a few examples, shall I?
I once walked into a pub with an ex and subconsciously checked the bar (thoroughly of course) before leaning on it with my elbow. He grinned from ear to ear and affectionately called me “precious”, which I thought little of in the moment.
On another occasion, when asked by an ex-boyfriend what he thought of me, his male friend called me “a bit prissy” due to my health and germ fears shinin’ on through no matter how hard I shamefully tried to smother ‘em (OCD is a persistent little bugger).
Whilst travelling with another ex-boyfriend, we ended up having to stay in a little back-street hostel that cost a couple of quid. The bedsheets were scratchy, unwashed sheets of fleece material, and the bathroom had brown smears and splatters up the wall. I tried to stay calm – believe me I tried– but OCD took full control of my brain and I freaked. I mean FREAKED. The ex-boyfriend took the resulting panic attack very personally and called me difficult.
Now, I wish more than almost anything that I didn’t have OCD. I wish that I could walk into rooms without checking surfaces. I wish I could be a relaxed, laid-back person that is able to improvise when travelling. I wish I didn’t suffer with panic attacks. Unfortunately, I do have OCD, and although I try my best to keep it in check, sometimes it just slips out of my grasp and I am not okay. I cry, I panic and sometimes – SOMETIMES – there’s a surprisingly large quantity of snot.
“Trust their reaction.”
That’s something I say to myself and to others a lot when dealing with the emotions of people around us. If I offend somebody and I’m not sure why they’re offended, I ask them how I’ve offended them, and then I trust their reaction. If someone has a phobia that I personally do not identify with, I trust their reaction. If somebody is crying about something that I don’t understand being upset about, I trust their reaction. Trusting somebody’s reaction has a lot to do with empathy, and understanding that just because you don’t understand WHY somebody is feeling the way they’re feeling, it doesn’t mean you have to be unkind or judgmental.
Some of the people I’ve known – in some situations – have not trusted my reaction. They saw me feeling distressed about something that seemed ridiculous to them and they ridiculed me and called me names.
I’m not being confrontational by writing this blog post and I’m certainly not angry at the numerous people that have called me seemingly harmless names. I do however think that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s an especially relevant issue at the moment, with the likes of celebrities such as Mariah Carey and Kanye West being very forthright and upfront about their mental health.
Mariah Carey recently spoke out about the fact that she is has been living with bipolar disorder for years. This made me feel like hugging her, not only because she’s living with this illness, but also because she has been keeping it hidden for all these years whilst being continuously labelled a ‘diva’.
Mariah Carey has been known for high/profile incidences such as her meltdown on TRL back in the early noughties, followed shortly by a breakdown and a stay in a New York hospital. More recently Carey had an onstage mishap at a New Years Eve performance in New York which saw her leaving the stage prematurely.
There’s been a string of these incidents that have displayed to the world that Carey struggles with dealing with certain situations, and it was clear to many that she has in the past struggled with her mental health. Despite this public knowledge, Carey has been labelled as a high maintenance, difficult diva for her entire career before it emerged in 2018 that she has been suffering with bipolar.
I can think of many other cases of this lexical field of words being attached to people with mental illnesses. Frankly, it’s wrong, it’s narrow-minded and it’s archaic.
I realise that this blog post took a SHARP turn and not only did I (harmlessly) mention some actual experiences with people from my past, but I also (sort of) compared myself to Mariah Carey herself. I realise that sometimes people can be dicks regardless of mental health, and I’m not saying that because I have OCD I’m allowed to be difficult or rude to others. I’m just saying that we could all have a little more sensitivity towards others, and that before calling another person a name with a negative connotation, we can perhaps TRUST THEIR REACTION, because we never know what is going on privately in their heads.