I’m working with a young girl (around 10 years old) who has OCD. She also has an Autism diagnosis (high-functioning). For starters, the fact that she has an actual diagnosis of OCD at her age is amazing to me. Children are diagnosed with OCD when their behaviors are obvious (hand-washing, counting, etc.) But this little girl, we’ll call her Violet, amazes me for another reason: because her OCD is the thought-kind. Like we have. Meeting her and finding this out stirred up so much in me–like, the fact that I’m almost envious of Violet–because of various qualities of her autism, the thought of keeping her thoughts secret from her mom never occurred to her like it did to me. She started sharing her scary thoughts and “fears” as she calls them, as soon as they started, because…well, why wouldn’t she? Anyway, needless to say, I find her fascinating for a variety of reasons.
Right now, her OCD is at an all-time high, and she’s basically not functioning. And I’ve used that term before in regards to myself (“I’m so anxious I’m hardly functioning”) but Violet is just a few steps away from a hospitalization. She’s not on medication, mainly because she’s so young and no doctor wanted to medicate her before trying therapy. But the doctors are now realizing that she’s done what she can with the coping mechanisms they’ve given her, and if she’s not medicated for her OCD soon, it could be disastrous. Violet can’t make it through a 45-minute block without breaking down into tears and confessing her fears (“I’m having a fear right now, what if I die in my sleep?” or “I’m very upset right now, what if I touched something poisonous?”) It’s against my professional ethics or morals to disclose to her that I struggle with those fears too, of course, so I have to make do with a very understanding voice and some conversation here and there.
But if that weren’t enough, she is beginning to show a lot of signs of childhood schizophrenia. As in, she’s seeing things/talking to things that aren’t there. So of course this is another plug for medication, and hopefully her mom and her doctors pull it together and help her. But the reason this is breaking my heart in particular is because she realizes that she’s “going crazy.” And when she asks if she’s crazy because she has all these fears, of course we tell her “no,” (just like I’ve learned to know that I’m not crazy because of MY OCD). But when she then asks the tough follow-up question of “I’m not crazy even though I’m seeing people that my teachers can’t see?” what are we supposed to say? We can say “You’re not crazy, there’s just something going on in your brain causing you to imagine things that aren’t real” but she doesn’t buy it. She has autism but she’s not stupid. She’s now referring to herself as crazy, not just because of the hallucinations, but because of the fears, too. She’s lumping everything together and I’m so saddened because I don’t want her thinking that she’s crazy because of her OCD. I don’t want her growing up the way I did, like that.
And I’m keeping distance and not getting too emotionally involved, because for all I know they’ll move her into the hospital or into a therapeutic program tomorrow…but oh, I just wish I could put my arms around her and tell her that I get it, and that she will be okay, and that she’s not not NOT crazy.