It has been a week of extreme high’s and low’s, both OCD related and with life in general.

The dreaded Monday evening

Frankly, I was doing fairly well until Monday afternoon. For some reason, Monday afternoons and evenings tend to be difficult for me, especially when it comes to patience with my children. I was frustrated with them for being children who don’t automatically do what I ask them to do, clean up after themselves, do their chores without whining, etc. etc. We were a bit rushed and frantic (for what reason, I can’t really remember now). We finally got the children into bed, but my daughter was not wanting to go to sleep without a battle, of course.

It was one of those nights (like most nights) when I just needed them to go to bed so I could relax and breathe. That being said, I was not happy to find my daughter out of her bed, in the bathroom. I was much unhappier when I went to investigate, only to discover that she had had an accident in bed. 

Unwanted exposure

This, of course, sparked a cleaning and OCD fueled freak out about contamination. Disinfectant spray was involved, sheets were changed and disposed of, jammies and underwear thrown out, and a shower given.

Energy, frustration, and angry tension were high among the adults involved, and my daughter was scared, sad, tired, and ashamed. It was not a high point for any of our lives. The next day she had two more accidents. We’re not sure why. Maybe stress and the fact that she doesn’t understand how to process my OCD tendencies and freak outs. Maybe she had some sort of a bug. Maybe it was something she ate. We don’t know. But it was difficult on both of us (and my husband).

Mental illness and children

Sometimes I wish that my mental illness didn’t affect my children as much as it does. Sometimes trying to shield them from it seems too impossible a task. Yes, I wish that they didn’t have to deal with it, but I also know that, with appropriate discussion, it can be a valuable life lesson for them. I hope that I can teach them empathy and sympathy for those who live with mental illnesses. I want them to learn compassion and not judgment for those who are different or deal with these types of health challenges. My husband grew up in an environment where he had to deal with a mother who had mental health struggles, and it provided him the ability to understand and have patience with my mental illness.

I can’t beat myself up for my mistakes or the times my OCD lashes out automatically. I do need to try to control and suppress my compulsions, of course, but the reality is I won’t be able to always win the OCD battles. Sometimes my children will see and live and be a part of the consequences of my having obsessive compulsive disorder. I can’t and don’t want to cut them off from that part of my life completely. But, I do want them to understand as much of what is happening and why as is appropriate for their age and comprehension.

How do you teach children about mental illness? What level of explanation is appropriate?

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