Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"...I have issues?"

It was a typical trip to the grocery store.
Little Pixy (LP) was whining loudly, asking to be taken out of the cart and then put back in and then out again.
I continued to grab the things I needed as quickly as possible while watching her from the corner of my eye.
Every now and then I would catch her attempting to stand up and climb from the cart herself while demanding this or that from the store shelves.
Occasionally she would let out a high pitched screech just in case there were a few people in the store who had yet to notice us.
Mr. Serious (MS) was trying to tell me about a thought he had just had but I was ignoring him while I wrestled with the little beast.
I could tell he was beginning to melt down.
I just wanted to get the last few things on my list and high tail it out of Vons before anyone I knew saw us.

He was wringing his hands.
"Mr. Serious, we can talk about this when we are done, okay?"
"But, but, I neeeeed to tell you this right now!"
His voice was quivering and getting louder, and I could see his legs begin to twitch as he bounced up and down with his long surfer-like hair bouncing along with him.
"I know sweetie, I know, but...LP get down from there before you knock all those boxes down!"
"Mom,  please listen!"
His voice was projecting down the aisle and a woman with three quiet children turned and gave me one of those, what a brat kind of looks.
"MS, please stop," I whispered pleadingly.
"People are going to think you are crazy. They don't know you just have issues."
"What do you mean I have issues?"

This scene occurred about two months ago and I realize it was not one of my finest moments as a parent.
But it was typical of our outings.
MS had always been an anxious child and as he grew we accepted that his mini meltdowns were going to be a part of our lives.
I remember taking him to Disneyland when he was three.
We took him straight to the Casey Junior train.
He had seen the Dumbo movie probably thirty times and we knew he would love to ride the train just like in the movie.
But he was not excited.
He was not even indifferent.
What he was was frightened beyond comprehension about getting on that train.
While families with children smaller than my son passed us by in line our son freaked out, crying and crying about not wanting to ride the train.
Why was he so scared?
What was this really about?

We always thought he might have ADHD.
Or rather we tried to ignore the signs that he could have it.
But since I have ADHD and it runs like a raging wild fire through K's family, we kind of wondered which of our kids would be cursed with it as well.
MS has always had a difficult time with transitions, had trouble listening and following directions, avoided eye contact, talked nonstop and while moving constantly, got overwhelmed with sounds, smells, and textures, and was extremely emotionally reactive.
I knew these symptoms to be possible ADHD with possible sensory dysfunction.
That I knew how to handle.
But there were many things he did which we could not label.

He was always a cautious child.
At Chuck E Cheese he would avoid the climbing structure until he was almost five.
He feared swings, wasn't a huge fan of slides, and didn't like crowded places.
While most kids looked forward to fair and amusement park rides the mention of any such thing would send him into a panic.
As he got older his fears grew faster than we could understand.
He feared being alone in his room at night which we attributed to just being young.
But when he was afraid to be in his room alone during the day we began to wonder what could really be the cause.
Then he didn't want to go from one room to another without someone by his side.

About six months ago he became obsessed with always doing the right thing. He felt the need to confess to us about any lie he had ever told anyone and he was constantly asking me if Jesus would forgive him for telling a white lie. This was all coming from a kid who didn't even really know how to be untruthful.
Then one day when K was spraying insect spray in the house MS insisted he got the chemicals in his mouth, despite being out of the room when he was spraying. 
And so began his obsession with contamination.

Last month we moved into a new house and he began washing his hands repeatedly throughout the day. And if he touched something in the house he had to come check with me to see if it was okay. Within a week of moving in he was asking me hundreds of times per day if it was okay that he touched the wall, the staircase, his sister's shoe, and on and on.
One day I broke down and began crying when he had come into the room twenty times within five minutes to be reassured.
He cried too.
That day we called Kaiser and we were given an appointment the next day to see a psychologist.
Then we saw a psychiatrist.
They diagnosed Mr. Serious with ADHD, OCD, and possible sensory integration dysfunction.
Finally we had our answer. It was nothing that I wanted to hear but we needed to hear it.

He was put on medication to deal first with the OCD. From what the doctors said and from everything I have read, the medication to treat ADHD can make OCD symptoms even more severe.
That was two weeks ago. SSRI medications take several weeks to build up in the system so we haven't seen much change in his anxiety.
But during that time I have been researching OCD like crazy and have learned more from the parents in online forums than from the doctors we have seen.
I learned that MS had made me a part of his ritual of reassurance and that he would only get worse if I continued to reassure him. He had meltdowns when I had tried to ignore him before or when I had not listened to him fully but I decided if he was going to improve then I was going to have to let him experience the anxiety.
I sat him down and explained that I would no longer be answering him when he came to me for reassurance.
We discussed how nothing would happen if he did not tell me something and that it was only his mind tricking him.
He actually handled it really well and even though he tried to gain reassurance in other ways he has almost completely let go of that compulsion.
He has added some other minor rituals and he had a major meltdown in Walmart last week but overall he is really trying to take control and face his anxiety head on which I hear is really necessary if he is going to overcome it.
Unfortunately the medication for OCD has made his ADHD worse, a lot worse. He now literally talks nonstop, from the moment he wakes up, and has been having a really difficult time going to sleep. Being with him all day, every day has been trying on me and I often go into another room to silently scream. I know he can't help it and I know we need to conquer the OCD first but it is tough. I find myself praying often for the hours to pass quickly.
As parents we worry constantly about our children but with all of this comes even more worry.
I am worried that we will not be able to find a right balance of medication to help with both his ADHD and OCD.
I am worried that when life gets tougher as he gets older that he will be taken over by the OCD and he will be unable to function without compulsions.
I worry that his life will always be a struggle.
It's not fair but I try to remind myself it can always be worse.
He is a wonderful child who is creative, funny, and very loving and he is physically healthy.
His therapist said he seems like a tortured little boy.
As sad as that makes me feel to hear it, I agree.
But she is hopeful that one day he can enjoy life like any child should, excited about the world around him instead of fearful of everything.
I hope she is right.