How My Mom Saved Me from My Childhood OCD

Due to being a major scaredy-cat in the past (and sometimes still…) this post originally ran as a contribution to another website, written under a pseudonym. Some edits have been made.

“You have a collect call from…

I cheated on my social studies test. I pushed Ben down the stairs. I think I wished you had breast cancer. Love you, bye.”

Click.

I put the payphone down and hurried back to class. The thoughts had pretty much taken over by then. I was 12.

My mother and I had choreographed an elaborate dance to help me to get through the agonizing six hours I would spend away from the house at school each day. At least once every few periods, I would place a collect call from the payphone by the gym. In place of my name, I would confess a litany of shameful, purely imagined offenses and hang up. It was ironic really.

My mom knew better than to pick up the phone when I called. And that was OK. I knew the answering machine would record my “transgressions” and that was sufficient enough to relieve the suffocating guilt until the bus dropped me off at 3:30.

The thoughts had begun when I was 9. I had a brand new baby sister and I was terrified to touch her. I knew that if I laid my hands on her, I would break her, for sure. Of course I never did, but in the recesses of my mind I was scared to the core that I might. And that fear became an uncontrollable beast that somehow transformed “I might” into “I did.”

One afternoon, I walked to the gas station across the street from our house to buy an after-school snack. When I got home, I told my mother I had tried to poison the baby. She panicked, because well, duh, and told me to tell her exactly what happened. I told her I tried to poison the baby with gasoline.

I hadn’t.

had walked across the street to the gas station and maybe stepped on some old, dried gasoline and then perhaps touched some with my fingers when I took off my shoes. The shoes I had just taken off, so as not to track gasoline into the house — in case I accidentally started a fire.

And as she would many, many times after this, my mother took a long, very deep breath. And even though she was tired and worried and scared, she hugged me close and told me it was alright. And I felt relief. It was a relief that only she could offer and a relief I would cling to until three years later, when we got an official diagnosis for what haunted me. 

It was an unpleasant, desperate time for all of us. I was exhausted, upset and uncertain about the thoughts each day would bring. And although I felt wounded and betrayed by my own body — I don’t believe that I ever felt scared. Even through the very darkest moments, my adolescent mind took comfort in the knowledge my mother was still rooting for me. That no matter the breadth of insidiousness that my mind revealed, she would love me and lift me up – when I was too weak to stand on my own. She would be my mom, no matter what.

I still vividly remember the psychology books stacked high on her nightstand, checked out from the Mass General Hospital library – the internet wasn’t exactly a “thing” yet. I remember handing her pages of scribbled confessions of unthinkable deeds and receiving a handwritten love note in return. I remember her picking me up from school when I couldn’t take another step.

She may not have done everything exactly right, but she did everything within her power. In 1997, there was no WebMD to help diagnose or direct you to your nearest children’s psychiatric unit. She went to the ends of the Earth to find a psychiatrist and help me mix the perfect Prozac aperitif to ease my anxieties – all while never making me feel like anything less than her little girl. 

I thank God every day we were able to right the ship. But what’s more, I thank Him for a mother, who made me feel human. Who told me she loved me when I told her the very worst parts of me.

I’m thankful she was exactly what I needed – that she was my mom, no matter what.

22 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful! With 3 kids, always need a read like this to help them on their journey. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love mothers everywhere that listen to their intuition and act in a way that helps their child learn and grow. There is nothing more important for our children than to know that they are loved and that they can trust in that love. That trust brings confidence in small almost imperceptible ways. Thank you for sharing your sweet story. And thank you to your mom for being your angel!

  3. WOW. I struggled with OCD, too, but in a very different way–for me, it’s always been a suffocating mix of anxiety, depression, and OCD showing up as intense perfectionism… which became body dysmorphic disorder when I was a teenager, with a little bit of trichotillomania thrown in. Isn’t it insane, the hoops that we jump through just to masquerade as ordinary adults? I’m so happy for you that you had such a wonderful partner in your mom to get through such dark times – and I hope that your life is a hell of a lot easier now! <3

    • “Masquerade as ordinary adults” AND ALL THE PEOPLE SAID, “AMEN!” Oh man, can I just tell you how amazing it feels to know I’m not the only one who walked this walk? I’m so sorry for your struggles and hope that you are breathing easier these days too. Thank you so much for reading <3

  4. Greg Michaels April 6, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I am at a loss for words to expressly appreciation for both you and your mother. From what I have seen of your mother, none of what you have written about her surprises me and from what I know about your dad, I have no doubt that he too, likely silently, carried that load with you both. I’m very moved by your courage after all of that to make yourself vulnerable for the sake of so many moms and kids out there that are facing similar struggles in their own darkness right now.

    • Thank you so much Greg 😉 I truly appreciate those words more than you could possibly know <3

  5. I firmly believe that it was your mom’s love, warmth and gentle responses that were exactly what you or any struggling child needed or needs. I believe that anti anxiety medicine or whatever the right medicine is, is a critical part of helping someone regain their peace. I have seen many students break this cycle with the help of carefully prescribed medicine but equally important (perhaps more) a mother’s unconditional and complete love. It is sad when a parent cannot or does not recognize how essential their love and devotion of time and energy, while not smothering the growth of the child to function independently. Your mom is an amazing woman, who has an amazing daughter. You are very brave and confident, to share your story. You will make a positive difference for others.

    • Thank you SO much for your note Mrs. Crowne! This really means so much and I really appreciate you reading. My mom definitely is an amazing woman and I aspire to be as much like her as I can be! You Crowne women aren’t too shabby either 😉

  6. Erica Lamberton April 7, 2017 at 5:09 am

    Thank you for sharing. This took a lot of courage to do so! I’m at a loss for just the right words but what I do know is that you were blessed with an amazing support system at home… Your Mom! 💖

    • Thank you so much Erica! I really appreciate you reading and reaching out! It means a lot 🙂

  7. Oh wow girl! I can’t even imagine this feeling now, much less having this as a child! So thankful you have such a loving and wonderful mom who was there for you no matter what.

    • Thank you so much for reading Virginia! I am so grateful to have her as a mother <3

  8. Such an amazing post, and amazing mother you have. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you Jasmine! And thank you for the amazing work that you do day in and day out!

  9. Oh Kelly! I just want to hug you and hug the mom and thank her for being such a light in your life! What an amazingly beautiful example of the selfless love a mother has for her child!

    • Thank you Martina! She was definitely my port in this storm (and let’s be honest, pretty much every storm in my entire life!) We mamas have such a beautiful and powerful role in the lives of our kiddos!

  10. Ohhh Kelly, I was just able to read this post and I couldn’t help to get teary eyed to see such a profound and selfless love personified in your mother! What a true blessing to have such a strong woman to be that strong pillar that held you from shattering apart. Big hug to you and her!

    • Thank you so much Sarah! You are so sweet to read and I really appreciate your kind and encouraging words <3 I was and am SO lucky to have her!

  11. Wow, I had no idea these sorts of thoughts could take over a childs mind. I’m so glad you shared this. Your story will definitely be helping someone, and who knows, that someone could be me. We can’t control who will be affected, but how we help them is so important. You have a wonderful mom.
    This was really a great read Kelly.

    • You are SO sweet Patrice! Thank you so much for reading and for your sweet note <3 My mom is pretty dang great 🙂

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