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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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.

On a good day…

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.