“I Just Don’t Trust Myself!”

IMG_2101[1]Many of us who live with a loved one who has OCD have heard this familiar refrain.  It doesn’t really matter what it is about; it could be one not trusting their own eyes that their homework is in their backpack, or whether the knob on the stove is really in the “Off” position.  OCD has a nasty way of making its victims regularly doubt themselves.

“I just don’t trust myself!”  Blake uttered in defeat one morning this week.  This had followed an excruciating morning of trying to choose a simple something – anything – to eat for breakfast.  He just couldn’t do it.  He stared deeply into the refrigerator.  His angst was palpable.  I could see the wheels churning furiously in his brain.  What can I possibly eat that will be acceptable?

Blake has lots of food rules and restrictions, yet he usually finds something to eat in a relatively quick period of time.  On this particular morning, he had just come home the evening before from a two-day visit with his aunt, uncle and cousins.  I’ve written before that Blake views his aunt and uncle’s home as a more ideal place for him.  In many ways, this might be true.  In any case, he came home happier than usual, lighter, more chatty.  The sense of tension that usually accompanies our interactions with him were absent.  It was a pleasure to spend time with him.  All that came to an abrupt halt when the prospect of choosing breakfast foods loomed ahead of him.

Facing the prospect of being late for my own obligation that morning, and frustrated that we were, yet again, dealing with the food dilemma, I told him that I was getting angry.

“Blake, it is important that you eat something,”  I raised my voice.  “It is not healthy for you to go to school without eating all day long.”

And then I said IT.

“This is your OCD interfering with you being able to make good choices for yourself.  It is NOT about making the right or wrong decision.”

By IT, I mean that I actually invoked the words “your OCD.”  I actually pointed out that something was OCD.  We’ve been not pointing out OCD around here for months now – close to a year, actually.  It was part of our agreement with Blake when he refused to participate in treatment any longer.  We wouldn’t point out his OCD.  It was his to deal with.  The consequences, everything, they were all his.  And, yet, in that moment I could not help but point out how it was OCD that was holding him hostage in the refrigerator door – nothing else.

I ended up shoving some sticks of cheese into his hand as we walked out the door.  He ate them, gratefully.

“I don’t understand it,” I said to him as we drove to school. “You go to your aunt and uncle’s home and you eat with abandon.  You don’t question anything.  How do you know that they do it all right?  Maybe there’s something they do that breaks the rules.”

“I don’t know,” he told me.  “When I’m at their house, I let go of responsibility.  They are responsible for the rules.  If something is wrong, it’s not my fault.  When I’m home, I’m responsible.  I don’t trust myself!”

We reflect for a few more minutes on the drive that this is one of OCD’s sinister tricks.  It has you believing that, if you make a mistake, the consequences are dire.  Therefore, you must question your moves over and over, making action and decision-making excruciating.  However, if you give the responsibility over to someone else, and they make a mistake, the blame does not lie with you.  Either way, you have a quandary to face: accept responsibility and struggle (no, agonize) over your decision-making, or give up responsibility, but lose the ability to be a true actor in your own life.

“Blake, you know the only real way out of this is to tell OCD to get out of your business.  You don’t need to be troubled by whether you are making the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision.  We both know that it’s not about that. It’s about making the best decision you can at any given time, even though that may mean living through some uncomfortable feelings.  I know that you can do it, and I believe that you deserve much more than to live like this.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he says.

As he leaves the car, I know better than to think that anything will change.  He will continue to struggle over what is the “right” food to eat, way to pray, clothing to wear, game to play, thing to say – the list goes on.  Watching your child struggle is a struggle.  As a parent, I want to see him be happy.  I want to take away the needless tension that dogs him day after day, yet, I cannot.  It is out of my hands and in his.

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7 thoughts on ““I Just Don’t Trust Myself!”

  1. Great post that shows, once again, how OCD makes no sense; how Blake can be fine in his relative’s home, yet tormented in his own. I think you are doing an amazing job of balancing your involvement with his OCD. You’re not constantly nagging him, but you’re not totally avoiding the issues either. How can you? His OCD affects the entire family. But as you say, it’s in his hands now….and I just know he will fight his OCD once again, hopefully soon!

  2. Pingback: I Don’t Want To Go Home | The Precipice Edge

  3. Cheri R.

    Hello,
    I am new to this blog and truly find it helpful in understanding how we can and cannot help our son who is 13 and struggling with ocd. We have taken him to two different intensive outpatient treatment facilities and he has shown little motivation to conquer the ocd himself, without his dad and I forcing him to participate fully. So, we have given up the fight and are letting him handle it. It pains me to see him suffer and watch him believe it is just how he has to live, and he must obey the bully in his brain. He suffers with contamination ocd and the fear that if he comes in contact with something that was exposed to the smell of mothballs or smoke then he will stink and no one will want to be near him. He refuses to go camping with our family now since the camper at one time had mothballs in it. Something he grew up doing and used to love. He was just diagnosed last September, although we found out recently he suffered in silence for a few years with intrusive thought ocd, before it switched on him to contamination. My heart is breaking and I feel helpless, he is taking medication that only seems to be helping just a little.
    Thank you for sharing your struggles with this cruel disorder. Our family can relate so much with your pain everyday as well.

    1. Hi. I’m so glad you found my blog. My heart goes out to you. It is so painful, as a parent, to watch a child we love choose to live a life where OCD has such power. I know that one of the most difficult things we did was make the decision to allow Blake to be in charge of his OCD – and that means he has to live knowing that there is treatment that can help, and that he has to face the consequences of his OCD. It is our challenge to learn to love him, while working to stay out of the OCD cycle. As you know, it is no small challenge. My hope is that, one day, both of our sons will decide that living a full life is a better way to go than living in OCD’s grasp. And I take heart in lessons I learn from Janet at http://ocdtalk.wordpress.com/. Her son, who is older than our boys, has come out on the other side of the OCD battle and is thriving. Our boys will get there someday. For now, so glad that you are here. Best to you and your family, Angie.

  4. Colleen Wilkins

    I have also just found your blog, last evening to be exact. My husband has OCD…we have been married for 20years. His is a wonderful provider and I love him dearly….but there are the days, the days that just feel like you are walking on egg shells all the time. I see the struggles that you have as a mother….I suppose many are the same for us. Thank you for sharing the feelings and issues from the other side. I look forward to reading your old posts and also to knowing that there are other people who understand instead of judging my marriage or more specifically my actions and reactions to my husband. Thank you, Colleen

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