This author has asked to remain anonymous
The signs of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) began showing in our son at an early age. When he was 7, he started to exhibit many unusual and unprovoked movements but given he was the eldest child, our general knowledge of middle childhood behaviors was lacking.
We began to seek advice from various doctors and therapists to gain a better understanding of our son’s behavior. This process was difficult; as he was so young, he did not have the ability to fully articulate what he was experiencing. It was challenging to determine an accurate diagnosis; it was concluded that our son was experiencing general anxiety. Perhaps it sounds naïve, but we simply waited to see if the behavior would change over time.
My husband and I both worked full-time and traveled so we hired babysitters to help both our children after school. Given our busy schedules, we were unable to witness all the small behavioral changes in our son. The behaviors (tics, rituals, etc.) steadily began to increase.
When our son was 13, we decided to take a long summer vacation thinking this may help ease his anxiety. This was when we came face-to-face with an almost unrecognizable shell of the happy little boy we once knew. He had become withdrawn and no longer had the desire to engage in his usual activities (playing video games, reading books, sports, etc.). He avoided eating certain foods and generally had extreme difficulty functioning on a day-to-day basis.
OCD essentially took a happy child living a normal life and imprisoned his mind, body, and soul. It felt like hell on earth.
From that fateful summer vacation, we were determined to reverse course. We took advantage of the world-renowned healthcare professionals in our community; our son saw professionals from outstanding medical institutions and was able to receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment for OCD.
I am grateful to the professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. They are working tirelessly to find solutions to combat OCD in adolescents. While our son is still engaged in a daily battle with OCD, he now has many tools and techniques at his disposal to combat it.
OCD is often misunderstood in our society and still carries a stigma. To the afflicted, OCD causes unimaginable despair. Our son’s experience has taught us that managing OCD is a painstaking journey with many unforeseen obstacles for the entire family. It takes continual encouragement and perseverance to defeat OCD.
My hope is to continue to promote awareness and give other families who may be struggling with OCD a shared sense of community and information through vehicles such as this blog.
This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.