As the Fourth of July rolls around, many of us are firmly entrenched in our summers and looking forward to upcoming vacations. I know I am! But what about those with OCD? How does going on vacation, planning a vacation, or even thinking about a vacation, affect those with the disorder?
When my son Dan’s OCD was severe, he could barely move, let alone go on a vacation. But when his OCD improved to a moderate level, he planned a trip to Canada with a friend for his winter break. He was excited about going, and from all accounts had a great time exploring and trying out new activities (like dog sledding). All in all, a real success.
I, on the other hand, was worried the whole time he was gone. I was concerned about the stress of him traveling (he flew), the change in environment and routine, the absence of therapy (and his therapist), and the inevitable trials and tribulations that come along with vacations. Also, what if he needed help while away? Would he tell us? Where would he turn? Who would he call?
Obviously, Dan’s traveling caused me more anxiety than it did him. He was able to do what I could not: embrace the uncertainty that comes with a vacation; that same uncertainty that comes with all of life.
Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder who are able and willing to go on vacation are indeed facing that uncertainty head-on. Will their OCD improve while they’re away? Maybe. Sometimes getting away from old, familiar triggers into a totally new environment will quiet OCD. Or will their OCD spike due to new triggers, or because of any of the other reasons I was worried about? Maybe. It’s certainly possible. Of course, there is no way of knowing until you go. In my opinion, as long as OCD is not preventing sufferers from actually taking their anticipated vacation, the trip, whatever the outcome, should be considered a success.
If you or a loved one have OCD, I’d be interested in hearing what issues you face concerning trips, and how you deal with them. Whether your summer involves vacations from OCD or with OCD, I hope your experiences are positive ones filled with some great surprises.