Can You Help Us?

Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This morning my husband and I had our meeting with a local religious leader.  Blake is not aware of it so far.  We figured that telling him about it would likely breed his suspicion of what we were up to.  Frankly, we really didn’t know what, if anything would come of it.

To catch anyone up to speed who does not know what I am talking about, our almost 15-year-old son has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  While it shows up in several ways, including fears of contamination, the major way it currently impacts his life is in the form of scrupulosity.  Scrupulosity is a type of OCD in which religion, morality, and OCD become intermingled.  The sufferer may fear doing religious rituals “wrong” and be concerned about offending G-d or being punished. They may repeat prayers or rituals, create new rituals, and/or look for ways to do penance for perceived sins.  It can show up in many ways, but that is the gist of it.

Blake is a prayer repeater, frequently is doing penance, and fears that the rest of the family may contaminate his religious observance.  He constantly has questions about religion, but has not had the benefit of working closely with someone who can truly mentor him.  He spends many hours on the internet seeking answers and writing to anonymous religious authorities who can only answer him in generalities – and who know nothing of his OCD.  My husband and I felt that we could not let it continue in this fashion, unchecked.  So, we reached out to someone in the community who knows enough to be able to answer Blake’s questions.  First, however, we felt it was important that he know about the whole situation.

When we arrived this morning, I was already emotional.  Would this man even listen to Blake’s story fully enough to recognize that this was not just about guiding a young man to be more religious, but that there were complicating emotional factors?  My husband squeezed me as we walked in the door.

The meeting went better than I could have anticipated.  This gentleman took time to learn about our family – about all of us.  Then he learned about the religious observance, and then he asked us to explain OCD to him.  He deferred to us on this.

“I understand a good deal about autism,” he explained, “but not OCD.”

As our discussion progressed, he seemed to understand that the goal is for Blake to get solid, real information, and for him to also learn what he does that is not religion – that which is OCD.  He asked us some hard hitting questions.  He helped us examine our motivations.  In the end, we agreed that we will all begin by attending some religious classes together, where Blake (and my husband and I) can ask all the questions he wants to.  It is our hope that he can build a trusting relationship that will begin there.  From that point, we shall see.

Our meeting ended with some wisdom being shared with my husband and I.  There is some thinking in our religion, the religious leader explained, that children who have special needs also have special souls and spirits.  Everyone else who is considered “healthy” has an “average” soul.  These special children have such a strong soul and come into this world already spiritually uplifted to a degree that their behavior looks different than the norm.

“You have a special son,” he told us.

The belief, however, goes on that these special children are entrusted to “special” parents who will know how to guide them.  They have the skills that will ensure that these children fulfill the roles that they are here to live out.

“You have a special son – and he has special parents.  It is a privilege to be a part of this journey with you.”

I left the meeting with tears rolling down my face.  There was no judgment. We were uplifted as being parents who are suited for this task.  There was understanding and an honest desire to help.  I am hopeful about where this can go and look forward to setting down this road.

 

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12 thoughts on “Can You Help Us?

  1. Angie, you made me cry. But not in a bad way. I am so moved that you spoke to such a compassionate soul. Being a religious person myself I want you to know that I will keep your family in my prayers. I pray that this religious leader will be a wonderful and solid guide for Blake.
    ~ Carol (off I go to search for tissues…)

    1. Glad I could make you cry in a good way. I cried in a good way today, too. It felt good to talk to someone who tried his best to understand. Whether this will hurt or help, I do not know. I do think it is better than the stuff he is finding on the internet – at least it will be more thoughtful and will keep who he is in mind. Onward we go….

  2. What a wonderful way to look at children and parents who are “different.” I wish you the best of luck on this journey and look forward to hearing about it. I’m curious as to whether taking these classes will have an effect, good or bad, on Blake’s OCD. To the best of my knowledge,it’s a novel way to approach scrupulosity. I give you a lot of credit for exploring this path. Wishing you all the best as you move forward!

    1. Hi Janet. With scrupulosity, one approach is to bring in a religious authority or leader to clearly define for the OCD sufferer what is OCD and what is not. Sometimes that authority will even perform a blessing, ritual, or simply tell a sufferer that they are no longer to perform certain prayers, rituals, etc. We actually tried this approach with Blake when he was still in treatment – over a year ago. We went with his therapy team to a regional religious expert who shared a lot of empathy with Blake and let him know that he did not need to do what he was doing. Blake would have none of it. He felt it was a set-up from the beginning and would pay no heed to the “expert” in the room. It only strengthened his resolve to do what he did. The issue is now that Blake has so many realistic questions that my husband and I are not well-versed enough to answer. And he has been seeking his information on the internet. But you know how that goes. You can find all sorts of opinions. We feel it is time that he get real answers from a trustworthy source. I don’t know whether it will help the scrupulosity or not. I only know that we are stepping in to ensure that the information he is getting will be realistic and balance – and will also take into account that he has OCD. It’s a risk. Blake could escalate. He could calm down. At best, he could be willing to take feedback from someone who is not trying to force him to abandon his rituals. Only time will tell. Sorry such a lengthy response. Will keep you posted about what occurs. I’m set to do some learning that I never received.

  3. This is an interesting concept to me. Though I am not a religious person, I think any forum in which you can provide a way for your son to learn to to distinguish between typical behavior and behavior driven by OCD is ultimately beneficial!

    Several of my OCD behaviors as a child stemmed from my religious upbringing. I prayed constantly, was baptized at least a half dozen times, and found I was in a constant state of fear of upsetting God. Unfortunately, the religious therapist I sought out (at 16) really steered me in a bad direction (leading to my ultimate relinquishing of religion altogether) so I think the fact that you’re moving forward with this plan as a family is a great way for everyone to be supportive while being on the same page.

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much for your comments. OCD tends to take hold of those things that are an important value or simply a big part of our lives, doesn’t it? I truly hope this does help him to distinguish between the OCD and religious realms. I just can’t see him continuing to torture himself with the half-information he’s finding online. It is best that we all get educated. Thank you so much for reading!

  4. Thank you SO much for this blog and for writing about this subject. I am currently battling this, and it gives me a lot of reassurance just reading that someone else is going through the same kind of thing and trying to find a way forward.

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