A recent conversation on parenting and OCD has gotten me to thinking and I wanted to share this in the hopes you would find it helpful.
Before a few days ago, I NEVER shared this with a single soul, beyond my immediate family. I never even really completely explained it to my psychologist (though I'm sure she figured it out, she is very bright). For many years I was completely guilt ridden by it. For the most part, I have dealt with the guilt. Not that I think I deserve to be "off the hook," but my guilt was paralyzing me from getting any better, so I made a conscious decision to stop beating myself up. I still regret it terribly though, don't get me wrong. But I've asked God for forgiveness and I believe Him when He says I am forgiven.
My OCD affected my parenting and my child in ways that I have been so ashamed of, that I could never admit it before. Just before posting this, I asked my husband if I should go through with it. He asked me, "What is more important? To not post because of shame, or to post because it might help someone else?" So here goes.
I was a yeller. No, a screamer. And verbally abusive. I could scream out some pretty horrible things to my son and husband if my anxiety got set off. There were even a couple of times that I got so angry that I kicked the wall and left a mild, shallow outline of my foot in the sheet rock! I would alternate between apologizing to my precious boy and yelling at him. There were times I couldn't touch him for fear of contamination. I would many times make him participate in my compulsions. I was so frustrated all the time and I just didn't know what to do with it. I spent years being paranoid that my child would be taken away from me, because deep down, I felt I deserved that. I was caught in this horrific cycle. I should have gone for CBT/ERP as soon as I knew about it. Instead, because I was so frightened of the therapy, I waited THIRTEEN YEARS to go, until the OCD was so bad that I could almost not function anymore. It is a decision I will regret forever.
One of my main motivations for fighting the OCD when I finally got the proper help was my son. Even though he was an adult and living on his own by that point, I wanted to show him that it is never, ever too late to change and grow. So I started the therapy and it was horrible. But eventually, it started to work. And I discovered something absolutely shocking. I was never really angry, I was scared. Once the anxiety got under control, my anger dissipated like the air being let out of a balloon. Starting in the Fall of 2009, I attended therapy for 2 1/2 years. But I'm still working all the time on learning, growing, and how to continue to fight the OCD.
And here is where it comes full circle. My child has been going through some very stressful things, through no fault of his own. In the past, I would have literally been freaking out about it, being all over his back to fix it, telling him he did stuff wrong, getting mad and yelling over the phone, etc. Instead, when he calls (and there have been multiple calls for weeks), with the exception of one call the other day where I kinda blew it, I have been calm, rational, and I've kept reminding him to focus on things as they are today, right now, not how they might be. I've been trying to fight every cognitive distortion with logic. And the best words (besides "I love you") he ever said to me came out of his mouth the other day. "Wow, you really ARE better. Normally you would be all worried about me and freaking out, etc." In the past, my anxiety would have made him feel even worse. He's told me more than once now that he feels better after talking to me.
This is literally the victory of my life. As much as I desperately want to, I can't undo the past. But I can love, honor, and respect my family today, by working on the now. I'm so grateful to God for sending me to therapy. It was the most painful time of my life, but it ended up being one of the best things I ever, ever did. My life has literally changed. No matter what you've done, or how long you've been ill or struggling, there is ALWAYS hope. God bless my friends.