My Sibling Has OCD…

Image courtesy sattva at
Image courtesy sattva at

Blake is still away at camp.  He hasn’t written and I haven’t gotten any concerned calls from the camp staff, so I’m guessing that no news is good news.  Re-entry will occur later this week.  I’m excited for him to come home, yet, cautiously so.

This has been a peaceful time in our home.  Eerily peaceful, if you ask me.  I think it has been really good for all of us, though, especially for Michael.  Siblings are OCD’s often overlooked victims.  They are witness to, and often participant in, the tumult.  Often, they stand helplessly by as their siblings struggle through painful rituals.  They get dragged along to therapy appointments.  They see activities missed.  They experience the conflict.  They can be targets of their sibling’s compulsions or the object of their obsessions.  They watch Mom and Dad in angst and sometimes they feel completely overlooked.

Michael is no different.  He has shared his anger with his dad and I for turning our attention away from him and to Blake.  He has critiqued our ways of intervening.  He has shared his feelings of helplessness and he has longed for normalcy. What he has shared with me has been the impetus for talks I’ve given at conferences and for support groups I have run.

Michael has been going through this OCD experience since he was in fourth grade.  He is now a senior in high school who is preparing to apply for college.  Recently he told me that he is looking forward to leaving home and getting away from the conflict he sees and the insanity that OCD looks like to him.

“Is that bad?” he asked me.  “Is it bad that I can’t wait to get away?”

I don’t know exactly what to tell him.  I don’t think that it is bad.  I think that it is understandable.  I wish that he didn’t have to watch his brother’s fruitless rituals.  I wish he didn’t have to go through the craziness that we experienced in the past, or the struggles that we face with Blake being a teen now.  I can’t take that away, though.  It is what it is, and we always try to do better, to improve our interactions.  We, however, are a work in progress.

We have tried to keep a balance in supporting both of our boys.  Michael actually chooses to be in therapy and I know that it has been a great support to him. In the end, he and Blake actually love each other very much. They are even good friends a great deal of the time (though I know that Michael feels that OCD has robbed him of parts of his best friend in the world).  Michael has also taken something very special from the experience of having a brother with OCD:  he has become an incredibly supportive advocate for kids with mental health issues.  He can sense them in a social group and he is always ready to lend a hand to help those kids.  If there’s anything to be gained from the experience, his incredible sensitivity and generosity are just that.  And I love the young man he is turning out to be.

4 thoughts on “My Sibling Has OCD…

  1. It takes a very special young man to come out of this experience with compassion and empathy. Michael sounds like an awesome kid. You must be very proud! -Amyt

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