I never heard the phone ring. I’d been in the backyard feeding the box turtles when I heard a muffled male voice coming from inside the house. I knew instantly it was the answering machine.
“… so if there’s anything you’d like me to know about your son…”
“Hi. This is Angie. I’m not sure who this is. I just walked into the house.”
“I’m David, the EMT who will be traveling with Blake’s travel adventure camp. I’m checking in with all the families where there may be possible medical concerns. I see Blake takes Sertraline. I want to be sure that he is healthy and see if there is anything I should know.”
“Oh yes, of course,” I say. Then I launch into an explanation about how the medication is for OCD and what behaviors he might see.
“But, he’s medically healthy, right?” David asks after I’ve finished. I can tell from the sound of his voice that he either doesn’t care about the OCD symptoms or that what I’ve said has completely gone over his head. He just wants to know he doesn’t have a physically sick kid on his hands. This is an extreme adventure camp, after all.
“Oh, yes,” I say. “He’s very healthy. He’s been on this dose of medication for some time and he tolerates it well.”
“Very well, then. I’m looking forward to meeting him next week.”
I hung up the phone and Blake walked in the room. He was carrying a nearly empty gallon of milk. Just as he was about to pour it into his cereal, he stopped.
“Mom, is there any more milk?”
“I think there’s another gallon in the frig in the garage. Is there a problem with this one?”
“Ugh. I’m worrying about whether people poured milk back into the jug.”
“It must be hard,” I say. “I know you hate talking about OCD, but you realize that’s the game OCD plays with you, right? It plays the ‘How can you be sure?’ game with you.”
“I know. I’m just tired of being ‘that kid with OCD.’ I don’t mind helping others, but I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to go to conferences. I don’t want to read about it. I just want to be a kid.”
“You deserve to just be a kid,” I tell him.
My mind drifts back to the phone call I’ve just finished. Did I need to launch into the explanation about Blake having OCD? The EMT on the other end of the line didn’t seem to care. Have I kept him in the role of “that kid with OCD?” He does deserve to just be a kid. Inside I worry, though. He doesn’t fight his OCD much of the time; he simply complies with its demands of the moment (luckily it isn’t too demanding right now). If he just tries to forget about it, will the OCD take over the next time it grows? Then, I come back to the same place I always do. He deserves to fight his OCD on his terms, when he chooses to. My insisting that he remember he has OCD isn’t helpful to his 16-year-old self; it just makes him more resentful. At least he knows what he wants right now. He wants to be a kid. That’s a great start.