It’s hard AF being a parent. And the guilt. THE GUILT. Everything your child does feels like a direct reflection of your parenting. And those around you — including strangers — are sure to remind you of that. So when my now 15-year-old son was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 12, the heaviness of a hundred elephants came crushing down on my heart.
Fuck. I gave my son my OCD.
And like a son taking on his parent’s athletic abilities with prowess, my son inherited my OCD with absolute astonishment. That’s right. Not only did he have OCD, his OCD was one for the books. If there was an Overachievement Award for OCD, my son would be in the running. So much that going to school was a struggle, daily chores — including getting ready for the day — were full of anxiety, and even three months in a partial hospitalization program was necessary.
Two years later, I’d like to say we’ve seen a significant change in my son’s OCD symptoms, but like anything strong and resilient, his OCD is rearing its ugly head again. I mean, it never went away, it only hid for a while. Now it’s taking a toll on him again — and on us as a family.
Days are hard. Nights are harder. OCD never sleeps, you see. It’s like a vampire. But not some cute, shimmery vampire named Edward in some teen angsty romance. This vampire is ugly. It likes to suck the life out of you day after day, until you can no longer see the light. This vampire doesn’t sparkle.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with OCD, it’s an acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Don’t confuse that with the I’m-so-OCD-that-everything-has-to-be-clean-and-organized disorder. That just means you like things clean and orderly. OCD is a mental health disorder that takes over the lives of children, adolescents and adults. Every. Single. Day.
Think of not being able to touch a simple door handle. A public place like a school? Contaminated. You see germs everywhere. Your house? It might start on fire and take you all in your sleep. You better check the stove. The vents. The outlets. Intruders? You bet. Check those doors to see if they’re locked. Not twice. Not three times. Do it again in order to walk away and sleep in peace. Oh, you want to sleep? What about some intrusive thoughts? Like, are you truly a bad person? Would you harm someone you love? Now stay awake and worry that you’re an evil person and try to stop the intrusive thoughts taking over your mind. You don’t want them. You know you love your family and truly are a good person. Maybe four hours of sleep will be enough? Maybe tomorrow will be better?
Did I mention there’s not a cure? *Sigh*
That’s right, folks. I passed something on to my son that he’ll have to grapple with for LIFE. Talk about guilt.
I can’t imagine being a teenager in this world right now. The 15-year-old girl in me cringes at the thought. So when I want to complain about my son’s trials and curse the gods above, I have to remember all the accomplishments he’s made. And while most parents are counting athletic ribbons and academic accolades, if I’m honest, I’m counting the easy days. The days his OCD doesn’t take over him and pull the smile and happiness from him — that’s our accomplishment. And I’m grateful as hell.
Here’s the DL. Mental health care is lacking. You guys, we need more help! My husband and I called his former clinic to do an assessment for my son to go back to therapy. Guess what the wait is? Six to eight months. Gulp. And we have tools to help us get through this time. This isn’t our first rodeo. But for those parents who have never been through extensive therapy? Holy hell. They are freaking out. And I don’t blame them. And we’ve been there. In complete desperation and utter exhaustion. Because we — like most parents — don’t know what the fuck to do when our kid is losing it.
We’re here for you, mamas and daddies. In the world of mental health, it is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. And at times: roadblocks. Big, huge, fucking roadblocks. And there will be horrible days, and not-so-horrible days. You’ll have an hour of peace, then three hours of hell. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. But hang in there. Because in the end, you’re not alone. There’s a whole world within this f’ed up world that’s here for you. And when someone tells you your kid is bad or you’re not disciplining them like you should, just know, you’re not failing, you’re surviving. Because we all are.
Yes, my daughter got my husband’s eyes and my son got my OCD. But we’ll be okay. Because we love. And love in the end will win.