I really wanted to call this submission, “I’m the perfect mother. So why are my kids so screwed up?”, but I don’t want to offend my kids. They are perfect. Too perfect. Both of my kids suffer the mental, and physical, effects of OCD.

Last year, my son entered his freshman year at a prestigious college on a full four-year scholarship. He’s incredibly talented and smart. He’s perfect. Too perfect. He struggled with what he thought was depression and adjustment issues, but was ultimately diagnosed with OCD. Surprisingly, this diagnosis was a relief – he finally had a name for why he was feeling so depressed, so anxious and so out of control. Perfectionism has a price. Despite him being in another city, in another state, I spent countless days trying to find the right resources to heal him. I did not stop until I found the perfect treatment team. We certainly went through our share of counselors who dismissed his anxieties as “first year adjustment”. Had I not been diligent, the consequences could have been dire. He was truly struggling – emotionally, mentally, socially, academically – and as a parent, this was the hardest thing to watch. But he used his academic acuity to learn everything he could about OCD, its affects, its treatment, and the countless others who deal with it. On his own, he learned meditation and yoga, aggressively researched and implemented a healthy eating plan, and began working out. He took control and I like to think he healed himself, and learned some very important life lessons along the way.

My teenage daughter has perfectionist issues too. I swear I was not one of those parents who pushes their kids to be perfect. I was not a tiger mom. Or a helicopter parent. I set early expectations that my kids would be successful and diligent about their schoolwork, but they became very self-disciplined and independently-driven early on.

My daughter was recently diagnosed with an eating disorder. I had suspected it, but it’s hard to see when it’s your own child. I saw that she had been losing weight, looking withdrawn, but it was when a doctor who had known her for years said, “I’m shocked. She looks sick.” I was almost embarrassed to take her to her pediatrician. Somehow, I feel like he would judge me…like I’m a failure as a mother.

While my son’s OCD is driven by obsession to be perfect, her OCD is driven by a compulsion over food. She fiercely studies ingredients, measures every strawberry, every bite of sweet potato. She will only eat food she prepares herself. She eats her vegetables and salads dry. She used to love going out to dinner, but will no longer go. As with my son, I spent countless hours taking her to doctors and seeking out the perfect treatment team. It took so much of our time, but we found it – the perfect treatment team – a nutritionist and counselors she connects with, and more importantly, trusts. She too ahs accepted responsibility and is working hard to heal herself.

What scares me most about my experience, is that I really had to fight and search to find the right treatment for my kids. Many parents don’t have the time or resources to go this extra mile to find treatment that feels comfortable, is meaningful and makes progress.

7 responses to “Beth”

  1. Rebecca says:

    As a parent of children who suffer from mental health issues I hear you! I have to fight and argue and plead with people to try and find the right treatment. This can take months, or even years. In the meantime our children are suffering. Why is it so hard?

  2. Amy says:

    I too agree, I also have been hitting my head against the wall for my child. All the while he suffers. It has been a year an a half.

  3. Jackie says:

    Thank you for this! I feel as though this too is my life. I have fought very hard and continue to fight for my oldest who was diagnosed with depression/ social anxiety two years ago.

  4. Suzy says:

    I too am a Mom with 2 teens diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. Luckily they were diagnosed at a young age and we have found the help they need and they are doing really well, knock on wood. I often think, depression in young children is worse than a physical abnormality. At least then people can see and understand if your child acts out but when a child with MHD does,there is no way an observer understands and instead you hear “they need to get that child under control” or ” that child needs a good smack”. I live in a small town, where everyone is in everyone else’s business. Unfortunately, stigma is very prevalent here. While my children were “different” in school, my youngest was ostracized. My elder one shared her “secret” with a couple close friends who she has known since pre-school and at the end of senior year, was ostracized too. While I really can’t understand how 18 year old’s would behave that way but they are kids and not educated on the subject, what hurt more was the parents, who knew of the diagnosis and chose to look the other way of their children’s behaviors. I have tried to raise my children to not fall on their diagnosis as a crutch, their lives will be difficult but they need to learn to cope and overcome it. They are now in other schools and doing well, again knock on wood. It is easy to be bitter and fall into a “why me” trap, to look around and wish my kids were like other kids, going to football games, and out with their friends but my children’s successes are different and they help keep me focused and grateful. It took many counselors to find the right fit, but keep trying, it will get better! I know tomorrow could be different but what their diagnosis has taught me is to listen to all those “happy quotes” to truly “smell the flowers and “appreciate every moment” and keep knocking on wood.

  5. Ethan says:

    If you or a loved one is suffer from OCD, visit

  6. Breanna says:

    It’s shocking to hear your health care professional say you really just need to learn how to cope. That’s what my daughter (22) was told today after seeing a physician for her anxiety. It was a physician that helped her and was empathetic with migraines so the response was quite unexpected. Yes, she prescribed medication but reinforced doubts about seeking help for mental health. How do you convince a loved one anxiety is not in their control any more than cancer when the medical professionals slaps them in the face when asking for help?

  7. Monet says:

    If your children have experienced trauma I highly recommend EMDR therapy with a certified therapist. It has lowered by anxiety so much that after living 50 years with anxiety I now am living the best years of my life!
    It is never too late to find healing.

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