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, April 7, 2013

Stiff Neck, OCD, and College Ministry - My Weekend in a Nutshell

I'd like to start off by saying that this blog is dedicated to my mother, whom I would be utterly miserable without. 

This was an interesting weekend.  Long.  You know all that stuff you hear about the physical effects of stress?  It is so true, and I wish I could just choose not to stress, but sometimes there just is no avoiding it.

Friday night, Marc and I spent hours working on my grading. He graded vocabulary homework and entered grades for hours, while I tackled the last of the essays I've bee trudging through for weeks.  Around midnight, exhausted from hours hunched over papers, we finally went to bed.

Those hours hunched over papers took a toll. I woke up Saturday morning feeling unable to move.  You know that feeling where, the second that you get out of bed you feel stiff and sore all over?  I felt it before I even got out of bed.  I woke up and went to roll over in bed for a little more sleep, and I couldn't roll as usual. My neck felt so stiff I had to try to roll my entire body in one slow, smooth motion to avoid any twisting. I laid there, contemplating getting out of bed, and could barely make myself do it. When I eventually did, every single robotic motion hurt. This happened to me last time I had grades due too.  The only difference is that last time, it happened literally THE DAY, grades were due.  It took me nearly two weeks to recover.

After several cups of coffee and many hours of cuddling with Tiana, I attempted to get up and grade papers or clean my house or something, but alas, all I could do was call my mom to complain.  In the process of complaining, my mom insisted that I take the pre-paid massage appointment that she had scheduled for that day.  I felt so guilty and refused until she absolutely insisted. 

Fortunately, this woman was amazing.  (If you need a really good massage therapist, ask me about her).  Within that hour, I regained some of the motion in my neck, which was fantastic. I was feeling good enough to actually enjoy my cousin's birthday last night, even if I did have to move my entire body to look at the people to my left and right.  I didn't feel completely better yesterday, and woke up a little sore again still today, but by this afternoon, I was feeling pretty much normal, which is AMAZING, considering the fact that last time this happened it wasn't nearly as bad and it took me about ten days to get back to normal feeling and range of motion.

Anyhow... moving on to the other elements of my interesting weekend -- 

For those who do not know, Vinny has OCD.  We have good days and bad days, but mostly we function alright. The saddest part of all is that even the months in therapy did not help us to overcome Vinny's super protectiveness of his bedroom.  It is his space and his sanctuary, and I respect that, but at the same time, the feelings of panic he gets really ruin things for him, and as his mom, I want to see him live life to its fullest, so that's hard.  Today, he was setting up his stuffed animals as an audience for his show. He is always putting on a show. Tiana says, "I want to be your body-ence!" but he shoved her out.  I tried to talk him into it, but he wigged out and was all upset simply because she was looking around his room at his stuff. You could tell that in his head he was afraid she might misplace something simply by thinking about touching it. I ended up putting her down for a nap and taking Vinny aside to talk.

We talked about how a lot of the things that he says to her when she goes in his room are really mean and hurtful and most importantly, how he is missing out on a really cool relationship that he could be having with his sister. He actually agreed. He compared it to an episode of a cartoon he watches, where a brother and sister used to share a room and then they fought and stopped sharing a room, but they ended up missing each other and wanted to share their room again. I said, "See, you could have to share a room with her, but you don't."

His reply?   "Actually, that might be kind of fun."

I was shocked at this openness, which he has never exhibited about his room, particularly not in regards to Tiana, so I decided to run with it.  I suggested that he and Tiana temporarily share a room so that he could see what it was like. He was thrilled with the idea, even though I insisted that he would need to let her just be herself and do what she wants and not follow her around grabbing everything she touches. He excitedly agreed, so we went about clearing a space for her. 

This change in attitude meant a great afternoon for the two of them. They played happily together all over the house and yard, two peas in a pod. He let her see his pet fish and play his keyboard and didn't bat an eye.  Okay, he probably batted an eye, but he let it be, and that was the goal.

Until bedtime tonight. Things were mostly okay, but the meltdowns started. I think it was the thought of him not being able to control her in there if he fell asleep before she did.

During the meltdown period, Marc was pretty upset. "Why are we doing this again?" 

It was hard to explain, but I was, in some ways, doing it FOR the meltdown.  I knew that sharing his space would mean that Tiana would disrupt his order and his routine, but he somewhat needs to experience these disruptions, and then see that nothing terrible happens. Before we went to therapy, we used to spend all of our time trying to meet Vinny's demands -- illogically zipping zippers that were already zipped and putting books back in the same exact spot as before -- but out therapist explained that this is terrible for someone with OCD because it reinforces this emotional sense they have that disaster will strike if they don't (fill in the blank).  By doing whatever it is that the OCD sufferer wants done, you actually reinforce the thought that something bad would have happened if it hadn't been done, which makes the urge that much stronger the next time. If I can just get Vinny to see that nothing terrible will happen if Tiana touches his stuff or disrupts his routine, then he will hopefully learn to relax and allow himself to enjoy her company as much as I can tell that he wants to. Sigh. Tiana isn't sleeping terribly well in Vinny's room, but even a day or two of this will probably be enough to help Vinny make some progress.

Tonight was also interesting because Marc and I had the first meeting of what we hope will become a regular college ministry. We used to lead a college small group Bible study at our last church and we really enjoyed it.  Our new church is small, but we started to sense the need for one. 

College ministry has a special place in my heart.  It's interesting to me that most churches actually don't have a college ministry, despite the fact that college age people, in many ways, have the most freedom to really live life together in the way that the people in the first church did. College is when my faith became my own and when I truly realized the importance of fellowship, and I credit a strong college ministry.  Even through rough times in my faith in future years, I never desired to walk away from the church -- even if I felt rejected by it -- because I knew that fellowship could be life changing and faith sustaining, so I refused to walk away. Even when it was hard.

Today was so not the ideal day for this though.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I told Marc to schedule it for today.  With how crappy I felt yesterday, my house was a disaster and grades are due in two days, so my plate was full to say the least.  But, again, Mom to the rescue. My mom rushed over and spent an hour cleaning my house. As my mom commented, and I unfortunately must agree, she can do in 45 minutes what would take Marc and I two hours together.  I am a remarkably effective grader when sitting in my kitchen watching my mom do my dishes. Why is that?  I got SO much done. Now, if only the grade system wasn't down so I could enter all this stuff...

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