By Barbara Claypole White
Every OCD Awareness Week, I hug my obsessive-compulsive son—also called the Beloved Teenage Delinquent—and remind myself how hard my family has worked to defeat the anxiety monster. This year is a little different. OCD Awareness Week 2012 is a bitter reminder that OCD returns.
Writing has always been my therapy and my escape from a life framed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. When my son was little and struggling with undiagnosed OCD, I retreated into a manuscript that evolved into my debut novel, a love story with an obsessive-compulsive hero. Last year when I signed a publishing contract for The Unfinished Garden, my son was OCD-free. As my book baby launched into the world, the OCD was back after a three-year hiatus.
OCD round two has been easier and harder. Yes, we have the hope that comes from understanding our enemy. Been there, done that, the T-shirt still fits. But the emotional lessons are tough. We’ve cycled through denial and anger and acceptance.
This OCD Awareness Week, I want to remind myself of the following:
I will never be ashamed that my son has an anxiety disorder. The stigma of mental illness is so last century.
I will celebrate each appointment with the child psychologist and feel blessed that she is part of our lives.
I will accept that some days my son is too overwhelmed to fight OCD. Even professional soldiers know when to retreat. Regrouping is not surrender.
I will never hesitate to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. Crash and burn, baby. It’s okay to fail.
I will take a mental health day when I need one—away from the people I love.
I will never hide the truth that my son needs medication. If he were a diabetic, he’d take insulin. Why is swallowing an SSRI to boost his serotonin levels any different?
I will never cringe when OCD rears up in public. My son has an invisible disability. Some people will understand; most will not. The ones who won’t? That’s their problem, not mine.
I will never make excuses if my house is in OCD crisis mode. Triage living comes with the territory.
I will always shout to the world that my son is my hero. A brilliant student, an award-winning poet, and a gifted musician, he refuses to let OCD hold him back or define him. It’s his inspiration.
When people ask what it means to be obsessive-compulsive, I will say: Take a fear, any fear, and amplify it to the point to debilitating anxiety. Imagine that fear in your chest, in your throat, in the fingernails that want to claw off your skin. Now imagine living with that fear every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. Sometimes it’s background static, sometimes it’s stereo surround sound, but it’s always there, waiting—an allergy to life. Now imagine the courage it takes to fight that fear.
Every day I will recite my son’s mantra, “OCD will never win.”
To mark OCD Awareness Week, I will be giving away a signed copy of The Unfinished Garden. For a chance to win, please enter a comment below with your email address.The winner will be picked at random on Sunday October 14th and notified via email.