A Mom Like Me


Through my blog, I connected with Marlene, whose son Oliver, at nineteen, was the same age as Dan when his OCD was at its worst. Like me at the time, Marlene learned everything she could about OCD, talked with every professional she could about her son’s situation, and researched and pursued every treatment option out there. Oli was on the waiting list at a world-renowned residential treatment program, far from their home.

I got an email from Marlene a couple of  days ago. I eagerly opened it, hoping for some good news regarding her son’s upcoming treatment. Maybe they’d been given a date for his admission?

“Oliver committed suicide last night.”

I sat there, just staring at the words, my heart beating out of my chest. What?

And then I felt sick, and I cried, and I thought of Marlene.

I tried to piece the whole story together, but of course I couldn’t, because I don’t know the whole story. What I do know is that Oliver suffered relentlessly from severe OCD, and he was depressed. I also know that Marlene loved her son unconditionally and wanted nothing more than for him to be well. Oli wanted that too. At one point a doctor asked him, “If  I could give you a pill that would kill you instantly, would you take it?”

Oliver’s response?  “If you could give me a pill that would cure me, I would take that one.” Marlene had been hopeful, saying, “I just needed a little more time.”

Time doesn’t matter now. Oliver, a sensitive, caring young man who didn’t have a mean bone in his body, is gone. He loved to laugh, loved his friends, and loved his life, before OCD took all that away from him.

Where was the help? Why is there no intensive treatment program near Marlene? Why was she getting confusing and conflicting advice from all the professionals she spoke with?

This is all so wrong. Oliver should be here. Marlene should not be grieving the loss of her child. And I should be writing posts about how far we’ve come in the fight against OCD.

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20 Responses to A Mom Like Me

  1. Sherry says:

    First I would like to send my deepest sympathy to Marlene and her family and their loss of Oli. I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine your pain.

    Janet, I receive your emails as my niece suffers tremendously from OCD and I am continually looking for ways to help my sister and her get help. I also have my sister follow your blog so that she can hear about others who are experiencing what she is. My niece is 21. I began reading this email this morning and when you stated how Oliver had been on the list for that great program I was sure this was a “success” story… My heart sank and my eyes began to sting as I read otherwise. You see, my niece is in a VERY bad place right now. She does not want help and my sister has been struggling tremendously and deep in the disease with her. I am EXTREMELY afraid that she will take her own life. She has unwillingly agreed to speak to a therapist but only sits and cries for the entire session and gives my sister a very hard time about going. She has only been there twice. Because she is 21, they have said she has to be agreeable to treatment and participate in order to treat her. I have begged my sister for quite some time now to get her to go back to treatment and also get herself some help and support and we have finally gotten to this point. She had been in therapy and on some meds years back. My hope is she will read this blog and that Oli’s will push her and others to…. somehow prevent this from happening to their loved ones. I hesitate because I really don’t know how to do that or where to go and I am scared to death for her, for them. :*(
    Thank you for sharing your amazing stories. Bless all of you and your families that are dealing with this.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Sherry, thank you so much for your condolences and for sharing your story. Yes, it is scary, and your sister and niece are fortunate to have you on their side. I too hope Oli’s story can be of some benefit to them, as well as to others. Good luck and I hope things turn around for your family. Please keep me posted.

  2. Janet, this is devastating news. My heart goes out to Marlene and the rest of Oliver’s family. I am sitting at my desk at work, sick to my stomach over this and so very sad. What I do know is that your blog is doing great things for OCD awareness advocacy. Thank you for doing your part to shine light on this dark disorder.

  3. This really touches me. As you know, my son is 19, in college, and struggling to get through with OCD. Like the young men you describe, he has been fortunate to receive some of the best ERP training/treatment in the country and has a therapist at home and at school. But he continues on the OCD roller coaster–some days are okay–some days are too much. My heart goes out to your friend and her son. It is every mother whose child suffers from OCD’s worst nightmare, as we understand all too well the unbearable and relentless nature of this illness.

    I am just back from a month in Africa and find myself wondering about the toxic aspects of our cultural system and how it reinforces, rather than relieves this widespread disorder. Our emphasis on intellectual achievements, individualism, status and the isolation endemic to everyday life in the US really makes OCD worse. In Africa, I found myself relaxing into the joy and liveliness of the people around me, whose primary currency is the closeness of family relationships, which provides resilient support for human experience.

    • Dominique , I have always wondered if OCD is more prevalent in our culture and even wondered if it exists in other cultures. I too see a connection with how we live and OCD including not only what you said but the germ phobia that is rampant in this country. I too am so grateful for this blog and my heart goes out to this family for the loss of their son. It is so scary to think about being the paren of a 10 year old wih oCD who has told us during the worst times that she doesn’t want to live. And scarier still for her future as she goes through puberty and enters adulthood.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Hi Dominique, Yes, I realize how much this tragedy hits home for so many people, and it is frightening. Your thoughts on our culture are interesting, and you bring up some interesting ideas that deserve some attention, I think. Thanks for commenting.

  4. kris says:

    Janet, I am so, so very sorry to hear about Oliver and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to you, Marlene, Oliver’s family and all who loved him.
    OCD causes so much pain. I was once so overwhelmed with OCD and depression that I found myself in a position where I was ready to do anything to make that pain go away. Without telling my whole story here, I just got very lucky and found a doctor who was able to help me in time. I wish everyone had doctors and therapists trained in OCD available to them and I wish there was not a shortage of treatment centers so that people did not have to be wait-listed.
    I am so sad to hear this.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks Kris, for your condolences. While it is so difficult for those of us without OCD to understand the magnitude of the disorder, you obviously do understand. I agree, the right treatment and therapists need to be readily available to everyone. This is such a senseless loss.

  5. 71º & Sunny says:

    Oh, Janet. I don’t even know what to say. My very deepest condolences to Marlene and her family. What heartbreak. As a mom, I can’t even imagine what she is going through. That poor boy. How he must have suffered.

    I think the best thing we can do to honor Oliver is to continue to stand up and fight for better treatment and less stigma. It really doesn’t feel like enough though, does it? It won’t bring Oliver back, but maybe it will help someone else.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for passing on your condolences, Sunny. You are right, right now what we are doing just doesn’t seem enough. But I guess we need to keep moving forward, with the hope, as you say, of helping someone else.

  6. Tina Barbour says:

    Janet, I can’t say how sorry I am to hear about this. I send my condolences to Marlene and her family and to you. I am so sorry for the pain Oliver was in.

    I agree with Sunny. We have to continue to fight for better treatment and understanding.

  7. ocdtalk says:

    Thank you so much for the condolences, Tina. This is heartbreaking for so many of us. But as you say, we need to continue to advocate for better and more accessible treatment programs.

  8. Jacqui says:

    May God bless Marlene and grant her peace knowing Oliver is in God’s loving presence now. May Oliver rest in peace.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I am so sorry. This hit me straight in the heart. The pure agony. I don’t know what to say, but my heart aches for those who suffer through all of this.

    • ocdtalk says:

      I know, Elizabeth. There is nothing to say, but we can still advocate for better understanding and treatment of OCD, so that Oliver’s and Marlene’s suffering is not in vain.

  10. James Mueller says:

    This is terrific useful website. I have suffered with OCD for over 35 years and this is the best resource I have found. I hope the mother of Oliver can find it in her heart to forgive him as this is a very difficult disease. I also hope Marlene will understand that someday they will have better treatments and that this is truly a disease with not enough treatment options . In other words she is in no way responsible. It is so difficult and trying that I wish her a strong spirit to understand this and hope for a better future. What a wonderful site this is and good luck and good treatment for all those who suffer from this disease.

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