Tag Archives: OCD

When OCD Turns Deadly . . .

8 Mar

I am one of those people who has to ask others what the emotion of envy feels like.

Sure there are things that I don’t have that I would love to have.  We all have some of those, if we are honest.  

But it is just that I have never seen an entire life I would rather have than my own.  I wouldn’t trade with anyone.  99% of the time, I love being me (flaws and all, challenges and all, heartbreaks and all.  At least they are my heartbreaks and familiar to me.  I know I am equipped by God to handle them).  

That said, I am still glad to be me in my current situation . . . I am being stalked by a person I have previously mentored.  There is OCD involved.  And, yes, a threat to physically harm me has been conveyed.

I can’t pretend to understand mental illness any more than I can understand the emotion of envy.

It is probably slightly different from person to person.  But some things that are authored by the dark side are depressingly similar every time they present in a different person.  Desiring control over someone else (abusive tendencies) is one such area.    

The underlying emotion may be envy before it turns into rage and the desire to harm someone.

It might be the thought that I don’t have a disability and that I love my life.  Maybe my stalker thinks things come too easily to me (she doesn’t know me if she thinks that).  She may intend to even the odds by giving me a disability God didn’t originally ordain.

She does not realize that, if God allowed me to develop a disability now, I would still regard Him as God.  I would still love my life.  How do I know?  Because I went through breast cancer six years ago.  I didn’t turn into a different person then.  By God’s grace, I would not now.

Or maybe she is enraged because I ceased mentoring her when her life fell apart at the precise moment our son went to college and needed my emotional support more than ever.  I can only help one person that intensely right now and it is a no-brainer as to whom that will be.

Her life fell apart because she imploded with some bad choices.  I still can’t wrap my mind around how to counsel that because she chose to walk away from a marriage and two children.

What next in such a series of choices?  God knows.  I don’t.

But fact is, if her threats conceal an idea of “if I can’t have her, I will fix it so her son can’t have her either” they only show how very far her mental illness has proceeded to take over her existence.  

I can’t help her.  I can only encourage her to get help from professionals who have lots of experience at keeping people from destroying themselves . . . and others.  

I can’t say more than that right here and right now.  Those who need to know about this situation already do.  For the rest of you . . . Please pray for me, for all of us, as we navigate through some very deep waters right now.  

God is still good.  God is still on His throne.  Nothing happens without His awareness. 

When People with OCD Create Drama and Blame You for it! (OCD #9)

11 Feb

I John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

I am venturing on to some shaky terrain here in the world of OCD.  I know what the above Scripture says, but I also know the fragility of a soul in the throes of acute OCD.  I know how there is so much guilt and shame already present inside that soul that it can seem as though one drop more will cause a total break with reality or a crying jag that lasts for more than a day.  

However, as we say, let God be true and every man a liar.  The above Scripture claims that the way to freedom in Christ is owning our sin.  That must apply whether we are a so-called normal person or whether we have a disability.   

In the case of my son and other people with OCD/similar disabilities I have known, there is a tendency to create their own drama, then try to blame it on a significant other (read:  mother, in my son’s experience).  I have noticed the following pattern.

1) This person thrives on drama.  It is as though he feels bored when the adrenaline is not flowing.  I suspect a chemical imbalance starts this all off.

2) This person starts out with a lower level of drama but keeps escalating to a higher level each time the significant other helps him to deal with/solve the issues at the lower levels.  The drama progressively ratchets upward.

3) If the significant other calls a timeout, as I did during choir practice the other night because the drama was overwhelming me emotionally while I needed to be emotionally present for worship and musicianship, the person with OCD may quite methodically create a crisis–the biggest drama scene yet.

4) When called out for having created the crisis, the person with OCD may try excusing himself by saying, “Well, you weren’t there for me, so you made it happen.”  He blames the end products of his drama on the absence of his significant other, as though she were an all-seeing, all-knowing god who let him down.  

Therein lies the theological flaw.  None of us is a god unto any other person.  If we try to become a person who can be everything to another person, we move into idolatry at so many different levels.  We cannot be there 24/7 for anyone because, unlike God, we are not omnipresent.  

We must encourage the person with OCD to look directly to God in his distress.  Anything short of that will fail him.

Oh, we can be there to support him.  But no one can be there 24/7.  We would be living that other person’s life for him if we were.  Or we would be a god in his life.  We simply cannot do that and we must lay down the responsibility for doing that, regardless of what the person with OCD says or how he reacts.  If he creates additional drama, he must deal with it, not us.  

At some point, the person with OCD must acknowledge that he is a sinner like everyone else on this sin-choked planet.  There is no hope for him in this life if he does not. If he thinks that everything that happens to him makes him a victim of fate or of other people, he will never succeed in this life.

Theologically, it seems that he will also never be truly saved if he never admits that he is a sinner in need of salvation.  Jesus came to die for the whole person but acknowledging our need for Him does have to involve an admission of being a sinner, not just a victim or a broken person, as the lingo of today most often puts it!

We need to speak the truth to our person with OCD, for only the truth will ultimately set him free. Only the truth ultimately sets any of us free in Christ!   

When People with OCD Become Stalkers . . .

21 Jan

A longtime friend with OCD hung up on our relationship the other day and I heaved a sigh of relief. 

I tried, I really did.  But she is not only in a fragile state right now, she is in a dangerous state right now.  There is paranoia and disordered thinking.  There has been at least one stalking charge and some jail time served.  

I can’t help her and I need to not beat myself up about that.  I suppose the only people who can help her now are a psychiatrist really skilled in the latest medications and therapy professionals who won’t let her get away with making up stories about how everyone on the planet except her is responsible for her misery.  

What I ended up saying, when bluntly confronted about why I hadn’t been in touch recently, was that my own child’s education, cum active OCD, is pretty much consuming all of my emotional resources right now.  It truly is.  I didn’t need to explain more than that. Anybody who was not in the midst of a fullscale psychotic episode would get that.  

What I got back from her was a chillingly detailed list of my responsibilities, then and now.  

When we last got together, my friend and I, my child was still home and I was working fulltime.

Now he is at college six states away and I am unemployed.  

My friend’s statement was, paraphrased, “How dare you tell me you don’t have time for me when you are not even working right now and your child is gone?”  

How disordered.  I figured there was no chance she would get it.  And the fact that she did not confirmed my decision.  You can’t be friends forever in a one-way situation.  

See, to me, there could be a part in there where some human understanding and kindness would insert itself and say, “You did the best you could to be a good friend to me for almost ten years.  I am grateful for that.”  But no, I get blasted with a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude.

Most scary of all were her last words before deleting me from her life, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”  Somehow I suspect that that pithy phrase was never intended to cover the “at my worst” related to someone’s acute paranoid episodes in which she was jailed as a stalker.  

There are some “at my worsts” that can truly only be handled by professional help.  Trying to hand someone else a load of guilt over that is only further evidence of how far gone the person is and of how much help she needs.  

I pray she gets it.  

When Someone with OCD is Most Precious to You! (OCD #7)

8 Jan

If my first six posts on OCD were to be taken out of balance, it would seem as though life with our son who has autism and OCD has been very sad indeed.  And nothing would be further from the truth.  

Truly, if I had a choice to rid him of the OCD, I would do that.  Not so much the autism.  That is part of Joey’s quirky charm.  But the OCD seems to just separate him from other people, due to its nature of suggesting grudges to his mind and getting him spinning (literally) on them forever. It is like his brain just cannot stop and just cannot let go of certain things.  

Nonetheless, the choice I made to homeschool Joey for over ten years of his fifteen years of primary schooling should say a lot.  Mostly that was a pleasurable experience.  When it was not, it was still worthwhile.  I am not made of the kind of stuff that would have soldiered on indefinitely if I thought I were fighting a losing cause . . . 

Joey has made incredible progress over the years.  Many people with autism who have better abilities at math and English than he does have fallen behind him in overall progress because he keeps on plugging (and we keep on working with him and encouraging him).  

Some mysteries remain.  Even very big ones.  But we have a very big God.  

I have only to look at the pictures or the objects we still have from his childhood to remember the joy of raising this special boy.  

His baby blanket and his longtime stuffed animals still bring floods of joy when I pick them up.  

My joy is the joy of any mother anywhere.  

As I noted when the movie “Children of a Lesser God” won an Academy Award for Marlee Matlin, an actress who is deaf, there is not a separate “God of the deaf” or “God of those with autism” or “God of the mentally retarded.”  There is one God and there is one race of people He has created.  Those with disabilities don’t fall out of the mainstream of humanity.  

And all mothers cherish moments of joy from raising their babies.  Difficulties are present in all lives.  Some have more difficulties than others, but they don’t negate life.  They don’t negate joy. They don’t negate love.

When People with OCD Won’t Let Grudges Go . . . (OCD #6)

7 Jan

People with OCD can be drama queens . . . but so can the rest of us.

People with OCD can have trouble letting grudges go . . . but so can the rest of us.

This is where OCD starts to cross into “normal” behavior and make us a smidge uncomfortable.  

Do lots of us have a smattering of OCD?  I think so.

From watching my son with new eyes this Christmas vacation as he is home after four and a half months at college, I am pretty sure that he finds it difficult to exist with a low adrenaline level.  So he “thrill seeks” as they say.

This would make him a “drama queen” in the parlance.

I am actually pretty fortunate that he does that, not by way of alcohol, drugs, or sex addiction, but by way of living in his own head.  Only that is painful in another way . . .

Far as I can tell, he comes up with his grudges against people out of thin air.  He will describe something that someone at the college or associated with the college has done that he feels is an affront to his dignity and . . . I just won’t see it.  

Or it will seem as though it comes from a parallel universe he has set up, with different rules for behavior.  People will have no idea that they have offended him because they won’t know the rules in his parallel universe.  It is as though he wrote a script for a play and treats other people as actors in his play who got their lines wrong . . .

He has a thing for honorifics.  Whom he should call “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Miss,” as opposed to those whom he addresses by first name.  And this part of his parallel universe has driven several powerful grudges he has developed at the college.  

If I thought that addressing the honorifics issue and defining it specifically for everyone in his world would actually help him cease being a drama queen, I would speak with his school’s administration about it.  But I am fairly certain that, even if they got the honorifics sorted out with Joey, he would have a new “drama queen issue du jour” by tomorrow.  It’s what he does.  

I don’t know how to get him to stop holding on to an “issue du jour” any more than I know how to get him to “reconcile” with people against whom he holds a grudge for reasons totally invisible to them.  

I pray that our brainstorming will help us with this part of OCD, too.

And . . . maybe in the process we will find some relief for supposedly normal Christians who develop grudges against others and say that they cannot find a way to let them go.  

It’s worth a try.  I have known many people stuck in hatred they said they didn’t even wish to carry.  I know it is not pleasant to carry bitterness and vitriol, even for a little while.

Maybe we can find help for us all.  


When People With OCD Feel Compelled to Interrupt (OCD #5)

6 Jan

A couple of days ago I wrote about when people with OCD overshare.  I threw the issue open on my Facebook page and discovered that many parents deal with not knowing what to do in the situation.  Not too many of us have found coping mechanisms that work (other than waiting till our child is old enough and responsible enough to be at home alone, then just leaving when they start that behavior . . . and not answering when they dial the cellphone!!!).  

This is never meant to be an “us vs. them” forum.  No one asks to be born with OCD.  They are not the enemy.  I am coming out of the closet on this issue in order that we might encourage and be encouraged.  Our children with OCD also need to be encouraged . . . We will work together to help them!

I am also convinced that people with autism/OCD will ultimately solve the riddles of autism/OCD, so we must continue to involve them in the conversations.  

Notice that I mentioned that the people who have thus far dialogued about OCD and oversharing have all been parents.  To me, that is telling because, especially when children with OCD/autism are young, parents may find themselves isolated, as the only people who interact with their child on a regular basis (except for teachers and others forced by the law to interact with them).  There is a reason for that.  Well, more than one reason, but let me throw this one right out there because it is another elephant in the room . . .

Many people will not voluntarily interact with a person with OCD.  Because of the fact that they get going on a session of sharing and don’t stop till they have overshared, many people find them odd and off-putting.  And sometimes people with OCD can actually cross a line into criminal oversharing (sharing sexual fantasies that have no part in normal human interaction and may actually be illegal, depending on the age of the person who is being forced to listen).    

It is totally understandable that people who want to keep their head straight would flee at the sight of someone who overshares like that.  The idea is not to build a world where oversharing is tolerated.  It is to help our children with OCD learn how to not do this.  The goal is to teach them where the line is drawn, then create in them a strong desire to not go over that line, regardless of what their OCD is telling them to do.  

A related issue that has come up a lot in our chats on Facebook is the actual topic of this post (sorry for the long sidebar discussion!).

What do we do when our child with OCD constantly interrupts our every conversation or activity?  I throw this one out there as one on which we have made some progress in my son’s 21 years but not as much as I need us to have made.  

I have actually lost some friends over this one, or had friends remain close to me after we “agreed to disagree” about how much control I had in the situation.  I can remember being told to “get a grip and make him stop interrupting you every time you are on the phone.”  I can also remember hearing, “Okay, now we have just had the usual interruption of our phone conversation.  I knew it was coming–I just did not know when it would happen.”  And, sadly, I agreed with that friend.  I also knew the interruption was coming at some point . . .

With a “normal” child, consistent consequences would eventually stop this from happening, right?  So I must not have been imposing consistent consequences, right?  So the thinking goes . . .

And in a world that had consistent rules that always governed human behavior, that would be true.  Only this is not that world.

I tried two things.  I tried ignoring my child as he interrupted.  That did not work.  He would only ratchet up his volume, higher and higher, until I could not hear my conversation. Remember Glenn Close saying in “Fatal Attraction” the words “I will not be ignored”? Any ideas why I call that film “Fatal Obsession”? She was only an outlaw version of a person with OCD, believing that people around her should be paying attention to her.  For some reason that I can’t explain, to ignore my son for even ten minutes when he was young seemed to totally negate his personhood.  

The other thing I tried was consequences after the fact.  Of course, these were invisible to the friends on the phone or in a social setting with me, who saw me regularly stop my conversation with them to listen to my son’s litany of non-emergency observations.  And, no matter how many hours my son spent in his room as a consequence of his interruptions (oddly, we would mostly have silence in the house then, as he totally understood the need to “do his penance” for his earlier actions), he would not outgrow his interruptions, as one normally expects young children to do.    

What is working better now that he has the fine muscle control to write is to tell him to journal his observations and save them for later. This is not a foolproof method, but both his college instructors and I have noticed it does help his behavior to improve somewhat.  He can spill his compulsions onto paper, confident that a parent or teacher will go over them with him later. Note: Make sure you do make time to communicate with your child with OCD later. The idea of this post is not to teach any of us how to totally ignore our child and the things he finds important. If you are seeking to do that, I encourage you that you need to change, too.

I also have learned to signal to him that I am involved in something like writing by wearing my headset, sometimes even if the music is not on!!!  Yes, I sometimes have to remove it to listen to something he just has to say right this minute, but he has vastly improved in understanding that the headset means I am trying to follow one of my own thoughts to a logical conclusion without interruption.  There were years I could never do that at all!!!

There is much I do not know and, as always, I stand ready to heed instruction from those who have found other things that work or that work better than my own coping mechanisms.  

We need to have this conversation.

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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