It’s been such a long journey that part of me doesn’t even know where to begin.
Caleb has always been a deeply perceptive child; smart, funny and kind-hearted.
But there seems to have always been this other thing. Something that felt like an intrusion into who he really is. Something that made coping with seemingly average things overwhelming.
And the stress - or distress more like it - of trying to cope came out in all kinds of behaviours.
He had been given labels in the educational system that I knew in my momma’s heart didn’t describe my child.
Defiant. Oppositional. Rebellious.
There have been quasi-diagnoses thrown at him by those not equipped to make that call that I knew didn’t fit his struggles - or recognize his strengths
ADHD. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Autistic Spectrum.
My heart has ached for years as I have seen sadness and shame and self-deprecation sweep over my son when he has just not been capable to meet “expectations”.
The worst of it came almost 2 years ago when he told me he wished he was dead.
I didn’t know what had hold over Caleb, but I did know that I was not going to let it claim him.
Sorry not sorry devil, but my son is spoken for by the blood of Jesus.
We had already gone from pediatrician to psychologist to therapist and back again in hopes of naming the monster wreaking havoc in Caleb’s brain.
I have been sad, angry, frustrated, annoyed. Sometimes directed at Caleb himself during difficult behavioural situations. And flooded with mom guilt.
I have been patient, caring, encouraging and supportive. Also sometimes directed at Caleb himself during difficult behavioural situations. And flooded with God’s peace.
But I needed answers. He needed answers. And we both needed direction.
Finally, in an act of desperation after a distressing incident that happened with Caleb, I took him to the Emergency Room of a children’s hospital that had a whole wing dedicated to children’s mental health.
(While Caleb has given me permission to share his diagnosis, he has asked that the specifics of how it manifests itself in his life remain private. And I am 100% honouring his right to control this information about himself).
That ER visit 6 months ago finally led to an appointment at the hospital last month. And I dared to hope.
Hope that this was the time that God would show up with answers.
Now don’t get me wrong, God has been with us every step of the way. But His timing - which is perfect - is His alone. And I have seen is handiwork every step of the way.
What I hadn’t seen yet though, was answers. And I was ready.
Our appointment consisted of hours of questions and observations. And me having to be silent through most of it. If you know me, that is a challenging feat. But I committed to their process.
And after all that, we got an initial diagnosis.
Weren’t people with OCD just neat freaks that constantly washed their hands and flicked light switches?
My very narrow understanding of OCD kept me blind to seeing how it was taking over Caleb’s life. All of our lives.
Having learned A LOT more about this devastating disorder I can now see its fingerprints all over our family since Caleb was in kindergarten.
Trouble paying attention, inability to make a decision, anger outbursts, mental fatigue, self-doubt, perfectionism, stress and so much more. All the effects of battling and placating OCD.
But we are rallying.
While OCD is not curable, it IS treatable. And we are coming together as a family to support Caleb during this difficult journey which includes Exposure/Response Prevention therapy.
If you are anything like me, you don't really know a whole lot about OCD. So in the spirit of spreading truth and smashing stigmas, here are a few facts about the illness.
- Impacts 1 in every 200 young people
- Is an illness in the brain - it’s not about good or bad behaviour
- Often remains hidden as it can mask itself as other illnesses or appear seemingly normal in certain contexts
- Is progressive - but can be reversed with proper treatment
- Has an obsessive component - unwanted thoughts or images that are distressing and recurrent
- Has a compulsive component- behaviours to neutralize the distress of the obsession; can manifest itself as physical, mental, suppressive or avoidant
- Robs children of their childhood
Yes, there is a long road ahead. But our family is being EMPOWERED by this diagnosis.
Caleb is learning early on that THRIVING is not only possible - it’s part of his God-given DNA.
And as I hope to model to him through my own mental illness journey - God uses ALL things for His glory. That what society may label as his weakness God will use as a superpower.
There is so much more to this story. And the story is still being written.
But I already know the ending.