Written by Darla Knopp
This story is part of our blog series called “Stories from the OCD Community.” Stories from the community are submitted and edited by Toni Palombi. If you are interested in sharing your story you can view submission details at www.iocdf.org/ocd-stories.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a term that can sometimes be easily thrown around. There seems to be a common misconception that it is simply about cleaning and keeping things in order.
But it is so much more complex.
I want to tell you about my 8-year-old son, Owen, who battles with OCD daily. All of his obsessions, so far, have revolved around a fear of someone dying.
Owen started displaying compulsive behaviors around the age of 5. He did not eat for weeks because he thought he would choke and die. He also constantly cleared his throat as this was the compulsion to make the choking fear go away. For a period, Owen would not swallow his saliva because he was fearful that if he had poison in his mouth, it would enter his body.
Owen loves everyone wholeheartedly. He cries when his friends cry because he has so much empathy. At one point, he didn’t want to go to school because he was afraid if he left me alone, I would get hurt, and nobody would be home to help me.
Through exposure therapy, Owen is learning to confront his fears. Part of this therapy involves looking at a plane and chanting “crash and burn.” He is learning that just because he has a fear, it does not mean it will come true.
My son is now approaching an age where children notice their differences rather than their similarities. I worry that children will pick on him when they notice his compulsions.
- when you see a child cry, perhaps it is because they can’t communicate all the emotions running through their small bodies.
- when you see an adolescent acting “different,” perhaps it is because they are experiencing anxiety or have a sensory processing disorder.
- when you see a teen or adult engaged in some “strange” compulsion or they freeze up, perhaps that are trying to reduce their anxiety.
I am thankful that the perception of mental health is changing. Unlike me, Owen is growing up in a world where it is not taboo to seek help. Most of the time, he will happily talk about his trickster brain and his plans to defeat his OCD. He also loves to draw pictures (such as the one pictured above) of him conquering his fears and slaying his OCD.
Darla Knopp is a mother of 6 children. She tries to teach her children that everyone is unique and we can learn from everyone’s differences.