If you refer to OCD as “the secret illness” around people who don’t have it or aren’t very close to someone who does, you might get a blank look. Just about everyone has heard of OCD, and most of them even know it stands for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But those of us who have it know it really is a secret. How many of us have shared our darkest intrusive and obsessive thoughts with anyone? The only person in the world who knows the content of my worst thoughts is my therapist, and I can’t bring myself to share them in anything but the vaguest terms, even with her.

How many of us have shared how embarrassing it is to get caught up in OCD thoughts or compulsions in public? Or how much we wish OCD was just a tendency toward neatness? (I know I do! … But not the compulsive, “bleach everything until the skin peels off your hands” neatness that OCDers with cleanliness compulsions often have. That sounds just as awful as the harm, medical, and religious OCD I live with.)

Anyway, the aptly named creative arts project The Secret Illness aims to bring OCD secrets out in the open. Its goal, much like that of Intrusive Thoughts, is to bring a better awareness and understanding of OCD to the general public, so that fewer people have to suffer for years before seeking help or figuring out what is going on in their heads.

OCD is an often misunderstood and trivialized mental illness. We want to change that.

In addition to film and audio contributions, the website runs The Wall, where any OCDer, no matter how non-artistic, can share an OCD thought, as well as his or her experience with OCD. Submit a headshot, which will be pixelated so it is unrecognizable, a first name (or Anonymous), and your age and location, and you’re done. Your contact information won’t be shared.

If you’re interested in participating, head over to The Secret Illness for more details and the email address.

This is a pretty cool project. Even if you choose not to participate, there’s something really comforting about reading other people’s OCD thoughts and feeling like you’re not alone for a little while.

Photo by Clearly Ambiguous