Dear Harlan,

I’m a high-school senior, and I recently found out that I’ve been suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder for years. In eighth grade, I should have sought help, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about my repressed thoughts or compulsions. It affected my quality of life by making me terrified to think for a few months for fear of what my mind would bring up. At the moment, I’m still living with it, but it isn’t as disruptive — most of my more upsetting symptoms are gone. While it’s at a low point, I’m afraid that when I go to college next year, with the added stress of living in a new place, away from home for the first time, with strangers, and so many pressures, that it’ll come back full force – or even worse than before. I don’t want this to make college unbearable. Thank you. It actually was a relief to write this down.

Thinking and Afraid

Dear Thinking,

Thank you for sharing this. You probably already know this, but more students than ever before are attending college with documented disabilities. One big reason: students are being identified and supported earlier than ever. The support part is key – support makes all the difference. Regarding your concerns, only choose a school where you can be supported. Investigate all the resources available on each campus. Find a psychiatrist and therapist in the local community who specialize in OCD and create a support network before ever stepping foot on campus. OCD doesn’t define you. It’s a part of you. And it’s a part that needs to be embraced, supported and managed. The good news, more schools than ever before are equipped to support and educate you.

Dear Harlan,

I live in a house with six other people, and despite all my efforts, my roommates have little respect for me. Before I moved I told my roommates that I couldn’t live around animals because I’m allergic to animals, especially cats. A month later, they took in a stray cat. I suffered through sneezing, hives and itchy eyes until my one roommate took it away (but they later brought in another cat). I’m a non-smoker, and half of my roommates smoke cigarettes. They promised not to smoke in the house, but still do. Now, one roommate’s boyfriend is practically living with us. He never leaves, eats my food, smokes constantly (including weed) and has sex in the shower with my roommate. I recently found a condom wrapper in our bathroom. It is awkward for me, and I donknow how to bring it up to her. My other girl roommates feel uncomfortable too, but haven’t said anything to her. I don’t want to be the “bad guy.” I move out in June, but I can’t stand it. Any suggestions?

Miserable Roommate

Dear Miserable,

Don’t want to be the bad guy? What? Having uncomfortable conversations are part of being the perfect roommate. Sure, there’s a chance things will get uncomfortable, but without having uncomfortable conversations about uncomfortable situations, you’re guaranteed an uncomfortable living situation — this includes condoms, filth, cats, smoke, sex next door and the roommate you never wanted. If you weren’t afraid of being the bad guy, you would have made it clear earlier in the year that the cat goes or you go. If you had to go, it would have been a gift. You’d now be living in bliss.

Lesson learned: Never again be afraid to be the bad guy.

Harlan is the author of “The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)” (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at harlan(at) or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.

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