Disclosure: Please note, links to merchants or products in this post might be using an affiliate link. This means that at no cost to you, I I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link.
Imagine standing in the cereal aisle of Target and realizing that something isn’t right with your 7-year-old.
That was my life a few years ago.
My little first grader with her hair in pigtails and her dirty Converse sneakers was standing there sobbing with tears running down her cheeks.
That was the moment I knew I needed help.
Out of the Blue
In what seemed like just a matter of days, she changed from my High School Musical crazed girl to an anxious, emotional little girl.
I knew that something was wrong.
I went over to my daughter, held her hand and bent down so I could look at her.
I don’t know.
Do you want to buy this cereal?
Then what are you doing?
I don’t know.
Can we put the box back?
I have to read it.
You have to read it?
What do you have to read?
What about the box?
I have to read all the words on the box.
I don’t know, I just have to.
When Your Child Is Scared
She didn’t know why.
But she felt this need…this urge to have to read all the words on the cereal box.
So I stood there next to her until she was done.
She looked up at me with the tear stained face and told me we could go.
That was it.
The rest of the Target trip was uneventful.
But I asked her about it when we got home.
She was sitting at the dining room table staring at a magazine.
Hey, can you put the magazine down so we can talk?
No, I can’t.
You can’t put the magazine down?
No. [Her eyes start welling up with tears.]
Why can’t you put down the magazine?
Because I have to read it.
You have to read the magazine?
I have to read all the words on the cover.
Why do you have to read all the words?
I don’t know. I just have to
I could sense the desperation in her words to me.
She sat there, crying, reading the cover of the magazine.
When she was done, she didn’t flip through the magazine.
She just put the magazine back on the table and jumped off the chair.
Then she went back to dancing around the house to her favorite Disney songs.
I felt so helpless.
I didn’t know what was going on.
Our son never had this issue.
I never read about this in any of my many parenting books.
Or parenting magazines.
I never heard any other parents talk about this.
I felt helpless.
My daughter was struggling with something and she couldn’t stop, she couldn’t explain why and I couldn’t help.
Asking for Help
The first person I thought to talk to was the school counselor at my daughter’s elementary school.
I explained the issues with increased moodiness.
My daughter having to read everything on a magazine, cereal box or other random things.
The counselor listened and thought it sounded like anxiety.
She referred us to a child psychologist.
She was a life changer.
PANDAS Is More Than Just A Cute Bear
PANDAS is the acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.
It means that my daughter had strep infection.
Her body developed antibodies targeting some molecules in her brain.
This caused her minor OCD to increase dramatically.
It was as if somebody switched on a light switch.
That’s how sudden and extreme the OCD was.
Expanding Your Child’s Circle of Helpful Adults
My daughter had a few appointments with the psychologist.
As is common with PANDAS, the OCD symptoms start to subside.
But she benefited so much from talking with the doctor.
The psychologist knew what questions to ask to help her put words to what she was feeling.
The psychologist gave her great tools to use to help her when she starts to feel anxious.
We were also made aware that stress may worsen OCD symptoms.
So as she gets older, we need to make sure she monitors her stress levels to try to minimize her OCD.
As a family, we learned so many lessons.
1. Ask for help
I didn’t worry about what other people might think if I took my child to a “psychologist.”
I didn’t worry about telling her school counselor and teachers about this.
My main concern was my child.
She needed help and I needed to help her.
2. Trust Your Instincts
I knew something wasn’t right.
I could’ve just tried to pass it off as a phase.
But something told me that this wasn’t right.
3. Give Your Child Tools
Now our daughter has tools to use when she experiences the onset of symptoms.
4. Disorders Do Not Define You
This is a big one.
I reassure my daughter that OCD is not who she is.
Yes, it’s a disorder that she has.
Yes, she’ll have to deal with it her entire life.
But it isn’t who she is.
Helpful Online Resources
I recommend finding a child psychologist who deals with OCD.
If you need help finding someone, ask at your school or pediatrician.
Helpful Books for Parents and Children with OCD
What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming OCD
Freeing Your Child from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Powerful, Practical Program for Parents of Children and Adolescents
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook
Even in Those Moments
If your a mama whose child has OCD, you are amazing.
You are amazing.
Even in those moments when you feel like breaking down.
Even in those moments when you feel guilty.
Even in those moments when you try to love the worries out of their head.
Even in those moments when you grab their hand in the store – just a little too tightly.
Even in those moments when you yell at them to stop – just a little too loudly.
Even in those moments when you ask them to tell you what’s wrong – but they can’t.
Even in those moments when you plead with them to tell you – but they can’t
..and then you start to beg them to tell you – but they can’t.
Even in those moments when you just hope they’ll fall asleep so the anxiety will subside.
Even in those moments when you feel alone.
Even in those moments when you feel like you failed.
You are amazing.
The Future With PANDAS
As my daughter is now almost 16, we are past the PANDAS stage.
But she will always have OCD.
We keep tabs on her stress level.
We make sure she gets enough sleep.
She eats really well.
We also talk.
We talk a lot about everything going on in her life.
We know her moods and we can tell if she’s starting to get too stressed.
Then we make sure to give her a break – or a nap!
If You Need A Friend
Please, contact me if you need to talk or have any questions.
I’d love to hear from you and I will try to help you find resources to help!