Yesterday we dropped Blake off to go to summer camp for nearly three weeks. I can’t believe he’s actually gone. I would have written about it right away yesterday, but my heart was just a little too achy to put it down in words. I fretted all night about whether or not he actually got onto the bus. Isn’t that silly? We had to leave before the buses arrived to pick the kids up, and I had images of him pacing in that gated concrete playground all night wondering where everyone had gone (I still have a little post-traumatic stress from when Blake was younger and used to wander off from the group…but I digress). This morning, however, I spied his face in the corner of a photo on the camp website, and I finally relaxed (My hubby still can’t figure out how I found him in the photo. It’s a mom thing, right moms?).
The camp is a religious one. That may seem a bit strange, sending a young man whose primary form of OCD is scrupulosity *(see below) to a religious-based summer camp. It’s all part of a plan we made a few months back, though. Blake was constantly seeking out religious information and we decided that it was better if he was getting his information from sources we trusted than from ones we had no control over (i.e., internet searches). He began working with one trusted local leader. About the same time, we were referred to this camp by my brother-in-law. Uncle H has often served as a mentor to Blake, but often their exchanges are via telephone because there is a bit of distance between us. Uncle H helped us to get Blake enrolled in this camp. My hope is that Blake will accomplish some good learning while he is having fun and that he also may have the opportunity to notice where he takes religion to the extreme compared to the others in the religious camp community he is a part of.
When I enrolled Blake in camp, the admissions forms asked about mental health issues. I was honest that he has OCD and I requested contact from the camp staff in order to give them the details (and to avoid them freaking out – as some people do when they hear “OCD”). A couple weeks before Blake left, I received a phone call.
“Hi. I’m the Camp Mom,” said the warm voice on the other end of the line. “I’m actually a clinical social worker, but kids prefer to talk to a mom more than to a social worker,” she mused. “Tell me about Blake.”
I told her about the religiosity, about how OCD is entangled with observance. I noted how he is constantly seeking out how to “do” religion “just right.” And I explained how Blake seeks out those he considers religious “experts” to find out the “right” answers and to make sure he isn’t making some religious mistake. She considered what I’d told her for a moment and then formulated her thoughts.
“I know exactly who he is going to head for at camp,” she told me. “We have a religious instructor and I’m guessing that Blake is going to go to him with all of his questions. Here’s what I’m thinking. Since Blake is looking for the ‘right’ answers, I’m going to instruct the staff to give him the more flexible answers to his questions. Teenagers generally approach our religious staff looking to see how they can bend the rules,” she explained. “Our approach with most is to give them the most clear answer so that they can’t find a way to wiggle out of it. With Blake, though, it seems it would be counterproductive to give him a rigid answer. It’s probably better if he has information he needs to grapple a little more with.”
I suddenly loved this woman. She seemed to really understand the importance of allowing Blake to stay a little uncomfortable. And her comments about the difference between Blake and most teens struck me. Most teens do seek out the grey areas. They try to find ways to get around the rules. Blake seeks rules. They make his world a little more predictable – a little more certain. OCD craves certainty. I felt pretty sure we’d chosen a good place for Blake to have his summer camp experience.
Over the next few weeks, I will continue to search for photos of my young man. I’m hoping he has a good time and that he meets some nice kids. Making friends has never been easy for him. While I hope that he feels comfortable there, I also hope that he will push outside of his comfort zone and challenge himself. It’s good practice for OCD fighting!
* Scrupulosity is “a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine (International OCD Foundation)”