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New Year; New (and Hopeful) Letter

For many of us, the New Year represents a rebirth–an opportunity to reflect on the previous year’s disappointments and, in some case, repair lingering hurt. In my case, my estranged relationship with my immediate family has been a perpetual source of consternation (and, at times, unending frustration). For those that struggle with family conflict, I am sure you can relate and, I hope, empathize with my broiling family turmoil.

Dear Family,

I want to wish you a belated Happy New Year.

Our relationship is undeniably strained; we haven’t communicated since 2014. Most of our conversations are accusatory–armed with icy threats and recriminations. There have been belligerent phone calls and taunting emails–and that’s when we do communicate.

Your lawsuit against me, of course, generated ill will (the property dispute, I believe, could have been resolved with a couple of phone conversations). That said, a reservoir of discontent has long stained our relationship.

And, truthfully, I am not exactly sure why. Since Mom’s passing, we should be on the same page–working together to collectively heal our wounds (instead of brooding over slights–real or perceived).

More than revisiting past hurts, I would like to take a moment to address the elephant in the room: my mental health. For you, mental health has been a perpetual source of tension and unease. You don’t know how to talk about mental health–and I suspect there has been confusion–even bewilderment–about my mental health diagnoses. This confusion has manifested itself in pejorative labels.

These labels are hurtful–verbal grenades designed to demean.

Admittedly–and attempting to be as non-judgmental as possible, mental health is a complex subject–one that I am sure has bedeviled other families. To this point, there are numerous “how to” guides on discussing mental health. One commonality: openness.

So here goes: I have battled OCD and depression for most of my adult life; the symptoms wax and wane. There are some days when OCD and depression are minor annoyances–almost like a pesky young brother (please note my attempt at dry humor). And there are other days when OCD and depression are raging infernos–threatening to consume me. I am doing my best–through medication and mentorship–to navigate these mental health machinations. And, truthfully, I am faring pretty well.

That said, I know there will be future challenges (OCD/depression are conniving like that). And during these future stumbles, OCD and depression will put me in the equivalent of a headlock. I don’t expect you to understand–and, begrudgingly, that’s okay. I accept that.

But I do expect basic compassion–an understanding that mental health struggles are not searing indictments of a person’s character. On the contrary, my mental health struggles have made me a more humane, compassionate person. They have bettered me–scar tissue and all.

Truthfully, I don’t understand how our relationship has devolved into a simmering feud. It is something that gnaws at me–and I hope gnaws at you.

With the calendar flipping to 2019, I hope that we can reboot our admittedly frayed relationship–and substitute those icy recriminations for a productive, healthy conversation. And, at some point, a productive, healthy relationship.

Happy New Year,


New Year; New (and Hopeful) Letter

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb is a recovering attorney, part-time graduate student, and full-time mental health advocate. He shares stories and strategies about living--and thriving (at least some days)--with OCD.

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2019). New Year; New (and Hopeful) Letter. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jan 2019
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