A Doctor Makes A House Call
Correspondent Erin Moriarty gives an up-close account of his progress.
"I don't think I can open the door right now. I don't think I can open it," David said.
Alone in a tiny 5 foot-by-10 foot room David turned to despair.
"I'm tired of trying," he said. "It hasn't been easy. And what have I gotten out of it? I haven't gotten anything."
"If I died tomorrow, it wouldn't make any difference, 'cause I haven't gotten anything done."
He has been so despondent at times he has cut his own arms.
"I asked him why he did it, and he said he feels he needs to be punished," said his mother Jackie.
"It provides sort of a release in a way," said David.
Jackie was afraid he would take the cutting too far so she spent many sleepless nights outside his door.
"It seems like the time and energy and food and shelter and everything would have been better spent on somebody else," David said.
Trying to boost up his spirits, to keep him from hurting himself, Jackie said she has times when she almost loses it. "One time he just said to me, 'Why don't you just let me go?' And I told him, never!"
"You have got to admit you have stuck to it; you have kept trying," Jackie said.
"I haven't gotten anything done in the last five years," David said. "I'm not getting anywhere."
"I've tried to tell him that everybody's going to have problems in their life. As far as I can tell, he's just having his a lot earlier," Jackie said.
Jackie and her husband Paul have spent years since David's childhood trying to get him the proper help.
|David's father Paul regrets not having obtained the right help sooner.|
"All through elementary school and middle school we were getting poor suggestions from professionals that were...harmful," Paul recalled.
"Like if he misbehaved, put him face down on the floor and sit on him until he calmed down," Jackie said.
"If he had gotten help when he was young, it would never become this severe," Paul said.
It was almost two months since David first stepped out of the bathroom to speak to 48 Hours. And since then he had only managed to venture out a few more times.
When Dr. Jenike travelled 800 miles from his office near Boston to make a house call. There as no guarantee that he would even get to meet David face to face.
"Is David apprehensive about our visit?" Dr. Jenike asked.
"Oh yes, he's all kinds of things. He's got a whole list of things he was worried about this morning," said Jackie.
"Well, this is the famous door, huh? I've only seen it on film," Dr. Jenike greeted his patient.
"Do you want me to try to go into the den, 'cause that's not going to be an instantaneous thing; it'll take some time," David said.
"How long will it take?" the doctor asked.
"I don't know," David said.
"A couple of years?" asked the doctor.
"Hopefully less than that," said David.
"No, I'm not going to change clothes and take a shower. Why not? Because I think it's up to you to violate one or two of your rules. And since I'm here, maybe I can help you deal with the anxiety that comes up. And maybe we can make this a learning thing that might help you get out of there," Dr. Jenike said.
Dr. Jenike tried everything from tough love ("Does some of this seem a little absurd to you, David?") to humor:
"I will take a shower," said the doctor. "I'll walk out of here with your father and your mother's clothes on."
"If you can be a little light-hearted with them, joke around with them," he said, "that can take some of the pressure off."
After several hours his approach paid off. David met him in the den.
"Well, master David, how are you doing? Dr. Jenike asked.
OK. I thought you were going to be wearing a tie," said David.
"You did, huh! You thought I was a real doctor!" joked Jenike.
"What do you see yourself doing the next few years?" asked Dr. Jenike.
"I'd like to be a philosophy professor," David said.
"To get better, you're going to have to take some chances; does that make sense?" Dr. Jenike asked.
"You don't mean like better with a capital B. You just mean improved, right?" David asked.
"Well, moving toward where you want to go," Dr. Jenike said.
After their session, Moriarty spoke with Dr. Jenike.
"How long could David end up living in that bathroom?" Moriarty asked.
"Without treatment and us intervening, he could live in that bathroom for the rest of his life," said Dr. Jenike.
Can he turn around his life for good?
Now as David begins his third year living in a bathroom, there are signs this could be the last year.
"It's not easy for him to come out but he is working at it, and he seems determined to do it and to stay out as long as he can," Jackie said.
Not only is David spending more time outside the bathroom. He's actually been outside his house.
"Do you want to go to the video store?" asked David. "It's nice to be able to rent some of the movies that I would have liked to have seen when I wasn't able to go out," he said.
But no matter how hard David tries, he can't shake the fear that he is contaminating others.
Until David is willing to face his fears at a place like Dr. Jenike's OCD Institute, he might not get the help he needs.
"It's sort of like a boxer going into a fight. If you're not ready to go into the fight, you just can't do it. You can't fake it. And he's not quite ready to go into the fight," said Dr. Jenike.
|David visits a video store.|
There is no cure yet for OCD but the small victories that some have over this debilitating disorder are what keep hope alive for others.
"I believe that there's a purpose to all this. And I really believe that David has a future," Jackie said. "I know he's going to do somthing special."
"It doesn't really matter if your life is perfectly normal or not," David observed.
"The dreams and aspirations and things that you really want are something that when you strive for them," David said.
"You don't feel like it's pointless, that you can actually, if you work hard enough, achieve them, perhaps. And that's all anybody really wants, I think, is a chance to accomplish what they want."
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