OCD has an uncanny ability to shrink your world. Case in point, OCD recently took away all of Blake’s pajamas (read on to the end – there is a happy conclusion). It didn’t happen all at once. It happened, slowly, under the radar – until, one day, there were no more pajamas. OCD is tricky that way.
“Wait,” you say, “I thought that OCD is a mental health condition, not some thief in the night.”
You would be correct that it is a mental health condition. At the same time, it can, and does, steal away bits of your life. For some people, Blake included, OCD tells you that you can’t do this activity or that one because something bad might happen. You most certainly don’t want something bad to happen and, even though part of your head tells you that this thought is just nonsense, you cannot get away from that nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, OCD is right here. Better be safe than sorry.
“Okay, okay,” you say, “that makes sense that OCD can stop you from participating in activities, but how on Earth can it take away a teenage boy’s pajamas?”
Once Upon A Time…
I will begin with a story. A few years back, Blake got sick during the night. He threw up all over the place, including on himself. He was at his grandparents’ home. His grandparents woke up and helped him change. They immediately threw the pajamas and soiled linens into the wash. They were fresh and clean in the morning – to everyone except for Blake (or should I say his OCD). OCD whispered in his ear that the pajamas were contaminated and could never be worn again. From that day forward, he would push those pajamas to the back of the dresser, avoiding contact with them. I tried to convince him that the best thing he could do was put them back on and put OCD in its place. He never did. He was never willing to tolerate the discomfort he would have to experience in order to move forward – and he outgrew the pajamas.
Blake got several new pairs of pajamas that fit his growing body. He moved from boys’ pajamas to men’s, reflecting his rapidly physically maturing status. I began to notice that a pair or so didn’t seem to be showing up in the wash. When I asked about it, Blake shrugged it off. He just had his favorite pairs, he said, but that was not entirely the truth. In reality OCD, in the form of scrupulosity, was kidnapping his pajamas one pair at a time.
“Wait a minute! Scrupulosity. Isn’t that where religion and morality get tangled up with OCD? What does that have to do with pajamas?”
Remember, OCD is tricky. It can tie all sorts of things together. Some of the details are sketchy to me, but here is what I know. Something immoral and unbefitting of a religious young man happened in those pajamas. Use your imagination. That’s what I had to do. Although the pajamas were washed, OCD whispered (or maybe it yelled), “Don’t wear those!!! You can never be sure!” One by one, each pajama bottom was relegated to the back of the dresser drawer – until there were no more.
I thought it curious that I would find my manling asleep in his swimsuit or in the clothes he had worn the day before. I suspected that OCD was the culprit, but Blake refused to talk about it. My hubby and I let it go for a while, hoping he would want his sleeping clothes back. Instead, we finally pushed the matter when Blake started discarding dishes in the house this past week. We just couldn’t remain silent as contamination was spreading throughout house (by the way, the reason for the discarded dishes was not the same as for the discarded pajamas – just in case you were wondering!).
A Moment of Truth
A few days ago, the hubby and I sat Blake down. We let him know that we saw what was happening and that we were concerned that his world was slowly being taken away from him. When we broached the topic of the pajamas, we hit a wall. The reasons for the pajamas being discarded were religious, he noted. He didn’t believe he could get past that. And he was unwilling to tell us why.
“Honey, if you can’t tell us then you are going to need to get counsel from a religious authority. Things can’t continue this way,” we told him. “We are reluctant to buy you new things when perfectly good things are being discarded. If a religious authority can tell us otherwise, then we will do it your way.”
He went off to summer school. He wasn’t happy.
That afternoon Blake admitted that he had actually gotten religious consultation some time ago. I know I’ve mentioned in the past that he corresponds with religious leaders over the internet. Apparently, he’d actually gotten good consult on this. He’d been told that his pajamas were just fine to wear.
“But there’s something about it,” he said. “I just can’t seem to feel right about it.”
“Is it that you’re struggling with uncertainty over whether there’s a chance that the advice you got might be wrong? That maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s it,” he replied.
“Honey, if a religious leader has told you that there’s no religious basis for not wearing your pajamas and it’s uncertainty that’s keeping you from wearing them, do you think that this might be OCD stepping in?”
Oh no. I’d said it. I’d suggested that OCD might be at play.
“You know that the way to make your world bigger and get your stuff back is to stand up to OCD and deal with the discomfort. I know you can do it. You could start tonight.”
Blake’s face wrinkled up.
“Maybe not tonight,” he said.
“You’re going to keep telling yourself to put it off. There will never be a day when it will feel just right. The sooner you challenge the discomfort, the sooner you triumph.”
I could see from his face that he knew that was true.
Will He, or Won’t He?
That evening, as Blake sat watching a video, I stood alongside him.
“If you plan a time to do it, you’ll be more likely to be successful than if you wait until you’re exhausted.”
I could see his hesitation. He was considering backing out. Even so, he set a time.
“I know how uncomfortable this feels, but I know that you can do difficult and challenging things.”
We bumped fists.
Half an hour later, Blake was wearing a pair of pajamas. It didn’t feel comfortable to be in them, but he didn’t back down. He kept them on all night. He felt proud. I felt proud. The hubby felt proud. Blake admitted that he had chosen the least offensive pair, but that didn’t matter. At least he had taken a step. OCD had stolen them one at a time. If Blake chooses, he can get them back – one at a time.