Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Setbacks,Twists and Progress

Last night was a HUGE setback. We have to set limits to monitor Bren's rituals, and showers are set for 15 minutes without discussion. We go in periodically and remind her of the time left. Last night The Hub went in and let her know that she had 10 minutes left. She yelled that she still had to shave. Fine, whatever, ten minutes. So then he goes in to let her know she has 5 min left and she starts freaking out that she hasn't washed her hair yet, and he starts asking her what she's been doing and things just don't sound right or add up so I go in and look into the shower and find her with dry hair and both hands FULL up to the elbows with soap suds. She had spent 10 minutes in the shower washing her hands. My heart split into.

Everything I'm reading says that we can't accommodate her rituals and fears and to set firm boundaries. But we're now in new territory because Bren has never ever lied or hidden anything from us. We're a very open family. And I know it is natural for teenagers to hide stuff and keep secrets, but like I said, this is new territory with her and we'll just have to adjust now that I understand that I can't rely on her being honest with me.

One good thing that happened is that we finally have our first appointment date with a behavioral therapist. We are moving forward with a treatment called EMDR. (I'll post more on this tonight)
It is frustrating though that we finally have amazing insurance only to find that most therapists do not accept insurance. Now I guess is a good time to rearrange the budget to help pay for the therapist.

Yesterday I was talking with a client at work and she mentioned that she was going to school to become a therapist. I asked her what she intends to specialize in and she said OCD and other disorders in teens. After some inquiry, I discovered that she suffered from OCD growing up. Our talk lifted my spirits as she is now a highly functioning adult and rarely has occurrence. Her last words to me were "don't worry, she'll be okay because you're being so proactive." I can only hope and pray that what we are doing is enough to ensure that she will indeed "be okay."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Understanding My Role.

As we wait to hear from a potential therapist, our lives still go on. Last night was a hard night, but I am seeming to learn more as I go.

Since yesterday was such a beautiful day, I sent the kids out to play. Because it has been rainy the yard was still a bit muddy so the ball of course became dirty. But I was happy that they were at least getting some sunshine.

Once the kids came in and we ate Easter dinner, we settled in for a movie. It had been a great day, church was amazing as always on Easter Sunday, and the kids were getting along. But sometime during our movie I could see Bren's thoughts start to wonder. I looked down at her hands and saw the rough skin and raw patches from her hand washing and my heart broke just a little more. I asked her what she was thinking about and it opened the door.

Apparently, playing in the semi-muddy yard proved too much for her in the long run. Though she had fun with her siblings during the day, the possibility of what was mixed in the mud weighed heavy on her mind.

As we talked through all the rational options, I came to understand my role as her mother. She needs me to reassure her, to keep her fears at bay despite how real they seem to her. It's my job to help her sort through the fears. And I know this because Bren came right out and asked me to help her. It was all I could to not to lose it in front of her when I saw the pleading in her eyes, but I held it together and promised to always be there.

I always knew my role as a mother was to be there for my kids, no matter what. And not I understand that even more now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our Journey Begins...

I'm going to begin this as bluntly as possible. Three nights ago, our world fell apart as it became crystal clear that our oldest daughter was suffering from moderate Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As of now she has not been diagnosed, but you know OCD when you encounter it.

For two years now, Bren has been obsessed with washing her hands. It started in 6th grade. (this will matter later on) For the first year we really worked on trying to help her stop and thought it was just growing up and puberty mixed with tween-age difficulties. But as the year passed, I realized more and more that though she could gain control for a while, she would fall back into her hand washing habit rather easily. As a mother, it is devastating to see your daughter's hands so raw from the harsh scrubbing. But no matter how I asked or how I pleaded, Bren couldn't tell us why she was scrubbing her hands so frequently. Household restrictions were placed on soap usage and we began monitoring her hand washing as a daily ritual. This was just a stage, and that is what we clung to.

Fast forward to 7th grade. From the beginning of the year I noticed that Bren had added some more quirks to the mix. Suddenly, if a shoe touched her bed, she refused to sleep in it. The entire bed must be stripped and washed before she would relax and sleep in it again. We also began to notice that her homework was taking her 3-4 hours a night. I assumed that her middle school teachers were crazy tyrants, loading on the homework, but after conferences with the teachers and conversations with other parents, I realized that she was the only student working this long and hard. This led us into an investigation as to why she was doing so much. What we found was yet another harsh reality.

What takes most students 30 minutes to complete, will take Bren an hour to an hour and a half to finish. Why? Because every word must have the same shade of pencil markings. If a word is lighter than the others, then she will erase the entire paragraph, not just the word, and fix it. If a letter isn't written just perfect, or looks the least bit wrong, she will erase the entire paragraph instead of just the one word or letter. My counters and tables became cluttered with piles of eraser shavings. And because she wrote so darkly, my white countertops were stained each night with pencil. My heart broke a little more each time I broke out the cleaner to clean up the mess she left behind, and I wiped away the evidence of her obsessions.

Recently, she started showering for 45 minutes. We literally have to go in and turn the water off, which results in screaming and yelling and tears, from all of us.

Up until this week, Bren had never really opened up about the "why" though we spoke to her about the things she was doing quite often. We hoped we could get her to talk one day, but hadn't pushed her. Don't get me wrong, we fought often about the things she was doing, but we could never get a "why" out of her, and we fought more about the inconveniences of the events for everyone involved. I know that seems selfish, to fight with your daughter suffering from OCD about her inconveniencing the family, but we haven't always understood that it was OCD, so please keep your judgments to yourself unless you have walked in our shoes.

The other night, everything just went wrong and it all came to a big fat head. There was a huge argument over her rituals, and then she just started talking. And the more she talked, the more my heart crumbled into a million pieces. Now I have seen some terrible things, and I have experienced fear. But until you hear your own child coming undone from their own uncontrollable fears, you don't truly know helpless fear.

And then, as I sat on the floor in the locked bathroom, crying my eyes out in pain for my child, so many memories poured in on me and I began to drown. I remembered everything that happened to me as a child, sitting on the bathroom floor, and I saw myself doing what I learn to do in those times of desperation and fear: I touched each of my fingers the same, and completed the circle around my nail bed until they were all equal. In that quiet moment, I understood that OCD is apparently genetic. Of course there are other things I do, though I've never really noticed, such as checking the doors at night even though I know I've already locked them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hindered in any way with my habits, I just recognize their existence. Bren is struggling far worse than I ever did, despite out complete opposite childhoods.

The next morning brought us new hope. With tear stained cheeks, I called a friend and asked for help. Help is not something I am accustomed to asking for, but I knew this was beyond my control. And that is where we are now in this the very early steps. My friend knows of a very knowledgeable therapist that deals with behavior modification for addictions and those with OCD. We are trying to figure out the payment portion, as most therapists do not accept insurance. But I have faith in the Lord and know that He knows that my sweet Bren needs this help more than anything. I also know that He gives us nothing that we cannot handle or that He is not willing to help us endure, so I know she will have a very successful and happy life. I just need to help her through this trial in her life.

So this is the beginning of our journey. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a life changing condition that can destroy a life if not properly managed and monitored. This is our story about living with OCD. Thank you for coming along for the ride.