The OCD Conference is Coming!

Image courtesy Bigjom@freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Bigjom@freedigitalphotos.net

Whew!  We are finally home!  What a vacation it was, traveling all over the place on a bus full of people we mostly had never met before in our lives, eating different foods, observing completely different customs.  And our family managed to get along for almost the entire trip.  Yes, we did have our moments.  We got through them quite well, however.  Now if we could just manage the jet lag.  I actually have two teenage boys who are both waking up by 7 am.  That NEVER happens on a free summer day!

Now it’s time to hit the ground running.  I head back to my practice this week.  It’s also time to get ready for the annual OCD Conference!  Do you know about it?  Each year, the International OCD Foundation holds a conference that is unlike any other I’ve ever been to.  This year it is in Los Angeles from July 18-20.  It is a truly special experience because it is a conference that brings together people with OCD, their family and friends, researchers in the field, and clinicians who treat OCD.  What is truly wonderful about this is that all these folks intermingle and some amazing dialog occurs.

I went to my first OCD Conference several years ago at the urging of one of Blake’s therapists.  I went somewhat reluctantly, saying that I was going because I could earn continuing education units for my psychology license.  I lived OCD at home.  Why would I want to get more immersed in it?  Saying I was only going as a professional allowed me to get some distance from how emotional it was.

What I found though, is what so many others find when they attend for the first time.  I found an incredible atmosphere of support. I found a community of caring clinicians, people who were struggling, people who had triumphed, and other parents and family members who understood what I was going through as a mom.  Needless to say, my attendance at that first conference became about far more than earning continuing education credits.  It became my entry into the world of educating others about OCD.

If there is OCD in your life, whether you have OCD, are the parent, friend or family member of someone with OCD, or are a clinician who treats OCD (or would like to), this is one conference that is definitely worth looking into (HERE is the link).  Too late to arrange to go this year?  Consider attending next year; it’s not too early to begin thinking about that.

Okay, I’m feeling the jet lag exhaustion setting in. It’s off to sleep for me. Good night for now!

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Another Perspective

Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net

We have been traveling for nearly two weeks.  Our whole family.  Far, far from home.  We are with a tour group.  Most of these people we have never met before.  They do not know our stories, and we do not know theirs.  We are all getting to know each other as we travel from place to place and cling to one another as something familiar, something from home, in this land that is foreign to us all.

One thing almost nobody on this trip knows is that Blake has OCD.  They do not know that one way it shows itself  is in scrupulosity and that he repeats prayers over and over because that last one didn’t feel “quite right” or that he frequently worries that his actions may offend God.  Since they don’t know, their reaction to him has been interesting to me, even refreshing for my own perspective.

Let me say that is has escaped no one on this trip that Blake is a religious young man.  However, since our group is more than forty people, it doesn’t stand out to everyone that he repeats or overdoes. Most only recognize him as religious.  So, instead of the angst we experience at home with his practice, I simply keep hearing words of praise.

“Blake is such a dedicated young man at such a young age,” one woman tells me.

“Blake, you impress me with your commitment to your religion,” another tells him.

“He is so smart and he knows so much about religion,” another traveler who has been enjoying conversation with Blake remarks.  “Do you think he’ll become a religious scholar?”

There are times when I might have wanted to correct these people’s perceptions.  I might have wanted to adjust their viewpoint by letting them know that, yes, it is lovely that he is so dedicated, but that they didn’t know the downside – the fear and anxiety that came along with it.  I have opted against that on this journey.  First, Blake (and the rest of our family) deserves whatever privacy he can get.  It is his personal life and I’d rather the fact that he has OCD only be shared if he wants to share it.  Second, it has actually been a perspective changing experience to listen to people glow with compliments about my almost 15-year-old son and to just sit with them, soak them in.

It is this second thing that has created some very positive and appreciative feelings in me.  Often, I sit in angst about Blake’s OCD.  Instead, over this vacation I’ve been able to see my son through another lens.  I’ve been able to see what others see when they look at him and interact with him.  I’ve been able to appreciate myself what a special young man he is.

Yes, of course he has his challenges and those are his to deal with, but, for this time, I am enjoying hearing others praise him.  I am enjoying seeing him take in that praise.  I am grateful he is having the opportunity to be appreciated by others without having “OCD” hanging over his head.  More importantly, I am reminded that there are wonderful, non-OCD parts of his religious observance, and he deserves to enjoy those.

An Old “Friend” Returns

IMG_1917[1]Blake comes rushing into the kitchen.  I’m sitting at the kitchen counter directly opposite the sink, so I have a front row seat for the action. I quietly watch.  The faucet comes on.  The water comes pouring out.  Pump, pump, pump goes the soap.  A quick rub of the hands, then Blake picks up a cup on the side of the sink. He fills it with water.

Pour, pour, pour.  The water runs over Blake’s first hand.

Pour, pour, pour.  It runs over the second.

I hear him whispering a prayer.  Then he goes to towel dry his hands.

Wait.  That must not have been quite right.

Blake rushes back to the sink.  Pump, pump, pump then pour, pour, pour.  The prayer is whispered again.

This time he doesn’t even move to dry his hands.  He begins again. The water is pouring out of the faucet – and we are in a serious drought.

Pump, pump, pump.

“Blake!  Enough!  This is way more than a simple hand washing.”

He stops.  It’s like he’s just been woken from a daydream and suddenly realizes what he’s doing.

“You’re right,” he says.  Then he goes on to some other activity – far away from the sink.  I know he’ll be back.

Blake’s first OCD symptom that I actually recognized as OCD back when he was seven was hand washing.  He’s been through exposure and response prevention therapy for this a couple of times.  He’s eliminated it both times, but it seems to be the symptom that just keeps cycling back in.

With Blake refusing to fight his OCD, his hands are in jeopardy.  So is my soap dispenser.  It is teetering on its last hold on life.  The incessant pumping is more than it can take.  The water puddles on the kitchen counter.  This is one old “friend” I’d like to send packing.  I hope Blake sees through him and sends him on his way soon.

So, How’s It Going With The Religious Stuff?

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

Whew!  It has been a crazy time here lately.  I have been sick on and off since mid-April.  Then I started running a low fever and didn’t want to get out of bed.  The hubby convinced me to see the doctor and, yep, I had pneumonia.  It forced me to have to rest.  Finally, I am getting some energy back.

While all that has been going on, our family has been spending more time with the religious leader we went to see about helping to mentor Blake.  Blake’s scrupulous observance had been getting so bad without a mentor to serve as a reality check that we felt we needed someone who knew better than us to help guide Blake.  This man welcomed the opportunity to help and he, and his wife, have been a blessing to all of us.

About a year-and-a-half ago, we sought guidance from another religious leader.  We hoped that if Blake could hear from someone in the know that his religious rituals were over the top that it might help him be willing to relinquish some of those rituals (such as prayer repeating and taking elaborate steps not to offend God).  That attempt fell flat on its face.  Blake knew exactly why he was going to see that man, and he decided before he heard anything that this person couldn’t be trusted.

This time, we are allowing the relationship to grow more organically.  Blake and I have been taking religious education classes with his grandparents.  Blake naturally had questions, and so he has been going to this particular religious leader to get clarification.  We’ve all been invited to share meals in his home and to celebrate together.  Blake has loved this opportunity and he is learning to trust the feedback he is getting from this mentor.  It’s all still new, but it has been positive so far.

What’s also been nice is the collaborative relationship we are developing.  While we seek religious guidance from him, the mentor turns to my husband and I for guidance on OCD.  It’s completely new to him and he wants to be careful not to feed it.  So, he is treading lightly, giving Blake the real answers, while checking in with us about what more he can do to help.

While we still have a way to go to see where this will lead, there is more calm in our home around Blake’s scrupulosity and religious observance. That is a welcome change from the nightly arguments we used to have around the dinner table when Blake’s religious rituals intruded on our meal time.  The conversations at dinner are once again about movies and current events, and there is just a greater sense of ease.  I will continue to provide updates as we move along this path.