Encouraging Carley

“Somedays we’re encouraging Carley. Somedays we are Carley. There’s a strength in vulnerability that has no substitute or equal. Gosh, I really hate it when that vulnerability overwhelms me, but I highly recommend it.”

“Love to you, Carley” (not her real name).

“You’ve got this.”

“I believe in you. You can do this.”

“ERP is tough, but you are tougher.” The messages poured in as tears coursed down Carley’s face.

The OCD conference I attended was virtual this year, and I wondered if the experience, the closeness, could be the same when we are separated by miles, by screens. And yet, if we had all been sitting in a meeting room instead, only the people next to her could have leaned over and said something kind. In the virtual room, though, people from all over mobilized and recognized her haunted look. It was recognizable because they’d seen it on the faces of their children, brothers, sisters, and maybe in the mirror.

OCD has sharp talons, and it was having a go at Carley.

“It’s been a really hard year,” she typed out as more encouragement popped up in the chat box.

It sure has. It has brought out some deep divisions as well but look how humanity can circle around someone who is hurting. That’s reality too.

One aspect I’ve thought of since that conference is this: Carley could have turned off her camera and hid her tears, but she didn’t. I consider this an act of courage. Perhaps she needed a chance to let those feelings show, and God knows, we all need an opportunity to practice caring.

To be honest, my own vulnerability can make me downright angry. My husband, another writer, can attest to this. I was halfway through writing my memoir about living with my daughter’s and my own struggle with Harm OCD, when I walked into the kitchen one morning and said to him, “Why do you get to write fiction while I have to write about OCD? Why do you get to keep all your armor on, while I have to walk around naked?”

He looked up from the pan of eggs, turned to me with spatula in hand and said, “What?”

The half confused, half should-I-be-prepared-to-defend-myself-look on his face let me know that I should elaborate. “Well, you know. When I was writing fiction, it wasn’t so personal. This book makes me feel exposed, and I don’t like it.”

“Oh, yeah.” He nodded. “I get it. It’s important though. Somebody needs to hear it.”

And he’s right. Sometimes my emotions get the better of me, though, and I do cry. It isn’t an act of bravery but something that sneaks up on me, blindsides me. I was at the Atlanta Writers Conference last weekend when a friend asked me what my book was about. I explained Harm OCD and how horrible it was to feel that for the very first time since becoming a mother, I had been afraid that I couldn’t help my daughter. Tears assaulted me to the point that I had to stop speaking.

Damn it!

But here’s the thing about that conversation: someone else now understands Harm OCD. We had a really great talk about mental health, and I didn’t have to explain to another mama what it was like to feel helpless when trying to help your child. OCD or not, mamas tend to “get it.” She talked about being able to relate to that feeling. Somedays we’re encouraging Carley. Somedays we are Carley.

I’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating—there’s a strength in vulnerability that has no substitute or equal.

Gosh, I really hate it when that vulnerability overwhelms me, but I highly recommend it.

Published by Kim Conrey

I'm a mom, writer, and runner. I write a blog about living with OCD and another about sci-fi and writing. I'm also the author of the sci-fi romance Stealing Ares.

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