What Doesn't Work With OCD

Having a child with a mental health disorder makes life far more challenging. What's worse is that it is really not something I can completely explain to people unless they have seen the symptoms and meltdowns for themselves, which of course, they haven't because children with OCD are very good at hiding their symptoms from people until they burst. From the outside, someone who knows Madeline might just sense a little anxiety or discomfort when really, a war is raging inside her.

This has certainly brought out some of my less than perfect parenting as I try to navigate what sometimes seems like an enormous abyss.

My parents have been privy to some of our more difficult moments; those marked by some of my greatest parental fails (and some successes that were total shots in the dark). And believe me, so much of this walk has felt like darkness......we go along, trying to understand, trying to figure it out, to research, to learn but time and again we stumble, fall flat on our face, shake our fists to the heavens because what the heck is this? AND WHY? There are just so many unknowns.

Nonetheless, here are some of my greatest fails to date, (I do not recommend trying these at home).

1. The therapist told me to have Madeline hold an ice cube to distract her from the intrusive thoughts causing the meltdowns. At one point, when forcing her to hold the ice in her hand was simply not working, I just poured the entire cup of ice on her. (For the record, while it did stop the screaming momentarily, the screeching that followed was probably not worth it.)

2. Madeline had been fighting the need to repeatedly wash her hands for several days. One night, towards the end of our FL trip (she had unfortunately had a relapse and was really struggling again), she went into hysterics and she spent ten full minutes washing with the bar of soap, lathering her hands over and over while in the shower. When I came to see what was going on and stupidly asked why she was doing it, she said her hands were dirty and wouldn't get clean so she had to wash them again and again. I took the bar of soap away (insert hysterical screaming) and she rinsed the soap off, (still screaming) and demanded I give her the soap back because her hands were still dirty and needed to be washed again (screaming, screaming, screaming).

Impatiently I exclaimed, "Madeline, this is your OCD! Your hands are NOT dirty," and then I impulsively grabbed her hands AND STUCK THEM IN MY MOUTH to prove how clean they were. She got quiet, wide eyed yet somehow still glaring.

"Ok, um, well, they might be dirty now," I said, handing the soap back.

3. At one point, we were walking inside and Madeline started walking to and from the door repetitively. Without even thinking, I slapped her on the back, as if that would snap her out of it. Ever try slapping someone out of a diabetes episode or an asthma attack? Yeah, it works about that well! (For the record, pinching does not work either, unless you are just trying to make the kids really mad, then I highly recommend it.)

I am sure there will be more where this came from because if there is one thing this experience has taught me it's that I am far from a perfect parent, maybe not even close to a good parent when you throw in big obstacles......but onward we press because at the end of the day, that's what loving parents do....just keep swimming, just keep swimming, whatcha gonna do you're gonna swim, swim, swim....

(It just might not be a very straight path.....)

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