I read a blog post this weekend written by a mom with a toddler who has OCD.
I ran across the post on Facebook and was immediately intrigued.
For those unaware, Dude 3 was diagnosed with OCD shortly after his 5th birthday.
Naturally, when I encounter other families living the struggle, I like to read what they are experiencing.
In this case, the Facebook comments (I know, NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!) are what piqued my interest most.
There were a lot of people chiming in –noting that it didn’t sound like OCD to them, that it sounded more like standard 2-year-old behavior, and that the mother should relax. There were others defending her position and encouraging the dime store psychologists in the group to take back their diagnosis’s. There was sarcasm. There was judgment. But, there was very little empathy. And, for that, I was sad.
It’s hard for parents, particularly those with special needs children, to bare their souls this way. And anxiety in kids is unique too.
There are a lot of things people not living it wouldn’t understand, and a lot of things you aren’t always proud of. Not because they’re bad, just because you want to be better and, in the heat of the parenting moment, sometimes your kids won’t let you be great.
Or, your humanity won’t. (Newsflash: moms are humans too!)
Blame what you like, but for me, when I am attempting to talk my panicking child out of jumping from his bedroom window because he believes himself to be locked in his room with no hope of escape at 10pm at night (even though he wasn’t locked in, he just thought he was), it is hard not to look back on those moments and not be like, well, kicking the door was a bad move.
Sharing those missteps is hard.
After the entire 15 minute ordeal was over wherein I’d read every comment on the Facebook post, read the actual article, come back to the Facebook post and typed a response that I immediately deleted because I don’t have time for trolls, I felt like writing about what OCD looks like here right now made sense.
So, I started and didn’t stop until 2054 words were spread out on this page.
Don’t worry, I made it a two part series which means I will give you a break if you promise to come back and read the rest tomorrow. Link to part two: How we Cope with OCD and Anxiety
Anxiety in Kids: My Son and OCD
OCD is an anxiety disorder
Many people make jokes about their OCD, equating it to their need to be clean or organized or particular about certain things.
The difference here is that actual OCD is not just something that makes you quirky or hard to please. It can’t be managed with a wet wipe and a bottle of hand sanitizer, although often, those things can help.
In reality, it is a disorder and as such, it tends to require much more, particularly when it comes to young children.
Of course, what OCD looks like varies greatly among sufferers and is dependent on a host of different factors.
Just because your child is a germaphobe doesn’t mean he has OCD and, just because he isn’t, doesn’t mean he doesn’t.
What OCD Is
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is a condition that can affect people of any age — including kids and teens. It causes people to have obsessions, which are fears, doubts, and worries that take over and interrupt a person’s normal thoughts and routines.
To get relief from obsessive thoughts, people with OCD develop behaviors called rituals or compulsions. To a person with OCD, the rituals have the power to make things seem “right” or prevent the bad things they worry about. –KidsHealth
Obsessions and compulsions are two sides of the same coin. People with OCD are obsessed with certain things and the compulsions are done in response to these.
For example, a child may be obsessed with germs and compelled to wash their hands many times to rid themselves of them. Or, a child might be obsessed with having things done in a certain way and they are therefore compelled to ensure that they are.
What OCD Looks Like for Us
For Dude 3, OCD also includes a compulsive tic disorder. He has complex motor tics and vocal. To explain to people what they’re like, I often compare it to Turrets Syndrome (and yes, he’s had a swearing episode that lasted for about 2 months in the summer).
He makes noises (like throat clearing, sniffing, and coughing), he moves parts of his head and face (flicking his hair, rolling his eyes, crinkling his nose), and some manifestations of the tic result in a full body movement series (clenching fists, stomping foot, shaking his head, rolling his eyes).
At times, he can’t stand to sit down. At others, he can’t drink from a cup without throwing the contents into his own face. So, if you come over in the evening, you may see him drinking from a straw during dinner while he walks around the table as we eat.
He also counts steps (he counts every step he takes and always has to arrive on an even number), is addicted to using a timer (it has woken me up in the middle of the night countless times), has to close every door upstairs before he comes downstairs, has a system for organizing things atop his desk, and hoards. I often find his stashes months after they were compiled, hidden under his bed or in his closet.
There are also certain unique fears and anxieties that prevent him from moving seamlessly through his day.
For example, he can’t stand to see the inside of the shower curtain and if it touches him he loses his mind. Like jumps, fully soaped up and soaking wet, from the shower onto the bathroom tile attempting to avoid it. He requires me to stay in the bathroom while he showers to hold the curtain away (although, we found a way to attach it more firmly to the wall and he has showered solo 3 times this week!).
In the past, he had hallucinations. He’d see a wolf following him places -in front of Chick-fil-A, by Target, on our porch, at his preschool. The first time he saw it was one of the scariest days of my life (and probably his too) -I legitimately thought he was losing his mind. He came to understand that the wolf wasn’t really there, that only he could see it, and that it wouldn’t attack him, but it was a year before it went away. Our therapist explained that it was what his anxiety looked like to him at that time, and that hallucinations are not uncommon in children who suffer from OCD.
He has had a number of panic attacks over things like learning to ride a bike and getting locked in his bedroom. He can’t stand to watch the news because real life is quite frightening. And he has pretty strong separation anxiety as well.
He still sleeps in my room many nights, sometimes in my bed.
He is not super clean, yet dirt or clutter in certain areas of the house make them off limits. He has a system of organization that looks to me like nothing more than a hot mess, but he will notice instantly if it is disrupted.
He is a wonderful, meticulous student, a skilled and dedicated athlete, and he is never late (unless its my fault and then WE HAVE WORDS!).
Mothering him is hard.
It is a fact that I note because I want others in similar situations to feel okay admitting that.
You don’t have to pretend like it’s fine, like everything is always fine, and admitting that some days you lose your ever loving mind a little bit doesn’t make you weak, or bad.
Dude 3 taught me that.
He also taught me to love him for who he is, to embrace the course our life is on, to appreciate the moments we have together even when they are wrought with difficulties, and to take my time as I move through this life.
Rushing only gets you to the end more quickly, and you’ll probably forget something important along the way.
Read Part 2 Here: Our Anxious Child How We Cope with Anxiety and OCD