“I’m In an Exposure”

Image courtesy Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

“Hey Mom, I’m in an exposure right now,” Blake informs me. He sounds just the slightest bit excited.

“Really?” I ask. “What are you in an exposure for?”

I’m curious about this statement. Blake hasn’t talked about “exposures” in years. Certainly I haven’t heard anything of the sort from him since he refused treatment for his OCD just over three years ago. Exposures are an integral part of evidence-based treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The person with OCD places themselves, often with the support of a therapist, in situations that would normally provoke compulsions/rituals, but chooses not to pacify the OCD by performing those compulsions. Gradually, the OCD sufferer adjusts and learns to cope with what might have previously felt intolerable.

“Today is a special day, religiously,” Blake tells me. “I don’t know if there are any special observances I should be doing beyond what I’ve already done. I’m feeling pretty anxious, but I’m not giving in to it. I’m allowing myself to tell myself that I’m doing the best I know how and that has to be good enough.”

I know this is tough for him. We’ve been held captive in the house, at times, with Blake paralyzed over not knowing how to handle some religious observance (he is more religious than the rest of our family, having embraced religion about five years ago. OCD loves to mess with that and his obsessions and compulsions often revolve around religion). I tell him that I recognize this must be tough and that I’m glad he’s happy he’s made the choice not to give in to his OCD this time.

Blake is still struggling with depression and having difficulty with motivation. His OCD lingers mostly in the background, rearing its head from time to time. Yet, at moments lately, I see mini breakthroughs. He is more willing to talk about feeling anxious – something he would have become furious about in the past if I would have mentioned it. Just yesterday I heard him repeating a prayer as I sat next to him.

“Are you supposed to repeat that prayer at certain times?” I inquire. “I notice you just said it a second ago.”

“No,” he says.

“Oh, it’s an anxiety thing?”

“Yep, it is,” he replies – with no defensiveness.

That little exchange would have been unthinkable even six months ago. Perhaps he’s a little more mature. Perhaps I’ve learned to be less intrusive, to have less of that accusatory tone in my voice. Whatever it is, this little window of openness is nice.

As for the exposure he self-imposed, we never spoke of it again, but I’m pretty sure it went well. He went off to babysit our friends’ children, came home later and proceeded with his day. There was no frantic calling of religious authorities or begging me to text someone who is in the know. Maybe that is how Blake’s war with OCD will be won, with little hand-selected battles he feels ready for. If so, I’ll cheer him on quietly each time he takes one on.


“I’ll Try”

Image courtesy Gualberto107 at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Gualberto107 at freedigitalphotos.net

“Why haven’t you posted on your blog in a while?”

My hubby poses this question as we sit at dinner with Michael. I stop for a moment and ponder his query. The truth begins to make its way out; I’ve held it deeply inside for these past months.

“I haven’t been able to write since Collin died,” I say. The three of us sit in silence for a moment. Michael’s friend and classmate since kindergarten was killed in a tragic auto accident in February (see “The Phone Rings in the Dead of Night“). Although the young men mostly moved in different circles, and though our contact with the family had dwindled to meeting up at Open Houses and Back-to-School nights with agreements that we needed to get together, in the aftermath of the accident our community suddenly seemed much smaller and intricately interconnected. The air felt heavier. Little things mattered less…and my own personal struggles felt insignificant.

“I have my sons,” I say. “So Blake has OCD. So he struggles with depression. It just seems insignificant to write about that when Wendy and Jay would probably give anything to have Collin there, even if it was to have an argument. Maybe I was just wallowing in my own stuff. We have a good life.”

“Yes, we have a good life,” the hubby acknowledges. “We also have this very real thing going on in our life. It’s not insignificant. OCD and depression are not insignificant. If you don’t write about it, you don’t acknowledge the realities of the people who read your blog to connect and to have hope. You also don’t acknowledge our reality. Your writing isn’t wallowing.”

“You need to write, Mom,” Michael encourages me.

“I’ll try,” I promise.

So, it would seem, I am trying. Let’s see where it goes…