Ashley Dawson, 26, has had obsessive-compulsive disorder — also known as OCD — her entire life.
Dawson wasn't formally diagnosed with OCD until about seven years ago but has experienced intrusive thoughts, ritualistic behaviors, and tics since she was 4.
"I spend so much time being ashamed of my OCD and trying to mask my tics. After 26 years, I've figured out ways to make them look more natural so I don't get so embarrassed," Dawson told BuzzFeed. One morning, she decided she was done with being ashamed, and uploaded the following video to TikTok:
"I wanted to show people what letting my tics run wild looks like, and I didn't care if 2 people or 2,000 people saw it," she said.
"A lot of people think that OCD is just about cleanliness — that's actually so far from the truth. The idea that people with OCD are just 'clean freaks' is actually so damaging to the mental health community and to awareness," she said. "It's very hard to explain the fear and shame, so when people confuse cleanliness with OCD and think that my disorder only has to do with wiping counters, it tends to confuse society as a whole as to what the disease actually means."
Dawson hopes her TikToks can help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. "Most of all, I want people to understand that those of us who suffer from OCD tend to be very caring, creative, and empathetic individuals with big hearts and overactive brains," she said. "It's overwhelming to just be ourselves, but I want more people with OCD to feel free to be true to who they are."