This post was originally going to be about a quandry I was in – and I was going to wonder with you, my reader, about what direction I might go. But, as things go, situations change. With Blake’s OCD, they rapidly evolve. So now, instead, I will share with you what happened. Perhaps you will have words of wisdom for me as I stumble down this particular path.
One of Blake’s most current OCD issues lately revolves around food. He has lots of rules about what he can eat, where he can eat, and when. In the past, I have always tried to make a well-balanced, healthy meal for our entire family. Then, I simply hope that Blake eats. Sometimes I make meals that I happen to be pretty sure are completely friendly; other times I pay little attention to that. Something else that’s important information here is that both of my boys used to not like foods with much spice or with sauces. So, if I was making something like chicken in chile sauce, I’d just pull a little bit ot the chicken out for them before adding the sauce to the rest of the recipe. Big brother now eats most sauces, so he’s outgrown that phase. Blake, not so much yet.
One night this past week, I made just one of those meals. I pulled some of the plain meat out for Blake and continued with making the rest of the meal. This particular meal had been just fine with Blake – until that night. As we sat at the family dinner table, I noticed Blake was eating everything but the entree. He ate rice, he ate fruit and then he started to drink an enormous amount of water. My husband and I suspected he was trying to avoid the main course.
“Blake,” I asked, “are you planning to eat the chicken?”
“Why do you ask?” he answered.
“Well, it just kind of looks like you are trying to avoid it.”
“No, I’m planning to eat it. I’m just waiting.” Then he continued to down more water.
A few minutes later he excused himself from the table and went to lie down on the couch in the family room.
“Oh, so full. Must rest,” he grumbled.
“Blake, we’re eating dinner,” my husband called after him. “Come back and join us.”
“I will. I just need to rest for a bit.”
My husband and I exchanged glances. We were pretty sure this was the food rules evolving and showing off their newest incarnation at the food table. Several minutes later, Blake was in the pantry. He was fishing around for something to eat.
“Blake, please come out of the pantry. You said you were going to eat your meal. Please don’t start with snacking now,” my husband implored.
Blake sat at the table and stared at his chicken. By now, everyone else was finished with their meal and relaxing. Blake made no move to eat.
“Blake, are you eating or not? The food’s getting cold now. Either eat or let’s clean up,” I said.
“I’m just not so sure about the chicken and whether I can eat it,” he said.
“That’s fine. If you’re not going to eat it. Let’s clean up.”
And then he was up and in the trash can once again (as he has been on other days). He started digging through trying to find the wrappings from the chicken to see if they met with his approval. All along he hadn’t been honest with us about his intention to eat; he’d been struggling with his new rule.
“Blake,” I said, “the chicken is not going to meet with your rules. Your choice is either to break the rule and go ahead and eat, or you can clear your plate from the table and find something else to eat if you’re still hungry. I can’t keep up with the food rules anymore, honey. If your choice is to throw away your food, then I think it’s time for me to stop preparing your meals.”
He hesitated for a bit.
“I just can’t eat this, Mom.”
He picked up his plate, and the chicken went into the trash. I went to bed emotionally exhausted that night. I think all four of us did. The food rules were taking their toll on everyone.
BLAKE TRIES TO STRIKE A BARGAIN
The next morning, Blake came to me.
“Mom, I’d like to talk with you about the food. Why do you have to stop making my meals? Why can’t you just make the things I’ll eat? Here’s my idea. On the nights when you’re making something I’ll eat, then you cook for me. On the nights when it’s something I don’t eat, then I’ll make something for myself to replace the food I won’t eat.”
I pondered this for a moment. It sounded somewhat reasonable. Still, I could see pitfalls to his proposal.
“Honey, I appreciate your trying to find a compromise, and I can see some reasons that might be a good idea. At the same time, your food rules change. And they are changing more rapidly lately. A week ago, you were eating that chicken, so when I made it, I thought you would eat it. It wasn’t until you sat down to dinner that Dad and I could see that you were having a problem with it.”
“I’ll work with you on it, Mom. We can make it work.”
“Tell you what – I’m exhausted and not in a great place to make a decision right now. Let me consider it for a bit and I’ll get back to you.”
He agreed. I kept it under consideration and made dinner that night. He ate what I made and all was well. Still, I needed time to weigh my decision.
The following evening, my husband was out late and I was having dinner with some friends. I asked the boys what they’d like to eat so that I could make them something before I left. They agreed they’d both like pasta. I put the water on the stove to boil.
Just as I was about to put the noodles into the boiling water, Blake came over. He had that distressed look he gets when OCD is disturbing him with one of its thoughts, but he’s trying to avoid telling me what’s going on. He stood staring at the pot of water.
“Blake, I can see that something is going on. Please share it with me before I go any further with this meal preparation.”
“Well, it’s just that I’m not so sure about the pot.”
He tried to tell me that it had something to do with something that had touched this particular pot the last time it was in the sink waiting to be washed. Really? Is my son that aware of every pot, pan and utensil in the house and what’s happening with each one? That has to be exhausting.
“Blake, we know what this is. Let’s do this. Just tell me if you’ll be eating the pasta or not so I know how much to add to the water now.”
“It’s just the pot,” he said.
“I’m not switching to another pot. This is the pot I’m cooking in.”
“Then the answer has to be ‘No.’ I won’t be eating the pasta.”
“Alright then, I’ll trust that you’ll make something for yourself. Make sure it has a protein, some fruit, some carbs. You know.”
Blake left the room and went down the hallway to be with his thoughts.
My older son looked at me.
“Mom, I thought you weren’t going to cook for him anymore. What’s going on?”
“Blake made a proposal to me and I told him I would think about it. So I haven’t changed anything yet. I’m still making up my mind, but this is sure helping me to decide.”
I COME TO A DECISION
That night I crawled into bed with my husband and told him what had happened that evening.
“I can’t do it anymore,” I said. “I’ve got nothing more to give. I’ve tried to make well-balanced meals, but lately there’s more and more wrong with what I prepare. And now, even when it’s something he’s asked for, there’s something wrong with the pot. I can’t keep up with it…”
There are tears in my eyes. I’m at a breaking point. My husband is exhausted. He doesn’t really want to hear the details. He’s tired of being frustrated, too, and he has little left to give. He’s behind my decision. We fall asleep.
The next day, during a calm period, I call Blake over to chat with me.
“Uh oh,” he says. “This doesn’t sound good.”
He tries to hide behind my bedroom door as I begin to speak. I’m not sure if he’s really nervous or if he’s playing with me. I tell him I’ve made up my mind and that I really did give consideration to his request. However, this situation with the pasta last night has made it clear to me that it is best if he prepares his own meals. Then they can be made the way he likes, in the utensils he sees fit.
“But, Mom, all you have to do is check with me as you’re cooking.”
“Honey, I can’t prepare meals with you watching over my shoulder and having to approve every pot, pan, spoon and ingredient I am using. It’s not good for either one of us. If you need to have say over these things, it’s best if you have full responsibility for it. You’ll go grocery shopping with me. You’ll choose your own ingredients and when I make dinner, you’ll prepare yours.”
Now, he’s angry with me.
“Mom, this isn’t going to help. It’s only going to make things worse.”
“How, honey? How will it make things worse.”
“I can just tell you. It’s going to make things worse. There’s going to be so much more fighting.”
“You may be right. And if that’s the case, I may have made the wrong decision.”
“It is right!! It will be worse!” he asserts.
“I could be wrong…”
“If you don’t want to feed me, then I just won’t eat!!”
“I do want to feed you, Blake, but I can’t keep up with the ever changing food rules. I never know when they’re going to change and what’s coming next. I have to pull myself out of this, honey.”
“I’m really thinking that this is not the right family for me,” he says.
“We all love you, Blake. I love you. I’m trying to do what I think is the best choice. Only time will tell.”
“Come on, Mom! I don’t want to cook.”
“I’m not changing my mind. I love you and this is what I’m going to do for now.”
I take my leave of him and move into the next part of my day. He goes downstairs to talk to his brother about all of this. I silently wonder if he will pack up and leave, as he’s threatened to do in the past. Where would he go? And then I wonder if he’ll make good on his threat to just not eat. I hope that’s not what it comes to.
I have a presentation to make this particular evening and I mentally try to prepare myself. I step in front of the audience. My talk is on OCD in children and teenagers. I want to share information that will give these folks hope and useful tools. I begin by telling them my professional background and I share that I am the mother of a young man who has OCD. Silently, I think to myself, “Please do not ask how he is doing.”