When People With OCD Don’t Learn From Experience . . . (OCD #3)

3 Jan

This is my third post on OCD this week.  Having our son with OCD home from college is teaching me many things about myself, some of them pretty ugly. 

I get really, really nervous having him home, now that I have grown used to a more peaceful, more organized, less erratic homefront.  Noel and I have our oddities, but there are far, far fewer difficult moments to navigate when our son is at college, mainly because two quirky people are less labor intensive than three, on a purely mathematical basis.  

But also, out-of-control OCD is its own entity, almost like having a fourth person in the home.  

OCD navigates a path that is predictable in its unpredictability.  This path almost never consists in going in a straight line towards an objective.  It almost never even provides any assurance at all that you ever will reach that objective, regardless of path taken toward it.

I am a far, far less relaxed person when our son is home and I believe my husband is, too.  I don’t like that about us and I certainly don’t like admitting it, but there it is.  

We live almost holding our breath, waiting for the next moment of difficulty, never knowing when it will come or what it will involve, but always certain that it will arrive.  

We almost live in a constant stage of siege, or at least a state of shellshock or PTSD.  

But OCD is like that.  It is cruel and relentless to the people in its path.  I am sure our son would choose to be rid of it if he could.  It is not something he requested and it does not change our love for him nor our determination to help him.  

And my respect for the people who help him navigate his world at college has increased exponentially this vacation, as I have been reminded of what they have been up against these past four and a half months.  Our son has made progress!  And I know it has been earned at great expense to all involved! 

That said, and knowing that I homeschooled more than ten years of our son’s primary education, you can probably see why it is very important to me to stay in touch with other people whom I teach, both in Sunday school and informally at church, Bible study, and online. 

If I don’t get feedback from others, I despair of ever being a successful teacher, after spending most of my life doing just that (even my 27 years in the Navy).  It is easy to forget past results and to begin to feel that I have never successfully taught anyone anything.   

You see, the fact that you can repeat the same piece of information about hygiene, or about a chore around the house, or about an English sentence, or about a math problem to a person with autism/OCD only to go back later and see in his eyes that he doesn’t remember ever receiving any instruction in that area can destroy one’s confidence and determination as a teacher.  Especially when you have taught that same fact/process dozens of times in the past and the instruction still seems to have been for nought.  

That is one reason I am so excited about the hardwon progress our son is making at college. Some things I have taught him many, many times in the past are finally kicking in, under the instruction of others.  Some are not.

But the fact is that we are not going to give up, even if some lessons are never learned.  

Right now we are battling a perceptual issue in which our son believes his dignity and the dignity of the disabled world was slighted.  Whether this actually happened or not is irrelevant–our son perceives that it did and he can’t let go of his perception, no matter how much I try to logic him into a different way of looking at things.  He will agree with me intellectually, then, thirty minutes later, he is back to perseverating on the issue as though we had never talked.  And we have talked, fifty or seventy-five times at a minimum this vacation . . . 

We aren’t giving up.  But I am going to write about this, too, for others are in the same place and there is a richness in pooled resources.  If I speak out, we can all start to speak out.  We can learn techniques that work.  We can encourage each others in areas where we just can’t seem to find relief from the OCD of our loved ones.

We owe it to all of us, especially to those loved ones with OCD! 

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5 Responses to “When People With OCD Don’t Learn From Experience . . . (OCD #3)”

  1. mrshate May 17, 2014 at 8:05 AM #

    Perception, perseveration…daily life with an OCD/spectrum child over and over and over. 🙂

    • Mary Gardner Martin May 17, 2014 at 8:36 AM #

      🙂

      • mrshate May 19, 2014 at 9:12 AM #

        I’m curious about how you deal with your son concerning money issues. My son has struggles with his perceptions of how to spend money. Just a general explanation would be of interest to me. I’m sure I could give you all sorts of examples from our experience…would be interesting to see if there are any similarities.
        Thanks!!!

      • Mary Gardner Martin June 14, 2014 at 4:35 PM #

        My son has an allowance of $60 a month for personal supplies shopping in his college dorm. He attends a special needs college in Wisconsin. After one year there, he finally gets it about the value of money.

  2. mrshate May 17, 2014 at 8:44 AM #

    It’s been a wild 25 years, but I love him dearly!! 🙂 🙂

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