In the months after my son’s OCD diagnosis, I was often called to school for meetings with teachers, school counselors, and administrators. Things were getting rough, but everyone was trying their best to help get Jack through the sixth grade. On one such occasion, I was riddled with doubt and apprehension. I was not sure there would be a solution to the dilemma that had presented itself. Every year the sixth grade went to Sea Camp in the Florida Keys.
Invisible Support for OCD
There had never been a child who missed this special week-long experience in all the years they had been doing it. We all knew it would be a huge challenge for a boy with strong contamination OCD. How would he navigate the obvious triggers that would arise from close quarters, shared bathrooms, and all the unknowns? After all, unknowns are the archenemy of OCD. However, holding sea slugs, wading through swamps, or petting creatures of all kinds was not an issue for Jack. Consequently, part of him wanted to go.
It was in the early days of his therapy, and I was still skeptical that keeping Jack out of his comfort zone was sound therapeutic advice. But I also knew it would be emotionally devastating for him to be the only kid that didn’t go to Sea Camp. Often, I picked Jack up at school when there were days that proved too difficult. What would I do if he melted down on that sleepy Key, seven hours away?
Jack could not know there was an easy way out…
Jack’s two teachers were committed to whatever extra effort it would take to bring him along. However, the school’s principal added the requirement that I must also go to the Keys. I would need to be no further than one hour away from the camp if Jack needed to leave. Our therapist wisely added that I should go, but my son could not know that I would be near or that he had an easy way out.
So, I stealthy drove the seven hours behind the bus and took my perch in an old motor lodge. The only accommodation I could find in that remote part of the keys that was close to the camp.
My Sea Camp vacation
And there I sat for a week. I do not fish, and I do not snorkel on my own. There was precious little to do, but I did start a journal of our experience with OCD. I discovered that journal recently and realized that was when I first connected the dots. Jack’s years-long persistent behaviors were OCD. As I wrote and self-flagellated for missing the cues, I also solidified my commitment. As long as I am breathing, I will do anything I can to see my child well.
On my Sea Camp vacation, I ate carryout in my room most nights and watched old movies. I exercised every day, and I ate about two pounds of gummy bears (I always eat candy when nervous). I got nightly reports from the teacher, there were some difficult days, but my boy was making it through! On the last night of camp, the teacher told me to get a good night’s sleep and that I could hit the road before they left camp.
As I made the long drive home, I had more time to contemplate OCD and what we were up against. I didn’t kid myself; I knew by then we had a long way to go, but I was celebrating the victory trip to Sea Camp. It was in the small victories that both Jack and I were strengthened and encouraged. We knew, no matter what, he would live a full life, not one that bows to the demands of OCD, but one that thrives in spite of it.