Prayers and Car Doors

Photo courtesy sixninepixels at freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy sixninepixels at freedigitalphotos.net

“Mom, can I borrow your phone?  I need to look something up.”

This is a familiar request from Blake.  At fifteen, he still rejects the notion of carrying a cell phone with him.  He has no problem borrowing my smart phone, though.  I know better than to ask what he wants to look up.  It’s usually a religious question, or a prayer.

“Sure, honey,”  I say. “Bring it over to me when you’re finished.”

I head to the waiting line of cars.  I volunteer at Blake’s school each morning in the valet line.  It’s a student drop-off system that I coordinate.  The goal is to keep the parking lot freer of cars.  I see it as a chance to say “Good morning!” to lots of fresh faces and, hopefully, brighten a few mornings.  It’s busy this morning and the time slips by before I realize that Blake has not returned my phone yet.  When there is a break in the traffic, I find him still sitting in the back seat of our car.

“Are you done yet?” I ask him.

Then I see his face.  There’s panic covering it.  His forehead is furrowed, his eyes are wide.

“Not even close!” he blurts out.

I try to ask what is going on, but before I can, Blake is begging to go back home.

“I can’t stay here!  I have to go home!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a prayer.  There’s a prayer I have to say and I can’t remember it.  I forgot to bring I with me.”

“You can say it later, when you get back home.  Go to class now, honey.”

“No!  You don’t understand!  I can’t eat! I can’t go to class!  I can’t do ANYTHING!!!!”

“Blake, God will forgive you for missing a prayer.  Religion isn’t supposed to stress you out or interfere with you meeting your obligations to home and school.”

“No!  You have to take me home!  Or can you go home and bring it back?”

“No, Blake.  You can get the prayer after school.”

“No!  I can’t!”

“Blake, I have to go back to my responsibilities.”  I suggest to him that he call his uncle or the religious leader who has been mentoring him, and I go back to back to tending to the students.

When I see him, several minutes later, he is calm and on his way to class.

“I found the prayer online,” he says.  He’s fine.  I’m rattled.  My phone chimes.  I have a text from the religious leader.  He saw a missed call come in from my phone.

“Is everything okay?  I’m in a meeting,” reads the text.

“Yes.  It was Blake,” I write back.

“I’ll call later.”

I cry tears as I open car doors.  It just feels good that someone cares enough to text back.

Later, the religious leader and I speak and I tell him what happened – the panic, the refusal to go to school.

“That’s not religion,” he concurs.  “Religion is not supposed to impede our lives.  It is supposed to lift us up.  If some religious task, like doing a prayer, is making us panic, we have to move on.  I’ll be seeing him in the next few days.  That’ll give us a chance to talk about this.”

I am grateful that we have this man in our lives.  I still barely know him, but he has reached out plenty to Blake and our family.  When we chose to find a religious mentor for a child with OCD in the form of scrupulosity, we didn’t know if it would help or hurt.  So far, the guidance he is giving is sound.  He is learning to recognize what is OCD and what is religion.  Perhaps, one day, Blake will recognize the same.

 

 

Blake Goes To Summer Camp…For The Very First Time!

Image courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Dr. Joseph Valks at freedigitalphotos.net

Yesterday we dropped Blake off to go to summer camp for nearly three weeks.  I can’t believe he’s actually gone.  I would have written about it right away yesterday, but my heart was just a little too achy to put it down in words.  I fretted all night about whether or not he actually got onto the bus.  Isn’t that silly?  We had to leave before the buses arrived to pick the kids up, and I had images of him pacing in that gated concrete playground all night wondering where everyone had gone (I still have a little post-traumatic stress from when Blake was younger and used to wander off from the group…but I digress).  This morning, however, I spied his face in the corner of a photo on the camp website, and I finally relaxed (My hubby still can’t figure out how I found him in the photo.  It’s a mom thing, right moms?).

The camp is a religious one.  That may seem a bit strange, sending a young man whose primary form of OCD is scrupulosity *(see below) to a religious-based summer camp.  It’s all part of a plan we made a few months back, though.  Blake was constantly seeking out religious information and we decided that it was better if he was getting his information from sources we trusted than from ones we had no control over (i.e., internet searches).  He began working with one trusted local leader.  About the same time, we were referred to this camp by my brother-in-law.  Uncle H has often served as a mentor to Blake, but often their exchanges are via telephone because there is a bit of distance between us.  Uncle H helped us to get Blake enrolled in this camp. My hope is that Blake will accomplish some good learning while he is having fun and that he also may have the opportunity to notice where he takes religion to the extreme compared to the others in the religious camp community he is a part of.

When I enrolled Blake in camp, the admissions forms asked about mental health issues.  I was honest that he has OCD and I requested contact from the camp staff in order to give them the details (and to avoid them freaking out – as some people do when they hear “OCD”).  A couple weeks before Blake left, I received a phone call.

“Hi.  I’m the Camp Mom,” said the warm voice on the other end of the line.  “I’m actually a clinical social worker, but kids prefer to talk to a mom more than to a social worker,” she mused.  “Tell me about Blake.”

I told her about the religiosity, about how OCD is entangled with observance.  I noted how he is constantly seeking out how to “do” religion “just right.”  And I explained how Blake seeks out those he considers religious “experts” to find out the “right” answers and to make sure he isn’t making some religious mistake.  She considered what I’d told her for a moment and then formulated her thoughts.

“I know exactly who he is going to head for at camp,” she told me.  “We have a religious instructor and I’m guessing that Blake is going to go to him with all of his questions.  Here’s what I’m thinking. Since Blake is looking for the ‘right’ answers, I’m going to instruct the staff to give him the more flexible answers to his questions.  Teenagers generally approach our religious staff looking to see how they can bend the rules,” she explained.  “Our approach with most is to give them the most clear answer so that they can’t find a way to wiggle out of it.  With Blake, though, it seems it would be counterproductive to give him a rigid answer.  It’s probably better if he has information he needs to grapple a little more with.”

I suddenly loved this woman.  She seemed to really understand the importance of allowing Blake to stay a little uncomfortable.  And her comments about the difference between Blake and most teens struck me.  Most teens do seek out the grey areas.  They try to find ways to get around the rules.  Blake seeks rules.  They make his world a little more predictable – a little more certain. OCD craves certainty.  I felt pretty sure we’d chosen a good place for Blake to have his summer camp experience.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to search for photos of my young man.  I’m hoping he has a good time and that he meets some nice kids.  Making friends has never been easy for him.  While I hope that he feels comfortable there, I also hope that he will push outside of his comfort zone and challenge himself.  It’s good practice for OCD fighting!

* Scrupulosity is “a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions.  Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine (International OCD Foundation)”

 

Uh, Excuse Me, OCD! I’d Like My Pajamas Back!

OCD has an uncanny ability to shrink your world.  Case in point, OCD recently took away all of Blake’s pajamas (read on to the end – there is a happy conclusion).  It didn’t happen all at once.  It happened, slowly, under the radar – until, one day, there were no more pajamas.  OCD is tricky that way.

“Wait,” you say, “I thought that OCD is a mental health condition, not some thief in the night.”

You would be correct that it is a mental health condition.  At the same time, it can, and does, steal away bits of your life.  For some people, Blake included, OCD tells you that you can’t do this activity or that one because something bad might happen.  You most certainly don’t want something bad to happen and, even though part of your head tells you that this thought is just nonsense, you cannot get away from that nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, OCD is right here.  Better be safe than sorry.

“Okay, okay,” you say, “that makes sense that OCD can stop you from participating in activities, but how on Earth can it take away a teenage boy’s pajamas?”

IMG_1709

Once Upon A Time…

I will begin with a story.  A few years back, Blake got sick during the night.  He threw up all over the place, including on himself.  He was at his grandparents’ home.  His grandparents woke up and helped him change. They immediately threw the pajamas and soiled linens into the wash.  They were fresh and clean in the morning – to everyone except for Blake (or should I say his OCD).  OCD whispered in his ear that the pajamas were contaminated and could never be worn again.  From that day forward, he would push those pajamas to the back of the dresser, avoiding contact with them.  I tried to convince him that the best thing he could do was put them back on and put OCD in its place.  He never did.  He was never willing to tolerate the discomfort he would have to experience in order to move forward – and he outgrew the pajamas.

Blake got several new pairs of pajamas that fit his growing body.  He moved from boys’ pajamas to men’s, reflecting his rapidly physically maturing status.  I began to notice that a pair or so didn’t seem to be showing up in the wash.  When I asked about it, Blake shrugged it off.  He just had his favorite pairs, he said, but that was not entirely the truth.  In reality OCD, in the form of scrupulosity, was kidnapping his pajamas one pair at a time.

“Wait a minute!  Scrupulosity.  Isn’t that where religion and morality get tangled up with OCD?  What does that have to do with pajamas?”

Remember, OCD is tricky.  It can tie all sorts of things together.  Some of the details are sketchy to me, but here is what I know.  Something immoral and unbefitting of a religious young man happened in those pajamas.  Use your imagination. That’s what I had to do.  Although the pajamas were washed, OCD whispered (or maybe it yelled), “Don’t wear those!!!  You can never be sure!”  One by one, each pajama bottom was relegated to the back of the dresser drawer – until there were no more.

I thought it curious that I would find my manling asleep in his swimsuit or in the clothes he had worn the day before.  I suspected that OCD was the culprit, but Blake refused to talk about it.  My hubby and I let it go for a while, hoping he would want his sleeping clothes back.  Instead, we finally pushed the matter when Blake started discarding dishes in the house this past week.  We just couldn’t remain silent as contamination was spreading throughout house (by the way, the reason for the discarded dishes was not the same as for the discarded pajamas – just in case you were wondering!).

A Moment of Truth

A few days ago, the hubby and I sat Blake down.  We let him know that we saw what was happening and that we were concerned that his world was slowly being taken away from him.  When we broached the topic of the pajamas, we hit a wall.  The reasons for the pajamas being discarded were religious, he noted.  He didn’t believe he could get past that.  And he was unwilling to tell us why.

“Honey, if you can’t tell us then you are going to need to get counsel from a religious authority.  Things can’t continue this way,” we told him.  “We are reluctant to buy you new things when perfectly good things are being discarded.  If a religious authority can tell us otherwise, then we will do it your way.”

He went off to summer school.  He wasn’t happy.

That afternoon Blake admitted that he had actually gotten religious consultation some time ago.  I know I’ve mentioned in the past that he corresponds with religious leaders over the internet.  Apparently, he’d actually gotten good consult on this.  He’d been told that his pajamas were just fine to wear.

“But there’s something about it,” he said.  “I just can’t seem to feel right about it.”

“Is it that you’re struggling with uncertainty over whether there’s a chance that the advice you got might be wrong?  That maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s it,” he replied.

“Honey, if a religious leader has told you that there’s no religious basis for not wearing your pajamas and it’s uncertainty that’s keeping you from wearing them, do you think that this might be OCD stepping in?”

Oh no. I’d said it.  I’d suggested that OCD might be at play.

“I guess.”

“You know that the way to make your world bigger and get your stuff back is to stand up to OCD and deal with the discomfort. I know you can do it.  You could start tonight.”

Blake’s face wrinkled up.

“Maybe not tonight,” he said.

“You’re going to keep telling yourself to put it off.  There will never be a day when it will feel just right.  The sooner you challenge the discomfort, the sooner you triumph.”

I could see from his face that he knew that was true.

Will He, or Won’t He?

That evening, as Blake sat watching a video, I stood alongside him.

“If you plan a time to do it, you’ll be more likely to be successful than if you wait until you’re exhausted.”

I could see his hesitation. He was considering backing out.  Even so, he set a time.

“I know how uncomfortable this feels, but I know that you can do difficult and challenging things.”

We bumped fists.

Half an hour later, Blake was wearing a pair of pajamas. It didn’t feel comfortable to be in them, but he didn’t back down.  He kept them on all night.  He felt proud.  I felt proud.  The hubby felt proud.  Blake admitted that he had chosen the least offensive pair, but that didn’t matter.  At least he had taken a step.  OCD had stolen them one at a time.  If Blake chooses, he can get them back – one at a time.

 

 

 

Another Perspective

Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net

We have been traveling for nearly two weeks.  Our whole family.  Far, far from home.  We are with a tour group.  Most of these people we have never met before.  They do not know our stories, and we do not know theirs.  We are all getting to know each other as we travel from place to place and cling to one another as something familiar, something from home, in this land that is foreign to us all.

One thing almost nobody on this trip knows is that Blake has OCD.  They do not know that one way it shows itself  is in scrupulosity and that he repeats prayers over and over because that last one didn’t feel “quite right” or that he frequently worries that his actions may offend God.  Since they don’t know, their reaction to him has been interesting to me, even refreshing for my own perspective.

Let me say that is has escaped no one on this trip that Blake is a religious young man.  However, since our group is more than forty people, it doesn’t stand out to everyone that he repeats or overdoes. Most only recognize him as religious.  So, instead of the angst we experience at home with his practice, I simply keep hearing words of praise.

“Blake is such a dedicated young man at such a young age,” one woman tells me.

“Blake, you impress me with your commitment to your religion,” another tells him.

“He is so smart and he knows so much about religion,” another traveler who has been enjoying conversation with Blake remarks.  “Do you think he’ll become a religious scholar?”

There are times when I might have wanted to correct these people’s perceptions.  I might have wanted to adjust their viewpoint by letting them know that, yes, it is lovely that he is so dedicated, but that they didn’t know the downside – the fear and anxiety that came along with it.  I have opted against that on this journey.  First, Blake (and the rest of our family) deserves whatever privacy he can get.  It is his personal life and I’d rather the fact that he has OCD only be shared if he wants to share it.  Second, it has actually been a perspective changing experience to listen to people glow with compliments about my almost 15-year-old son and to just sit with them, soak them in.

It is this second thing that has created some very positive and appreciative feelings in me.  Often, I sit in angst about Blake’s OCD.  Instead, over this vacation I’ve been able to see my son through another lens.  I’ve been able to see what others see when they look at him and interact with him.  I’ve been able to appreciate myself what a special young man he is.

Yes, of course he has his challenges and those are his to deal with, but, for this time, I am enjoying hearing others praise him.  I am enjoying seeing him take in that praise.  I am grateful he is having the opportunity to be appreciated by others without having “OCD” hanging over his head.  More importantly, I am reminded that there are wonderful, non-OCD parts of his religious observance, and he deserves to enjoy those.

So, How’s It Going With The Religious Stuff?

Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whew!  It has been a crazy time here lately.  I have been sick on and off since mid-April.  Then I started running a low fever and didn’t want to get out of bed.  The hubby convinced me to see the doctor and, yep, I had pneumonia.  It forced me to have to rest.  Finally, I am getting some energy back.

While all that has been going on, our family has been spending more time with the religious leader we went to see about helping to mentor Blake.  Blake’s scrupulous observance had been getting so bad without a mentor to serve as a reality check that we felt we needed someone who knew better than us to help guide Blake.  This man welcomed the opportunity to help and he, and his wife, have been a blessing to all of us.

About a year-and-a-half ago, we sought guidance from another religious leader.  We hoped that if Blake could hear from someone in the know that his religious rituals were over the top that it might help him be willing to relinquish some of those rituals (such as prayer repeating and taking elaborate steps not to offend God).  That attempt fell flat on its face.  Blake knew exactly why he was going to see that man, and he decided before he heard anything that this person couldn’t be trusted.

This time, we are allowing the relationship to grow more organically.  Blake and I have been taking religious education classes with his grandparents.  Blake naturally had questions, and so he has been going to this particular religious leader to get clarification.  We’ve all been invited to share meals in his home and to celebrate together.  Blake has loved this opportunity and he is learning to trust the feedback he is getting from this mentor.  It’s all still new, but it has been positive so far.

What’s also been nice is the collaborative relationship we are developing.  While we seek religious guidance from him, the mentor turns to my husband and I for guidance on OCD.  It’s completely new to him and he wants to be careful not to feed it.  So, he is treading lightly, giving Blake the real answers, while checking in with us about what more he can do to help.

While we still have a way to go to see where this will lead, there is more calm in our home around Blake’s scrupulosity and religious observance. That is a welcome change from the nightly arguments we used to have around the dinner table when Blake’s religious rituals intruded on our meal time.  The conversations at dinner are once again about movies and current events, and there is just a greater sense of ease.  I will continue to provide updates as we move along this path.

Can You Help Us?

Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ventrilock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This morning my husband and I had our meeting with a local religious leader.  Blake is not aware of it so far.  We figured that telling him about it would likely breed his suspicion of what we were up to.  Frankly, we really didn’t know what, if anything would come of it.

To catch anyone up to speed who does not know what I am talking about, our almost 15-year-old son has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  While it shows up in several ways, including fears of contamination, the major way it currently impacts his life is in the form of scrupulosity.  Scrupulosity is a type of OCD in which religion, morality, and OCD become intermingled.  The sufferer may fear doing religious rituals “wrong” and be concerned about offending G-d or being punished. They may repeat prayers or rituals, create new rituals, and/or look for ways to do penance for perceived sins.  It can show up in many ways, but that is the gist of it.

Blake is a prayer repeater, frequently is doing penance, and fears that the rest of the family may contaminate his religious observance.  He constantly has questions about religion, but has not had the benefit of working closely with someone who can truly mentor him.  He spends many hours on the internet seeking answers and writing to anonymous religious authorities who can only answer him in generalities – and who know nothing of his OCD.  My husband and I felt that we could not let it continue in this fashion, unchecked.  So, we reached out to someone in the community who knows enough to be able to answer Blake’s questions.  First, however, we felt it was important that he know about the whole situation.

When we arrived this morning, I was already emotional.  Would this man even listen to Blake’s story fully enough to recognize that this was not just about guiding a young man to be more religious, but that there were complicating emotional factors?  My husband squeezed me as we walked in the door.

The meeting went better than I could have anticipated.  This gentleman took time to learn about our family – about all of us.  Then he learned about the religious observance, and then he asked us to explain OCD to him.  He deferred to us on this.

“I understand a good deal about autism,” he explained, “but not OCD.”

As our discussion progressed, he seemed to understand that the goal is for Blake to get solid, real information, and for him to also learn what he does that is not religion – that which is OCD.  He asked us some hard hitting questions.  He helped us examine our motivations.  In the end, we agreed that we will all begin by attending some religious classes together, where Blake (and my husband and I) can ask all the questions he wants to.  It is our hope that he can build a trusting relationship that will begin there.  From that point, we shall see.

Our meeting ended with some wisdom being shared with my husband and I.  There is some thinking in our religion, the religious leader explained, that children who have special needs also have special souls and spirits.  Everyone else who is considered “healthy” has an “average” soul.  These special children have such a strong soul and come into this world already spiritually uplifted to a degree that their behavior looks different than the norm.

“You have a special son,” he told us.

The belief, however, goes on that these special children are entrusted to “special” parents who will know how to guide them.  They have the skills that will ensure that these children fulfill the roles that they are here to live out.

“You have a special son – and he has special parents.  It is a privilege to be a part of this journey with you.”

I left the meeting with tears rolling down my face.  There was no judgment. We were uplifted as being parents who are suited for this task.  There was understanding and an honest desire to help.  I am hopeful about where this can go and look forward to setting down this road.

 

“Nobody Understands”

Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of thepathtraveler at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m talking to my mother-in-law on the telephone.  Bless her, she is so concerned about what we are going through with Blake.  She is also trying so hard to figure out how she can help.  She reads this blog religiously.  She’s probably reading it right now.  At any rate, she’s just spent several days with Blake and she’s anguishing over what she’s seen.  It pains her to see the never-ending OCD cycle play out in his religious practice.

“Nobody understands, though,” she tells me.  “He’s so charming, so bright, and so polite that people don’t see what’s going on.”

She relates to me how she tried to share what is going on with some friends of hers who know Blake. She explained to them the relentless repeating of prayers and the way that OCD becomes intertwined with religion – until it’s nearly impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends.  She poured out her anguish to them.

“I wish I had a son who was religious,” was the reply she received.  She was so surprised, so disheartened.  How could they fail to see that his religious practice is not a pleasure, but a source of daily torture?  She had just explained that religion had been overshadowed by OCD.  Didn’t they hear her?  She felt alone, and I felt for her.  We are in this together.

I regularly find it difficult to explain to others that, while my son appears to be a religious young man and that, yes, it is nice to see a young man honor his religion, that his practice is convoluted.  It is polluted.  What they cannot see is the ugly side of his practice.  They cannot see my child repeating prayers he has already said – over and over – lest he offend his Creator.  They cannot see the hours he spends pouring over information on the internet and trying to discover how bad the sin he believes he has committed really is.  They do not see the washing machine that is frequently filled with sheets that must be washed because some wretched unreligious thing has happened in them. They do not see him sleeping on the floor instead of in bed because of his sin.  They do not watch him fast for entire days over and over again so that he can redeem himself.  They do not listen to him sobbing for hours on end because he believes he has sinned and cannot be redeemed. Nor do they see my husband and I going to him over and over during those hours, begging him to tell us what is wrong, only to have him say he needs to be alone as he continues to cry.

This is not religion as I know it.  This is not something to be grateful for.  This is sadness.  This is pain.  The G-d I know does not make us pay so dearly for being close to Him.  For me, true spirituality involves being uplifted, feeling a greater sense of belonging and of purpose.  This is lost on my boy.

My husband and I are feeling like we can’t just do nothing.  We have an appointment with a religious leader next week – someone who has offered to hear our story and see if he can help.  What he can offer that others haven’t, I’m not quite sure, but we are hoping he can help us find a religious mentor for Blake.  Perhaps someone who can guide him spiritually, while separating out the OCD madness.  Maybe this will help.  Maybe.  As always, I have to hold out hope.  It’s what I cling to – hope.  I’ve still got it.  I refuse to fall into despair.  There is always hope.

The Odyssey of Scrupulosity

Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy Stuart Miles @ freedigitalphotos.net

When your child has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, many people fail to see what the problem is.  OCD’s symptoms are often hidden from public view, or are so subtle to the outside eye that no one who is not very close to your situation would ever notice.  Many children with OCD are also notoriously good at hiding their symptoms.  When your child’s OCD takes the form of scrupulosity and religious observance, the whole thing can become (at least in our family’s experience) even more insidious.

Blake’s OCD took the form of increased religious observance and polite and moral behavior about two years ago.  At that time, our family began a journey that has caused us to question right/wrong, respect/disrespect, and the very basis of religious observance.  On the surface, Blake appears to be a very polite and religious young man.  We receive compliments all the time on his behavior.  The truth is that Blake is a very nice young man. He has solid values and believes in treating others with respect.  To the uneducated eye, there is nothing wrong here.  How refreshing to come across a 14-year-old who is so kind to others and who places such a strong emphasis on his religion.  Why would we be concerned or want that to change?

I have to say that we question that all the time ourselves.  Why, indeed, would we not want our child to embrace the religion of his family, or why would we not rejoice that he is as polite and conscientious a young man as he is?  Even my husband has found himself laughing with Blake about, “How bad can it really be?  I mean, we could be arguing over drugs or illegal activity.  Instead, we argue over being religious.”

We are in a quandary, for certain.  We are incredibly grateful to have a son who has internalized what we, and others who meet him, believe are good values.  On the other hand, when, in our private moments, I watch my son rise to pray over and over again because he repeatedly believes he has committed a sin, I hurt inside.  When my son panics and insists I must take him home NOW because he might not accomplish reciting ALL the prayers he needs to today, I feel cheated of his time and presence.  When the rules he has around food are based in religious observance, but go far beyond what any religious authority has counseled him – and when he rejects that counsel – I can’t help but feel frustration.  How do I explain this to an outside party?

Friends and family often ask me what they can feed Blake.  I get angry inside when I start to think about it, because the answer is, “I don’t know.  It really depends if he thinks what you have to offer will pass his test of ‘fitness.’  What was fit yesterday may not be tomorrow, and tomorrow’s may not be the following day.”  Sometimes I actually try to explain that to people.  I think they must believe I’m nuts – which I just may be.

Where I am going with this post, I am actually not quite sure.  What I am trying to communicate is that OCD, when played out in the form of scrupulosity, becomes a confusing situation for all involved.  To the sufferer, it is a never-ending process of trying to be the “best” person or to get religious observance “right.”  To the immediate family, it is a maddening experience of watching the core values and ideals you were taught being twisted in unimaginable ways, and to the outside observer it appears that this is just a very good and religious human being – nothing wrong here.  How we get out, how we separate what’s real from what’s OCD is such a strange odyssey. I’ll keep you posted on the journey.  – Angie

Inspiration and Hope

Image courtest graur codrin at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtest graur codrin at freedigitalphotos.net

Blake stands in a corner, shuffling and swaying, praying his fervent best before he begins what looks like a dance – part Bunny Hop, part Cha Cha.  He gives one last look up toward the heavens (actually the ceiling of our kitchen), looks satisfied and walks away.  My hubby and I have been sitting close by, working on a project, but taking in the scene all the same.  When Blake is safely out of earshot, my husband looks at me with wide eyes.  He’s trying to find the humor in this.

“I don’t know what religion that is, but it isn’t mine,” he says with a half-smile.

We must do this – try to find the humor, the funny side of our 14-year-old son’s compulsions – in order to keep going.  It’s a way of maintaining the peace, of staying sane, and of not crumbling into a mess of argument and discord.  The truth is, we are sad that our son chooses OCD’s ways over defeating the disorder.  Yet we have to let him come to his decision to accept treatment when he is ready.

Along those lines, I found myself inspired this week by a young man who did just that.  He sought treatment for himself.  He’d contacted me because he’d done his research.  He recognized that he had OCD and it was affecting his life to such a degree that he was willing to do whatever it took to get better, including driving well over an hour to meet with me.  I was inspired because this young man, barely an adult, empowered himself and chose to get better.  I am committed to helping him get there.

What made me sad, though, is that he is all alone in his recognition that he has OCD.  No family member or friend is aware.  He is that good at hiding it – at least that’s what he tells me.  Either way, he and I are the only ones who have ever discussed that he is suffering.  While it is an honor to share knowledge of his story, it is my honest hope that, as he progresses through treatment, he will find the courage to share this with another supportive soul in his life.

When I meet a young person like this, it gives me hope, once again, that one day Blake will decide that living according to OCD’s rules is not worth it.  I hope that he, too, will find the courage, either with our knowledge or without, to brush up on his OCD fighting skills and put the disorder in its place once again.

“But I Have Prayers To Do!”

Image courtesy wiangya at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy wiangya at freedigitalphotos.net

My husband came rushing home one night this past week.  He had gotten off work early to pick up Blake and take him to a school presentation.  It was yet another of our sometimes chaotic family nights.  I was driving Michael and several other kids to an event in another town.  Blake was supposed to have been going to, but the night before he’d announced, “I can’t go.  I have a presentation at school.”

It was one of those maddening moments for me as a parent.  I’m driving carpool.  You can’t go?  And how long have you known about this presentation?  Both of my boys do this kind of thing – spring on me last minute that there’s something going on that we should have been preparing for days or weeks ago.  That’s a teenage thing, right?

Anyhow, with some scrambling, my hubby was able to rearrange his schedule to be able to get Blake to school and attend the presentation so that I could drive the carpool to their destination.  On the day of the event, as we drove home from school, I let Blake know what time to be ready for Dad.  When my hubby called, letting me know he was going to be home with just enough time to pick up Blake and get to school, I conveyed the message to Blake that he was to get ready to leave as soon as Dad pulled up.  This is when he became indignant.

“I can’t go now.  I have stuff to do.”

“What?  Blake, Dad got off work early so he could get you to your presentation on time.  You need to be ready so that you can leave right away.”

“I’m sorry.  I can’t do that.  I can’t be ready for a while,” he answered.

You see, he had prayers to be done.  It didn’t matter that he had an entire group of kids waiting at school for him on this important night.  It didn’t matter that he was a key part of their presentation and that this event was a big part of their grade in several classes. It didn’t matter that Dad had rearranged his afternoon and evening to be there and support him.  When scrupulosity is a part of your life, praying comes first, or you will feel guilty, uncomfortable and anxious.

I tried to coax Blake into getting ready – to no avail.  My hubby walked in the door, ready to collect Blake and get on the road.

“I’m sorry, Dad, I can’t go yet.  I have stuff to do.”

“Blake, you’ve been home for an hour.  You knew when this event was.  We need to leave.  Your classmates are depending on you.  And I changed my schedule for you because this was so important…”

“I’m sorry.  I can’t go”

I wasn’t sure if my husband was going to blow his top or not.  OCD was affecting him, Blake, Blake’s classmates….

“Blake.  If you do not come with me now, you will miss the presentation.  I am not waiting for you to do your prayers.”

Somehow, Blake managed to pick up his things and head out.  They made it to the presentation on time.  My husband said it was splendid, and I was sad to have missed it.  In the end, though, Blake couldn’t shake the nagging need to pray. He found a few moments to slip away from everyone to complete his task.  Relief achieved – for the moment.