Truth Be Told

I often get positive feedback from people when they hear about Dan’s story. “He’s so lucky to have you,” and “You’re so supportive” are two of the more common compliments I get. These words should make me feel great. And they do, for the most part. But something about the praise also makes me sad. What it implies is that my unwavering support for my son through his journey with severe OCD is not the norm. And maybe it’s not. I don’t really know.  But that thought boggles my mind.  If Dan had a physical ailment, such as asthma, would I get the same comments? Probably not. Of course any good mother would do everything in her power to get the best help possible for her child with asthma. So why is it different with mental illness?

The only logical explanation I can think of is: Ignorance.  Maybe parents think their child is just seeking attention, or faking, or is not as bad off as they seem. Maybe they think their child will “just snap out of it.”  Whatever their thoughts, they stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding of mental illness.

And then there are parents who actually do realize the severity of their child’s disorder, but have no idea how or where to reach out for help. I know that feeling of being completely lost and not knowing who to listen to or what to do. Ignorance again. It’s kind of like being in the middle of a fire, and not being able to escape. Not the best time to go looking for a book or searching the internet for “how to escape a fire.” Think of how much easier the situation would be to handle if we had that knowledge beforehand.

And so I advocate for OCD awareness and share Dan’s story, with the hope of helping others. But I am not as altruistic as I sound. Truth be told, I also want to learn everything I possibly can about OCD so that, in the unlikely event that Dan gets caught in the middle of a fire again, I will know how to help him out.

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4 Responses to Truth Be Told

  1. You ARE very supportive mother – I can tell from what you write. My parents have had their moments of giving support, and I think they do the best they can but overall my OCD is still pretty much swept under the rug. I think some of it is ignorance, some of it is denial, and some of it is guilt (why didn’t they get help for me sooner? Did they do something to cause this?). As much as I really do look forward to the day that mental illness doesn’t have such a stigma attached to it – it certainly does in my family.

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Yeah, that stigma is everywhere, certainly not just in your family! You make a good point about the guilt. I think a lot of parents do feel guilty that maybe they did something to cause the OCD. And feeling this way probably makes the OCD even more difficult for them to face. Thanks for your insights!

  3. Ah, your post makes me feel a bit guilty! My parents know about my OCD. How could they not? Though I live across the country from them, when things started to go terribly wrong, I couldn’t hide it all, but I still kept quite a bit of it to myself, especially regarding the severity of my condition. I still haven’t let them in completely on how bad things got and the extent to which I am still sometimes struggling. It’s hard for me because telling them often causes me a lot of anxiety. I worry about how they will respond. Even with the best intentions, their responses have sometimes worked me up and made me doubt myself and my condition and made me obsess more. I have a hard enough time as it is, believing the seriousness of my condition, and when my parents question and try to understand and try to offer support by telling me that “that’s normal” or “a lot of people do that sort of thing sometimes” or “worry about things like that” it just makes me feel like I am making it all up. I haven’t really given them a fair chance by illustrating the extent to which things affected my life, but letting them in still triggers a lot of self-doubt and anxiety for me.

  4. ocdtalk says:

    I really think that you need to do what’s best for you, in terms of how much you want/need to share with your family, taking into account how your interactions affect you.

    Even though I am learning as much as I can about OCD and what I should or shouldn’t say or do in regards to helping Dan, there is no doubt it my mind that I have often done or said the wrong thing.

    I don’t feel that I need to know details of his OCD if he does not want to share. What is most important to me is that he knows that, though I may say or do the wrong thing once in a while, I am always here for him for whatever he may (or may not) need from me. I am guessing that is what most parents want their children to know.

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