Parenting with OCD

In the opening scene in As Good as it Gets, Jack Nicholson counts as he locks and unlocks the door three times and turns on and off the light switch to a predetermined routine. The director obviously chose these stereotypical behaviors to show the audience that he was living with OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But sometimes, it’s not that obvious to the world around you. OCD doesn’t always have to be outward actions, but its symptoms most certainly can be thoughts or stresses festering in one’s mind. You can’t always look at someone and know they have OCD.

In fact, most of my friends and acquaintances have no idea that I have OCD. This probably has to do with the fact that my OCD doesn’t center on what is called “rituals” or “counting compulsions,” but it is characteristically called OCPD, or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. In short, I have a need for my day to be orderly, my routine to be set and a need to control my environment. It often manifests itself in me, admittedly, being a tad inflexible and what some may consider rigid. Unfortunately for my husband, it does not manifest itself in a way that I have to constantly keep our house perfectly neat (sorry, honey), but it means that if you can’t tell me what we plan on doing this weekend down to the minute, I’m going to stress about it. I try really hard to go with the flow and to appear to be carefree. It’s a constant battle in my head and sometimes, it gets the best of me.

Today was one of those days. I found myself waiting until I had an even number dirty of bottles in the dishwasher before running it. The bottles were in two rows and I couldn’t bring myself to run it until the rows were equal. Most of the time, I do these things without noticing, but for one reason or another, today it struck me. It’s not easy to go through life with OCD/OCPD, and it’s even harder when your life is at the mercy of an unpredictable five month old.

Looking back over the first six months of my daughter’s life, I find it impossible to ignore how my OCPD has affected her life and how her life has affected my OCPD.

My pregnancy was a dream. The first time I got sick while pregnant was when I was given the epidural, which was definitely worth getting sick! Since I felt great, I was able to keep control of my days, still plan accordingly and stick to routines. Phew!

Once my daughter was born, it wasn’t so easy. The majority of books that you read or doctors that you speak to will tell you it’s virtually impossible to establish a routine until your baby hits that magic three month mark. It took everything I had not to attempt to impose a routine before then, but once she was ready, I felt so much better. A weight was lifted, but it also meant that my days were planned ahead of time and everything else needed to fit in those windows of times where she wasn’t scheduled to eat or nap. This wasn’t so much of a problem for me, as it was for my husband and the rest of my family. I take comfort in routines and predictability. Finally, I had taken back control of my days and was looking forward to smooth sailing.

But, as we all know, life has other plans.

Reality set in when my niece had a Special Friend’s Day at school that coincided with my daughter’s naptime. I apologized to my sister and told her that I just didn’t think I could make it. After my dad made me feel incredibly guilty (seems to be what parents do best!), I mustered up the courage to disturb the sacred morning nap and ventured out during that time. I watched my daughter’s every move, every coo, and every turn of the head waiting for signs that she couldn’t take it anymore and we would have to leave.

No crying, no fussiness, no fit. She was absolutely fine. I, as in most situations, had worried and fretted for nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if her inadaptability is in my head and I’m projecting onto her. Whatever the case, she did beautifully and I realized that once in a while, it’s okay to veer off course…

But let’s not get carried away. I still make plans based on her schedule, not mine. It’s just nice to know that if something should arise, we will both survive.

I’ll just freak out about it until it’s all said and done.

Thank goodness my husband is the complete opposite, which makes me confident that my daughter has a chance of growing up a bit more relaxed and easy going than her mom. One can surely hope.

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