One of the arts of parenting grown children--particularly emerging adults who are just getting their independence-footing--is to keep from interfering in their lives, to practice detachment parenting, to become an advisory parent instead of one involved in their everyday decisions.
When a child becomes seriously ill, how do we walk that line: making sure they are getting appropriate care and still letting them be in charge of their lives? Writing in the first person, Janet Singer addresses these issues in "Overcoming OCD." While it was written to be a helpful tool for other parents whose children or loved ones are ill with OCD, the book is also about the struggle between child and parent, for the adult child's need for independence and the parent's obligation to know and act on what's best for their child.
Singer is frank about the emotional roller-coaster of parenting a 19-year-old child whose illness could curtail his lifelong dreams and ambitions (since childhood, her son has wanted to be an animator; the art college he was attending did not allow for a break in the course series) and his ability to live a fulfilling and independent life--to say nothing of enjoying the pleasurable socializing of college life.
One issue that runs through her narrative applies to any parent of an adult child who's ill: Who makes decisions about his future. Is it the young man under the influence of his therapists, or his parents? In Janet's case, the therapists specializing in her son's OCD condition (at a residential facility), recommended he not return to art college, arguing that returning to school would take away from the continuity of his recovery--even though not returning meant he would have to give up on his ambition to be an animator.
Her son had voluntarily entered the residential facility during the summer to undergo intensive therapy so he could return to college in the fall. Wavering on that goal when under the care (and influence) of his therapists, he told his parents he was dropping out of college--he wanted to relieve himself of the pressure to keep up with the course work and concentrate on recovery. At the same time, though, he wanted to go back to the college town and live with his friends and roommates in a house they had all rented. "I need to be independent," he told his parents. "I want my freedom."
A good chunk of the book revolves around the role of the parents in this decision ("who knows the whole person better?" a psychologist-adviser reminds Singer.), the emotional ups and downs of deciding whether to intervene and how.
It's her honesty about the struggle with her ill son and her belief in his future that hit home. In one way or another, we have all been there.
(Full disclosure: Author Janet Singer is a friend of a friend, and I received a free copy of Overcoming OCD from the publisher Rowman & Littlefield)