I Go to Extremes (OCD and Me)

I sat in the therapist’s office. Coat on. Hands in pockets.

‘So, what can I help you with?’

I’ve already clocked the box of tissues to the left of me and wonder how many boxes she goes through every week. Does she bulk-buy? Anyway, we go through the usual questions like, ‘On a level of one to ten, how has your anxiety affected you in the last two weeks and are you about to top yourself?’

No, I don’t want to top myself. I just need some help in lowering my anxiety levels from 10 to a 5, ta.

My eyes struggle to connect with hers. I’m way too anxious so I stare at the carpet, which is clean and has no pattern. Good. Because I’m in no mood to be coping with patterns and stains..

‘I don’t think we will have enough hours to address all my stuff.’

‘Well, just start with what’s easiest, OK?’

I blurt out, ‘I HAVE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS’.

Pen poised, the therapist replied, ‘Really? In what way?’

I gave her the example of the hour before when I was partaking of a cup of coffee with OH in Costa. The sun was shining outside and there were only a few people in so I wasn’t overwhelmed. I felt relatively happy. Yep, I can do happy. Just as I acknowledged the happy feeling, a thought clouded my mind..

What if masked men burst in now and started to shoot?

My body reacted as if it was real, not that I’ve been in many hostage situations, thankfully.

Next thought was my son who was at school. Then my grown up boys. Adrenalin flooded my body and my undigested sausage bap was in danger of being barfed back up.

Then I remembered that it wasn’t real..

‘Calm down, nutcase, it’s just your mind being a bastard again. You KNOW this. Drink your coffee, there’s a good fruitcake.’

It was just a thought that had barged it’s way into my mind when I was feeling calm. One of millions of irrational thoughts over my 47 years. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, it threw me. Maybe I need to lay off on the police dramas?

I comforted myself with the thought, ‘What’s the likelihood of Costa being raided? What are they going to say, ‘Everybody on the floor and give me all your muffins?’ Then I researched it and there has actually been such an incident, only they were after money, not muffins. It was prior to opening and thankfully, nobody was hurt. I guess wherever there is money, there is motive..

See, I have this problem with safety. I can’t remember when it started but I’ve definitely done it for the majority of my life. It’s to do with fire, mostly. I have a thing about the house burning down so I have to check plugs and sockets.

Then I have to check them again.

I’ve noticed it’s worse when I’m stressed. The other day I literally couldn’t satisfy myself that I’d turned my straighteners off, despite me holding the disconnected plug in my hand. Then, I have to touch candle wicks to make sure they are cold and sometimes I stick them under the tap to be EXTRA sure. Once upon a time, I taped up all the knobs on my gas cooker in-case they turned themselves on while I was out because everybody knows, cookers can do that, right? I blame that one on surge in pregnancy hormones but I have been known to turn the electric cooker off too. You can gauge my anxiety on how many things I turn off but even on my best day – sockets, plugs, windows and doors are a given.

I refuse to go out and leave things charging up, like phones and Kindles. There’s, like, NO WAY I can do that. OH struggles to understand it. He says it knackers the batteries. I tell him, ‘Battery or insanity, mate, your choice’.

To get out of the house, I have a routine of going round and checking all doors, windows and sockets. If the chain of thought is broken with ONE of these things, I have to go and check them ALL again. Thankfully, I’m not incapacitated by it. I’ve often thought it would be easier to say sod it and stay in but that’s a road I know I don’t want to go down. I have my ritual. As long as I do this, I cope.

I don’t know why I do it. There isn’t a logical explanation for it. There has never been anything to justify it as far as I am aware of. No fires. No burglaries. I’m just a loon, innit?

With this is mind, I often wonder how I managed to be a school caretaker and NOT go totally gaga? I still have dreams about doing my ‘checks’. The alarm was the worst thing because I would convince myself I hadn’t set it so I would go back again and again. I’ve gone back to the school late at night because I’ve convinced myself I haven’t set it. Of course, I always had. It’s a wonder I wasn’t arrested for acting suspiciously, eh? On the positive side, having a security obsessed lunatic as a caretaker isn’t such a bad thing as in ten years of service, I was never called out to the alarm going off. No window or door was EVER left unlocked on my watch.

There seems to be some confusion regarding repetitive behaviours of autism and OCD..

Basically repetitive autistic behaviour, like stimming, is comforting. I stroke my little furry (NOT a euphemism) because it comforts me and picking scabs is on par to a decent orgasm in my book.

New word.

Scabasm.

OCD, however, is anxiety driven. The fear that something will go catastrophically wrong if I don’t touch my plugs ‘n’ shit. I am autistic but I obviously have OCD too, it’s just never been diagnosed because I’ve never sought help for it. Nor has anybody ever suggested I get help. Mostly, they are amused or frustrated by it. Maybe now is the time to address it? In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

What’s the betting that my therapist will go off on the sick after she’s finished with me?

A slice of fruitcake says she does.

Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

The Boy Who Loved

“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”

I didn’t expect to hear those words for at least another few years but my six year old autistic son said them to me the other day.

Why?

Because his most treasured friend in all the universe had lost her voice!

Her name is Hedwig and once upon a time she was Harry Potter’s faithful companion. Anybody who’s read the HP books or seen the films will know of Hedwig’s fate but in The Boy’s world, she is very much alive.

She arrived via Father Christmas last year and we thought he would explode with joy. It was THE best present in the entire world!

Autistic people have obsessions. The Boy’s started with numbers when he was three and he wowed his teachers at school by knowing his entire 12 times table at the age of four. His photographic memory means that he only has to see something once to remember it – most helpful when it comes to exams!

This obsession lasted two years and then owls took over after hearing The Owl Babies at school. He was especially taken with ‘Bill’ who always wants his mummy, like he does.

Then we watched Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and he saw the owls, in particular, Harry’s snowy owl – Hedwig.

And it was love at first sight.

It’s the intensity of an interest which makes it an obsession and owls help The Boy cope with the uncertainties of life. They are his constant companions and his bedroom is full of owl paraphernalia. At school they keep one especially for him to cuddle when he feels anxious and as a reward for effort he is allowed to take his special friend into school with him at the end of the week.

Last week was a good week for The Boy. Despite being poorly and missing a day, he was able to do some work in the classroom which is a huge thing for him to cope with. He chose to take Hedwig to school on Friday and went in full of smiles as he was so happy to be spending the day with his special friend.

However, joy turned into distress at home time when he came in crying his heart out.

“You HAVE to make Hedwig talk Mummy, she’s lost her voice!”

Hedwig’s ‘voice’ is a small button located in her wing that produces owl noises and by the sound of it, it had seen some serious action that day because it was barely audible. I knew that there was no way to change the battery as it’s sewn into the toy. Once it’s worn out, that’s it – although I didn’t realise this when I ordered it.

Struggling to find the right words to say to comfort him, I ended up saying entirely the wrong thing..

“I’ll try Sweetheart but I can’t promise you she’ll get her voice back”

He crumbled in front of me and with eyes full of tears he shouted:

“YOU’VE RUINED MY LIFE, MUMMY!”

And at that moment, I felt like I had.

He took her upstairs and wrapped her gently in his Batman blanket, then he tucked her into his bed as I had done with him the day before. For a child who is naturally heavy handed, he was surprisingly gentle with her.

OH e-mailed Warner Bros to ask if there was any way to rectify it and I contacted them via social media. As of yet, neither has responded.

Then something wonderful happened..

An online friend (a person I’ve never met) offered to give The Boy his Hedwig because he is also the parent of an autistic child and he understood my son’s distress. How wonderful is that? Such a beautiful thing to do. It’s too generous an offer for me to be able to accept because I know what they cost but I will never forget his kindness towards a little boy who he doesn’t even know.

I also got a message from one of The Boy’s sister’s who had obviously seen what was going on via social media and found a snowy owl on the internet which made noises and she’s posted it to him. As she says, it’s not Hedwig but a little boy can never have too many owls!

Then a little miracle happened..

Hedwig – after a night of rest and recuperation – got her voice back – ish.

Dear Reader, you and I both know that it will happen again because we know that these toys are not designed for longevity, especially when there is an obsessive autistic child pushing it’s button a zillion times a day. So we are getting a back up toy which will be swapped over when Hedwig’s voice goes for good. At the moment, it’s important to him so it’s important to us.

As I was writing this post I got to thinking about a doll that I had for my fifth birthday. ‘Drowsy’ had a cord which made her talk when you pulled it. She said things like “I’m sleepy” “Kiss me goodnight” and “I want a drink of water” and she giggled. How I loved that giggle and how I loved her. She was my constant companion throughout my childhood. Eventually, the cord snapped off but there was nothing Mum could do. There was no chance of her being swapped because she was uniquely mine, as in, I’d given her a haircut and Mum had covered her original polka dot play-suit with some old curtains. One day the stitching around her neck gave way and her head all but came off. I begged my mother to do something and fair play, Ma sewed her head back on. The stitches weren’t exactly pretty but by that time, neither was the rest of the doll.

To me she was more than a doll – she was my friend who listened to me when no one else would. A loyal friend like that could never end up in landfill which is why I still have her 41 years later and it’s my wish that she’ll go with me when I die as I would chuffing well haunt the bugger who puts her in the bin after I’m gone!

So I understand how much he loves this stuffed owl and thankfully we will be able to swap it without him understanding what we’ve done, unlike my Drowsy doll.

Will The Boy still have Hedwig when he’s my age?

Probably not but who knows..

Autistic children grow and their obsessions change, although some can be life-long.

All I know is how much she matters to him now. He loves her as he would a human being. As I type this I can hear him making his owl noises. When he is anxious he screeches like an owl. When he is happy, he hoots. He nibbles my hand like real owls do. In fact, I think he believes he is part owl and that is perfectly fine by me. Hoot Hoot!

Harry now carried a large cage that held a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing. Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone ~ J K Rowling

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