On a day that we celebrate Dads, I would like to write a post celebrating my mom. Weird I know but my biological father has never been in the picture and the most hardships of raising me for many years, solely fell to my mother. I can not imagine the frustration, the agony, the devastation she must have went through....raising me. A good kid. A smart kid. A sensitive kid who suffered from severe OCD. It was hard to deal with, especially in a time when OCD was not well known or diagnosed. As a parent I can now understand more the trials she went through with me because no loving parent wants to watch their children suffer and I suffered everyday.
It is like having an invisible beast living inside your head. The fear and anxiety it drums up are insurmountable. We know, as the sufferer, that what we are afraid of makes no sense and yet the fear is so very real. Palpable. Tactile. You can almost taste it. You can feel it physically and we know that is not possible but yet here it is. Making us feel like our skin is covered in it or worse.
As I got older the symptoms changed from the usual ones associated with OCD to more terrifying and more hard to understand pureO symptoms. What must have it been like for her to watch me turn from touching doorknobs twenty four times a day to me jamming my fingers in my ears with tears in my eyes asking her why I should continue on living when my life was pure hell? It must have been totally devastating. I can not imagine what it was like for her to watch her child be in so much pain.
And although I got therapy, there was no CBT at that time. Very little understanding of treatments for OCD except drug trials and therapies that often times didn't work. I kept wondering when I would get over this curse. This hell I called a mental disorder. This life altering, painful, life stealing mental illness that was slowly sucking away everything good in my life.
School became almost impossible. Some days I would make it to the car. Some days even to the school building. Some days I even made it inside only to have a panic attack and go home after lunch. And those were the good days. The days when I wasn't washing my hands till they bled or praying to God to fix me while rocking back and forth on the floor in desperation. I just wanted to be normal like the other kids. Why did I have to live like this? What could I have done to deserve being punished by my own mind this badly? How was this fair?
Having no CBT meant I had to do my own form of it. Baptism by fire, so to speak. We did all of the things I was afraid of. We even went to the school and I made myself go, even if I had to leave. Even if other kids didn't understand what was wrong with me. Even if I seemed like the oddity, the weirdo, the freak. I played normal well a lot of the time so some days it worked and some days it didn't. My poor mother would wait for me in the parking lot and watch me walk up to the doors. She would wait and pray that I could go inside the building but she would be there to pick up the pieces if I couldn't. She would be there to calm me when I would blame myself for failing to do yet another normal thing other people could do. She would be there to hold my hand. Wipe away my tears. Remind me that tomorrow was another day and we would try again.
God knows how many times I would ask her if I was still a good person, a worthy person, a lovable person. If I were worth all of this struggle and complication. How many times my OCD made me seek reassurances that I would be okay, that she would be okay, that she would not die from lupus when I was at school, or that the car wouldn't crash and kill us both when we were going to the store. Silly fears that to others seem unimportant, became breath stopping, heart pounding realities for me. How many times did I repeat my fears (and there were so many) to her over and over again. Ask and repeat, ask and repeat, ask and repeat....then came the medications and all of the issues that came with side effects. Drowsiness, mania, loss of hair and nails breakage to the quick, stomach pains, rashes, sometimes confusion. Many medications over the years with little to no success. That must have been hard for her as well. Always she was there to offer support. Never reprimanding me for being repetitive or scared. For being what I felt was broken. She never yelled at me or chastised me even on the most frustrating of days or the the most painful of nights. And looking back she must have cried, she must have been utterly dumbfounded and devastated. But I never knew, she never let me know....
As I grew I began to realize that my OCD was not going to go away. I would always live with it. I would not ,in fact, ever be like the other kids in my school I admired so much for their ability to do the normalist of tasks, without fear. Without that overwhelming sense of dread. This was me and this was going to be my life whether I liked it or not. Whether I was prepared to deal with it or not. I would always be a good person, a smart person, a sensitive person but also a person with severe OCD. And I was blessed at the same time. Because although, I was always going to have to deal with fears and anxiety and intrusive thoughts, my mother was there to help me. To make sure that I knew I was worthy. I mattered. I had a place in this word, even when I was younger and I wasn't sure of that fact.
I always knew that my mother was a great mom, but I am not sure I understood just how great until I became a parent myself and was able to look at it through new eyes. The eyes of someone who would do absolutely anything to help their child and to take away any pain that they go through. I can now see how difficult and heartbreaking it must have been to not be able to remove my pain or even lessen it like a parent would wish to. I marvel at her strength and her love. I am humbled by her persistence. I am thankful that she is my mother because quiet honestly I am not sure I would have made it without her by my side.
I am not sure why I wrote this, except to say to those of you out there struggling with this disorder, it can be done. You can learn to live with it. It is hard but it is worth it. You can live a life with OCD and not just a life but a good one. Maybe you wont be like other people but you will be you and you are worthy of happiness and love. You do matter in this world. You are important and you do belong.
I guess I wrote this to honor my mom who has been my champion all of my life and to thank her. To thank her for inspiring me to keep trying even when it seemed impossible to try. For always being there for me to talk to and to offer me support. For always believing in me and remaining positive when I was not so positive about myself. She believes that I can use my hardships and pain from my OCD for good. That my blog can be helpful to others. I hope so. I hope it can shed some light on not just OCD but mental illness as a whole. I know that I try because she believes I can. Just like she always has.