Handcuffs are off

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay AND Day 4 of #OCDAwarenessWeek AND my 3rd post for the 9X9X25 challenge (okay, maybe the last piece is not as exciting).

If I haven’t yet formally introduced myself, I’m the coordinator and a professor for Cambrian College’s brand new post-graduate certificate program in Community and Health Services Navigation.

I adore my job. It’s a dream career, except it’s not a dream. It’s a reality career, but that just sounds weird so back to dream career. How do I know it’s my dream career? Reason 745: Mondays are one of my favourite days.

But let me now introduce myself a bit further: I’m a working professional with a flourishing career and I have a mental illness. More specifically, I have obsessive compulsive disorder, which is very likely not what you think it is. Please verify your understanding by clicking here.

What does this have to do with a post about reflective practice? A lot. I have the opportunity to breakdown misconceptions and stereotypes about mental illness in my role as an educator. I have the opportunity to be a role model and actively demonstrate that it is possible to be successful and live well with a mental illness. Bonus that it connects to the program I teach.

In honour of World Mental Health day, I disclosed to my Positive Psych students before class was over. I showed them the two minute video that I linked a paragraph above. When the video was over, one student vocalized a “thank you,” another came up to me and said that they had just recently referenced OCD in the context of a joke and that the video helped open their mind as to what it really is. Multiple students thanked me for sharing in the ticket-out-the-door feedback. One in particular thanked me for feeling safe to share with them.

I made a choice today to be un-apologetically me. It feels more authentic to let students know that I’ve struggled, that I’ve been through treatment and that I am now thriving, that I still have triggers but I now know how to cope with them. I embody the principles we’re learning about in our class.

I’ve worried that students might judge me or lose respect for me or that it could be frowned upon to disclose something that I could easily keep to myself. And I did, for many years I felt absolutely mortified and ashamed to have OCD and I dared not speak a word of it to anyone.

Today, living well with OCD is a big part of my life and teaching is a big part of my life and mental illness is a part of life in general. 1 in 5 people have a mental illness. I’m one of them. And I’m choosing to be a teacher who is open about it when the time feels right.

I haven’t yet shared this with my students in the post-graduate program. This evening just happened to be a stars-aligning type of evening that felt appropriate and relevant. Sometimes maybe it won’t feel right and that’s okay. But the choice is there.

The handcuffs are off.



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