Janet Singer's son Dan suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) so severe he could not even eat. What followed was a journey from seven therapists to
I’ve previously written how personifying obsessive-compulsive disorder can help sufferers accept, understand, and recover from the disorder. It’s also beneficial for loved ones to view OCD in this way. When my son Dan was dealing with severe OCD, I had no trouble seeing the disorder as something separate from him. It is something he has, not something he is. I even went so far as to call it “The Enemy.”
Over the course of two years, there were some fierce battles between Dan and “The Enemy.” I saw my son in the depths of despair, and often wondered if he would survive this war he was fighting. While it is unusual for me to use the word hate, I readily admitted to hating “The Enemy.” How could I not? It was destroying Dan’s life.
But being hateful doesn’t come naturally to me. And to tell the truth, even though I said I hated OCD, I’m not sure hate is the right word. Fear, maybe? I’m not sure; I haven’t found the words that feel completely right to me. I mean, my son has OCD. Surely, I don’t hate my son or any aspect of his being. Maybe I should rethink how I truly feel about obsessive-compulsive disorder?
And what about OCD sufferers themselves? Do they hate their OCD? Is it healthy to feel that this disorder is the enemy that needs to be defeated? Or is it better to be able to accept OCD for what it is, while still seeking out the best ways to manage it? I guess my question is, “Is hate really the way to go?”
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For me, and I’m guessing for most people, hate takes a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that can be much better spent working toward living the life you want. Though OCD may wax and wane, it is usually a chronic condition. Is it in the OCD sufferer’s best interests to spend his or her life hating something that might always be hanging around? The answer may not be the same for everyone, but most OCD sufferers I’ve connected with feel acceptance, not hate, is crucial to recovery.
And what about those of us who have a loved one with the disorder? For me, it’s a lot easier to look at “The Enemy” more objectively now that the battlefield has quieted down. I wish I had been able to step back sooner and see OCD for what it really is, instead of becoming entangled in the war. Perhaps the time and energy I spent hating “The Enemy” could have been better used learning as much as I could about OCD, including the best ways to help Dan.
In reconsidering my, and Dan’s, relationship with OCD, I am thankful to be at the point where I am able to let go of the hate and fear, or whatever that strong emotion is I’ve had for so long. I now see Dan’s OCD as more of an obnoxious, unwanted guest than an enemy. You know, the kind of person who has the power to ruin your good time if you let him. Dan knows it’s best not to attach any credibility to what this unwanted visitor has to say. He may hear him in the background, but beyond that, he needs to ignore what this guest is saying or demanding of him. How else will Dan enjoy the party? And if this unwanted guest gets too rowdy, Dan now has the tools to deal with him effectively. My son is in charge, and I believe that is the most important thing. If he has to, he can throw this obnoxious, unwanted guest out of the party.
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