Blake Gets a Wish Granted

IMG_1978[1]Blake has long wanted to go stay with my husband’s brother and his family.  He thinks he’d be a lot happier with them and that they would be more understanding and accepting of him.  Yesterday, he finally got his wish.  They were all here for the day and, as they were leaving, he asked to go home with them.

My sister-in-law, who is well aware of the issues we struggle with, consulted with me before she gave Blake an answer.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“I think maybe he needs to get what he’s been longing for.  I think he needs to experience what it is really like. ”

“Is there anything special we need to be prepared for?”

“He may disappear to do some extra prayers, but other than that, he’s going to so thrilled to be with you, I think it’s going to be fine.”

“Okay,” she told Blake “go pack a bag.”

Blake was more excited than I’ve seen him in ages. He practically flew through the house to his room.  I thought his heart was going to burst out of his chest.

“I can’t believe it’s finally happening!” he exclaimed.  My brother-in-law was very ill for a long time and houseguests were not an easy proposition.  Blake had waited long and (mostly) patiently.  As my brother and sister-in-law and their four children left the house, Blake was the first one into the car.

I spent the last twenty-four hours wondering how it was going, wondering if it was as wonderful as Blake had imagined it would be.  Our house seemed a little too quiet, but I was so happy to see my boy finally excited about something.  This evening, I made the nearly 40 mile drive to my brother and sister-in-law’s place.

My nieces and nephews were excited to see me.  They talked excitedly about their overnight with their cousin.  Blake was in an upbeat mood.  My sister-in-law was full of praise.

“He is such a good guest.  He fits right in.”

As we left the house and pulled away in our car, Blake’s mood markedly changed.  He became quiet and solemn.  He didn’t want to talk.  When I asked about his visit, he gave me brief answers at best.  As we drove on in the night, I began to hear sniffling coming from the back seat.

“Mom, do you have a tissue?”

I pulled a tissue from my jacket pocket and handed it to him.  His tears began to flow and he cried the rest of the way home.  He couldn’t talk; he just cried.

As we arrived at a friend’s home for a dinner get together, he proclaimed, “It’s like having to come home after the best vacation ever – only worse.”

Blake stayed outside as I went in to join the group.  I was glad he’d had such a wonderful time, but my heart was sad for him.  Finally, he came inside and parked himself in front of an arcade game with some of the other kids.

When the evening ended, Blake drove home with me while Michael and my husband drove in our other car.  Blake finally opened up about his time with his aunt, uncle and cousins, and he shared about how he was going to bring some more of that into our home.

While I’m glad Blake had a wonderful time, I’m sad that coming home brings so little joy to him right now.  I wonder how we can make our home a place that feels better.  He deserves that.  We all do.

Blake Has A Thankful Moment

Image courtesy of m_bartosch at
Image courtesy of m_bartosch at

On Thanksgiving day, our family spent the day with my mom and dad.  My parents live just over ten miles away from us in a semi-rural area where they raise chickens, ducks and geese and grow a good deal of their own produce.  As my mom and I did the cooking and the hubby worked on a repair project with my dad, I asked Michael and Blake to write up a list of questions that we could go around the table and ask while we ate.  They were questions like, “What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?”  “What holiday gift was most memorable?”  “What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?”

When we all sat down to eat, the boys asked their questions and we went around the table sharing.  As we each shared our memories, it became clear that my dad was having a tough time with some of the questions that were about childhood.  Mostly, he just plain couldn’t seem to remember.  Blake, being quite sensitive to other people, pulled me aside.

“Mom, I’m getting the feeling that Grandpa didn’t have best childhood.  What’s the story?”

I answered that we could talk about it later, not in front of everyone, particularly his grandfather.  I also suggested, if he wanted to know right then, that he ask Grandpa directly.  He felt reluctant to bring up what might be a painful subject, so he decided to wait.

My dad and I ended up having a quiet moment alone and I shared Blake’s suspicions with him.  Dad confirmed what he and I had already talked about in the past.  His childhood home was not a pleasant place to grow up, and many of his memories are lost to him.

As we drove home, Blake had me make good on my promise to share about Grandpa’s upbringing.  I obliged, trying to sensitively tell him and Michael about the conflict and difficulties my father experienced as a child in his home.  They listened intently, and our conversation evolved to where we talked about some of the many kinds of difficult childhood experiences people we’ve encountered grew up with.  And we spoke of the resilience that many human beings possess to thrive despite painful early years.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will understand the significance of what came next.  For those who are new, I’ll briefly explain that Blake blames my husband and I for any conflict between us and is angry that we see his many rituals as being OCD.  He has told us a number of times that we are not the family for him, and he’s been out the door, running away more than once.  He holds onto his OCD like a badge of honor, fighting us if we ever point out a ritual.  He believes that Mom and Dad are the ones with problems when it comes to OCD – he has none (except us).

A moment of silence fell over the car.  We drew closer to home.  From the back seat, I overheard Blake talking with Michael.

“We’re lucky to have them for our parents,” Blake noted.

We arrived at our home and began the job of unpacking the leftovers from the evening.  Blake walked over to my husband and gave him a big hug and then came over to me and did the same.

“I am so glad that you are my mom and dad,” he said, and I realized that this evening had given Blake the opportunity to realize that he had a reason to be thankful.  He realized his parents are not quite so bad as he imagined us to be.  Of course, I drank the moment in.

Rest assured, I have no illusions that all will be sunshine from here on out.  I know that this is but a brief, shining moment in Blake’s adolescent development.  At the same time, I see this as a significant moment – one in which he came to the realization, on his own, that maybe mom and dad aren’t such horrible people.  I hope that, in that moment, he also recognized how loved he is and that somewhere, deep down inside, he knows that we are pulling for him to live a healthy, meaningful life.

Feeling Thankful: My First Blog Award!

Blog of the Year Award 1 star jpegYesterday was a very full day and I never even got to look at all the blogs I normally read.  This morning, I woke up, ready to prepare for this Thanksgiving holiday.  My first task?  Catch up on my reading, of course.  As I began reading, I discovered I had been nominated for the ‘Blog of the Year 2013’ Award by Amy, who writes one of my favorite blogs, ‘Mom Goes On.’  Wow, what a wonderful thing to wake up to!  Something else to feel thankful for.

The truth is, this is especially meaningful for me, as it is my first ever nomination for any blogging award.  It is an honor to be able to share our family’s story with others and I am grateful if I can touch anyone.  So, thank you, Amy!  You made my morning. 🙂 .

Now, it is my turn to give some awards!

Mom Goes On:  Right back at you, Amy!  Amy shares the day-to-day experiences of a mom whose youngest has just left for college.  Her very honest posts explore the emotions of finding out who you are after the kids have moved on, and the little triumphs in life – like having your little white van finally running again!

ocdtalk:  Janet is a mother who has watched her, now adult, son struggle with and triumph over Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  She shares thought provoking questions about OCD, up-to-date information on research, and endless helpful information on the subject.  I look forward to her weekly posts which continue to expand my own knowledge.

My Twice Baked Potato:  Kelly is a teacher and a mom.  This blog is her account of living with a Twice Exceptional son.  It has beautiful perspectives and insights that come from both her roles as teacher and mother. I find myself cheering on the little successes and feeling the challenges.

Dreams to be anxiety free:  Hopeforanxiety shares a first person account of living with OCD.  This hopeful blog shares poignant insights and incredibly useful information that I often find myself sharing with family members and my own patients.

Depression’s Collateral Damage:  Amy and Bernadette are both spouses to men who have struggled with severe depression.  Their blog addresses those who are often overlooked, those who live with and care for someone with depression.  This thought provoking blog provides, hope, inspiration and a wealth of information for anyone touched by a loved one with depression.

Thank you to these writers, who inspire me to give my best, and to all of you who give me the courage to keep blogging.  May we all have much to be thankful for.

Thankful for Moms

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Okay, okay.  I should know better.  If you post on your blog that you are fine and you directly address your moms when you are doing it, you are going to get concerned phone calls from your moms.

What I am referring to is that yesterday in my post, I was writing while upset, and I made a note to both moms that I would be fine by the time that they would be reading the post.  They worry about us.  They can’t help it; they are moms.  It’s what they do.  Reading this blog has brought them closer to our family’s day-to-day struggles.  So what do they do?  They worry more.  And when you take on the challenge of posting 30 times in 30 days, they do what any mom would do.  They read your blog religiously.

Sure enough, first thing this morning, my husband’s mom was on the phone.  We commiserated, we plotted and we planned.  Then, it was my mom’s turn.  In all honesty, I phoned her, but one of the first things on her mind was the blog post.  More commiserating; more plotting and planning.  My moms are awesome.  No blaming.  No finger pointing.  Just genuine concern.  On this eve before Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for them (and for the caring and concerned guys that come with them, too! You know who you are.).

As for Blake, well, he slept until around 2 p.m. today.  Other than arranging and rearranging the dinner table before some friends came over for dinner tonight, things were rather calm with him.  Actually, he was very engaged and a really gracious host to our guests this evening, which was a nice change.  And that is something else I am thankful for tonight.

Our Daily Bread

As I write this post, I have a heavy heart.  I want to scream.  I want to cry out.  I want to run to my room and hide under the covers (MOMS:  By the time you read this, I will be fine.  I’m just writing while I’m still upset.  I love you!).  This day has been so filled with OCD/Religion that I don’t really know which way is up and what is right anymore.

Blake has the week off school and he slept until almost noon today.  When he came downstairs, he asked my “permission” to fast today.  Fast?  Why?  Well, apparently he has committed some religious sin and his fasting is a way to repent.  Lest you think I do not understand the value of fasting to restore oneself to religious purity, let me say that I can appreciate it and I do recognize that it can be of value.  Admittedly, it would not be my first choice for myself, but I get it.

When Blake asked for my permission, though, I nearly jumped out of my skin.  Fast?  This young man?  The one who already has poor eating habits?  The one who has deemed the microwave, the pots and pans, the kitchen shears and the placemats contaminated?  The one who will go for very long stretches at a time without eating at all?  The one who has been living on yogurt, pita, cheese and bananas for the last month?  Oh – and ice cream.  I can’t forget to mention ice cream.

If I sound crazed, that’s because that is how I feel right now.  Do not tell my patients.  It will frighten them all away.  Or maybe it will make them feel that I understand what they are going through.

I told him that I could not give him my “permission” to do this.  I didn’t understand it, and until there was a religious authority telling me that this rule applies for this young man in this situation, I cannot agree with it.

“So, you’re not allowing me to do it?” he asked.

“Blake, do not put this on me.  You make your own decisions.  You do not normally choose to do what I recommend.  You asked if I give you permission.  I do not give my permission.”

So fast, he did.  He prayed and he fasted.  In doing my own research on the matter, what Blake was doing did hold some water, religiously.  But I am having trouble reconciling it in my own head.  How is it good for this young man to fast as a form of repentance?  Tonight I feel like I need religious counsel.

When I arrived home after seeing some patients, it was 6 pm. Blake’s fast was just going to last until sunset, yet he still sat in front of the computer, not having eaten or drank all day. One half hour before we were to sit down as a family and eat, he was shoving day old pizza into his mouth (by the way, he eats homemade pizza, too).

Then came dinnertime.  While Dad, Michael and I sat down to eat, Blake suddenly decided that he wanted to cook a special box of mac and cheese that I had bought for him.  For thirty-five minutes he foraged through my pots and pans searching for just the right pot to cook his macaroni in.  The metal pots clashed and clanged throughout our meal.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see him scrutinize each item – over and over again.  He kept looking at the same items, trying to find one he could possibly use.  He selected an omelet pan.

“No.  You can’t boil enough water in an omelet pan to cook a box of macaroni.”

“Can I just pour boiling water over it in a bowl?” he asked.

“No, it needs to cook in boiling water for around 10 minutes.”

Our dinner ended.  Blake finally tried to shut the drawers he’d been searching through, never having found the elusive pot. All too contaminated to cook in apparently.  I was left with a jumbled mess of cookware to re-organize so that the drawers would shut.  No special mac and cheese for Blake…

The entire episode was maddening for me to watch.  “Come on, Blake,” I silently rooted for him. “Care enough to put the rules aside and eat what you really want!”  I felt defeated upon seeing him never find the “right” pan.

The mac and cheese package sits back in the cupboard, torn open, but never cooked.  It bears the scars of the young man who held it in one hand for more than half an hour as he searched desperately with the other to find some way to cook it.  In the end, he settled for a box of oyster crackers – and I’ve lost my appetite.

To Fight or Not To Fight?

Image courtesy of Ventrilock at
Image courtesy of Ventrilock at

Today I find myself lost in a question that I’m not sure has an answer.  The question is, what is it that makes one person decide to fight OCD full force and what makes another decide that it just isn’t worth it?

I’m pondering this for a couple of reasons.  One is that I wonder what makes Blake hold on to his OCD symptoms so fiercely when he has had much treatment, much success over his OCD the past, and when he possesses all the knowledge and tools that he needs to live as OCD-free as one can live.  The other reason is that I’ve been dealing with someone in my professional life who lives a life that is so debilitated by OCD, and yet who cannot decide if they are willing to move beyond it.

I don’t have OCD so I don’t have the internal sense of how it must feel to face treatment and all that must be done to overcome it.  At the same time, I did struggle enormously with a social anxiety disorder for a very long time.  It was incredibly challenging overcoming it, yet worth every terrifying moment.  I never want to be back where I was again.

When I am dealing with someone who is much older than Blake who is not yet ready to leave OCD’s grasp, it makes me wonder what lies ahead for Blake.  I feel so powerless in the face of both of these two and I do not like that feeling.  I’m curious if there’s anyone out there who can share what it is that helped them make the decision to free themselves from OCD.

Not Quite Housetrained

We have a relatively new member of our family.  He’s only been with us for a couple months.  He is a fawn pug we adopted through a pug rescue.  What we know of his story is sad.  He was picked up roaming the streets by animal control.  His skin was covered with infections so that large areas had to be shaved of their fur and treated.  He cowered when people moved too fast and the shelter believed he had long been severely neglected.

We already had a pug in our lives – a black one we rescued from the shelter two years ago.  We had fallen in love with this boy and thought we had room for one more in our household.  Following a bit of pouting by our little friend, the new boy was soon accepted as part of the pack.

The Culprit
The Culprit

The new pug boy is a love and a cuddler.  Both Blake and Michael took to him quickly.  One problem – he had never learned that the indoors is not for going potty.  We’ve been working on that, and he is learning well; however, he still thinks it is okay to mark his territory indoors.  And therein lies the issue for one teenager with OCD.

Okay, let’s be honest, nobody likes it when the doggy marks indoors.  For a teenager with OCD that sometimes centers on contamination, it is fuel for the fire.  While Blake loves this puggie boy, he is on high alert for urine.

“Does this smell?”  “Did this get marked?”  “Do you smell something?”  I am constantly being summoned to check.  Sometimes there’s nothing and sometimes – well, sometimes the doggy has left something to be cleaned up.  Tonight was a night that, indeed there was something to be cleaned – and Blake sat right in it.

“Um…something doesn’t smell right here,” he noted.  He’d already been sitting in the spot for nearly an hour when he realized this.  Michael and I verified that, yes, that very spot had been marked and needed some clean up.  Blake, however, did the most interesting thing.  He did nothing at first.  No panic.  No running away to change.  He just stayed there and finished what he was doing.

Now, he still did go change his clothes, but it was different than I’ve seen in the past.  The urgency was not there.  He delayed until he finished the task he was on.  For someone with OCD, resisting the urge to immediately respond to the anxious moment is a big thing.  Perhaps consciously resisting and not changing until bedtime might have been a bigger step, but I’ll take this one.  Of course, I didn’t mention to Blake that he had resisted.  He’d rather prove me wrong and go running the next time.  Instead, I just silently noted it until I could share it with you.

A Boy and His Socks

IMG_1972[1]I’m standing in the kitchen finishing making dinner when Blake comes back in after feeding the dogs.  He washes his hands then carefully grabs each foot, one at a time, and twists it up to take a close look at the bottom of his socks.  First one, then the other.  It’s an interesting looking sort of dance.

I wonder to myself, “Do I dare ask?”  I can’t resist.  I do.

“Would you be willing to tell me what the sock thing is about?” I ask him.

Just as I am asking, he is removing the socks from his feet.  He carefully places one to his nose, sniffs, then does the same with the other.  They seem to check out okay.

“Sure,” he says, as he puts them back on his feet.  “I’m checking to make sure there’s no dog pee on them.”

“Oh, did it feel like they were wet or something?”

“No, I just wanted to be sure.”

I wonder to myself whether I should ask him what he will do if he decides that there is pee on them.  I think better of it and just thank him for explaining.  I know that if he decides there is pee on them that he will change them and put on a new pair.

OCD is interesting in this way.  Most of us would know if we stepped in something and it got our socks dirty or wet.  OCD takes Blake’s mind and whispers to him that he might have stepped in some pee and he should check just to be certain.  And since he cannot trust his eyes, he must go even further and take the socks off and place them to his nose.  I guess that sometimes this must be a frustrating way to live, but for now it just seems part of his day – a minor nuisance.  Perhaps some day all these little things he does in service of his OCD will add up to, in his estimation, too much.  That may be the day he readies himself for change.

The Phone Rings

IMG_1971[1]My brother-in-law called me last night as I was on the way out the door.  I hesitated to answer.  It’s not that I don’t have a great relationship with him.  I actually adore him.  It’s that Blake constantly calls him for religious advice and I was worried what was going on now.

Let me explain a bit.  My husband’s brother is much more learned in all things religious than anyone else in our family.  He’s the guy to go to if you have a question, and he can make the issue clear as crystal.  Blake knows this and every time a religious issue comes up (translation:  every time OCD scares him about something religious) he is on the telephone to Uncle H.

Thank goodness Uncle H has gotten savvy to OCD.  He completely “gets it” that many of Blake’s questions are more about his OCD than about any real religious issue.  So, when something smells more like OCD than genuine religion, he checks with me first.

The calls usually go something like this:

“Hi.  Blake just called me about such and such. I know what the answer is, but what do you want me to tell him?

Then we usually put our heads together about the best way to handle the situation without exacerbating the OCD.  We’re not misleading or dishonest; we just make sure we are careful not to feed more rituals.  So when the phone rang last night, I wondered, “What now?”

“Hi! Quickly.  Which supermarket should we put the liqueur at in your community? I’m filling out the paperwork right now.”

Oh – it’s THAT.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have handcrafted a new liqueur that is making its way into markets and specialty stores all over the place.  It’s finally making it out to my community and I get to pick which supermarket.  Now that is a welcome change of pace!!  We can put off talking about OCD until another day.

Out of the Routine

"You left me at home so you could go see 'The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire?' "
“You left me at home so you could go see ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?’ “

Control?  Did I say yesterday that I hoped to regain control after Blake’s “Maniacal” Blog Takeover?  Well, today I have certainly not regained that, which is probably why I’m up at 11:30 at night trying to write post number 21 for the month of November and am finally letting out my poor dogs who have been indoors for too many hours.

It’s been a good kind of letting go of control, though.  Both boys got invited to an early screening of the newest “Hunger Games” installment.  It was a local teen event and all the kids brought food to contribute to a food pantry.  Blake and Michael were super excited to attend when they were first invited.  However, as the day grew nearer, Blake started to doubt that he wanted to attend.  The reason – it was going to get in the way of his prayer routine.

Tuesday evening he started to backtrack on his original excitement.  That was when he discovered how early we were going to have to leave for the event.  He started expressing his doubts that night at the dinner table.  After school today, he immediately started in with trying to get out of it.

“I just don’t know about this mom.  There’s no way I’ll be able to get in all the praying I need to do.”

“I know you’ll figure it out.”

“Did you already pay for me to go?”

“Yes, I did.”

Somehow he managed to do whatever it was he needed to do in a fraction of his normal time.  Or maybe he just didn’t do it all.  I don’t know.  Either way, we got on the road and on our way on time.  My husband and I grabbed dinner and some much needed alone time while we waited for the movie to finish.  When it was over, we saw the boys approaching with smiles on their faces.

“Wo….” Michael said.  “What a movie.”

“Wo…” Blake echoed.  “That was amazing!”  Blake rarely gives anything the “amazing” review so I’m thinking this is a pretty good endorsement for the movie.

“Was it worth going out on a Thursday evening and being out late?” I asked.

“It was so worth it!  Thank you for signing us up.” Blake responded.

So worth it, indeed.  So glad my boys had an amazing evening – and so glad Blake pushed through his ritual to have this experience.  Good night!