Monday, October 23, 2006

Paradigm shift...

This past weekend can only be described as quietly wild. The ups were not huge, nor were the downs, but it was a roller-coaster ride nonetheless. C took point on Saturday, since I was supposed to go to a handspinning guild meeting for most of the day (but ended up nursing a back spasm instead, which was disappointing, but at the same time a needed rest). They had plans for the day- start off at the science museum, hit the museum cafe for lunch, then off fo a swim at the university pool. Things went very well until the swimming part, when B had an OCD thought about going into the building where the pool was. B has been reliving something from last summer that originated when he was eating lunch in the cafeteria at another local college during computer camp (something he saw on a Cartoon Network show that was broadcast on tvs in the cafeteria to keep the kids amused- B was not), so C wasn't completely surprised that the thought came up at another college-type setting. They came home instead & B spent a good part of the afternoon laying on the floor in his room moaning about how he hates that cafeteria & the left side of his body (another OCD thing). He recovered sufficiently before dinner to lego some, enjoy a nice dinner with us (dad made biscuits & soup, so B had tofu instead of the soup part & jam on his biscuits :), then went upstairs afterward to lego some more. I was pleasantly surprised to discover, when I went up to get him for dessert, that he'd found the station that was broadcasting Prairie Home Companion on the radio in his room & was listening along with us (we'd had it on downstairs through dinnertime).

Sunday was similar, with moments of OCD-thought paralysis & meltdown & then others of supreme fun & silliness. He didn't want to go into his Sunday School room because of a thought, for the first time in years, but fortunately one of B's teachers is a clinical psychologist, so as I hovered at the doorway, having coaxed B into the room, this teacher blithely waved me back to my own class & I knew B was in capable hands. We brought our younger (16-year-old) goddaughter home to have lunch with us after church & she made a comment in the car that "you could tell she hadn't had her pill today"... & it occurred to me that B didn't know that she had ADD & takes medicine for it, so I asked her to tell him about it, which she did unselfconsciously. We ended up giggling over the t-shirt that says "Some people think I have ADD but I think- oh, look! There's a chicken!". She talked about having "chicken moments" which was really neat (B loved it). We decided B's t-shirt would read "Some people think I have Asperger's Syndrome... Oh, look! A temporospatial anomaly!!"

After C came home (he had a church meeting) he & B played bionicles in B's room while I napped on the sofa. C says B once again became morose & moody- he thinks that B gets out of sorts when I'm resting, even though he really wants to play with dad. They did decide that we'd go out to dinner, which was fine with me. C told B that if we did he would have to do the interactive newsletter from school with us at the restaurant & B agreed... he's been avoiding doing the newsletter all weekend because it's too much like homework, but it's a really great way for us to find out what's going on at school, so we like to have him read it to us & do what it asks ("explain inertia to your parents"). It resulted in a nice discussion of physics over dinner & an even more hilarious conversation in the car on the way home, when I discovered that C had had B sign on the line that says "My child has read this newsletter to me- signed: parent" & I asked B if he'd been holding out on us that he had a child. He giggled ferociously over that one :)

This morning B did a great job of getting dressed & getting his own breakfast, but came up short when something in the Heifer project catalogue he was taking to school (his class is doing Heifer as a community service project) got him ticcing. I will admit that I was feeling exasperated, thinking about all the ways that the OCD limits him, so I recalled the thoughts & tics that had bothered him all weekend & we talked about how miserable they were making him & how they were preventing him from doing what he wanted to, like go swimming or even hold a catalogue. He sat on the floor unhappily, trying to explain how the OCD & tics felt. He said softly that one of his biggest OCD fears is that some day scientists will discover a way to control peoples' minds. I told him that this didn't surprise me because the OCD seems to control him already. He said that the OCD feels like there is a parasite in his brain telling him what to do. He feels like he wants to fight it but he can't. He asked me why he has the OCD in the first place, why does he have to have OCD?

So, I told B that I've come to think of the OCD as part of his autism spectrum charactersitics, & that, as he knew, everybody on the spectrum has different combinations of characteristics. I told him that his combo includes Aspergers, OCD, & Tourettes (although the Tourettes seems primarily an expression of the OCD anxiety), & that he likely has the OCD because I have it, too. I explained to him that my OCD was triggered by growing up with a very unpredictable father, who could not be relied upon to respond the same way twice to things. I told B that I never knew when I would get a smile or get hit, so the OCD seemed to help me feel like I had some control over my life (even though it really didn't). I told him that I suspected that he knew the feelings where the OCD tells you if you do a certain thing, like count things or touch things, then everything would be ok. We know that isn't true, but the OCD is strong & hard to ignore. B agreed he'd had these thoughts. Then I told B that the image of a parasite in his brain was pretty scary... & that I believe that how we think about things can truly affect reality. I wondered if he might be able to think of the OCD as... maybe a pokemon that needed training, rather than a parasite to be fought. I told B that I have decided that the image of fighting things is not very positive or productive in my life, & that even though I think of myself as a Jedi, I think of Jedi as peacemakers, not fighters. B grinned at the pokemon image, & we talked about May (one of the characters that travels with Ash & Pikachu learning how to train her pokemon) & her unruly Skitty who won't stay in her pokeball & wreaks havok on occasion. B happened to be wearing Skitty in his beltpack this morning (the link is to a picture of Skitty), so he happily started saying "neh! neh!" as Skitty does. We were going to be late for school, so we brushed teeth & got coats & shoes on- B started swearing at his zipper because it wouldn't zip, until I intervened & recommended that he take it slowly & actually look at the zipper (he rarely looks at things like this & is frustrated easily when they won't co-operate). In the car he started to cry, saying that life is too hard... I wondered out loud if thinking of life as a training journey, like Ash & May, wouldn't help. We recalled some of the tough things Ash has had to face in his pokemon training & B agreed that life could be like that. I told him that his psychologist was like Professor Oak (Ash's mentor) & that I was kind of like Brock, who has a lot of experience training pokemon but is still learning. B asked me what kind of pokemon my OCD is & I decided it's a Pichu (a very cute & cuddly pokemon) & then he asked about how Team Rocket (the bumbling bad guys) fit into the scheme. We decided that his Tourette's was probably his Team Rocket & my father was mine... By the time we got to school B seemed relaxed & happy, ready for the day.

I really like the image of B's journey through life as training, rather than a battle. I love the image of B training his very frustrating OCD, rather than fighting it. As we were talking about the OCD, I realised that the image of the OCD as a separate thing from himself is neither accurate or helpful. The OCD is part of him, & a currently unpleasant part of his life. I believe deeply that how we think of our life creates our reality. If we can reinforce a gentler image for B, then perhaps the scariness of the OCD will ebb & he will feel more successful... as George says, in Yellow Submarine "It's all in the mind...:" I would like B's mind to be a friendly place for him, & I think the best place to start is by imagining it to be that way. I hope today has laid the groundwork for a paradigm shift that will allow B to come to terms with his wayward thoughts. As I explained to him about my Pichu (OCD)- it's mostly under control, but it's alive & sometimes does surprising things. That pretty much defines life, too, doesn't it?


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