My Challenge to You as the Mother of a Child With OCD
Control. So many of us spend our time battling to control the people, the things and the activities that make up our lives. We all have that basic need for order and understanding.
What if something else was controlling you? That inner voice almost shouting that you need to count, complete a ritual or ask the teacher one more time when the assignment is due.
What if that voice constantly said you were weird, mean and flat-out unlovable?
What if every time your parents told you, “No,” that voice in your brain told you yet again that they don’t love you?
What if your friend showed up late for a playdate and that voice said you can’t be friends anymore?
What if it said she clearly hates you or she wouldn’t be late?
What if you had to count exactly how many days are left until your birthday, 365 days a year?
What if you had nowhere to run, nowhere to find refuge, no way to get peace because that voice is constantly haunting you with its demands or else?
That’s what living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is like at our house.
As a parent, it can mean your child takes hours to get ready for the day, spends her entire Saturday cleaning her room, is constantly struggling to keep friends, is afraid of her own bed, gets so frustrated that she screams and throws things and uses the most hurtful language she knows, all in an effort to obey that voice or to make it go away.
We have spent many hours learning about this horrific disorder, crying and praying for her relief. We want there to be so many positive voices in her life that they drown out the negative shouting of the OCD voice. So many that she can finally say, “Enough is enough, and I’m not going to listen this time.”
Here’s the thing: We can’t have those positive voices if not enough people understand what OCD actually is. Until a couple years ago, I just assumed OCD was related to wanting things to be straight, washing your hands a lot and being a little neurotic.
Boy was I wrong.
OCD is not those little neurotic things we do to maintain some level of order in our lives. It is a real disorder of the brain that generates obsessions that are outright absurd much of the time. It will say things like, “If you don’t wash your hands exactly 14 times, then your mom is going to die.” It says that over and over until you don’t care how silly it sounds. You do it. Just in case it’s right. In hopes that it will finally stop tormenting you.
It doesn’t. It never stops. Not unless, with the help of friends, family, therapists and, in many cases, medication, you can find the ability to take a stand and say not this time.
I am always telling my daughter that we can do hard things. That we want to see her be brave. That the OCD voice is a bully and it’s wrong. Probably the most heartbreaking thing as a parent is the fact that OCD has taken away much of my daughter’s childhood innocence.
When we say, “I love you,” she doesn’t believe us. When we offer to read books together, she’d rather be alone so she can count and do other rituals without us watching. When her friends are going to dance and gymnastics, she’s going to therapy. We’ve had to stand up to a family who believed that our daughter shouldn’t be “hopped up on drugs” at such a young age. To be honest, we are sick of trying to figure it out alone!
So here’s my challenge to you: Think twice before you take the Facebook OCD test or share the meme about how “OCD” you are. Treat OCD like any other illness that can affect you for the rest of your life because that is what it is.
Are we hopeful? Yes. Do we think our daughter is pretty incredible? Yes.
She has already defied the odds and learned to excel at school and on stage, despite her daily struggles. She and every other child deserve an army of positivity and hope around them. So let’s focus our energy on that instead.
How can you lift a child up today? We truly never know the battles they are fighting.
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