Check out IOCDF Advocate, Kim Vincenty's back-to-school story, as she drops off her son at college and learns her own lesson: her fear during this stressful time, has no place in his life.
I should have been joyful. Miracles had happened in the previous six years. But so had storms of epic proportion, and I’m not talking about the ones that frequent Florida annually. My son Jack had battled OCD through middle and high school, and instead of celebrating that he was preparing to go to college, I was focusing on the “what ifs.” Shame on me. He was excited and positive but sensed my trepidation. I hugged him often, gave my motherly wisdom frequently, and reiterated our safety plan if OCD started getting in the way. My son became the one providing reassurance! Of course, I realized I was falling into the same anxiety trap that we collectively fought for many years. I did my utmost to get in check, and I promised my son I wouldn’t cry too hard or do anything to embarrass him when we dropped him at school.
Move-in day went beautifully. We set up his room, met professors in his program, walked the campus, and watched our son’s burgeoning pride. He was about to begin a new life chapter that he had valiantly and studiously worked for. I did get a little teary at the opening convocation, but so did every other Mom around me as the President of the University promised us that our children were safe and would be fully nurtured under their care.
The last event was The Family Farewell Picnic Lunch and then it was very clear that all families were supposed to leave. That is when my nerves kicked in again. I could feel myself holding back tears the entire time. My husband suggested that I eat my lunch as we had a long drive ahead. I asked him to get me a bottle of water. Once he left, I mindlessly took a big bite of my chicken sandwich. To my horror, it got lodged in my throat. Within a minute or two, Jack noticed I was truly in trouble; I couldn’t talk and was wildly motioning for help. An uproar ensued at our table, and a woman (turns out she was a nurse) from a neighboring table came rushing over and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on me. Out came the chicken, and my husband returned in time to watch me vomit the rest of the contents of my stomach on the ground in the middle of the picnic. So much for my promise not to embarrass my son!
Our goodbyes were expedited by mortification. We embraced our precious son and watched as he threw down his skateboard and headed off toward his dorm. He was smiling and good-naturedly chuckling at his poor mother. He was riding off to a new beginning, he had all the OCD lessons and ERP tools under his belt, and he was ready to face whatever came his way. I learned, once again, that my fear has no place in his life. He will always be stronger than any imagined situation I can conjure; my intrusive thoughts are not his. I’m a mom that loves him more than words can express. And I try every day to observe my worries without judgment or validation. I’m learning. And I now know I need to chew my food thoroughly!
Kim Vincenty is a mother, wife, OCD advocate, speaker, and support group facilitator who has spent the past 10 years fostering community and helping families find the best resources for mental health education, intervention and recovery. She most recently served as the president of OCD Jacksonville, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Known for sharing her relatable story, Kim has articles published in The Mighty and Yahoo News and has been a guest on the OCD Stories Podcast. In 2017 Kim co-founded The Fearless Collection with national lifestyle brand Natural Life. In 2022, she launched JACK to expand her reach and continue to be a resource (and mom friend) to sufferers and families across the nation.