Tonight as I’m preparing dinner, Blake pulls out the trash and begins searching through it. He has both hands fully inside and is fumbling with the contents.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
No surprise at that answer.
“You’re not doing nothing. You’re going through the trash.”
I sound like such a mom. The thing is, I know exactly what he’s doing. It’s all part of this dance that we do. Moments before he had asked me what was for dinner. I told him – and then I could hear him doing his quiet, anxious mumble.
“Ummm. Hmmm. Uh….”
It’s what he does when his OCD rules pop up. He hedges. He tries to be unobtrusive, but to get my attention at the same time. Most of the time I don’t bite. Tonight is no different. He’s fully capable of stating the problem he’s having, so I don’t respond to this mumble. I wait for him to say something.
Honestly, I’m pretty sure what the problem is. He’s unhappy with the roast I’m serving. It violates his eating rules. Still, I wait for him to share the problem. If he’s not going to speak up, I’m not going to do service to this.
Now he’s in the trash, searching for something to help his anxiety. As I’m noting that he’s in the trash and asking him about it, he finds what he is looking for. It’s the wrapper from the roast. Still deep in the trash, he pulls it apart so he can get a good look at it. I can see it doesn’t meet with his satisfaction.
“Blake, if you have a question about the meal, ask. Stop hiding and pretending and saying it’s nothing.”
“Umm…okay.” He walks away. But then he starts again, quietly, at first. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
“Blake, are you asking for help or is there something you’d like from me? Or do you just need to be talking about this to yourself?”
“Well, um, I’m kind of asking for help. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Is it about the roast? You don’t feel you can eat it?”
“I’m sorry, Mom. I just believe I shouldn’t. So I don’t know what to do.”
“Blake,” I answer “you know that we want you to eat healthy. I prefer that you eat the meal I prepare, but if you aren’t going to, then you’ll need to prepare yourself something.”
“I know, Mom.”
“And also, please just come out and say what’s going on. This hiding and pretending and mumbling doesn’t help.”
He puts together something to make a complete meal for himself and we all manage to eat a meal together. Still, I’ve got a frustrated feeling inside me. The fact that he won’t eat the meal I’ve prepared is less upsetting than the sneakiness, the hedging and the hiding. If he would simply come out with the truth, at least we could discuss it openly – but OCD tells him to sidestep the truth, tell partial-truths or omit the truth entirely.
I don’t understand exactly what it is about OCD that seems to cause so many sufferers to operate in the realm of not being honest. It’s almost as though OCD can justify taking whatever means are necessary to maintain itself. Perhaps it is that OCD thrives on secrecy, but is threatened when it is out in the open. At any rate, the irony is not lost on me that a young man with contamination fears is willing to literally dig through the trash because he is afraid of eating the “wrong” food.
I’m hoping that I handled it okay tonight. I didn’t blow up or get into a big lecture. I tried to simply let him know how I felt and what he needed to do if he wasn’t going to eat the meal I was making. Maybe next time he can be a little more honest – hedge a little less. For our family, that would be a step in the right direction.