Where’s Dan?


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I have been fortunate to share the story of my son Dan’s recovery from severe OCD with so many people. The fact that he is doing so well is concrete evidence that obsessive-compulsive disorder, no matter how severe, is indeed treatable, and it is gratifying to know that those who are suffering have found hope through our story.

When I connect with those who have either read about Dan’s journey or heard me speak about him the first question they often ask is “How is Dan now?”

I am so incredibly thankful that the answer continues to be, “He is doing very well.”

The next question is usually something such as, “Where is he? How come we never see him at these conferences/meetings/or other OCD events?”

Some time ago I wrote a post discussing whether “OCD advocacy” should be a responsibility of those who have recovered from severe OCD. Better than my post, I believe, are the comments from those who pointed out that advocacy comes in many ways, shapes, and forms. By continuing to do well, keeping his OCD at bay, and living his life to the fullest, Dan is giving hope to all those who suffer from OCD.

Maybe my son’s choice to not focus on his OCD any more than he needs to is one of the reasons he has learned to cope so well. As I have heard many people with  OCD say, “OCD is something I have, not something I am.” Dan has made a conscious effort to put his OCD on the back burner and focus wholeheartedly on living his life to the fullest. He has fought his way back from the brink of despair, and perhaps this fact fuels his resolve to leave OCD out of his life as much as he can.

But I’m not fooling myself. I know at some point Dan might not have a choice. While he might go years with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s still a chance it could flare up, at any time, with a vengeance. It could overtake him again. The bottom line is I don’t know what the future holds, and neither does Dan. Uncertainty. The word that those with OCD (and many of us without the disorder) hate. Nobody knows what will be.

For now, however, I will revel in the fact that Dan is doing well. I will continue to advocate for OCD awareness and proper treatment, and I will respect his decision to not want to make OCD a focal point of his life. Because after all, isn’t that the whole idea?

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8 Responses to Where’s Dan?

  1. My son has lots of OCD behaviours. He is now a 40 yo man and I have had difficulty finding him help in the UK. He had been living with me and my partner for the last four years in our guest house. Not an ideal situation but he was homeless after the death of his father. We reluctantly had to ask him to leave as his behaviour was impacting on every aspect of our lives. Chain smoking in his bedroom (illegal in the UK in any public building) and water damage being caused by his leaving the shower running nonstop (he thought slugs and snails were entering his room via the drain). He is now renting a small flat and is not talking to me. There were lots of other issues but those were the most serious. I feel like an utter failure.

    • I am so sorry you and your son have had such a difficult time. You are not a failure. You are a mom whose son has severe OCD. Have you contacted OCD-UK: https://www.ocduk.org/ ? I know good help (an expert in ERP therapy) is not easy to find, but it is possible. I also highly recommend the book, When a Family Member has OCD, by Jon Hershfield. I list a lot of other books/resources in the resource section of my book as well. I wish you and your son all the best……there is truly hope for his recovery if he is willing to accept help.

  2. Susan says:

    My experience with my son is similar. He had to leave college after two years because he was extremely depressed and could no longer focus on his schoolwork. His perfectionism had prevented him from being able to function in an academic environment and his obsessions consumed his every thought. After three months at a residential facility, he returned to school and graduated last spring. He was lucky to have gone to a college that supported him throughout his struggles at all levels (e.g. mental health counselors, professors, deans) and to have met with his own therapist every week who is a proponent of ERP. We just moved him into his first apartment in Atlanta where he will begin work. He will continue to skype with his therapist as he makes the transition as he is aware of his vulnerabilities, but he, too, does not want his OCD to define him. We are so proud of him.

  3. I think advocacy is not for everyone. And that’s the beauty of it – we each get to choose if we do it or not.

  4. Mary says:

    Indeed, my son does not want OCD to define who he is either. Four years ago I had contacted you asking for help and you gave me much needed guidance. My son’s OCD was so severe he was incapacitated. It took weeks of looking for a psychologist with the expertise dealing with OCD. My son refused to be hospitalized. He started anti-depressants and therapy. He slowly got better so he could eat and take care of himself. Two years ago at Christmas he saw a kitten in the window of the humane society shop. The kitten chose my son, and home we went. My son nurtured that cat and took care of his every need. Granted it was difficult for him, but it was as if God sent him this kitten as a therapy cat. This kitten stayed in his room with him 24/7. By February my son was almost normal, dropped the psychologist and weaned himself off his meds. By Summer he applied to grad school, got in, and he has just returned from Europe after spending the summer studying there. He is in his last year of grad school and doing extremely well. OCD is always in the back of our minds and we prepare for any upheaval. He is 32 but kept in contact with me at least twice a week while in Europe. He had minor OCD issues but worked thru them. Perseverance coupled with the right drugs, the right therapist, and one cat all played a huge role in his recovery. He has said he will never be an advocate so that is left up to me, and I understand why. Thank you for giving me the guidance I so desperately needed at that time.

    • Hi Mary, It’s so great to hear from you, and I’m so proud of all your son has worked through and accomplished. Thank you for your kind words and I’m glad I was able to be helpful. It truly is amazing that no matter how severe someone’s OCD is, with the right therapy they can recover. I wish your son, and you, all the best as he finishes grad school. Good for him!!

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