Four or Five years ago today, when Caleb was twoish, Tom and I were getting the boys ready for bed. It was around 8:30p.m. so they were already up past their bed time and were wired accordingly. They were wrestling and chasing each other around the living room as I tried to wrangle them in to get their pajamas on. Suddenly Ethan grabbed the neck of Caleb's shirt and yanked him backward, straight into the corner of the wall. Tom grabbed Ethan to discipline him and I picked up Caleb and held him to my chest to comfort him as big tears rolled down his cheeks. I put my hand on his head and gently coaxed him to calm down. A moment later I realized my hand felt wet and I was terrified as I removed it to see bright red blood all over it. It took only a moment to find the deep gash in his head and realize that it needed a hospital’s attention.

I covered his head in a towel and rushed us to the emergency room where I was sure a little thing like stitches would require a long nights wait. But the ER was virtually empty and we were taken back within 15 minutes. It was awful to have to help the doctor and nurse hold my son down as they stitched up his head. He cried and screamed the whole time, even though they had given him local anesthetic. It was about 9:30p.m. when he and I made it back home. After he went to bed I did too. That was enough excitement for New Years Eve.

Fast forward a few years later to today. When I got Vanessa up this morning and kissed her face I thought she smelled a little, off. But I didn’t think much of it. I got her dressed, fed her breakfast and then held her since she was unusually cuddly. As I held her to my chest in a chair she suddenly sounded as if she were gasping for breath and a moment later I felt warmth through my jeans. I pulled her back and another blast of puke erupted from her poor little mouth. She was drenched, I was drenched and it was then that the off smell and the unusual cuddliness made sense. After getting us both showered off I checked her crib and she had indeed vomited in there during the night. Now I get to ring in the new year with a sick child.

At least we ended both years with a bang I suppose.
So last night the kids and I took a long flight into Denver CO and then a 1 hour flight on a different plane into Salt Lake City UT. The trip went surprisingly well. The children were all agreeable. I think it had something to do with the TV’s on the backs of their seats. If you’re flying with kids and you have Frontier airlines at your airport, use them! 

Anyway, as we were boarding our first flight Caleb and Ethan were directly behind me. As I looked back to make sure they were right on my tail I saw that Caleb had stopped. He had a big smile on his face and was waving to a pretty young Asian woman standing in her row. At that moment he said very loudly (the kid has no volume control), “Hi my girlfriend!” which caused immediate chuckling from the woman and her boyfriend. Only a second after that, while still waving at his ‘girlfriend’ he yelled out, “I WIKE GIRLS!!!!” Everybody in the plane heard that one and burst into laughter. I was laughing too but of course my face was bright red. I’m not raising a pimp I swear!!! He’s never said anything like that ever! What a way to start the flight though eh? Kids are great ice breakers.

So as I’m writing this now, we obviously made it safe and sound. I did have to wake Vanessa when we got to the SLC airport and she cried through the whole airport but at least we were off the plane before she was in a bad mood. We arrived at Grandma’s at 12:45 a.m. (2:45 our time) so we were exhausted and fell promptly to sleep. I’m excited to be here, but now I have a wedding cake to start making. The next few days will be very busy ones but I’m glad to be back with family again. I can’t wait till hubby joins us in a week!
The moment I woke up on that 7th day, I felt inside that something was terribly wrong. I thought it was just the anxiety again but soon enough I realized it was more. More than fear. It was paralysis. It was darkness so deep I was afraid I had no control. I called a friend on the phone and sobbed to her.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t stop crying. I’m so afraid I’m going to do something to myself.”

I called my mother and told her the same things. My body was burning and shaking and so was my mind. All I could do was lay down and tremble, terrified beyond capacity to even function. The medication had washed from my system, cold turkey, leaving an even bigger mess in it’s wake. My mother told me she was flying out immediately. At the same time I was terrified I might do something to myself, I wanted to die. My body and mind were in a state of constant torture and I wanted it to end.

Here I learned the power of love in keeping a weary soul going. My children knew I was sick. Of course they didn’t know the scope of the illness but they were so tender with me, asking if I would be ok, telling me that they loved me. And somehow their love helped me get a better grip on reality. I needed to be ok, for them. They needed me and they loved me and I loved them. I couldn’t be consumed by this thing, for their sake.

So I waited and sobbed and sat paralyzed and wondered when it would end. One hour felt like a day as my mind raced and sent shockwaves of terror and darkness through me. At times the intense darkness would let up but then it would return, leaving me unable to function again. Only adding to the stress was that this break down had come at the worst possible time for my husband, who had a huge deadline to meet. Both of us were frustrated by the timing of this thing. So I looked forward to hope on the horizon. My mother was coming.

To be continued…
I’ve debated for a while on whether or not to write this post. OCD is, in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses around. I suppose I feel compelled to write this post today because this week has been especially difficult for me. Maybe I can help somebody else dealing with this garbage. Maybe it will help me if talk about it.

First of all, let’s talk about what OCD isn’t. The term OCD has become a common phrase, flung around carelessly when people are perfectionistic, meticulous, fixated on doing certain things a certain way or the like. I have to say it’s a pet peeve of mine to hear people casually say things like, “Oh, I am so OCD” as if it’s something quirky or funny. Certainly perfectionism and meticulousness may be present in a person with OCD but many people truly dealing with this vicious disease would not be able to so easily make light of these tendencies. Edited to add - I’m of course not angry at anyone who has used the term lightly, just frustrated because it gives a false impression about what OCD really is.

Now, let’s talk about what OCD is. Wikipedia defines it as …”a chronic mental disorder most commonly characterized by intrusive, repetitive thoughts resulting in compulsive behaviors and mental acts that the person feels driven to perform…aimed at preventing some imagined dreaded event. Also, the psychological self-awareness of the irrationality of the disorder can be painful.”

When a person has OCD the brains “alarm system” so called, overreacts. Irrational fears that may come and go in an instant for normal people will take seed in the thought of a person with OCD and play out over and over causing severe anxiety and distress. Thus, the obsession part of OCD. Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that the person with OCD can’t control this. They know these fears are irrational, they know (or hope) that these scary thoughts are not of their own making or will, yet they can’t get rid of the thoughts. In my case it’s often more than just thoughts. Images will flash in my mind over and over that I can’t shake. It’s like someone has my eyes peeled open in front of a horror movie. Or like someone shouting in my head ceaselessly.

So what does a person do when they are hounded by scary thoughts? What do you do when a disease takes hold of your inner fears and taunts you with the idea of acting on them, or being victim to them? You try to beat the thing out of your head that’s what. Thus the compulsion comes into play.
Somehow you think that if you act a certain way or do a certain something that it will lessen the severity of the intrusive thoughts. So maybe you decide you have to count to 7 three times in a row, or lock the door 3 times in a row to prevent that terrible thought from playing out. Or maybe you have to say a prayer every single time a disturbing image hits. Not that prayer isn’t good, but when it becomes a part of the compulsion, it’s not.

It’s a disease I wouldn’t be surprised if the devil himself created. Why? Because acting out the compulsions only make it worse. As a kind psychologist once told me, it’s an invincible dragon. The more you try to slay it, the more it feeds off your distress and the worse it gets. I could hardly swallow it when he told me I had to stop trying to kill it. I had to learn to live with it. How do you learn to live with something you hate with such a passion? 

Knowing what your dealing with is only 1/4 of the battle. It did help when I was finally diagnosed and knew that these disturbing thoughts weren’t me. But after that I had to yield. I had to hear the stupid disease shout at me and not do anything about it. I had to learn to agree with my adversary while it was in the way with me. I had to see that intrusive image or have that intrusive thought and think “Yeah, that would suck” and try to focus on something else. The trick is finding balance, distracting yourself a little when needed without allowing that distraction to become a compulsion.

Many people I know always seem to be in wonder at how much I accomplish in a day, at how much I teach myself. Well now you know why. I don’t like to let my mind idle. I love to learn new things anyway and while doing so there is less opportunity for me to focus on disturbing thoughts. But sometimes no matter how I try to get along with this disease it will still rear up and beat me into exhaustion. Sometimes I can’t resist the urge to shout back at it. Sometimes I can’t wait for the day to end so I can find release in sleep. But I keep trying to live with it, keep trying to believe that who I really am inside is independent of it and that when I pass into the next life I will finally be free of it.

To read more about the type of OCD I most struggle with visit this article