“Are my hands clean Mom? Did you see me get soap on the backs? I can’t remember if I did or not. Are they clean?”
“I touched the seatbelt. Is it covered in COVID now?”
“Are my undies clean? Can you see anything? What’s that speck? Are you sure it’s just lint?”
My almost-six-year-old, R., has had symptoms of OCD for a while now. But I thought we could limp along and wait on treatment until he was older. That’s what we did with his sister, but it’s become apparent in the past six months or so that he has it worse than she did.
I’ve heard from four different people at his school, where he’s thriving except for the OCD. That he keeps seeing dirt that isn’t there, or obsessively washes and rinses his hands, or thinks there’s something in his underwear when it’s fine. Sometimes he goes to the nurse’s office and changes clothes.
I’m proud of him that he’s only had to actually come home once so far. We are very lucky that everyone at his school this year is understanding and patient with him.
My daughter’s main trigger was bugs. I thought that was hell, and some days it was, until the meds kicked in – screaming fits about a gnat in the bathroom. Or screaming right in my ear while I was driving because there was a gnat in the car; I nearly wrecked over that once. But bugs can be avoided a hell of a lot easier than invisible germs or miniscule specks.
My son’s OCD developed in the middle of COVID, when we were all talking about germs and how to avoid them. He also potty-trained late enough to remember us telling him over…and over…and over…to check his undies and wash his hands.
Even though I know that germs are a classic OCD trigger, my OCD tells me we programmed him.
I’m back to managing two people’s worth, mine and his. I’m trying to be patient but firm. I tell him things like:
“I’m only going to tell you this once, because you know the more we feed the OCD monster, the stronger it gets. Yes, your hands are clean. Now stop asking.”
“You know the answer to that.”
“How would poop even get there? Does that make any sense? No, that isn’t poop.”
“Soap is clear. You don’t have to see it for it to be on your hands.”
On and on. It gets exhausting.
Last night he had an OCD nightmare of some sort and came into our room screaming and crying about it. He had to wash his hands, and at whatever the hell o’clock it was (I went to bed at 1:30 so it was…between that and 6…), I just gave him whatever validation he needed. Yes, your hands are clean. Yes your undies are fine. Yes you washed that thumb. That one too.
He laid on my arm and we did alphabet animals to distract him. A is for Axolotl. B is for Bear. We did the whole thing (is there anything for X besides X-ray fish? That one seems like such a cop-out). He finally calmed down and went back to sleep.
I hid the fact that I was a complete mess the whole time. My own OCD was whispering “This is your fault. They both got it from you.”
I have a pediatrician appointment set up for him next week and we’re on the list for a call-back with my daughter’s former behavioral health provider. It’s gotten to the point where it’s negatively affecting him every day. I hate to put him on meds without therapy, but at this point, I’m asking the pediatrician if we can do that. We know meds work for my daughter (and me). I’ll do the therapy as soon as I can get set up with a provider, but that might take weeks or even months.
I just want him to feel better. He’s such a bright, funny, sweet little kid, and I hate that this is dragging him down.