Dan Versus OCD

mountain climber

At the time my son Dan’s OCD was at its worst, he had not eaten in over a week. I flew down to be with him at his college, and though he was only two weeks away from completing his freshman year, he knew he would have to leave school if he couldn’t eat. It was torturous for him, but somehow, he mustered the courage to consume a meal. I was so relieved. Now he could eat; he was on his way to recovery!

Obviously, I knew little about obsessive-compulsive disorder at the time. The next morning, I brought him some food for breakfast, and we were back to square one. He just couldn’t do it. I remember saying to him, “But you just ate yesterday! Nothing bad happened, so why can’t you eat now?”  In her recent blog post, my friend Sunny talks about this common reaction from people who do not have OCD. We can’t  understand. “You did it before, why can’t you do it again?”

The problem with this thought process is that it is logical. Most of us can relate to overcoming obstacles: We climb our mountains and work through our fears. For those of us without OCD, that is often the end of it. We have conquered our demons; we move on.

But OCD is not logical. One day you can drive 500 miles and be fine, the next day you can’t drive around the block without stopping five times to see if you hit someone. There is no linear progression here; no predictable course. If you think this is hard for those of us without OCD, imagine being the one with the disorder!  In addition to their own frustration, OCD sufferers might also have to deal with their annoyed friends and impatient families, who just don’t get it, or even worse, think they’re faking.

What really helped me in grasping the unpredictability of OCD was personifying the disorder. Once I was able to envision Dan’s OCD as separate from himself, it was actually quite simple to understand. Dan versus OCD. Two powerful forces at odds. Sometimes the OCD was just too strong to contend with, other times not so much. Of course, with the proper therapy, Dan was able to prevail more often, until he got to the point where he now wins almost all his run-ins with the disorder. But really, I think what is most important is not necessarily who wins each battle, but that all those with OCD just keep on fighting.

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16 Responses to Dan Versus OCD

  1. This is a great and helpful post, Janet! The power of OCD can wax and wane even within the same day. And the things I obsess about change over time, too. When I try to understand why it does that from a logical viewpoint, it’s very frustrating. I’m learning that it’s much easier for me if I just accept it as part of the disorder. It’s not logical. It’s OCD.

    And I love this statement: “I think what is most important is not necessarily who wins each battle, but that all those with OCD just keep on fighting.” Inspires me to keep on fighting! Thank you for all you do for those of us with OCD and their families!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Tina. I didn’t discuss the fact that obsessions can also randomly change, but I sure know that was true for Dan. OCD is unpredictable in so many ways. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Faye says:

    Hi Janet,
    Your posts are very helpful. Thanks for taking time and doing them. At this point I am not even sure what is the name of my son’s mental issue. The doctor we used to see called it severe anxiety and OCD. 2 years ago. At that time I did not know either word. Now he is even to talk to anyone. He says they do not understand and he has no energy to explain himself any more. He is often very fatigued and exhausted. I know he has depression, and this came much later. I read the links you recommended. I did find providers in my area, but I have to find a referral from someone I know. I am not even sure my son would go. I read about the med Ketamine from one of these links. Has any one has any experience with this med for depression? He is not on any meds right now. He does not even want to take antibiotics for his severe acne. He is so fed up with the conventional medicine. My life has also stopped since 2 years ago. I am with him 24/7. Sometime I feel I cannot pull it through. We cannot plan anything. he stopped celebrating his birthday since 2 years ago. Everything is a mess. But, I know things are going to be OK….

    • Hi Faye, I hope that you can connect with a good therapist, and that your son will be willing to speak with him or her. I understand both of your frustrations but there are good treatment providers out there….you just need to find the right one. Good Luck.

  3. Jen Hedberg says:

    My daught has ocd and some issues with eating , how are they related? Germs? Food textures? I don’t understand?

    • Hi Jen, I’m not a therapist, but from everything I know, there are many different reasons why eating might be an issue for those with OCD. It really is different for each individual. As far as understanding the obsessions relating to OCD, I gave up on that a long time ago. Even those with OCD will tell you they make no sense. I hope you have or can find a competent therapist to help your daughter learn how to deal with her OCD.

  4. Thank you Janet once again for your words of wisdom and experience. We have said that OCD is the illogical logic. It was a good reminder to me (mom of 11 year old with OCD) that it also doesn’t follow any “linear progression”. This is especially helpful as my daughter is working to overcome a severe set back that has left her homebound for the past 4 months.
    My challenge is in helping her see it as separate from herself- and to be able to label it as the OCD-
    She is beginning to do this on some level and when she is in a calm place- but it hasn’t been easy and she has had OCD for over 3 years.
    I think beginning Prozac about 4 months ago and slowly increasing the dose- has been helping- and maybe it has taken this long to really see benefits. She started on 2.5 mg because she is small- 70 lbs- and has never taken any medication at all- nothing prescription or over the counter-
    it is a challenging process both for her, her parents and her siblings.

  5. This post resonates so strongly with me. I think it is really helpful to frame the struggle with OCD as a series of battles and not a place you arrive at one day.

    You are doing so much to raise awareness and spread hope! Thank you.

    • Thanks for your kind words, and I agree that OCD is a series of battles. Really, all those with OCD can do (actually, all any of us can do) is tackle one day at a time. Thanks for commenting!

  6. The Hook says:

    “We can’t understand. “You did it before, why can’t you do it again?”
    The problem with this thought process is that it is logical. Most of us can relate to overcoming obstacles: We climb our mountains and work through our fears. For those of us without OCD, that is often the end of it. We have conquered our demons; we move on.
    But OCD is not logical.”

    That sums it up right there, my friend. You’ve hit upon the struggle facing millions of people right now. Well done.

  7. J Gordon says:

    My son has severe ocd and was in college when it became severe. He asked for help from the disability counselor and was then denied the first time because he said he didn’t see him soon enough when the new semester began. It was only a week in and he said to see him when the semester begins, but no time frame. then we had to go to his boss to complain. After finally getting it straightened out, he was given help the next semester, but things were spiralling out of control for our son. He couldn’t get much help from the counselor or the professors. He ended up dropping classes and was on academic probation. The following semester was worse and then he was dismissed from school after that semester. Anyone have suggestions on how to deal with the university on this issue? They took our money from our parents plus loan ok, but didn’t help him. Can we sue for discrimination and not giving him the help he requested? My son was an A Honors student and didn’t deserve to be treated this way by the university. After being dismissed, he suffered from depression, PTSD on top of his OCD. They said they could help him, but didn’t really seem to try. The counselor said maybe he shouldn’t be there. We later found out that that counselor was gone soon after all this happened.

  8. 71 & Sunny says:

    Absolutely, Janet, recovery is not linear and it took many times of my psychologist telling me that before I really understood it. It IS frustrating to me and my loved ones, but as you say, the important thing is never giving up. Eventually, that is how permanent progress is made. Thanks for the mention!

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