O.C.D. – Conquering the Dragon

It’s been a while. John is 21 now. The last couple of years have taken us on a nail biting, tear jerking ride, but he currently has his O.C.D. on the ropes. That is not to say that it isn’t fighting back with the usual unwavering determination, but John is winning this round. Good times. We have learned to embrace them when they come.

If you have followed his story, you will know that John’s last school years were challenging. The quiet, bright boy suddenly became a problem student as his O.C.D. worsened. He would refuse to pick up his pen, to do PE, or move seats when asked, and preferred to appear confrontational rather than explain the real reason he could not comply. Most of his teachers were unsympathetic and unswerving, even after we met with them several times to explain his condition. School became a bear pit he was reluctant to enter. John’s grades and attendance slipped. His dreams of becoming an architect were replaced by anxiety and depression.

Leaving school with disappointing results, John went to college to study construction.  He thrived in this new study environment, where tutors were more understanding and prepared to accept the constraints of his condition. Working his way up through the BTEC levels with outstanding results, John hit a stumbling block half way through his two year Level 3 BTEC course when the compulsions and insomnia caused his timekeeping and attendance to slip. The thought of arriving late made him anxious, so he would call in sick. Frustration at missing classes made him depressed. One day ran into another until so long had passed that the thought of going back and having to explain himself was just a bridge too far. His ambitions seemed thwarted once again.

When the new academic year began, John, (who refuses to discuss his OCD, even with family and friends), went into college and met with his old tutors. With enormous courage, and unsure what the outcome would be, he explained the reason he had dropped out, expressed his commitment to the subject, and asked to be given another chance. He was told he could not jump in where he left off in year two, but was allowed to re-start the course from the beginning. Despite all the obstacles, John was wrestling with the dragon and was back on track.

After two years of perseverance and hard graft, John passed his course with distinctions across the board, and was even commended for helping his colleagues to succeed. He was nominated by Llandrillo College and received the award for outstanding achievement in his subject.

The following September (2017) John was accepted to read architecture at The University of the West of England in Bristol, and to date he is excelling and enjoying the journey. Who can say what life holds in store, but I am so proud of him for conquering the struggle each new day brings.

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A Little bit OCD – a poem

"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!

Jane Drew

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My perfect son.

Image

In John’s early teens when he and I  suspected OCD and the rest of the world were either oblivious or in denial, John tried to combat the condition himself (without the stigma of having a label slapped on him by the medical profession)

For my part I hoped that if we ignored it, it would go away. Perhaps he would grow out of it? I wondered if acknowledging it’s existence might somehow justify the rituals and discourage John from trying to suppress them. I wonder still if time alone with OCD allows the sufferer to indulge what should be resisted. We were both naive, however, and underestimated the OCD grip!

The rituals and compulsions multiplied and became more severe with time. The realisation that this was not going to go away hung like a black cloud.

Now, years on in the midst of the battle I am still regularly fooled into thinking that all is well. Each time John has a few ‘good’ days (not to say that he is ever OCD free, but sometimes in good spirits, functioning well, sleeping, eating with only moderate compulsions), I am euphoric and find myself acting as if he is well. Perhaps he is cured? Perhaps it was all a dream and he never had it at all?!      I fall for it every time!

When the meltdown comes it devastates me anew.

I relive the heartbreaking realisation that my son is not perfect. That life will probably always be hard for him, but you know what?….

…….I am proud of him, at 16 he is already his own man despite his difficulties, he is perfect !

Understanding OCD

The horror of discovering that my boy had OCD made me frantic to understand it. Know thine enemy.

As time has passed I have had to come to terms with the knowledge that I never really will. It is a changing beast that is not only individual to the person, but it morphs and evolves.

We have to try to understand up to a point. Then we reach the edge of the cliff looking out into a darkness through which we cannot pass, and we know our child is out there alone.

http://www.ocduk.org/understanding-ocd-video

Fearing the Future

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.

This is why I am passionate about seeing a change in the speed in which youngsters are treated, the quality of their care and the way in which the education system treats them.

I am hopeful for John now as he begins his ERP therapy, but I will never forget that feeling and am very aware that other parents out there are also fearing and fighting for the future. 

Not what defines him.

He is a loving son and a reasonable cook.

He is a excellent shot and a good strategist.

He is a thoughtful boyfriend and a true friend.

He is a team player yet has strong opinions.

He is good at construction and design.

He loves interesting music, even if it is old.

He doesn’t read much.

He  likes a good film. He is  the class clown.

He is kind to animals and interested in natural history.

He is  above average intelligence and enjoys keeping fit.

His life is laid out before him and the opportunities are endless.

OCD is not what defines him.

Look again.

There is more to him than that.