I’m guessing that every one of us had a moment where we thought we were going to lose it with this “thing” we had going on. I’m guessing we all went down the “I must be crazy path” because nobody else seemed to experience or understand the thing we were going through. My “thing” was my child, who simply wasn’t like the others or anything else, for that matter, ever discussed, acknowledged, or heard of. My moment involved a cup of milk, a half-inch movement, screaming, and a pediatrician.
Things were “different,” let’s say, in my home. My one-year-old understood way too much for my comfort and everyone that ever met him affirmed that. My one-year-old knew that his socks and shoes were to go on a specific way (left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe, period) and not any other way would do. I would know without a doubt I had done it wrong, yet again. How did I know I had done it wrong? He would tell me that it wasn’t to be that way with loud screaming and crying. Very, very loud screaming and crying. And this screaming thing would go on for an indefinite amount of time, just depending on the, oh I don’t know, the way the tea bags were situated in the cabinet. I’m looking for a total obscurity because there never seemed to be a rhyme or a reason or a rattle or a roll that determined the outcome of how my child would react on any given day to any given experience.
One evening we were sitting down to dinner and there was a small cup of milk on the table for Michael. That seems benign I know, but it wasn’t as innocent as you might think a small cup of milk is. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, my former spouse, SueSue (who was our next door neighbor, dear friend, and daily visitor), or the universe, when I moved the cup of milk to reach for something else, Michael had a level ten out of ten meltdown. There I was with a cup of milk that I had moved about a half of an inch (cause), which then created a twenty-minute screamfest that truly left me feeling insane (effect). I don’t remember much for sure. I imagine my former spouse, my friend, and I probably looked at each other, bewildered yet again, and Michael made it known that moving that milk was not permissible.
All right, so we had this milk incident and we had this high-intelligence issue and we had the sock and shoe thing going on, among many other curiosities that didn’t make sense. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was now on my radar and I was gonna talk to my pediatrician about this. I was frazzled, I needed help, and I really didn’t know what was going to happen if I didn’t figure this “thing” out, even though I didn’t really know I had an official “thing” yet. I made an appointment and said I wanted to talk to the doctor about some of my son’s behaviors that concerned me. I got the appointment and I was actually feeling ready to talk.
A little background about me will be very helpful to set the stage for this moment that is about to happen. I was incredibly codependent at that time. I had not yet learned to stand up for myself, and speaking my truth left me feeling catatonic and puddle-like on the floor. I typically allowed people to do what they wanted and say what they wanted with no reply or rebuttal from me, just sadness and subservience. To say I had no backbone would have described me quite well. And I certainly hold no shame around that; it simply was where I was. It is not where I am today, and I say that with a mischievous, lovely smile. So with that being said, this was going to be a very difficult appointment for me, on top of having this child that was an enigma. I was going to have to say that I wasn’t perfect and my son wasn’t perfect, which felt as if I was admitting complete defeat.
I made it to the doctors’ appointment and there I was in the office with the doctor and Michael. Michael was doing his normal screaming. (You’ll be shocked to know that Michael screamed for the first year and a half anytime we went into the little room where you wait to see the doctor. Maybe you’re not totally shocked, but I just wanted to point that out.) We’re in with Michael’s doctor, mind you, not a therapist or a psychologist or anything like that; it was Michael’s pediatrician. We considered whether or not to go to the lobby, where there were some toys that he liked, but he ended up calming down, probably because I nursed him to shut him up quiet him down.
I started in with the whole, “He’s so different and I really think there’s something like OCD going on with him.”
Pediatrician: “No, no, OCD is like hand washing.”
Me: “But . . . but I moved the milk about a half of an inch and he freaked out.”
Pediatrician: “Well, that could be something else, blah, blah, explanation, blah, blah, hand washing, blah, blah, but I don’t think it’s OCD.”
Me: “No, no, you don’t understand; there’s the whole shoe and sock thing.”
And then I remember it. I remember the feeling of crazy, full blown, I have no idea how I got here, and I do not know what to think, how to act, what to feel crazy, and I’ve still got to take the kid home with me. Seriously? I don’t think I want him anymore. But I’ve got all this time invested in him and he’s still nursing. I think I have to take him home, like, it’s actually required by law. And who else is going to take him anyway? I’ve never heard of lemon laws with children. He’s definitely broken and not a “normal” kid. Is it OK to even admit that out loud? I need a break because this isn’t going well and I really, really hate my life.
Small me: “OK, doc, thank you for your time.”
There it was, my very first experience with admitting that I had a high-need child (kinda). It didn’t go at all how I had expected, if I actually had any expectations in the first place. How was I to have an expectation if I didn’t know what this thing was, if there was anything besides my own imaginings? I can’t even envision, as I sit here today, how my life would have been different had I known I was not crazy when he was one. I wonder what would have happened had she said, “Hmmm? You’re concerned about OCD. Maybe you could go see this psychotherapist I know that looks at young children.” Or “I’ve heard of this. Here’s a book I can recommend based on another patient that had something similar.” Or SOMETHING besides, “No, OCD is all about hand washing!”