Friday, May 9, 2014

The Pendulum Swings

We have had such a great year.  Bren's OCD has been under control for the most part.  She is functioning well with things that used to cause her great pain and frustration.

But I began to notice something that bothered me.  A little girl that used to obsess about her grades, erasing page after page and rewriting it to make it perfect, was suddenly plagued with missing assignments and a less than mediocre GPA.  I couldn't put my finger on what was happening.  How can she go from an obsessing 4.0 student to a student needing to be chased down my teachers for missing and poorly done assignments?

The answer?  The pendulum swung way to far in the opposite direction.  You see, there was a time when Bren was scared to death of getting an answer wrong, much less failing a quiz or a paper.  Much of her therapy focused on her learned to control that fear and not obsess so much over grades.  In fact, we discussed over and over again that making a mistake was ok and totally acceptable.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years Bren has developed a defense mechanism. She has felt so free from the stress of obsessing over academic perfection that she started to fear falling back into that obsession.  Her way to prevent going back "there" in her head was to avoid everything.  If an assignment was due and she didn't have enough time to finish it before bed, she would just put it off and the more she put off the further behind she fell.  Eventually she was just avoiding all pressure and stress through complete avoidance and apathy.  For the first time ever I came home from teachers' conferences being told that Bren was missing numerous assignments and they couldn't get her to respond.  This coming from a kid that would scream through tears that she had to stay up until 2am just to redo her math for the 4th time to get it right.

Obviously avoidance wasn't the answer.  And what her teachers and I mistook for apathy was actually a severe fear of those OCD demons that once plagued her.  When we confronted Bren and had a heart to heart she revealed all of this to us.

I don't have a end result yet, because just this last week Bren has decided that she wants to return to therapy for a while for a "tune up."  However just the fact that she has full understanding over her issues and recognizes her need to some help is a great beginning!  Hopefully we will have happy progress to report soon enough!

**Side note:  Bren didn't make varsity soccer this year and though she was sad and very disappointed, she has sense accepted it as a healthy challenge to improve where she lacks and prove that she deserves it next year.  Her acceptance of normal setbacks and disappointments, and not seeing them as huge failures on her part and a sign of her lack of worth, is HUGE!  So I guess we are still kicking OCD butt after all.  :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Honestly, if I could just have the attention of every single teacher out there for a moment...

Last I checked, and I may be wrong, YOUR job wasn't to bully, to be a tyrant, to belittle and make afraid, to rule over, or to verbally abuse the students you have in your care.

Your JOB is to uplift, educate, partner with parents, build confidence, improve self esteem, protect, offer a helping hand, and mentor the students in your care.

Somewhere along the way, some of you have become disgruntled, bitter, dictators of your classroom and not only do your actions cause your students to resent you and disrespect you, but it causes parents like myself (who actually LIKE to work and partner with you in the education of our children) to come unglued and go to battle...against you.

To all those teachers who actually love their jobs and understand the important role you play in our children's lives, you deserve a standing ovation for all the hard work you do!

Having said all that...

When you have an OCD child that struggles with perfection in herself, the LAST thing on earth she needs is a tyrant for a teacher.  Unfortunately, we've been cursed with two math teachers in the past two years that prefer to tear down rather than lift up.  What the hell is wrong with you math teachers?  My math teachers in high school were wonderful and kind!  Not bitter, pinched faced, and living on students baked in pies.

Here it is, at the end of the semester, and Bren took a math test today.  It was worth 16 points.  She missed ONE question.  She made an A+.  BUT...  Bren forgot a pencil, and this teacher is known for her wrath so instead of asking of a pencil because she didn't think the rant would be worth it, she took the test in pen.  On the syllabus it states "all work must be done in pencil."  Never states the point deduction for violation.

The teacher then decided to take 5 points off for the pen.  So instead of a 15/16 she receives a 10/16.  That's a D my friends.  FOUR LETTER GRADE deduction for taking the test in pen.

Now I would have been fine with one letter grade deduction.  OR, she could have taken the 5 points off the grade not the test.  Because as it is calculated, there is a huge difference between deduction of POINTS vs. deduction of PERCENTAGE.  Bren lost percentage, not points.

I'm sorry, but I'm a believer in the punishment should fit the crime.  This isn't even close to being an appropriate consequence.  And of course, my little OCD girl is in a frenzy!


So congrats to all you tired, overworked, hate your jobs teachers out there!  You've managed to wound yet another spirit.  Hope you sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What Will 2013 Bring Us?

Here it 1 of 2013.  We have a LOT to work on, and a LOT that we have overcome.

2011 was a very bad year...very hard...full of information overload.

2012 was hesitantly better...full of goals and achievements...regression and accomplishments.

But what will 2013 bring us?  We are very optimistic!

Here are some goals for us though:

1.  Technology & social media are an OCD nightmare.  Texts must be answered, and teenage girls who send a thousand texts a day make our lives really difficult.  When obsession with texting or Facebook becomes too much, we take them away for a while so that Bren's brain can calm itself.  Unfortunately that means a period of freaking out because there are unanswered messages out there that drive her crazy thinking about them.  If only I could tell those girls to STOP texting so much, to realize that questions like "do you think he likes me" or "what did he say when you skyped with him" cause Bren great anguish when she chooses to answer those and engage in silly conversation rather than being with family or completing daily tasks.  Once an honor student, your stupid texting craze has single-handedly taken out a brilliant little girl, and I can't tell you what you're doing wrong because teen girls can't be trusted to understand real problems and keep them secret.  Soooo, we are creating a "Texting Hour."  Once every night, there will be an hour set aside...after ALL other things are which my daughter can engage in silly, teen drama through texts and Facebook.

I hate you Mark Zuckerburg.

2.  We have to get Bren focused on school again.  She is in all honors classes and she is doing ok, but her potential is not being met.  She is far too intelligent for the grades she's pulling.

3.  As with all obsessions, Bren has latched onto the theory of "what it means to be a teen" and is running with it.  And only an OCD parent will understand what I mean.  Many of you will say oh that's normal, most teens push the limits, test boundaries, etc.  And I agree.  However, when you have an OCD child, they up the ante on you.  Bren has taken all that she has learned about teen behaviors and she takes them on herself.  She actually tries to push limits or test boundaries, and she does so because she is...well...a teenager.  When we force her to talk about her actions she'll respond very confused "but isn't that how I'm supposed to act, I'm a teenager."  She literally changes from one day to the next as she tries out new tactics.  One day she hates doing family stuff, the next she's mad because we aren't doing anything as a family, the next she looks through you with complete disdain, and the next she's wanting to talk about everything in a calm manner and tell you in a very mature way that she's sorry and she's just tired of trying to figure it all out in her head. The best way I can describe it is that she feels she needs to behave in certain ways just because she's a "teenager."  She doesn't want to necessarily, and if it gets too intense she will immediately change and move on like "that wasn't working so let's try something new."  There's a war constantly going on in that brain of hers as she tries to fight what's normal and what's obsession.

We still have our work cutout for us, but we're doing so much better and I'm learning immensely!  It's sometimes an unending puzzle, but I'm getting a little better at solving it.  As for Bren's father...well that's another post entirely.  :(

I encourage all of my fellow parents of OCD children out there to continue learning, keep setting goals, and maintain the fight!  Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Friday, December 14, 2012

VERY Helpful Article!

For those of you with kids who struggle with homework obsessions, you have to read this!

A Slight Regression and A Year in Review

Well, I guess you get two whole posts in the year of 2012.  Sorry.  This was a super busy year.

Here is an update on our journey of obsession through 2012:

1.  Thank goodness for soccer!  Bren's favorite sport continuously kept her exposed to playing in grass fields where flocks of Canadian geese felt the need to fertilize. :)  She loved the game so much and it kept her brain busy enough that she never even hesitated to pick up the ball and throw it in.  And let's not even discuss the mess that was in her cleats after.  But somehow she grew less and less concerned with it and that led to a more relaxed Bren in all outdoor settings.

2.  As many of you know, we made the decision to put Bren in private school for high school, for many reasons.  And quickly found out that this decision would NOT be popular with my public school teacher friends, but then I realized that if they truly cared for me and my daughter they would have supported me rather than berate me.  So after having to clean out some of my friends, Bren started her private high school.  The uniforms helped to alleviate the 7 clothing changes in the morning.  And because it is an all-girls school the need for perfection is gone.  Oh I know, girls shouldn't base their self worth on what boys think.  Absolutely!  But until you have a perfectionist child that over thinks EVERYTHING, you don't get to comment.  And I say that as politely as I can.  Once again, we saw Bren relax even more.

3.  Overall, we saw Bren take HUGE steps forward.  This last Thanksgiving we were at a friend's house and as I walked to the car I stepped in doggie doo.  A year ago, this would have sent Bren running and screaming, and probably leaving me no other choice but to throw the infected shoes in the trash.  But Bren was happy when I asked for a grocery bag and tied it around my shoe and drove home where The Hub then washed it for me.  Thankfully I was allowed to keep my shoe because they are one of my faves!

4.  As the year draws to a close, we have seen new stresses enter into Bren's life that have caused her a slight regression.  As with all obsessive-compulsive-overthinkers, everything is a potential stress that leads to over-thinking which leads to compulsive behaviors which leads to obsessions.  The stress of making new friends and playing on two brand new sports teams, all of which she knew no one, proved to be a bit much.  For the first time ever, Bren is lacking confidence on the soccer field, is unsure of herself in all social settings, and is an emotional wreck.  I know hormones are also wreaking havoc and adding to an already ugly stress storm, so we have decided to go back to Dr. Paula for a little tune-up until things settle down again. Bren doesn't quite recognize when she's obsessing on her own, but if we discuss it and she thinks about it, she will say "well that makes sense." We've also noticed that sometimes her brain won't shut down so that she can sleep at night, so we've had to help her by giving her small doses of medication to help her sleep.  She is NO where near the dangerous behaviors she once had, but we don't want her to end up there either.  It's precautionary. :)

All in all, we have been very blessed this year with great progress!  Will this fight ever be over?  Probably not.  But it sure does have its easier moments!  I'm very grateful for this journey and the insight into my little girl's brain.  Sometimes it absolutely exhausts me, but then I think of how exhausting it must be to have a brain that never stops over-thinking things.  I can't believe how strong my daughter is sometimes!  How hard it must be, and yet how awesome her attitude is toward getting help and recognizing and understanding her illness.

She isn't quite ready to come out and speak openly about her OCD, but she wants to someday help other youth recognize and understand their disorder.  When that happens, LOOK OUT!  She's going to make a huge difference in a lot of people's lives!

Merry Christmas to everyone!  And may 2013 bring you all the joy and happiness that you and your family deserve!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First Update of 2012

If I've learned anything through this journey/discovery with Bren it's that I really never knew what was going on in that little girl's head her whole life until now. I approached every single ordeal as I would any other child, and quite frankly, that was wrong of me.

Bren's brain and line of thinking is so very different from the average person. She sees things in a completely different way than most people would, and approaches things in ways I have trouble understanding.

Here are our latest struggles/discoveries:

1. I've noticed lately that Bren has been putting it "out there" that she is not fond of the 4 year college track. At first I thought, well no one is, but then I realized that what she was really doing was beginning to lay down the logic that justified college being a poor choice for her. That's how Bren thinks...logically. And once she begins to legitimize a path of understanding (her understanding) there is very little that can be done to reverse that, short of miracles and hard work. So I, as her mother, the one who knows her best, began thinking that perhaps I need to peak her interest in degrees/careers that work best with her. Now many...MANY...have come forward and said "it's too soon, she's so young, she'll change her mind a thousand times..." but what they don't know is that Bren doesn't change her mind. She's never just changed her mind. When her mind has changed it's been after very carefully thought-out reasoning that "allowed" her to realize that perhaps the other should be better considered. Yeah, I makes me tired just thinking about my brain working that hard. But her brain works like that ALL THE TIME. So I've started listing ideas and interests that require degrees that would draw her attention and the need to consider them. I have to plant the seed now because the "other plant" is already growing. And while some would say, have said, "you can survive and be very successful and not go to college," they, again, don't know Bren. Once she realized how smart and talented she is, and that with a degree she could literally do ANYTHING, she will never forgive herself for denying herself that pathway. Never forgive herself.

2. Another struggle we are facing is that everything Bren touches turns to gold. Figuratively speaking of course. The child excels at every single thing she tries. Until now. For the first time ever, she is faced with being merely "average." Now, how can you prepare a child for being average, and like everyone else, when the child has never performed average on anything?? (As high school placement tests are coming in, we are discovering that perhaps we have a larger IQ on our hands than we ever imagined.) So this week volleyball tryouts occurred, and last year when she tried out she made the A team even though she had NEVER touched a volleyball before the week of tryouts. See what I mean, the child has this way of making it happen, and if you could see inside her brain it was working overtime during tryouts, laying down the logical path that would get her to A team. I know you think I'm exaggerating, but let me give you a snip-pit of something she told me during tryouts last year: "I could see that the coach wasn't looking for silly girls, she wanted maturity....and while I was serving I noticed that my serves were breaking right too far, so I stepped to my left a few feet to adjust where they landed...there are a lot of girls that are bigger than me so I am going to have to prove that I have the power they have in spite of my size so I adjusted how I approached the..." See...everything is logic. Anyway, back to this year, tryouts were this week. Now keep in mind that Bren had decided she would not tryout for volleyball this year, because unlike soccer, she never could wrap her mind around the fact that she wasn't "perfect" at it. She's not used to being average. So The Hub and I, very cunningly, tried to persuade her to tryout again because we realized the need to her to experience what it's like to struggle and work at something. She agreed to tryout and yesterday she discovered she had not made the A team. HOLY HELL! You would have thought the world came to an end! Now keep in mind that the only reason this child is reacting in this way is because to HER this is a sign of failure, her own pressure of perfection has caused her to excel or find a way to excel at everything she puts her mind to. It's never about her being snotty or spoiled...she suffers way too much to be labeled as such. Talking her down last night was exhausting, but I think I'm slowly getting through to that mystery brain of hers that being average is not a sign of failure, it's a sign of being normal. She had a "smile" of some sorts on her face this morning headed to school, and I'm sure she will be happy with her friends on the B team this season. But NOT until her brain lays down the logic for her to see how B team will be beneficial for her...literally not until then.

Sometimes I think that brain of hers is another entity altogether, and quite often works against her on purpose just to make her miserable.

As for her anxiety, it rarely rears its ugly head. And the washing and germ phobia has all but vanished for now. But as I'm learning with the OCD brain, there is always something to obsess about and control, and therefore there is always something for Bren and I to wage war against.

But we are pretty strong fighters, so there isn't much we're scared of anymore. :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Long Time...Lots to Update.

School started and the first part of school has our family up to our necks in Fall soccer schedules, new after school schedules, and dance class schedules. So basically I spent September, October, and most of November literally falling into my bed at night.

But I have lots to update! Two weeks ago Bren graduated from full time therapy! Things are so much better that our last few visits weren't really productive anyway. I asked her doctor how this is possible and she laughed and said "well, though I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself, it seems as though Bren became a little OCD about being inconvenienced by her OCD and learned to manage it quickly." That's my girl! Basically Bren started using the techniques she learned in therapy to fix the issues that hindered her on a daily basis. She has even turned in a few assignments late, though she then bugged the teacher to make sure the grades were posted asap so she could prove to me it was turned in. My bar isn't covered in pencil erasings and pencil marks, and homework is done by dinner every night. I can't tell you how this has changed our family life! We actually eat together again!

Bren has also taken on an after school job where she walks the neighbor's dog. This time last year she wouldn't have touched her own dogs much less another one.

It's truly amazing how far she has come. I'm so blessed to have had so many prayers and wishes headed our way through the really dark times. Even when I worried that I would have to hospitalize my daughter, I felt buoyed up by your prayers, and I gathered the strength to go on.

Bren will continue to manage her OCD and anxiety, and we will see her doctor if a tune-up is necessary, but we are blessed to be moving forward for now. And that is all I asked for...well, that and to see my daughter's beautiful smile every day!