UPPER SAUCON – State Representative Justin Simmons (R-131) today released a video statement on his facebook page (facebook.com/JustinSimmonsPA) confiding in the public that he has been afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since childhood and addressing state house absences of 28 days over 7 years. Simmons urged the public to visit www.ADAA.org to find out more about OCD.
The text of his statement is below:
As many of you may have read in recent news reports, there was a concern over my having missed votes in Harrisburg as your Representative. I wanted to take a moment to address those absences because I believe you deserve to know the truth directly from me.
To start, let’s explain what we’re talking about. As your Representative, I’ve missed 28 days in 7 years. In fact, I have a 92% attendance record in Harrisburg – a record that continues to improve every session day.
Of those 28 days, and as reported by the press, nearly a third were due to my wedding or related to the birth of our daughter.
Another 11 days were simply sick days – having the flu or bronchitis – or excused absences by the House.
That leaves 8 days that I’d like to talk about – and that I think will help people understand exactly why I missed that time.
Since I was a child, I’ve been afflicted with OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is a chronic anxiety disorder that is often accompanied with depression. It affects more than 2 million adults in the U.S.
In my final semester of high school, I had a flare-up so severe that I left school to receive intensive treatment while still finishing my studies. That treatment helped me lead a full and successful life for more than a decade – graduating college, serving in the House of Representatives, starting a family, and more.
But in early 2016, I suffered a significant flare-up of my OCD and chose to once again seek the specialized and intensive treatment that helped me before. During those 8 days, I was attending a residential treatment program focused on re-learning the tools to control the effects of OCD.
Before then and since then, I’ve continued to serve you, attend community events, meet with constituents, representing our citizens in Harrisburg, and more.
This isn’t the easiest thing for me to talk about. It’s a very personal issue. It is also an illness that most people don’t understand. They think OCD is what they see on tv or in the movies. For some people, it is. But in many cases, it isn’t; it’s an anxiety issue. For example, for me it sometimes causes me to withdraw… even from family and friends.
Of course, learning to live with OCD over my lifetime has also let me turn it into a positive in many ways. As a legislator, it’s helped me to focus on learning more about issues and legislation, and to fuel my desire to continue knocking on doors and listening to constituents.
I’m talking about this now because, first, you deserve an answer and, second, I hope that by coming forward I can bring some awareness to this issue both today and in the future. I urge you to look at my facebook page, or visit ADAA.org to find out more facts and information.
My OCD isn’t something that stops me. It isn’t something that stops millions of other people afflicted with it. It isn’t something that stops me from working hard for you and leading a full life with my family and friends. I’ve worked successfully for years while addressing it, and will continue to do so in the future.
I want to end by thanking my family and friends for their support, and thanking you for the honor of representing you. That is an honor I hope you will allow me to continue in the future. Thank you.