The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's baaaaack

I feel so helpless right now. This has been such a bad, bad day. I am a wreck.

Vinny has OCD. I started writing about this at the beginning of this year when Vinny's anxiety was out of control and running our life. In January, I wrote, "The tension in this house is so thick you can practically smell it."  I was sick of walking on egg shells. I was sick of the anxiety attacks. Five-year-olds should not have anxiety attacks. We found Vinny a therapist. I didn't feel a perfect connection like I had hoped I would, and she was kind of far, but I had trouble finding someone with availability who also takes our insurance. Although the twenty minute commute and the overall process of it all frustrated me, we made progress. She worked with Vinny, but she also worked with Marc and I to understand our role in all of this. It turns out that helping him with his irrational desires (i.e. retightening his belt, closing a bag extra tight, holding his hand through a sweatshirt) was actually more damaging than good. It reinforced his mindset that this was okay.

Through therapy, we grew to understand that OCD is so much like an addiction. It is a slippery, slippery slope. There is such a huge snowball effect to the compulsions. Our therapist kept emphasizing that compulsions have to be stopped cold turkey. This was really confusing to me at first, especially since we were trying to tackle Vinny's irrational behaviors one at a time. How can something be so slow, but cold turkey, all at once?  Well, it eventually made sense, but it is not easy.

Let me explain as best as I can. When a person with OCD is obsessing about something, they think about it constantly, and they feel this urge to act on it. The experience great anxiety. In their minds, they think, "If I can just (compulsive action), I will feel better." They think that acting on it will make them feel better... and it does for the moment. But it also has an effect on the brain. It somehow reinforces the irrational feeling that the compulsions

Over several months, we were able to conquer some of the larger compulsions in Vinny's life, and as we got through the regular compulsions, the little irregularities started to disappear too. The anxiety attacks were fewer and far between.

Around Easter, we conquered the biggest of Vinny's complusions: his bedroom door. He had an obsession with closing it. It needed to be closed all the time, and closed just right, and huge anxiety attacks would ensue if he didn't get to close it multiple times and make it feel like he wanted it to feel. It took threats of removing his door altogether, but he eventually got used to leaving it open. Once we scaled this proverbial mountain, it was all downhill from there. By May, Vinny exhibited no symptoms and was overall happy. We all agreed (Marc and I, Vinny, and his therapist) that therapy was no longer necessary, which was a relief. She said it might have just been a rough time in his life, maybe just part of fully recovering from PANDAS, or it could just be that he is in a good mental place right now. He could flare up again, and she would of course be there if it did.

It has.

Ever since Vinny got out of school, symptoms have been creeping back. He has been giving in to his obsessions and compulsions again. He completely lost his head over a missing drumstick last weekend. Yesterday, he spent half the day begging for us to give him his bathing suit to put away in his drawer. It was wet and drying in the bathroom, so Marc said no. Vinny wouldn't let it go, and the last thing he said before bed was, "Can I have my bathing suit back first thing in the morning?"  It gave me such an ominous feeling. I knew it was a bad sign. This morning, he started begging me to close his bedroom door. He had no good reason to, so I said no, but he begged and begged. The pleading in his voice was very upsetting. A bit later, we were all playing in his room, and I was blowing bubbles for Tiana. Eventually, I said, "Okay, it's time to get dressed," and I closed the bubbles and put them back on his shelf. He said, "Give them back to me, I want to close them." I looked at him and said, "No, they are already closed, and you don't need to close them again." He jumped up to get them. I grabbed him and held him and reminded him that this is not something good and that it will make him feel worse. He said okay and agreed to get dressed. I let him close his door to get dressed, as that is an agreement we have. I waited a minute and went to get Tiana dressed, but then I realized I hadn't heard his closet door open. I swung open his bedroom door and caught him red-handed. He was just about to grab the bubbles.

He looked at me and jumped back away from the shelf saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." We sat down together, and I talked about his feelings and he admitted that when he wants to do stuff like close his bubbles, he just feels bad, and I tried to remind him that closing them might make him feel better for a minute, but it will make him feel worse in the long run. He cried. I held him close and held back tears.

We eventually were ready for church, despite Tiana's refusal to wear shoes, but as we attempted to head out, I realized that my keys were missing. Vinny did a fantastic job of helping me frantically search the entire house. He asked, "If I find them before you, will you give me a dollar?"  I of course agreed.

I never found the keys. Neither did Vinny. When he started crying that he didn't want to miss Sunday school, I called my mom to come bring him. She did. I continued to look, fruitlessly. It turned out my keys were in Marc's car. Such typical me behavior.

Yuck. What a yucky day.

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