TCB: I am honored and excited to share Hard Quirk with all of you! Hard Quirk is an online resource providing advocacy, education, and awareness for OCD. What I love so much about them is that they are not only helping eradicate these negative stigmas and false narratives of what this disorder is, but they are making it easily available to all and super relatable.
I was first introduced to Hard Quirk a couple weeks ago after a very long rant on IG in regards to an influencer misusing the term “OCD” in one of her IG Reels. They reached out to me and I instantly wanted to get them on TCB. So, here we are!
Please learn all about them, visit their gorgeous website, check out their social media platforms, and continue reading to learn all about co-founders Maia and Ali!
Hey ladies! To start things off, do you mind sharing what Hard Quirk is in your own words, and what your mission was in starting this company?
HQ: Hard Quirk is an organization designed by the OCD community to serve the OCD community. That includes emphasizing the wisdom from lived experiences as well as incorporating our supporters (family and loved ones) in our goal to change how the world perceives OCD. We refer to our mission with the “4 E’s”:
- Educating others
- Expanding representation of diverse symptom presentations
- Eradicate stigma
- Embrace our quirkiness in recovery
TCB: How has OCD personally affected both of you? Did you find it hard for others to understand what you were dealing with?
A: OCD has become a practice of acceptance for me- accepting that this illness is life-threatening and will be disruptive depending on how I choose to manage symptoms. This illness is both chronic and incurable and will try to take over everything if I allow it.
I found it very difficult for others to understand, especially because I myself didn’t understand it for a long time.
Clinicians didn’t really know what was going on with me either which led to a prolonged experience of undiagnosed and untreated OCD. I understand now that the disorder tends to become more dangerous and the symptoms become more severe the longer that it goes untreated.
M: OCD for me looks nothing like what I understood it to be from the media and textbooks. I have struggled significantly with sexual intrusive images and obsessions––I thoroughly believed that I was a pervert and horrible person because of these unwanted intrusions from ages 8 to 21, and at 23 now, I am still working to unlearn the ingrained shame response my OCD cultivated.
Others didn’t understand what I was dealing with initially because my primary compulsions were remaining silent and––when I was expected to speak––mentally thinking through every sentence to perfect it and assure its censorship before speaking a single word.
Once I finally began talking about these experiences and the profound distress they brought me, I went through at least 12 clinicians before OCD was even suspected. I spent my entire adolescence hating myself and fearing I was a deviant sex addict to the point that I isolated and silenced myself.
TCB: How did you two meet? How did you know that working together was going to be the best fit?
HQ: We actually met as we were placed as roommates in the residential treatment facility that we both attended for severe OCD. We were in treatment together and came to know each other and were close friends already.
One day in a group on unit, we were discussing stigma and how it impacts those of us with OCD and we got inspired to talk about that more.
Additionally, as we prepared to leave our treatment setting and integrate back into the world, we realized that there was very little knowledge or community for those living in recovery from OCD. It tends to have a fairly significant relapse rate so relapse prevention is an important part of recovery.
TCB: I genuinely appreciate how you use social media and how you choose to educate others. What did you feel like was missing in the world of mental health advocacy that you knew you could provide?
HQ: We have been absolutely thrilled by the gratitude and appreciation for our “unique” approaches including using social media and the brilliantly designed website (thanks Maia).
One of the first things that we noticed was that many other disorders had gained a lot of awareness over the past few years and that OCD had been largely excluded from that.
We also both strongly believe that mental health resources are very challenging to use when you’re facing barriers with economic and other social challenges.
We hope to create practical and simple solutions that we can provide at a community level and to inspire our peers like we inspire each other.
TCB: I know with the pandemic, future planning is difficult at times, but where do you see this network expanding to? How do you see yourselves growing?
HQ: Honestly, we have already grown so much more than we anticipated.
Things on the horizon for HQ right now are becoming a federally designated non-profit organization, fundraisers to provide some type of compensation for our team members and ourselves, to integrate some new features like peer supports and sponsorships, to collaborate with clinicians, and to continue connecting with the community however we can.
PIN ITTCB: Has there been a moment in your journey that stood out the most giving you validation that you are making a difference? If so, in as a much or as a little detail as you’d like, can you share?
HQ: We recently exhibited HQ at the IOCDF Annual OCD Conference and we received such an outpour, especially from parents and other family members of those struggling hoping that we would be providing support groups and other community resources.
In particular, there was one parent who talked about her son experiencing lots of shame and suffering in silence, and that his face “lit up” with empowerment and acceptance when he found us.
TCB: Why do you think it’s important for people who DO NOT suffer from mental health disorders to learn about them? How do you think more people being informed would help?
HQ: Often, people are able to listen to those who they relate to. While it may be challenging for people who don’t understand the reality of OCD to relate to us, they can easily identify with parents or friends or spouses or family members who are supporting their loved one through an illness.
Our hope is that a focus on spreading education and creating a “call in” culture will get the message to as many people as we can without shaming the ignorance.
We know that the illness gets more severe and more dangerous when untreated and when experienced in isolation. This means that each person who learns something new is actively working against that stigma.
TCB: When you’re not working on Hard Quirk, what are you both doing in your free time?
A: I work as a nanny right now, which is one of the ways that I’m able to continue working with HQ without being paid right now.
I also love spending time with my fiancé, and when not experiencing a global pandemic, doing things like thrift shopping, making music, writing, sketching, watching movies, swimming, and playing sports that I’m horrible at.
M: I am in school, studying psychology and art therapy––I hope to eventually specialize in treating individuals with OCD.
Outside of school and Hard Quirk, I really enjoy exercising my creativity and making art! I paint, draw, play around with graphic design, collage, write…you name it.
In my recovery from OCD and a comorbid eating disorder, I’ve grown an interest in cooking and trying new cuisines. For self-care, I’m fond of cooking myself a nice meal and enjoying a glass of wine while watching a movie (big movie fan!) or making art, solo or with some friends.
TCB: We like to keep it real at The ChaCha Blog and not hide our faults or struggles, so with that, have you experienced any pitfalls or struggles so far? If so, do you mind sharing what that struggle was, and how you bounced back?
HQ: This is such an integral part of Hard Quirk actually. We try to be really candid in our struggles.
Perfectionism is a sub-type of OCD so we really stray from any type of portrayal of us being “perfect” certainly in the area of recovery.
I know that we have often accidentally invited the perfectionist and other rituals into the development of HQ and recently discussed in a team meeting how we can continue to honor our recovery.
We basically shared that we can’t really allow HQ to become a barrier to our individual recovery as we advocate for the recovery of others.
TCB: What is your best advice for anyone who is wanting to start a brand or business geared towards helping others?
HQ: We don’t have all of the answers but it feels great to love what you do- it takes a lot of passion!
TCB: Last but not least, where can people find you to stay up to date on your work?
HQ: When you register for a membership to our online community then you will get all of our update emails and our social media is always popping with our newest announcements!
If you or someone you know suspects you may have OCD, please seek medical advice.