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.