We Have to Want It Less Than They Do

Image courtesy of Nanhatai8 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week I attended a daylong community OCD event. The venue was completely full, there were terrific speakers, and there were lots of opportunities to connect. At the end of the day, there was a gathering to re-cap and ask questions. One parent stood up to ask a question that grabbed my heart and my attention.

The parent asked about a topic that is near to many of us who have young adult (or almost-adult) children struggling with OCD (or other mental health issues). That is, the parent wanted to know how to motivate one’s older teen or young adult to get serious and use the treatment being offered to them. I immediately felt a kinship to this parent. I wanted to reach across the crowded room and say, “Yes, I want to know that, too. You are not alone.” Yet my heart already knew the answer that was about to come.

A therapist at the front of the room took the question and tenderly noted, “I notice that many times parents want desperately for their child to get better. Yet that seems to keep the child or young adult from wanting it for themselves. They have to want to get better more than their parents want them to get better.”

And there it was. A simple truth. We parents can want what we want for our children. We can lead them to treatment. We can urge, press, plead, make deals…but we can’t be doing more work than they are. We cannot be more invested than they are. We have to want their recovery LESS than they do.

My heart feels heavy for just a bit as I hear what I already know. And my heart aches for the parent on the other side of the room. How do we do this? How do we care less when they don’t seem to care much at all (at least on the surface)? I think the answer is that we have to find a meaningful life for ourselves in spite of their mental health struggles. I think that we have to back off on the pressure and put faith in their ability to decide when enough is enough. And we have to have the courage to not pick up the pieces and make the consequences of their struggle easier – they have to be doing much of the hard work.

This is simple, in theory, but difficult in practice. As parents, we are programmed to respond to our child when we see them suffering. We are oriented toward providing comfort and to removing obstacles. With OCD, anyway, doing our job as parent may be presenting them with the difficult path toward healing, and waiting nearby allowing them the struggle of coming to the decision that there is a better life to be lived.

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Just a Little Rant

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m passionate about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as a cause. I feel strongly about getting the word out and supporting this community – those who suffer with OCD and those of us who love someone who has it. I care about it so much that sometimes I take those clueless OCD humorous remarks personally.

Recently, I began a free support group in my community for adults with OCD. Running it is one of the highlights of my week.  Watching the close community that is rapidly developing in that room warms my heart. So, of course, I want to promote the group so that others can participate and benefit, and I made a flyer. Then I excitedly sent the flyer to every therapist and psychiatrist I could think of.

BUT I MADE A MISTAKE

I put the wrong phone number on the flyer. Somewhat embarrassed, I asked everyone to delete the flyer and I sent out a new one.  And I apologized for my error and for the multiple emails. Then I received this:

No prob. At least we know you are not OCD! If you were, you would have read it 5 times before sending!

This comment came from a therapist with many years of experience. I immediately felt the heat rise in me. I wanted to write back and school the therapist about the ignorance of that comment. I thought of snappy comebacks. I wanted to write, “Or maybe I am OCD, but my compulsions are something different from checking…” And then there’s just the phrase “you are not OCD.” Seriously, a person is NOT OCD. They might have OCD. I want to tell the therapist that, too.

But I Haven’t Said Anything

I haven’t said anything (except to you) because, well, I’m just a little too pissed right now. And I actually would like this therapist to send adults with OCD to the group.  I don’t want to alienate people from the cause; I want to educate. So thank you for letting me rant just a bit. For now, I’m going to sit on my response…at least until my blood stops boiling.