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.