It’s one thing to suffer from OCD and the even darker beast of Harm OCD, but seeing your child suffer is, as they say, a whole new ballgame. I suffered with OCD and, more specifically, Harm OCD as a child and into adulthood, but seeing my daughter so distressed by the terrifying intrusive thoughts of Harm OCD that she lay on the bathroom floor dry heaving, went far beyond any mental anguish I’d dealt with personally. I’m her mother. I’m supposed to be able to fix this. But the truth is, I can’t. When her hands were cracking from the obsessive hand washing–as horrible as that was–I could put ointment on them, but there is no ointment for this. Yes, I can find her an Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) practicing therapist, provide her with the right books and resources, but I can’t crawl into her brain and fix it. Only she can put in the hard work that ERP demands. I can only stand by, encourage, and hope.
But as someone who’s been both the OCD experiencer and mom, I can say to other parents, I get it. I can offer the perspective of a parent who can only stand by and deal with not being able to bandage their child’s wound, perhaps for the first time feeling helpless as a mother or father. I can address the hopeless feeling that this brings– the sense, however false, that this illness might mean we are failing as parents. I can also say to the parent who hasn’t experienced Harm OCD, that this doesn’t make their children bad or dangerous.
OCD does much to isolate the sufferer; however we must not let it isolate us from each other at a time we when we need the most understanding, support, and strength. I invite you to leave comments, ask questions, and make use of the resources on my website. You may take comfort in the knowledge that, as difficult as this disorder is, you are not alone.
And while you’re at it, remember to be kind to yourself.