interview by Wendy Slaton
Many know Jim, ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale from his Gallery Furniture signature broadcast commercials, and through his generous support throughout our big city. What you may not know, his daughter Elizabeth struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which was diagnosed when she was in 7th grade. Today, Elizabeth McIngvale, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Menninger department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). Dr. McIngvale’s clinical interest focus on OCD, anxiety disorders, mental health stigma and access to mental health care. She is the founder of the Peace of Mind foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to OCD.
HFM had the honor to talk to ‘Mattress Mack’ to learn more about how his daughter’s journey through OCD impacted his family, and where others can go for support. Here’s what he had to share with us…
As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see your child suffer. Do you have any advice for parents who may be at the beginning of their child’s diagnosis?
My biggest advice would be to persevere and stay the course until you find the right evidence-based care, therapists and doctors for your child or loved one. It’s also important to try to read and research as much as you can about the illness your child is facing. Know that you are not alone and that there are support groups and other resources in the community that can provide help and support. Never forget to take care of yourself too; it’s easy to forget in the midst of a difficult time.
How did Elizabeth’s OCD affect her siblings, and how did you and your wife manage to explain and support, especially in the early days when you were navigating the winding path to find help for Elizabeth?
The family is always affected when anyone in the family is ill. The best thing is to be open, honest, and try to help other siblings understand what that child is going through. Also, it’s important to remember that other siblings are going on this winding path with you. It’s necessary to give them attention as well – they may not be suffering from that illness, but they’re navigating it right alongside you.
Elizabeth’s sister Laura was right by her side from the beginning. She’d watch her, support her when needed by keeping her focused on what’s ahead and encourage her to spend time with family and friends. She was such a blessing, all of my children are, and Laura really grew up fast on her own in order to help Elizabeth in times when she couldn’t help herself.
Elizabeth says you inspired her with the gift of service to others and to the community. Who inspired you with the gift of service?
My mother and father were the source of my inspiration for giving. Both of my parents were very involved in the Catholic church and inspired us to do for others. Pope John Paul instilled in our family that the, “essence of living is giving.” From the way I was raised, I have always had the desire to try to be of service to others.
When Elizabeth was first diagnosed, we were a little lost, scared and confused, but we knew God would not give us anything we couldn’t handle. We knew there had to be a purpose to all of Elizabeth’s sufferings because our favorite quote says, “without our struggle, we would not know our strength.”
Where can parents go for help in our area? What kind of support is there for the families of loved ones who are battling OCD or other mental illness?
There are incredible resources and support in the Houston area for OCD and other mental illnesses. My daughter has played an instrumental role in many of them and would certainly agree. For OCD, I recommend families look into Elizabeth’s Peace of Mind Foundation’s website at PeaceofMind.com. The website lists many resources for both sufferers and caregivers, including support groups, professional help and more. It’s important to remember that we must never lose sight and there is hope for everybody living with a mental illness.