I seem to have written mostly about the part of Blake’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that takes the form of scrupulosity lately. Yet, that is not the only way OCD affects him (and our family). Rarely does OCD affect an individual in just one way. Someone who fears catching a disease and frequently handwashes can also be afraid to touch something using their “bad” side. Someone who fears they will accidentally shoplift can also feel the need to check the stove repeatedly to be certain it was turned off. And someone who is scrupulous and fears offending God, like Blake, can also fear contamination.
Case in point, a little bit ago I gave Blake a dollar bill as change for a video game he purchased. As I reached out to hand him the dollar, he motioned for me to set the bill down on the sofa next to him.
“Blake, just take the dollar.”
He pulled his shirt sleeve down to cover his hand. Now protected, he reached for the dollar. Instinctively, I withdrew my own hand. I knew what was happening. Contamination. He was sure the dollar was contaminated (I realize there is logic behind that. Money is one of the dirtiest things out there, right?). I didn’t want to play OCD’s game, but maybe I was playing it by refusing to just give him the dollar. Perhaps I should have just handed it to him and been done with it.
Blake saw that I was on to this whole contamination thing. He pulled his shirt sleeve back up. He reached out and took the dollar with his bare hand. Great! No. Wait. Too soon. He immediately got up from the game he’d been playing and began to make a run for the sink. Time to wash off those germs.
So what did I do? Oh yes, I was brilliant. I quickly moved into his path.
“You don’t have to wash, Blake. You can fight this one.”
Why, oh why, am I so tremendously stupid sometimes? I have promised this young man that I will stay out of his OCD and let him decide how to fight it and when to fight it. There I was, breaking my word. Ugh! And, realizing I was breaking my word, I continued to stand there and encourage him not to wash. He looked at me like I was a minor irritation, moved around me and washed that hand right up.
Great job, mom!
Okay, big deal, he washes his hands after he touches money. Shouldn’t we all wash our hands after we handle money? Probably – before we eat or some such thing – but if we can’t handle a dollar bill without running to the sink or if we interrupt a favorite activity to wash our hands because we feel a wave of panic over touching money, there’s something more going on. And, if our hands are cracked and bleeding from washing so much, we may just have a problem.
In Blake’s case, he still doesn’t see this as a problem. At least, he doesn’t see it as a problem worth doing anything over. I wish I could finally get over it and stop feeling a sense of responsibility for helping him deal with his OCD. I certainly counsel parents in my practice not to take responsibility for their children’s OCD, especially when their children have no desire for things to be different. My personal experience, however, lets me know how very difficult it is to really remove yourself from the situation. We parents love our kids. We want the best for them. Sometimes what is best is to let them deal with that dirty dollar bill any way they choose and stay the heck out of it. 🙂