Dear 14 Year Old Self #OCDWeek

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.

Ellen's OCD Blog

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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A Liebster Award!

liebster-award3[1]This morning I awoke to a very nice surprise.  Mrs. Stone at Pebbles On The Road had nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Now, I’ve seen these Liebster Awards on other blogs I read, and I’d wondered about them.  How cool to have this recognition and learn more about it.  Thank you very much, Mrs. Stone!!  I am humbled.  Now it is my turn to share a bit about this award and to nominate others.

Here is what I have learned about the Liebster. The Liebster Blog Award is one given to newer bloggers who have who have less than 200 followers for their blog (yep, that’s me!).  It is a way of showcasing newer blogs/bloggers to the blogging community.  Once you receive the award, you can either accept it or opt out of participating.  I’m opting in!!!  That means I get to nominate other blogs, answer some questions about me, and ask some questions of those I nominate.  Hooray!

Before I go on too far, I have the responsibility to post the Liebster Award Unofficial Rules.

The Unofficial Rules For The Liebster Award

1.  Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.  Once again, Mrs. Stone, thank you so very much for this award.  Check out Mrs. Stone’s blog, Pebbles on the Road, a witty, humorous look at the bumps and boulders on the road of life.

2.  Display the award on your blog!  Done!

3.  Answer 11 questions about yourself, provided by the blogger who nominated you.  See below.

4.  Provide 11 random facts about yourself.  Again, see below.

5.  Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers that you feel deserve the award. Okay, going to do my best here.  There are so many wonderful blogs.

6.  Create a new list of questions for your nominees.  Let’s see if I can get creative.

7.  Post these rules on your blog.  Done!

8.  Tag your nominees and let them know with a link to your post.

 

My Answers to Mrs. Stone’s Questions

1.  Why did you decide to start blogging?  Well, originally I found myself writing about our experiences whenever I struggled with something regarding Blake’s OCD.  It was therapeutic, and a way to put down into words what was going on in my head.  I occasionally shared my writings with a few close people and they seemed touched by them.  I wondered if my words could be helpful to others, or if others were going through something similar.   I also wondered what it would be like to track our journey over time. Hence, the blog was born.

2. How did you come up with the name for your blog?  Honestly, that was no easy task.  I went round and round for months before I settled on something that worked for me.  OCD In The Family finally percolated up to the top because that’s what our family is dealing with – living with OCD in our midst (Hmmm…maybe I could have named it, “OCD In Our Midst”).

3.  What inspires you to write a blog post?  Sometimes I write because I am overwhelmed with emotions and I need somewhere to put them.  Other times, an issue or comment makes me feel like I need to say something.  Occasionally, my hubby or Michael says, “You should write about that.”

4.  Do you use an off-line editor for composing your blog posts, and if so, which one and why?  Okay, going to sound dumb here:  What’s an off-line editor?  So the answer is, no, I don’t use one.

5.  If you could cure any disease what would it be?  Can’t I cure them all?  Right now I’d like to cure all auto-immune diseases because my mom is really suffering from one and no one can seem to figure out what to do.  Her suffering is just unfair.

6.  What is your favorite thing to do when you have free time?  I can’t decide if I like to eat or to cook more!

7.  Using 10 words or less, how would you describe yourself?  Sensitive, inquisitive, caring, (too) serious, emotional, funny, driven, conscientious. Don’t I sound like a barrel full of fun?

8.  If your life were made into a movie, who would play you in the film and why?  Julianna Margulies.  Why?  Because she rocks the curly or straight look and I like to pretend that I look like her.  And she’s a pretty amazing actress!

9.  How would your life change if you were to win the lottery?  So, I don’t play the lottery because I rarely win anything.  I once tried to play the nickel slot machines in Las Vegas and I was so angry when I lost my roll of nickels!!!

10.  Miracle Whip or real mayonnaise?  Miracle whip – light.

11.  Paper or plastic?  I carry my own bags around with me.

11 Random Facts About Me

1.  I cry when I hear people sing live.

2.  I love old china teacups!  My grandmother got me into it.  Now I can’t stop collecting!

3.  I have two turtles as pets and one day I imagine having a whole bunch of turtles and tortoises in my yard.

4.  One of the most spiritual moments of my life was when I came face-to-face with a green sea turtle while snorkeling.  It was like time stopped.

5.  I’m a sucker for murder mystery novels.

6.  One day I want to travel by ship down the east cost of South America and get all the way to Antarctica on an ice breaker!

7.  My favorite comfort food is macaroni and ketchup!  Sounds silly, right?  Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid.  I don’t know where it came from, but now it’s my go-to when I’m needing a little nurturing.

8.  When I was little I kept a dollhouse in my bedroom in hopes that a family of little people would move in.  I’m still waiting…

9.  Blake is made of Junior Mints.  I craved ’em when I was pregnant with him.

10.  Michael is made of tacos and bean burritos!

11.  I’d love to sing in a choir, but I’ve never had the guts to audition.

My Turn To Nominate

1.  International OCD Foundation BlogI have no idea why this blog has less than 200 followers.  It should have a million followers!  This blog highlights the latest that is up with the International OCD Foundation, an organization that truly is there for people with OCD, their friends and family, and clinicians and researchers, alike!

2.  Ellen’s OCD BlogEllen is fifteen.  Fifteen!  She is a gifted writer who shares her own experiences of having OCD while being an activist who brings awareness to the cause.  I appreciate her ability to share openly an honestly, as well as her determination not to give up in the face of this disorder.

3.  My Twice Baked PotatoKelly is an elementary school teacher and a mom to a twice-exceptional young man.  I appreciate her honesty and her steadfast commitment to her own son and to the needs of families with gifted and special needs children.

4.  Dreams to be Anxiety Free:  Emily provides a true service by sharing what it is really like to live with OCD.  She has an amazing grasp on OCD and what it takes to get better.  I am constantly touched by her wisdom.

Wow, I just realized how difficult it is to nominate 11 blogs.  I read lots of other wonderful blogs, but in looking at them, they have more than 200 followers.  So, I leave you with this small, but mighty, list.

Questions For My Nominees

1.  What prompted you to start blogging?

2.  Do you have a favorite post you’ve written (and, if so, link us to it)?

3.  If there was one thing that you could change in your past, what would it be?

4.  What is the one “takeaway” you’d like readers to get from reading your blog?

5.  Share a funny moment.

6.  Who, or what, inspires you?

7.  If a movie were made about your blog, who would star in it?

8.  Dark or milk chocolate?

9.  If you spent a week in outer space, what would you take with you?

10.  What’s your favorite non-blogging hobby?

11.  A long lost aunt leaves you a large sum of money.  What do you do with it?

Cheers all!  And thank you again, Mrs. Stone!!

Another Perspective

Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Photokanok at Freedigitalphotos.net

We have been traveling for nearly two weeks.  Our whole family.  Far, far from home.  We are with a tour group.  Most of these people we have never met before.  They do not know our stories, and we do not know theirs.  We are all getting to know each other as we travel from place to place and cling to one another as something familiar, something from home, in this land that is foreign to us all.

One thing almost nobody on this trip knows is that Blake has OCD.  They do not know that one way it shows itself  is in scrupulosity and that he repeats prayers over and over because that last one didn’t feel “quite right” or that he frequently worries that his actions may offend God.  Since they don’t know, their reaction to him has been interesting to me, even refreshing for my own perspective.

Let me say that is has escaped no one on this trip that Blake is a religious young man.  However, since our group is more than forty people, it doesn’t stand out to everyone that he repeats or overdoes. Most only recognize him as religious.  So, instead of the angst we experience at home with his practice, I simply keep hearing words of praise.

“Blake is such a dedicated young man at such a young age,” one woman tells me.

“Blake, you impress me with your commitment to your religion,” another tells him.

“He is so smart and he knows so much about religion,” another traveler who has been enjoying conversation with Blake remarks.  “Do you think he’ll become a religious scholar?”

There are times when I might have wanted to correct these people’s perceptions.  I might have wanted to adjust their viewpoint by letting them know that, yes, it is lovely that he is so dedicated, but that they didn’t know the downside – the fear and anxiety that came along with it.  I have opted against that on this journey.  First, Blake (and the rest of our family) deserves whatever privacy he can get.  It is his personal life and I’d rather the fact that he has OCD only be shared if he wants to share it.  Second, it has actually been a perspective changing experience to listen to people glow with compliments about my almost 15-year-old son and to just sit with them, soak them in.

It is this second thing that has created some very positive and appreciative feelings in me.  Often, I sit in angst about Blake’s OCD.  Instead, over this vacation I’ve been able to see my son through another lens.  I’ve been able to see what others see when they look at him and interact with him.  I’ve been able to appreciate myself what a special young man he is.

Yes, of course he has his challenges and those are his to deal with, but, for this time, I am enjoying hearing others praise him.  I am enjoying seeing him take in that praise.  I am grateful he is having the opportunity to be appreciated by others without having “OCD” hanging over his head.  More importantly, I am reminded that there are wonderful, non-OCD parts of his religious observance, and he deserves to enjoy those.

The Bathroom Reader

IMG_1935[1]Blake has been enamored lately with a book called “Uncle John’s Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader,” by the Bathroom Readers Institute.  According to the description on Amazon, “This behemoth of a book is overflowing with the incredible stories, surprising facts, weird news, little-known origins, forgotten history, fun wordplay, and everything else that millions of loyal fans have come to expect from world’s best-selling bathroom reading series.”  I don’t know if Blake actually reads it in the bathroom (probably not), but he loves the stories in it and he delights in telling us tidbits and reading us passages he finds particularly interesting.

Recently, he wandered into the kitchen to tell me about an attraction he had learned about from the book.  It’s a thrill ride/experience at the Zero Gravity Thrill Park in Houston, Texas.  The ride, Nothing But Net, apparently simulates falling off a cliff.  They take you to the top of a 16 story structure and send you falling – backward – into a net 130 feet below.

After filling me in on the details, he tells me, “I’m terrified of that, but I totally want to do it, too.”

Okay, this is the kid who we couldn’t get to go on the “Winnie the Pooh” ride at Disneyland or the kiddie coaster at any amusement park.  Granted, he did work his way out of that, but, really, now he wants to fall 130 feet backward?

Blake goes on to read to me, “Dr. David Eagleman, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, used the attraction in a study on how the brain perceives time during moments of panic and terror.”

Panic and terror – these are things that a person with OCD generally seeks to avoid with their rituals.  My boy, however, is considering throwing himself right into those.  While it’s not something I particularly would like to do, I hope he has the opportunity to do it sometime.  In fact, I wish for him to find lots of ways to challenge his fears.  Every one moves him closer and closer to freedom from OCD.

Teachers Who Want To Help

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at freedigitalphotos.net

Today I was invited to speak to the teachers and staff of our high school district’s home school program.  A few years back, our local school district recognized the need to offer a high quality home school experience as an alternative to the traditional schools in our community.  The program has become quite popular and has grown in each year of it’s young existence.

The topic I presented on was Managing Anxiety in the Classroom.  Apparently (and, perhaps, not surprisingly) a good number of kids and teens with anxiety disorders are attracted to home school programs.  The teachers, all of whom had been traditional classroom teachers before becoming part of this program, were finding themselves unprepared to deal with what their students were presenting.  How does one deal with a student who cannot stop writing and re-writing?  Or how about one who cannot stop asking for reassurance?

Wanting to know how to help their students, the teachers called in reinforcements.  They asked for information and their administration made time for them to get it.

What an amazing experience this was to swap personal stories of anxiety and to laugh at our own fears.  The incredible amounts of empathy and concern I experienced from this group today makes me believe that their students are blessed to be in this program with them.  Above all, I am incredibly impressed that these teachers recognized that they needed help in order to reach their students, and that their administration had the foresight to support them in getting it.

My hat is off to the schools that treat child anxiety and helping anxious students as something that is worth their attention!

Giving Thanks for Teachers Who Make a Difference

Image courtesy of photomyheart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of photomyheart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m parked in front of Blake’s high school waiting for the kids to be dismissed and I’m talking on my phone to a friend whose son just finished military boot camp.  She is jubilant about how well he is doing.  As we talk, most of the kids stream out of school.  I haven’t seen Blake yet, which is working out well, since my friend has so much to share. Finally, I see him head out of the building and toward the car.  As he gets closer, I can see that his face is blotchy red from crying.  I wait for my friend to pause for a breath in her story and I abruptly tell her that I’ve got to go.

“Hi Blake.  What’s going on, sweetheart?  You look like you’ve been crying.”

“I stayed after to talk to Mr. S,” he says.

A silent alarm goes off in my brain.  Mr. S is the history teacher I mentioned in my post “OCD and Misdiagnosis.”  He’s the one who thought Blake might be autistic.  I try not to sound overly worried.

“Oh, what about?” I ask.

“I finally went to him to talk about the problems I’ve been having with my friends.”

I wonder what the teacher’s response was.  I have mentioned before that Blake is struggling socially at school.  To make matters worse, the guys who are supposed to be his friends have been telling him to “shut up” or to “go away,” and they’ve been talking in front of him about a laser tag birthday party they are all going to that he was clearly not invited to.  To be fair to these kids, it could be that they are just being teenage boys.  To Blake, however, it makes no sense to tell someone who is your friend to “shut up,” even if it’s just in jest, and especially if that person keeps asking you to stop.

“So, what did he say?” I ask him.

“He said he’s going to help me.”

“So, how come you were crying?  Did he say something that made you cry?  Did he say something that made you feel at fault for what’s going on?”  The Momma Bear in me is showing.  I don’t want anybody saying anything hurtful to my son.

“I really want to keep it just between me and Mr. S for right now, Mom.  What he said…it made me feel supported.”

The tears stream down his face as he says this to me and I realize that my son has felt touched by this teacher’s show of support for him.  He feels accepted.

Dr. Tamar Chansky, author of “Freeing Your Child From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” says, “It takes just one understanding teacher to make it
possible for a child struggling with OCD to feel understood. That sense of
safety and acceptance can make the difference between a child attending and
thriving at school, or not.”

While Blake’s particular issue may not have directly been about OCD, OCD is part of the reason he struggles socially. It makes him distracted and sometimes, when he’s caught up in a ritual, it makes him look like the weird kid.

In keeping with the November and Thanksgiving spirit, I give thanks for Mr. S.  Thank you, Mr. S, for being one of those understanding teachers.  You made a difference for my boy, and I’m sure you make a difference for many more.

A Meeting In The Closet

IMG_1919[1]Like just about everyone else I’ve come across today, my internal clock is a little messed up from the time change we had over the weekend.  That extra hour of sleep on Sunday was terrific, but the darkness that sets in around 5 pm has me feeling eerie and off kilter.  My hubby is feeling the same.  Top that off with my working late tonight and we were scrambling to eat dinner at our regular time.  When dinner was finished, we did a quick clean up and we both couldn’t wait to get upstairs and to change out of our work clothes from the day.

We share one closet – a walk-in with two entry doors.  We each entered from our side and met in the middle.  It was a funny sort of encounter.  We rarely change from work at the same time, but since he put the finishing touches on dinner and I made it in the door just as dinner was getting on the table, here we now stood.  It was the first moment we’d had alone all day.

“Blake has been so argumentative tonight,” my husband started.  All alone in the closet after a long day, and this is what we are talking about.  Hubby doesn’t usually get to deal with the evening routine.  It is generally mine.  I make the meal; I coordinate the homework schedule; I deal with the problems of the day. And I watch Blake’s nightly OCD rituals.  I’ve gotten so good at trying not to pay attention to them that I’m almost not noticing them.  But to hubby, it was an eye opener.

“First, he argued about everything I asked him to do,” he told me.  “So I was rattled already frustrated about that and then he starts with the rituals.”

“Like what?” I ask.

“Well, he re-sets his place at the table.  He goes through the plates until he chooses a different one.  How does he decide which one to pick?”

“I have no idea,” I confess.  “I see him do it almost every night.  I don’t ask about it.”

“Then, he changes his placemat…”

“Yup.  I see him do that too,” I note.

“And the napkins.  He chooses a special napkin for himself – not the one on the end.”

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed that one.”  I’m mentally searching through my memory.  Nope.  How did I miss that one?  “I did notice that he got up several times during dinner say a prayer, though.”

“Oh, yes. I saw that too.   Do you think it’s the time change?” he asks me.

“Hmmm.  I don’t know.  I think he does most of that stuff most nights, but I let it go.”

My husband looks at me with a look that says, “Well, I guess we are in it for the long haul on this one.  I wonder where it is going to go to.

We are in a holding pattern.  Our hands are somewhat tied.  We’ve agreed that we will aren’t pointing out Blake’s OCD to him.  He had insisted that he could handle it on his own.  But now, my husband and I wonder if Blake even recognizes his own OCD symptoms.  We wonder how long it can go on and how far he will let it go until he finally tires of it and decides to get better.

“I love you, you wonderful guy,” I tell him with a hug.  He hugs me back warmly then chases the cat out of his side of the closet as he exits.  I exit out my side.  We pass Blake in the hallway, who is laughing at a You Tube video on the computer screen. Hubby stops to watch and I go downstairs to write.  We are done with OCD for the night.  🙂