Keep the Bar High

One of the main reasons I write about my family’s experiences is to get the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. Stories of recovery can give hope to OCD sufferers and their families.

But what exactly does recovery mean? Obviously the answer to this question will vary from person to person. To us and Dan it meant not having to compromise the hopes and dreams he had before OCD took over his life. In other words, not letting OCD call the shots.

This was no easy task, and there were plenty of obstacles along the road to recovery. Because Dan’s almost life-long dream was to become an animator, we chose an intensive residential program for him to attend during the summer. That way, we were assured, Dan would be well enough to return to college that fall, and he could continue to pursue his dream.

But things didn’t happen quite as planned in the residential program. Though Dan was doing a great job fighting his OCD, thanks to Exposure Response Prevention Therapy, the staff at the program felt that the intense program and stressful career path Dan had chosen was not a good option. Rather they thought he would be better off becoming an art teacher. And while there is nothing wrong with being an art teacher, it is a field that Dan had never shown even the slightest interest in exploring. Surprisingly, instead of Dan resisting their suggestion, he decided it might be a good idea. They were the experts after all, and because Dan was still dealing with a good-sized case of OCD, maybe he wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of going back to school at this point.

The problem here was that the staff at this program didn’t really know Dan. They knew everything there was to know about OCD and how to treat it, but they did not know my son. Not really. Their interactions with him took place over the worst nine weeks of his life, at which time they felt compelled to encourage him to change his life’s course.

My husband and I knew our son and what pursuing his dream really meant to him when he was well. So we kept the bar high. We told him we thought he should at least try to go back to school. We told him that, because of his perseverance and his commitment to treatment, we had complete faith that he would recover enough to be able to make his dreams a reality. We convinced him to speak with his advisor at school, as well as his therapist outside of the residential program, and they also kept the bar high for Dan. Their message was loud and clear: “If this is something you really want, then you can achieve it.”

I know that having OCD changes people’s lives.  And sometimes it may be necessary for OCD sufferers to take stock of their situation and alter some of their life’s goals. I believe these decisions should be made with thoughtful consideration over time, and not when you are in the throes of severe OCD. Options should be discussed with those who know and love the OCD sufferer the most. And while being realistic is important, I feel we should keep the bar high whenever possible. Because like hope, having dreams to follow can be a powerful incentive for recovery.

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9 Responses to Keep the Bar High

  1. jacqui says:

    This is a story of hope! Dan, with the support of loving advocates, was able to realize that he is the best expert of himself and he was going to call the shots on what his future was going to look like, instead of the OCD and the “experts” deciding. Thank you!

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Thank you! You are right…….there is absolutely hope for all OCD sufferers.

  3. joe daley says:

    i am a father of a 20 yr old son who has sever OCD..Some days he does not come out of his room on others he stays curled up in a ball and shuts me and my wife out..Our road is a long and complicated one..right now my son is on state medicade..My insurance only grants 12 appoints per year not enough to scratch the surface for the treatment my son needs.The state is trying but in four mounths since my son started being seen he still has not been in to see a doctor..Instead he sees clinitians once a week for one hour..Just not enough..My son needs around the clock intensive treatment..I was trying to look into rogers memorial in wisconsin but at 24,000 per mounth over three mounths I can not afford it..If anyone has any solutions or sugestions for affordable treatment please let me know…thankyou..Joe Daley..

  4. ocdtalk says:

    Hi Joe,
    I am so sorry to hear that your son is not getting the treatment he needs. I would suggest contacting the IOCDF (link is on my sidebar under OCD Resources) as I am pretty sure there are intensive residential programs that operate on a sliding fee scale. The IOCDF is a great resource and a good place to start……..please keep me updated on your and your son’s situation. You are in my thoughts.

  5. scottsmess says:

    When I first read your post about Dan leaving the residential treatment program – I thought – well no stay there because if you were undergoing physical therapy for a broken leg – you’d complete the therapy in order to walk fully again. You certainly wouldn’t want to just go from making the leg stronger to going back to crutches again. Now that I read what was taking place with the people in the program – as nice as they were and as well as Dan got along with them I believe wholeheartedly that you did make the right decision. I’ve had people who were in positions to be my therapists and treatment specialists give me crappy advice as well and because they thought they were experts they could tell me what I was and what I needed to do. I once had a therapist I saw tell me I didn’t have OCD – I was a big introvert and I was hiding behind it and I need to accept myself as an introvert and just go out and make my mark in the world. Well, fortunately this was many years after diagnosis for OCD and was just looking to start with counseling after a break in having someone professional to talk to. This was a very brief stint with this therapist because I knew I had to get out of there. She wouldn’t listen to me – we never even had enough sessions for me to start exploring with her what my obsessions were. I just told I had them. She didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy her. And as hard as it was to push away her sincere professional opinion – I knew better at the time. It’s a good thing I was not newly diagnosed as it might have messed me up for quite a while. In fact, my first therapist employed a type of therapy that completely pushed me into denial about my OCD for another year and resulted in a relapse that was just as severe as my first breakdown. This is what these people can do to us if we end up not listening to our guts.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Scott, and unfortunately I hear that a lot….the “experts” often get it wrong. So glad you know to trust yourself as to what you needed to do to get well. Too often, people just defer to the “experts,” with often disastrous results!

      • scottsmess says:

        Yeah – as I read your blog more and more – I realize that I actually have been quite lucky to receive and expertise that I have been able to out here in the middle of “farm country” Wisconsin. Though not entirely perfect, I have to say our psychiatric services and mental health services here are comparably at or above many of the best in the country. I’m quite surprised and feel pretty blessed as I found out about some of the other mom mental health system “horror” stories I’ve been featuring lately.

  6. Lovely post. I’ve definitely seen professionals treat people as another case and overlook the person that they are and the goals they have in life. I think it’s a tough call sometimes when figuring out how much you should adjust your plans because of your illness and when you should go after your dreams anyway, but I’m glad your support helped your son do what he ultimately wanted.

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