Monday, April 15, 2013

Being a child with OCD and depression

Me in sixth grade.

If you’re of a certain age, you probably grew up before bicycle helmets were the norm. You probably sped around your neighborhood or along country driveways on your bike, not wearing a helmet, spinning the wheels, taking sharp turns that kicked up the dust. I was one of those kids.
My brothers and I grew up in the country, on a farm, with woods to play in and barbed wire fences to climb under. My mother knew we were somewhere on the farm, but she didn’t always know exactly where we were.
It’s a wonder we lived to grow up.
Have you ever said that, thinking of the scrapes you got into as a child?
Of course, a lot of children did get hurt. I’m all for bicycle helmets and any measure that keeps kids safe and unharmed. I’m glad that we know more now about safety and are willing to do things like put helmets on our kids before they get on a bike.

I’m glad, too, that we know more about mental health today than when I was a child. We have a long way to go to overcome stigma and to ensure that everyone who needs help has a way to get help. But more information is more readily available now than even just a few years ago.

For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself, how did I live to grow up? Not physically, but mentally.
I sorted through lots of papers last week, putting away things in file folders. I found a folder in my file cabinet that contained old health records of mine.
Years ago, I had to provide my employer a copy of my childhood vaccination records. Along with the shot record, the pediatrician’s office sent me a copy of all of my records.
I looked through them last week for the first time in years. A lot of the doctors’ writing is unintelligible, but a record of my visits from babyhood on was there.
On June 17, 1975, I was 12 years old. I was seen for a routine visit. In the nurse’s notes, it states, “Feels tired always—not sleeping well.” The doctor noted, “tired and waking up crying.” He ordered blood work and, I think (the handwriting is not clear), urinalysis and TB test.
Nothing else is noted.
The next entry is for June 12, 1981. I was 18 years old. I was seen for my college physical.

I remember being 12. I remember how the dark dread of depression had descended on me in the springtime of that year. I didn’t understand why I felt so bad, so hopeless, so unhappy.
I thought perhaps it was because I was a bad person and needed to be “saved.” At the revival at my church that May, I tried to get saved, but the prayer I prayed didn’t seem good enough. I found myself praying over and over, trying to get the words right, trying to get my thoughts in line with the words, just right. If I got it wrong, I had to do it over.
Prayers could also keep my family safe, I believed. But God couldn’t hear my prayers if I had sin between me and him. So I had to pray for forgiveness, and then pray a certain way for protection. Over and over.
Any thought that was bad had to be confessed, and I didn’t know who to confess to except my mother. Thinking of something bad was just as wrong as doing it, I believed. If I even thought I had a bad thought, I had to confess it to my mother.
I was also washing my hands a lot. I couldn’t seem to get them clean enough. As soon as I washed them, they became contaminated again, and I had to wash them again. If I spread contamination and someone got sick from it, it would be my fault.

Yes, I had OCD and depression. I was consumed by them.
My parents knew something was wrong. But professional intervention for my mental problems stopped with that visit with the pediatrician in 1975.
I got help for my mental health when I was in my 20s. When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with OCD and depression in 1990, she called me “high functioning.”
How did I end up high functioning? How did I live to grow up?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers yet.
Life was different in 1975. My parents made certain choices based on who they were at the time, based in part on how they were raised.
I hope I’m past the blame stage.
What I choose to focus on now is helping to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness. I want to help educate others about OCD, depression and other mental illnesses. I want to help encourage others to get help.
There’s no need for anyone to live like it’s 1975.

36 comments:

  1. Oh Tina this hits home for me. Hug B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Buttons, thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs back to you!

      Delete
  2. That adorable girl is a hero - She is doing a lot of Good in the world.
    love & love,
    -g-

    ReplyDelete
  3. You must have been a very very strong child Tina. To me, that's evident in everything you write on your blog. I have tremendous admiration and respect for you and I think you are doing such a wonderful thing by blogging about these topics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keith, thank you so much for your kind and supportive words.

      Delete
  4. I'm sorry to hear it has been a life long struggle. One thing that has changed is the ability to blog about it! I can't imagine what technology has in store for us in the future. Hopefully a cure for more of the illnesses that plague us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sharon. It's amazing how much technology has changed the way we can communicate and connect with others. And I hope cures for many illnesses are in the near future.

      Delete
  5. Thankfully some things really have changed for the better. People talk about the good old days, but in reality there are many, many things that are better today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Lisa. I wouldn't want to go back to the way things were, at least not in most areas. Knowledge about mental health and treatment options have dramatically improved. Thanks so much for your support.

      Delete
  6. Oh my goodness, YES. I was confessing to my mom ALL THE TIME. And I was never taken in to see the doctor. In fact, I, just like you, was not diagnosed until my 20s. Breaks my heart to think of children going through such struggles at a time of life when the BIG ISSUES should be crushes and best friends and favorite games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie, thanks so much for your understanding and support. I'm glad that there's more awareness now, and I hope more children are getting earlier help.

      Delete
  7. Oh Tina I'm so sorry you had to go through all this for such a long time.
    You turned out to be an amazing woman though and you ARE helping a lot of people with your blogging! Me in any case.
    And it's like you say, now a days things get diagnosed far quicker.
    I was 4 when I had my first OCD thought, and 29 when I was finally diagnosed. That would not have happened now I think.
    But I think with Internet and blogging and all the information you can find people will also get help quicker, as they can search anonymously. Because the big thing was that I was terrified anyone would find out about the crazy things I thought and did, and lock me away for good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Klaaske, me, too! I was so afraid that someone would find out what I was thinking and doing with my obsessions and compulsions. People can research and find out things much easier nowadays. I hope that does lead to earlier diagnoses and better treatments. Thank you for your kindness and support.

      Delete
  8. Tina, I do often think of how isolating it must have been for those with OCD before the Internet...we really are in a much better place now. I'm sorry you struggled so much as a child, but you've turned those struggles into a way to help others, and I, like many others, appreciate that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Janet. I want to be of help. I think we're in a much better place now, too. Technology can be a mixed bag, but overall much of it enhances our lives.

      Delete
  9. Haha...no, there is no need for anyone to live like it's 1975.... unless you like the clothing styles :-)

    Your 12 year old self sounds like my 12 year old self. The hand washing, the confessing of bad thoughts to my Mom, ugh.... the fear and dread.

    I'm so glad there is so much more awareness now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm glad there's more awareness, too, so more people can get help earlier.

      Delete
  10. we grew up in a whole different world. even my children played outside every, single day!! i loved life back then, i think we were healthier, physically. kids today don't play outside and are overdx with all these new illnesses.

    mental health is a big difference. back in the day, people didn't recognize or treat mental health issues. it was soooo difficult to get help.

    what a shame you had to suffer sooooo much and continue to suffer. but your writings here are so important and helping so many people. you have taught me so much!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate your support. I played outside a lot as a child, and it was good for me. But I am glad the mental health awareness has gotten better.

      Delete
  11. I am kind of glad I got to grow up back in the 60's and 70's. I was able to play outside all day too and there was no competition for expensive tennis shoes or electronics..and I think there was some innocence back then that kids don't have now. I wonder if they even knew what OCD was back then? I know the term "nervous breakdown" was floated about a lot..instead of depression. I feel sad that you were hit with depression as a youngster. But you not only survived, but you accomplished so much Tina. I don't think it was luck, I think you made some really good and positive choices along the way. I always think of the kids and adults that self medicate (or just party with) with drugs or alcohol and are not high functioning and how horrible that would be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Krystal Lynn. I am glad that I was able to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that I could have gotten into. Years ago, I met a woman my age who also had OCD. She grew up in another state. She was diagnosed with OCD when she was 11. So knowledge about OCD was there among at least part of the medical community. But the doctor (as I remember it) never asked me a lot of questions, and I didn't volunteer any information about my OCD symptoms. I was ashamed of them. Nowadays (I hope) doctors would know what to ask and be more aware of what the symptoms might indicate.

      Delete
  12. Hi Tina, you are doing so much and you write so well. All you share here will definitely be of benefit to others, and I applaud you for doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your stress over needing to be saved must have been tormenting! Bless your heart...you were trying too hard. And, of course you would do so, with OCD. Yet, salvation is about release and acceptance, not about worrying over the wording of the prayer, or feeling you are doing too many bad things that still need confession. I hope you finally came to terms with this and now rest in your salvation. I do know that rest is a hard word to use though to describe someone with OCD, and with depression as well. This has to be SO debilitating, and I think it's wonderful that you can write about it here, and help others who are having similar struggles. God be with you in your journey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Marie, for your understanding and supportive words. I appreciate it!

      Delete
  14. I think you write very well! Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Terri. I hope you have a great week, too!

      Delete
  15. I love this post. Tina you are so right. We don't have to live in the dark ages any longer. I am so grateful for our health services. While, not perfect, we live in a time when we can take advantage of incredible advances in science.

    While writing my memoir, I often asked the same question: How did I survive? What propelled me forward? What unseen energy got me out of bed every day and to school? How did I learn and pass to the next grade? Although I don't understand it, I have to believe that I survived because God intervened. Why some make it and others don't I'll never understand.

    I believe God intervened for you too. You are such a light to so many people.

    Your 6th grade photo is so pretty. I wish we could have been friends. I'm glad we are now. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Grace. I'm glad we're friends, too. I think we would have been friends as girls, too, if we'd met!

      I don't understand why I was able to make it and be "high functioning" to boot. I do think that I have a responsibility to help others do the same.

      Delete
  16. Great point, Tina. I'm sorry you struggled so much as a child. I had my first anxiety attack as a 3 year old in 1971-72 and my first major OCD symptoms around the same time. My parents didn't pursue any treatment for me either. I don't think they had any idea. To be honest, even if they had, the treatment back then was so bad for OCD/anxiety I don't imagine that it would have been helpful and may even have been harmful. But thankfully, this is 2013, and treatment is out there and there are also lots of other good resources too. It's time to fight the stigma and get the word out.

    I love your outfit in your pic. I had one very similar to that growing up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sunny, thank you. I don't know what treatment my friend got back in the 70s. You're right--we have much better treatments nowadays, and I'm thankful for all the advances and knowledge.

      My mother made my outfit. It was a blouse with a matching skirt.

      Delete
  17. I'm so sorry you had to carry that dark burden as a child. You are doing so much to bring this painful reality into the light, where it belongs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much. Yes, mental illness needs to be in the light. I'm so grateful for the treatments and help available now.

      Delete
  18. Great post. I think maybe you were high-functioning because you were a survivor. You had to be, to get through daily life while carrying these extra burdens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jean. I appreciate your support.

      Delete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.