Hi. You know me as Blake. My mom’s been writing this blog about OCD and our family’s experience for a while now. So for OCD Awareness Week I volunteered to do an “Ask Me Anything” post. I’m sixteen and have known about my OCD since I was seven. I’ve had OCD regarding contamination, scrupulosity (moral concerns), just-right OCD (needing to do something until it felt just right), and general anxiety. I have been through Exposure and Response Prevention therapy multiple times, as well as going to traditional talk therapy. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section for me to answer. I’ll reply until Friday. So as the title says, ask me anything about living with OCD.
It’s OCD Awareness Week. As I’ve pondered how to mark the week on my own blog, after reading Ellen’s touching post, I could find no better way.
Dear 14 year old self,
You’re about to start therapy. Something you’re not too sure about just yet, but trust me, it’s going to be one of the most valuable experiences you will ever go through. OCD’s being a pain in the ass right? At this point, you don’t really know what makes your OCD ‘tick’. All you know is that you despise what it has done to you, robbing you of your independence and ability to function and wishing you could eradicate it from your life in an instant.
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I stumble out of bed, take a quick shower, and make my way down the hallway. I knock on the door. I wait. No answer. I open the bedroom door and peek at the sleeping teen in the bed. I glance at the clock. 7:23 am.
“Blake. Wake up,” I call.
No movement. Today is the same as everyday. No reply to the knock. No response to the name uttered. I sit on the side of the bed. I talk. I tickle. I finally count to three and hoist my sixteen-year-old into a sitting position. He’s semi-conscious and he continues to try to sleep while sitting up. I talk for a few minutes more. I chatter to the cat, who has come to inspect us and the room. He jumps on the bed. This is his morning routine, too. He comes to wake his boy, as well.
Finally, I I tell the teen that he must get out of bed now. Slowly, ever so slowly, he raises himself off the mattress, uttering a closed-eye prayer under his breath as he does, and walks into the bathroom. I leave – for the moment.
This may sound familiar to many. The teen who just wants to sleep in. Wait. Read on. Then, we’ll see…
Will He Ever Make It Downstairs?
Five minutes later, I pad down the hallway again. I knock on the door. No answer. I peek inside. The body is back under the covers, deep asleep once again.
“Blake. Blake! Get into the shower.”
He looks at me, a bit confused, and he rises from the bed, walks into the bathroom, and slowly shuts the door. I go back to my room to put on some makeup. I’m back at Blake’s door within ten minutes. I knock. No answer. I open the door. Blake is asleep again. His sheets are blotched with water. He’s showered and, soaking wet, gotten straight back into bed. I’m frustrated.
“What?” He bolts upright, stunned by the loudness of my voice.
“Get dressed – NOW.”
Five minutes later, I’m back at the door once more. I knock, yet again. No answer. I open the door. Blake is in his underwear, asleep on the bedroom floor.
“Put on some clothes. I’m going to stand outside the door.”
I close the door.
“Are you up? Are you putting clothes on?”
“Yes,” comes the answer from inside the room.
“Okay, I’m going to keep standing here and talking to you until you are ready.”
Finally!…Or, Maybe Not
I chatter on with him from outside the door, directing him to keep dressing, until he finally emerges from the room. We make our way downstairs. I begin to take care of our menagerie of pets – feed the dogs, clean the turtles’ water dish. I walk in and out of the kitchen, where Blake is supposed to be eating breakfast, saying his morning prayers, and starting his school work for the day. Each time I leave the room, Blake has begun part of a task. I return a few minutes later only to find him asleep once again.
“Blake. No sleeping. Get off the sofa and back to your routine.”
“Blake get off the floor. Wake up.”
“Blake, you’re not studying if your eyes are closed. Blake?”
I give up on getting anything done but the basics. I stay close by to keep my son awake. He looks miserable. He tells me he feels like he’s flown to a foreign country and that he’s struggling to stay awake so that he can adjust to the new time zone. Time and time again, I wake him. I send him outside for a walk around the neighborhood. He comes back and starts do work again. Within minutes he is asleep with his head in a book. Frustrated, I wake him yet again.
We go on like this day after day. I’m exhausted because, at the other end of the day, Blake can’t (or won’t) go to sleep. The hubby and I keep going into his room telling him to turn the light out. But he doesn’t want tomorrow to come. He doesn’t want another day like today was, so he drags it on and on, never comprehending that he is digging himself deeper and deeper into this hole. He doesn’t listen to our words, or the words of his doctors who tell him that he must sleep. And so, I stay awake at night, continually cajoling him to turn the light out. I cannot rest until I know that he’s finally turned it off. If I don’t stay on it, it will go on until 2 or 3 am – as if 12:30 a.m. wasn’t late enough.
I rearrange my schedule. I do my best not to have to leave the house before noon. It’s worse if I leave the house in the morning. I can leave what seems like a fully awake young man studying or feeding the dogs only to return to find him fast asleep on the kitchen floor or the family room couch.
At first, my hubby and I think we are dealing with defiance. Maybe we are. We are also dealing with profound depression. Blake does not see anything positive in this life. He sees nothing but the dreariness of schoolwork day after day. Other teens don’t interest him. He cannot imagine the future being any better. There is nothing he wants to do. The possibility of college sounds like continued torture. He escapes into the world of YouTube. He cries, he yells, and he stomps out of the room a lot. He threatens to run away.
“Put away the knives,” Michael advises me before he leaves for college.
We need more help, I realize. We definitely need more help. Will we even be able to do it here at home? Are we looking at hospitalization? Residential placement?
The final straw happens one day when the hubby and I have a commitment to get to. We will be away for six hours. Blake is up, into the full swing of his morning routine. We feed the animals and let the dogs out into the back yard. As we leave, we ask Blake to let the dogs back inside in a few minutes. He agrees and we go off to our appointment. The temperature soars to 103 degrees. When we arrive home, I learn that Blake fell back asleep on the floor for five hours while the dogs scratched repeatedly to come inside. He never heard a thing. I realize how serious the situation is. I cannot leave my sixteen-year-old alone in the morning. And I can’t do this alone. I call my friend – a mental health professional with lots of experience with kids with serious emotional issues – and I cry, really cry, for the first time in a long time. She props me back up and puts me on the road to action. I am not alone.
My poor blog. It has been months since I’ve posted. Three months. Where did the time go? Really. Where did it go? I’ve been meaning to get back on and post for some time now, but I just could not drag myself to do it. I’ve been too tired. Too overwhelmed. I’ve been avoiding writing.
For a while I told myself that I just didn’t have anything new to write. I told myself that we were really not dealing with much that was OCD, so what was the point in posting on a blog that’s about OCD? I told myself we were dealing with typical teenage struggles – and we were, but we have been dealing with so much more.
The truth is, over the last several months our family was preparing for Michael to leave home. A little over one month ago, he moved completely across the country to begin college. The hubby was a wreck. He cried and cried. Two days before Michael moved, we went through his book collection to see what could be donated or handed down. We found Good Night Moon. Michael lay in his father’s arms on his bed while I read it aloud and the two of them sobbed. I, on the other hand, am apparently made of steel. Other than an achy hole in my gut, I haven’t broken down. That’s because I know he’s happy where he is. Sometimes, I do want one of his amazing hugs, and I am counting the days until we get to see him over Family Weekend.
While things with Michael were looking up, Blake was spiraling deeper and deeper into a hole. I hope to share more specifics in the weeks to come; however, what happened, in a nutshell, is that Blake became deeply, disturbingly depressed. OCD became less of an issue because depression had taken over. As summer progressed, Blake began to have a tougher and tougher time with the basics of daily living. My mornings were filled with simply pushing and prodding him through the basic routine: get out of bed, brush your teeth, put on clothes, eat breakfast, take your medicine, and stay awake. Stay awake!!
I was so completely immersed in the situation that it wasn’t until I was nearly ready to collapse from exhaustion that I recognized how bad the situation was. Blake’s sleep schedule was completely derailed, he couldn’t get out of bed or stay awake in the morning, and he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go to sleep at night. He didn’t want to see any friends. He didn’t want to leave the house. All he wanted to do, it seemed, was argue with my husband and I (and sit on the computer, lost in YouTube videos). All my hubby’s and my time alone together was taken up talking about what we were going to do about Blake. It was tiresome business.
It is not unusual for depression to enter the picture when a teen has OCD. Blake’s psychiatrist has been suitably concerned and has made some changes. When I questioned some of the changes we were making, he advised me that we are working to prevent a hospitalization or a placement in a more restrictive academic setting. So, we’ve implemented some medication changes and we are working on some big changes around the house. I also hope to share more about that in the time to come.
Before he left for college, I caught myself looking at Michael during some of the most tumultuous moments. I kept thinking that somewhere inside of him he must be worried about leaving at the time his family was experiencing bursts of upheaval.
“We are going to be okay,” I found myself saying to him. Go to school. Get out there and live. We’ve got this. We’ll get through it.
As I sit here writing this evening, it is only because we’ve had some improvements in the past week that I can actually gather my thoughts and write. We are going to be okay. We just have to face some new challenges and hone our coping tools. We’ll get through this.