A global initiative is working to erase negative perceptions around obsessive compulsive disorder, one creative statement at a time.
The Secret Illness, a mental illness project designed to explore the reality of living with OCD, created a space called "The Wall" on their website as a way to have an open conversation about mental health. Each tile on "The Wall" features a testimony of what it's truly like to have the mental health disorder. The reader can click on the box to read a more in-depth essay on an individual's personal experience.
The results are a stunning display of honest confessions from people all over the world.
"We want to create a community where people living with OCD can feel less alone," The Secret Illness co-founder Becca Laidler told The Huffington Post. "I have met people who have never spoken to anyone about their intrusive thoughts or rituals as they felt sure people would judge them as 'mad,' 'weird' or 'dangerous.' I hope that people reading this realize that is not the case and feel able to talk about their OCD and receive the support they need."
The heartbreaking confessions range from specific fears people have about their disorder to motivational declarations of how they're going to fight it. They're brave, tangible accounts of an otherwise invisible illness.
"I can't stop thinking," one submission reads. "It feels like I have 100 thoughts at a time I can't ever switch off."
Laidler and co-founder and filmmaker Liz Smith started The Secret Illness as a way to discover more about the disorder some time after Laidler's mother was diagnosed with OCD. Their endeavor not only illuminated the the complex nuances of the illness for the Internet, but for themselves as well.
"Liz and I initially thought a documentary would be the best way of raising awareness but we soon realized if we were going to tell this story truthfully it had to be told by the OCD community themselves," Laidler said.
It's estimated that around 2 million U.S. adults experience OCD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The illness is hardly just "being super organized." The symptoms of the condition include intrusive thoughts, repetitive actions and intense anxiety.
"OCD manifests itself in many different ways, and it's not about being neat and tidy," Smith explained. "It can be extremely debilitating but with proper treatment it can be managed and people suffering with it can get their lives back. It not something to be ashamed of -- anyone can suffer from it regardless of age, gender or race."
Both Laidler and Smith hope the project creates a sense of community for sufferers. They want those with OCD to not only view it as a safe space but an avenue for eradicating the negative stereotypes that are attached to the condition. The website also offers mental health resources for those who may be in need.
"I think we all need to work together to break the stigma of mental illness," Laidler stressed. "The more brave people who speak out -- and the more people who want to learn more about OCD -- the better."
Head over to The Secret Illness to learn more and to see more essays from people with OCD.