OCD Makes a Meal

PizzaIt’s almost dinner time and I’m preparing the evening meal – for everyone except Blake.  I still ache a bit that my son will not eat the food I prepare, but the pain is much less acute now.  It’s more of a dull presence that’s always somewhere in the background.

Blake is getting ready to prepare his own meal.  He steps to the sink and begins to wash his hands.  He pauses for a moment, pulls his hands from the water and begins to examine one of them.  He turns off the water and tears a paper towel from the roll.  He begins to dab a part of his hand with the towel, then applies pressure for a moment, lifts the towel and looks underneath it.

“How did that happen?” he asks himself out loud.

From my spot at the kitchen counter, I stay quietly focused on my task.  I glance over at this whole series, but try not to make it obvious that I’m watching.  Blake’s hand is bleeding as he is washing it and he is wondering why.  In my heart I know why and I wonder if he is really so disconnected from his behavior that he honestly has no idea why his hands are in this condition.

Finally satisfied that the bleeding has stopped, Blake continues his meal preparation.  He pulls a plate out from the cabinet.  He inspects it fully, turning it over to look at the bottom, as well.  It seems to meet with his approval.  He walks to the silverware drawer and remains there for some time.  He picks up one spoon, then another.  The process continues until one seems to work.  I notice him holding the spoon up to the light, doing a thorough check of it.  It passes inspection.

Blake is making pita bread pizza. It’s one of his staples ever since my husband and I put him in charge of making his own meals.  We could not keep up with the ever growing (and changing) list of food rules, nor did we wish to continue to accommodate this behavior.  Thus, we are here now.

The bread is still frozen as he places it on the plate and spoons pizza sauce on top of it.  Our microwave oven is contaminated in his eyes (see earlier article).  Better to eat food that is still frozen than risk contamination.  Next, he begins to grate cheese.  He is struggling with the grater.

“Mom, what’s the problem here?”

I can see that it’s just a matter of positioning, and I reach over to show him.  As my hands near his, I see him flinch.  He pulls the cheese closer to him.  I pull my hands away.  There are no words exchanged, but, in the silence between us, I know that he is afraid that the food I’ve been preparing will contaminate his.  I feel a wave of frustration cresting inside me and I catch my breath, resisting making the remarks I can feel trying to make their way out.  This time, I am successful.

“Place the grater on top of the bowl you’re using.  That’ll hold it in place better.”

He makes the adjustment and adds the cheese to his creation.  As we sit down to eat, my husband notices Blake’s meal – the unmelted cheese, the still partially frozen pita bread.

“Blake, aren’t you going to cook your pizza in the oven?  Or are you going to eat it that way?”

Blake doesn’t answer.  He doesn’t acknowledge his dad at all.  He’s deep in his pre-meal prayer and he won’t break the silence until the first bite of food is chewed and swallowed.  I guess my hubby doesn’t know about this rule because he seems puzzled.  He tries again.

“Blake?  Did you hear me?”

Still nothing.  Now hubby recognizes the ritual.  He engages me in conversation.  Finally, with his routine complete, Blake acknowledges Dad.

“Sorry, Dad.  I couldn’t talk then.  Yes, I’m going to eat it like this.”

My husband knows better than to challenge this or comment any further.  We turn the conversation to our days and to reconnecting with one another.  My husband and I recognize the OCD elephant in the room, and we know that it is up to Blake to decide if partially-thawed, uncooked food and bloody hands are worth it.  We hope that he will decide that they aren’t, and we love him enough to let him come to that conclusion on his own.

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6 thoughts on “OCD Makes a Meal

  1. I can imagine the consternation and frustration you must experience. I know there have been many times that my gut reaction has been to want to shake my depressed husband and shout, “Why don’t you just_______!” (filling in the blank in my own mind with what I think he needs to do to “get over” his moods). Obviously that would be the exact opposite of helpful. I admire your resolution to let your son find his own way out of his illness. I’m sure there’s no other way, really. But oh, so hard to observe. -Amy

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