I’ve been very tired lately; and kind of resentful and moody. Frankly, I’m just not liking how OCD has hijacked my son’s life – and, by association, our entire family life. Okay, okay, perhaps I’m being a bit melodramatic. Still, it is so frustrating to do things as a family and have an uninvited guest come along time after time.
This weekend we went to a sporting event and street fair together. We all piled into the car and the kids brought friends. The morning rituals took so long that our boy missed breakfast. He came running out the door as we were preparing to pull out of the driveway.
Now, I generally don’t worry if our older son misses a meal because I know he will make up for it later. Not that that’s the way I’d prefer he eat, but overall I know he will take care of himself and make sure there is food in his body. Our younger son is another issue. OCD has worked its way into his eating habits, limiting what and when he will eat. I worry that it is going to affect his overall health. In addition, there’s the immediate impact of lack of food on his mood.
At our event, we all went to grab a snack. It was noon already and we would not be able to get a real meal for 2-3 more hours. Everyone chose something. Everyone, that is, except son number two. Concerned that he hadn’t eaten, my husband and I let him know that it would be a while until we could have a meal and we pointed out the snack options. In the pre-food issue days, he would have jumped at the chance for a bag full of popcorn…or maybe some nachos. This time, instead, we got a polite refusal.
In the past we have gotten into heated discussions when OCD has reared its head. Frankly, these discussions can ruin an outing. However, since we have pledged to not have OCD be our family’s focus, and because we agreed to allow our son to be responsible for his own OCD, my husband and I dropped the subject and went on with our event.
Fast forward to 2:30 p.m. We all placed food orders and were looking forward to a nice meal before heading home. Yet, I noticed, at our table of six, that one member refused to order anything – even a glass of water. At this point, he had been up for six and a half hours. He had not had a single drop of liquid nor any food all day. For some reason, the food in this establishment was unacceptable. I do not know why. He used to find something to eat anyplace we went, but the OCD rules have morphed and I have not been able to keep up with them.
I have seen this coming as he has restricted himself more and more over the recent past. At this point, I could not just say nothing.
“Honey, it is important to your health that you eat and drink something. There must be something on this menu that you can eat.”
“Mom,” he says, “it’s complicated. You don’t understand.”
No – honestly, I don’t understand. I don’t understand how an incredibly intelligent 14-year-old listens to this stuff in his head that makes his life miserable and that is prohibiting him from the basic life function of eating. And here’s the thing…it’s happening at home too. He’s restricting more and more what, when and where he will eat. I don’t know what his rules are. The food I cooked him a week ago is unacceptable today. I don’t know what to make him, but I’m not supposed to get into accommodating to OCD’s rules anyway. All I can do is prepare healthy meals with a variety of foods and hope that he will eat something.
Inside, though, I am afraid. I am afraid that my son’s health will be impacted to the point where he will end up in the hospital. I am afraid that he will end up in a residential placement needing 24-hour supervision to ensure that he stays healthy (not that I am against that – thank goodness there are places to go for this kind of treatment). I want better for him. I say silent prayers that he will stand up to OCD and say, “Enough already! I’m done sacrificing myself to you!”
A while back, Larry King did an interview with Howie Mandel. As Larry asked Howie about his OCD, he commented, “It’s not a severe mental illness, is it? I mean, it’s not depression.” Did anyone else see this? I wanted to jump out of my chair and into the computer screen.
“It’s not severe? Come live in my house for a few days, Larry. It’s about a whole lot more than putting your medications in order on the counter.”
Today, I thought about that interview again as I watched my son refuse food and resist any parent encouragement (or cajoling) to put some food into his body. When you will not eat food because of your OCD’s rules, I think that is getting severe. Maybe I’m off base, though.
We returned home around 4:45 p.m. About one half hour later, our boy ate his first food of the day. I sit and wonder to myself where this is heading. Will I continue to cook meals where less and less is acceptable to be eaten? Will we be able to travel as a family if no food establishment is acceptable to his OCD? Will we have a physically ill boy to deal with as well if he continues to have such restrictive rules around food?
I have to entertain the real possibility that my husband and I will have to act to protect our son’s health if he does not eventually take a stand to defeat his OCD – and we will act if we have to. It is this waiting part that is so difficult; watching it unfold and not knowing where the story leads. For now, I will have to focus on what is in my power and be ready to step in should that time come.