"A little bit OCD"
When I knew my boy was haunted by
this demon in his ear
Not knowing how to help him,
My knowledge turned to fear.
I'll keep this to myself I thought,
He didn't want to be
the boy that was a weirdo,
Just 'That kid with OCD .'
But people came to notice
little signs that served to tell.
They all became an expert
"I've got OCD as well!"
"I always put my books in line
so neatly on the shelf.
My husband says that I'm
a little bit OCD myself!"
"Take away his Xbox
if he keeps on being late.
Ground him for a week and he'll soon
Realise his mistake."
"Tell him to snap out of it.
You have to make him see.
Nip it in the bud,
we're all a wee bit OCD."My boy can not eat or sleep
or concentrate at school.
A little bit OCD maybe
But at least he's not a fool!
Speaking for myself as a parent of a teen with OCD, I think that the worst thing is the fear of what lies in store for him.
I imagine a string of failed relationships and lost jobs, and at best a lonely old age.
When I realised the severity of John’s OCD I desperately researched the condition. Hours of trawling the web and thumbing through OCD charity magazines did nothing to abate my fears. I read inspirational and heart rending stories of noble and broken parents swimming, walking or climbing to raise money in memory of their child lost to OCD. I encountered more and more horror stories of suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism/liver damage cutting short the lives of young adults as they struggled and failed to survive their OCD. I cannot describe the hollow feeling as the realization hit me that if we did not find help and fast,the prognosis could be fatal.
Educate the Educators
Our experience of endeavouring to give the school system
a basic understanding of OCD has been very frustrating.
Johns last year at school caused him such anxiety that
panic attacks on days when he had tutors who were
particularly obtuse to his situation meant that his
attendance fell considerably.
Teachers noticed something was wrong when the quiet,
helpful boy became argumentative and difficult.
One teacher told me she could hardly believe it
was the same boy. At first I did not realise this
was connected to John's OCD, which he tried to
conceal and I thought consisted of just a few odd
habits at that time. His grades began to slip.
When it became obvious that his condition had worsened
the penny dropped.He was arguing with teachers because
he could not tell them why he did not want to move seat,
why he could not pick up his pen, why he kept looking
over his shoulder, why he refused to remove his jacket.
He was frequently late due to lack of sleep and lengthy
rituals. A dislike of pencil cases for hygiene reasons
meant that he often lacked the necessary equipment and
vast amounts of time were spent in detention or internal
The injustice made him angry.
For My first meeting with his head of year I armed
myself with a short printout from the OCD
international web site which briefly explained the
condition. I included some links in case further
information was needed and I typed out a short
summery of how Johns particular compulsions might
affect school life. Sympathetic noises were made
and I was assured that a memo would be circulated
among staff and the required allowances made.
I was also assured complete confidentiality
in respect to his peers.
Three days later John was put in internal exclusion
for being low level disruptive. In class he had asked to
leave the room to wash his hands. The teacher refused his
request and told him to get on with his work. John became
agitated. He could not pick up his pen until he had washed
his hand. He argued his point, unable to mention OCD in
front of his classmates and the teacher shouted at him to
do his work.The situation escalated and he was punished.
This time I met with the deputy head. Was the memo not
circulated or were staff ignoring it? I furnished him
with all the information given to his colleague and
waited for the explanation.
"If john could not pick up his pen in that lesson, how
was he able to use the computer in the next one?"
I could have cried. I was wasting my breath.
I appreciate it is a difficult condition to understand
as it is different for everyone, but the tone was that he
suspected that John was a liar.
A catalogue of disasters followed. Johns coat was confiscated
causing him so much distress he had to be sent home.
He was sent to the office for a pen, was challenged about why
he was not in class and ended up surrounded by five staff
members shouting at him in a corridor with a girlfriend
looking on. He asked to speak with a staff member who knew
about his condition and was refused permission. Again he
became so distressed he had to be sent home.
The icing on the cake came when a teacher burst into his
class and announced loudly to another tutor that John
had asked her not to lose her temper with him as he had OCD!
Now his classmates knew. So much for confidentiality!
In conclusion, despite numerous meetings with teachers ,
lack of understanding and an unwillingness to take the
condition seriously prevailed. They tried to make
politically correct noises but remained largely unhelpful.I can't help thinking that had John's disability been
visual he would have been presented with all kinds of aids
to help him. As it is he had to struggle alone against
It is too late for him now. His school days are behind him,
but if schools could be educated to understand the disorder,
life might be easier for the next child with OCD that
passes through their gates.
I just read this list designed to help teachers to
recognize when a child has OCD. I cried. It is
describing John precisely.
No one believed him.
No one helped him.
I can't help but wonder if his disability had been
of a visual nature, if staff would have dared
to ignore it.
On a good day the way he moves is a natural to him as
breathing in and out. The quarter turn of the bottle
between each splash of juice poured. The one, two,
three, four bangs of the fridge door without breaking
his stride in the story he is telling me .But I don't hear
him. All I can think about is what he is doing.
He places the plate in the microwave, one, two, three,
four times closing the door. He turns on his axis ,full
circle before putting his plate on the counter.
Without losing eye contact with me he continues the
conversation ,whilst sliding the plate along the surface
and off the edge, not breaking contact until the last moment.But today is a good day. At least he is chatty and in reasonable
spirits. At least he's eating! I am always grateful for days like
these.As he adjusts himself on the dining chair until it feels just right.
I ask him how his day at school was. "Alright"." Tell me what you did today ." I press.The beginnings of some agitation now. I've pushed too far. "You know I can't" . He looks at his burger and I can sense
the inward squirm. " I just don't get why you can't talk to me about what you've
been doing"Pause." It's an OCD thing mum". I leave it at that and quickly switch to small talk about some
TV programme so as not to turn around his good day.
He doesn't want to talk about it. He wants to be like other
teenagers and forget his torments. This is as near
to forgetting as he gets. So we talk and laugh for a little
while about past holidays, the dog, Rhod Gilbert and other
things of no consequence. For now he seems happy and
that's enough for both of us.I wonder to myself when it was that a pleasant, relaxed
conversation with my only son became something to be
elated about. I feel almost giddy. I suppose most families
take this kind of thing for granted. I know I did when my girls were young. Recently it seems that life has taught me to
appreciate the little things, or rather to realise that what
I used to view as a little thing is actually a huge blessing.