I sit at the kitchen table in another OCD discussion with my daughter. She’s in tears.
I know what to say. I’ve been through this before. I have it figured out… except, I don’t. I feel myself hesitate to share how I was feeling while I was out running today: the vulnerability that felt so icky, my urge to drown it out with some really loud, vintage Aerosmith piped in through my headphones. I realize it isn’t fair for me to expect her to be vulnerable—the only true path to healing—if I can’t do it myself. We want to ask someone else to risk exposure while we sit there in our armor, fearing that an arrow might pierce our ego.
It’s total hypocrisy. We often hide behind concepts such as “I have to be the strong one here” or “This isn’t about me.” And while those things might be true, they are often excuses for us to hide behind. We can’t ask others to do what we are too damn egocentric to do. I recall an interview with RuPaul that I listened to a couple months ago where they shred the idea that “vulnerability is strength.”
It isn’t fair for me to hold back my own fears. I’d go so far as to say that it is a betrayal to the person sitting in front of me.
I remember the day I ran into a neighbor walking her dog and a pleasant “hello” turned into a discussion about the grief we shared as mothers dealing with children going through deep anxiety: the powerlessness, fear, and sorrow we felt as parents. I thought I was fine, coping well, chugging along, until I burst into tears on the side of the road. We both needed that talk.
Back at the kitchen table, my daughter says, “I don’t want people to pity me.”
“Me neither. It sucks, right?” I take a deep breath and begin, “Today, while I was out running, I felt…weak, powerless, and couldn’t figure out what it was. I started this blog to help others who’ve felt the horror of Harm OCD, but no sooner had I designed the site than I began to have this creeping sense of something I couldn’t identify. I wanted to ignore it. I almost did. Instead, I sat with it (well, I was running at the time, but you get it), let it wash over me without judging it.” It occurs to me that this is the essence of Exposure and Response Therapy (ERP) therapy as well. “It was a feeling of vulnerability. I asked myself what was behind that. Behind it I found fear. Fear of feeling weak again. Vulnerable. But I made myself stay with it.”
“No. I don’t like that.”
“Yeah, me neither, but I can be okay with those feelings now. I can embrace it.”
We have a long talk about how we are feeling. We don’t fix anything.
But neither are we alone.