Saturday, April 21, 2007

How to be Insensitive 1.0

A few weeks ago I blogged about a friend and colleague J, who had taken sick leave due to stress.

J is now back at work after two weeks leave and is settling back into the work routine. It's not common knowledge in the office, but I heard from another close friend that J is suffering from a form of Obssesive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD for short.

I have always associated OCD with irrational repetitive behavior, eg people who have to wash their hands 150 times a day or stir their tea exactly 25 times before drinking it.

Other symptoms of OCD include: a need to feel that both sides of the body is "balanced" and an obsession with numbers (odd or even) - to the extent that the person may "hate" certain numbers and feel extreme anxiety when they encounter these numbers in daily life.

I think a lot of people exhibit this behavior in a minor form but as long as it doesn't interfere with their normal life, they can deal with it and it's all OK.

For example, Mr K-E has this "thing" where he prefers the volume on the DVD player to be an even number or a multiple of 5. This is is only a "preference" - he doesn't get feelings of anxiety or anything like that. But if you think about this, it's completely irrational.

Also when he's falling asleep at night, if for some reason he opens one eye, then he has to close it and open and close the other eye for the same amount of time. It's a kind of "balance" thing, he says. Other people have also said the same thing about being "in-balance", so I suppose it's quite common.

J's OCD, on the other hand, is quite serious and he has been struggling with it for the last ten years. Instead of a physical form of OCD, he suffers from a mental form where he obssesses over every decision he makes - going over every decision again and again in his mind. In our line of work, where we have to take on a lot of responsibility, I can only imagine how hard it is for him to cope.

Anyway, on Friday we had our quarterly presentation, where each team gives a presentation and talks about their achievements in the last quarter. When J's team leader gave his presentation, he talked about J's particular project and how difficult it was.

Then our American director added - yes, this is the job that is driving J crazy!

Everybody laughed, but those of us who knew about J's illness couldn't believe anyone could make such an insensitive remark. The director apologised later, but still.....not good.

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