A year ago my daughter was in the throes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and it nearly brought my family to its knees.
My daughter is now seven years old, she is a well balanced, loving, confident and highly intelligent little girl but this time last year the story would have been completely different. Although she was as good as gold at school – thank goodness – as soon as she walked in the front door she would change personality. As well as displaying terrifying mood swings she became fixated with her ‘sticky hands’. She would come through the front door at fever pitch in order to run into the bathroom to wash her hands while all the while screaming that they were STILL STICKY!!!!! She would wash her hands over and over and over again, she would pull her fingers apart and scream that she could not get them clean, then she would invariably lose her temper in a wild way. She would kick and pull at me while screeching that she hated me. She would run into her big sister and scratch and bite her. Her voice would sound gravely and the look of pure evil that emanated from her eyes was truly terrifying.
I tried everything I could think of to help her, cuddling, loving, explaining that her hands could not possibly still be sticky. Sometimes I would scream and shout at her but absolutely nothing worked. The rituals became so obsessive, every day was exactly the same, that I turned to my GP for help. Luckily for me, I am hardly ever in the doctor’s surgery for myself so I knew he would take me seriously. I had wondered though, if the problem was me and I was simply failing as a mother.
The doctor could see how desperate I was and as soon as I had explained the situation to him he diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Again, luckily, my family had private health insurance and the doctor was able to refer me or rather my daughter, to a leading child psychiatrist.
The Psychiatrist asked me to describe my life from the moment of her conception, how I felt during the pregnancy, the birth, her first few days, everything really up until the present day. I duly described the events which I personally found harrowing as when my daughter was born my husband was out of work having been made redundant during the recession. As soon as she was born I fell in love, she was a really bonny baby and I bonded with her immediately, but as I was bathing her, ready to take her home, the doctors came to check on her, then promptly whisked her from my arms saying she had suspected meningitis. My blood ran cold, this couldn’ t be happening to me, I never ever wanted to see the inside of a special care baby unit, as a few years previously I had watched my nineteen months old niece fight the battle for her life and lose. That event had completely broken my heart and when I saw my own little cherub lying there I just couldn’t believe it. My husband too was devastated but our relationship at that time was difficult as he had lost all confidence in himself because he wasn’ t working. I stroked my daughter in case she was going to be taken away from me.
During this and subsequent three years I felt that somebody or something really had it in for me. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I found myself with a new baby, the meningitis – 5 days later diagnosed as a urinary infection – a toddler and a severely depressed husband to look after, with very little money and a horrible shadow of insecurity. Those three years were awful but with hindsight I think we all learned a lot of lessons. I explained all this to the Professor and as I found myself talking I came to think ‘well, it’s hardly surprising she has got a problem with all that trauma to contend with’.
The symptoms of her OCD were not at all strange, but how could we break the cycle? The Professor talked to her alone, then to me and my husband. Briefly he explained that my daughter was not in fact ‘Sticky’ but very angry and insecure. When she came home from school this behaviour was her way of expressing her anger at having been separated from me all day. She was insecure and worried about me while she was at school and this was her way of displaying those feelings. Her temper and the OCD were not really linked, she had seen her dad in a temper of frustration many times and I suppose because she saw her dad ranting and raving then it was acceptable behaviour. This all seemed to make sense to me but I felt terrible guilty, one of the joys of motherhood!
My daughter has never once said ‘I’m sticky!’ again although she did show other signs of OCD, but because I could understand what was going on, I managed to nip it in the bud. During the time she was suffering I did think to myself how terrifying this control mechanism can be and I definitely recall telling my friends how scared I was that this behaviour was linked to anorexia.
I pray God that our problem has been nipped in the bud but I feel desperately for other suffers and their families. I thought I was going mad, members of my extended family berated me for seeking help, but for my family and especially for my daughter it was the best thing I every did.