Reclaiming Our Stolen Child From The OCD Monster (Part 2)

Reclaiming Our Stolen Child From The OCD Monster (Part 2)

Posted on October 12 by Laurie Gough
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Read Part 1 here.

"The OCD Monster was still quietly slithering in the pathways of his brain, but the fight was on."

Even though we were working on the ERP (exposure response prevention) therapy, Quinn was still engaging in a storm of magical thinking rituals that debilitated his entire day. We decided to take him out of school temporarily. Rob proposed that he and Quinn work on the ERP exercises every day instead of school work. One afternoon, I went to talk to Quinn’s teacher to explain why he’d be absent. The young teacher’s eyes were full of concern as he went to Quinn’s desk and pulled out his math workbook. “I was going to tell you this so I’m glad you’re here. Take a look.” I stared down at the pages of my son’s workbook, which was supposed to be full of solved multiplication problems. Instead of numbers, tiny words were scrawled all across the bottom of the pages, the same words, dozens of times over, the same ones we’d heard for weeks: “Please come back, I love you. Please come back.” I flipped back the pages. It was the same plea over and over, a boy’s impossible prayer hidden in a worn math book. Sudden tears blurred my vision. A kid I knew bounded into the class just then to riffle through a desk. Quinn had helped teach this kid how to ride a unicycle when they were younger. The boy said hi to us and shot out of the room again: untroubled, shoes untied, a regular kid on his way to build a fort or buy a chocolate bar with his friends at the store. Why wasn’t that Quinn? I felt the cruel randomness of life weigh down on me.

Although we were seeing gradual improvements with the ERP, sometimes Quinn didn’t respond to it at all. I wondered if the giggly little boy who Quinn had been would ever come back. One morning, after seeing the “OCD Monster” enslave Quinn with yet another ritual — one that immobilized him — all I could do was run out to our parked car, roll up the windows, and start sobbing, howling over and over for the sad lost echo of my son. That night, Rob and I realized we needed to tell all our friends, everyone we knew. Until then, only a handful of friends had known. We hadn’t meant to keep it a secret. It had just become that way on its own because we’d been so preoccupied with it.

I sent an email to all our friends and neighbours explaining why they hadn’t seen Quinn around on his bike lately, or us out on our street or in our village of Wakefield.

“...We know that the real Quinn is still in there somewhere. If people could visit once in a while that would go a long way in lifting our spirits. We need our friends and we need Quinn back. There’s nothing more important to us in the entire universe than getting our son back to the happy kid we used to know...”

After writing that letter, the phone began ringing almost immediately. Emails flooded my inbox. People started knocking on our door and as it turns out, the OCD Monster hates visitors. A friend of Quinn’s who lived down the street started coming over to play every day. An astounding outpouring of love and support began to flow into our lives from friends, neighbours and fellow Wakefielders. Some sort of sublime community healing power was at work.

One day, I couldn’t find Quinn in the house. I went outside and thought I heard singing. The singing got louder as I walked down our laneway. When I got to the end of our laneway, I looked up. Quinn was at the very top of our pine tree. When he saw me he stopped singing and called out, “Hi, Mummy!” and started climbing down. He jumped off one of the lower branches and landed in front of me. His face was flushed pink. I asked what he’d been doing. In a steady strong voice, looking me in the eyes, he said, “I sang ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ to Grandpa and I let him go.”

I stared at him. A blue jay squawked nearby. “You what?”

“I sang the whole song. Then I let him go.” He said this matter-of-factly. He was smiling. There was a calm in his face I hadn’t seen in weeks. He began walking up the lane, saying he wanted to go to soccer practice. I stood there watching him as he made his way up the lane kicking a stone like a soccer ball. Could it be true? All I could do was whisper a hushed prayer up into the tree: Please.

I’d realize later that letting his grandpa go up in the tree that day healed something that was broken in his heart. The OCD Monster was still quietly slithering in the pathways of his brain, but the fight was on. What came next would be a final battle bordering on the miraculous.

The brain has been called the most complex object in the known universe. As many neurons exist in our brains as there are stars in the Milky Way. Is it any wonder that glitches like OCD sometimes arise? The way our brains work is the direct result of millions of years of evolution. And who knows how many of our ancient ancestors might have experienced what we now call OCD? If only they knew then what we know now: OCD can be successfully treated, without drugs, and even disappear altogether, as has been the case with Quinn.

It has been three years and the OCD Monster has never made a comeback.

Laurie Gough

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 22, 2015
Laurie Gough photo

Laurie Gough

Laurie Gough is the author of Kiss the Sunset Pig: An American Road Trip with Exotic Detours, and Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman’s Travel Odyssey, shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in the U.K., and silver medal winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Travel Book of the Year in the U.S.