A Suitcase of Feelings – Raising Children with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A Suitcase of Feelings
Raising Children with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Kristine Johnson

A Suitcase of Feelings
Copyright © 2016 by Kristine Johnson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

Foreword 1
The journey of raising a child with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is aided by the guidance of parents who have already walked the path.
AS a therapist who specializes in pediatric OCD, I have had the pleasure of working with many families who share this experience. While OCD is very common, most families walk this path with feelings of uncertainty and loneliness.
AS Co-founder of OCD Twin Cities, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and resources to individuals and families struggling with OCD, the power of peer support became apparent when we started to offer parent support groups. The authors have played an instrumental role in this organization by serving on the Executive Board, initiating fundraisers, and leading support groups.
Parents often become secretive of their family dynamics because it can be difficult to explain to other family members and friends why your child gets stuck on certain thoughts and behaviors. OCD gradually evolves from bullying your child to eventually dictating how the family behaves and functions. It can feel humiliating to a parent, but when your child is suffering you will do whatever it takes to calm those fits of terror or rage. Parenting skills that worked for your other children do not work on your child with OCD. And intuitive parental responses can worsen the condition. You can start to feel like you are losing your child more and more to their internal bully and feelings of hopelessness and frustration grow. Fortunately as miserable as it can be to live with OCD, it also happens to be one of the most treatable mental health conditions. Finding a cognitive behavioral therapist that is well skilled in exposure and response prevention can give you several pieces of the puzzle to helping your child and family heal.
The peer support offered in this book provides several other pieces to the puzzle. This is an inspiring guide on turning pain into purpose and offers creative ways to process frequently felt emotions experienced by parents of children with OCD. The authors label these distressing emotions and offer ways to discuss and reframe these feelings to create a more positive experience. This book offers hope and understanding to decrease the feelings of isolation by sharing common experiences on this journey. While it was written with the intention to help guide discussions in parent support groups, it can be a useful tool to parents who are unable to attend such groups. This is a great resource to have no matter where you are on your journey, and can be especially helpful to those who are just embarking on this path.

Renae M. Reinardy, Psy.D.LP
Cofounder, President OCD Twin Cities
Director, Licenses Clinical Psychologist, Lakeside Center for
Behavioral Change, PC

Foreword 2
The decision to become a parent is often filled with doubt and un-certainty. The process of raising children can present many of those same feelings. What parents discover along the way is a sometimes innate ability to help our children in times of need. Sometimes parents may implore approaches from their own childhoods. Approaches that seemed logical and just plain common sense. Other skills for raising children evolve, such as how to help a frustrated child with a math problem, calm a child with a scraped knee or boost confidence in times of rejection. Parents develop a skill set along the way, dictated by individual personalities of both parents and children.
Parenting a child with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) pre-sents its own set of unique challenges. Imagine trying to bandage a scraped knee that never seems to heal. Going over and over the same math problem with a child who acts as if they have not seen this problem before. This is what parents of children with OCD often experience in the beginning. The innate, common sense approach to an issue is not working. Frustration builds for both the parent and the child. A near-constant state of distress that is palpable. Feelings of terror and hopelessness as to what the future may hold for this child. All of this combined with the empty, lonely feeling of failing as a parent. Parents blaming themselves for this outcome. Family members, social and school communities sensing an issue and parents feeling too ill-equipped to discuss.
As a therapist specializing in the treatment of OCD, I often see children and families come into my office feeling fear, confusion, loneliness, frustration and even hopelessness about their ability to gain control over their child’s behavior. Behavior that often has detrimental effects on the family system, leaving everyone involved searching for answers.
The peer support offered in this book begins to fill a void in this journey. Acknowledging and validating how parents feel can begin to address the isolating feelings sufferers and families often experience. Guidance for how to begin processing these feelings is crucial to the overall recovery of the child and the family system. OCD can be a debilitating condition, but is also treatable. Treatment is a journey, from finding an OCD specialist, assessment work, completion of treatment and maintaining gains post treatment. Along this journey, having the support of others who have walked that same path can be a difference maker. With the help of this resource, these isolating feelings can be processed more effectively. The authors have worked carefully to address these areas in a way that only an affected family can. As a clinician, I can implement a treatment plan, but my ability to provide such intimate details to the true effects of this condition is limited. I thank the authors for filling this void.

Best Regards,

Damon W. Buckett, LCSW
Behavior Therapist, Cornerstone Counseling Services

Nothing is more personal than our family, our children. When we watch our children struggle with OCD, we must face an array of worries, issues and feelings and learn to cope with them in a healthy manner for the entire family. This is not an easy task. Sadness and grieving are one part of this journey.
Sadness may wash in at the time of an OCD diagnosis and a co-morbid diagnosis. (Often OCD is not alone. It coexists with ADHD, depression, eating issues, oppositional defiant disorder, etc.).
You may be a “fixer.” You want to figure this out and fix it right away. You jump in with passion and great energy. Sometimes we can burn ourselves out. You may be the type of individual who needs to digest all of this information by researching and then quietly sorting out this critical point in time. People react differently. For example, I need to jump in and put forth a lot of energy trying new doctors, therapists and techniques. I need a good cry or to talk things out. I need to isolate, back down and take some time for myself to process and think. It’s important, though, to not be like a jack-in-the-box who stays inside the box. You need to come out and participate in your life! Often, others may approach parenting a child with OCD differently than we do. This can cause layers of problems and divisions.
You may feel sad at various milestones. You may feel sadness at the pressure you fell for how things should be or could be. You may be sad that support networks you thought would be there are not (family, friends, neighbors, church, schools, etc.).
You may feel sadness for not parenting the way you think you should be or the way you visualized you would be. You feel sad watching your family dynamics change and often feel the sensation of spiraling out of control.
You want the best for your children want your children to be hap-pier, healthier and more whole than you are or were as a child. You want your child to be accepted and to feel accepting of themselves and you want to make everything all right. It is our nature, our instincts as parents to try and make everything okay.

Look for JOY in your life, despite your circumstances.

Joy can be lost in extreme hardships and situations that feel over-whelming. Yet, joy and humor and so important. To be able to feel a sense of happiness and to laugh at situations in our life, even the most absurd situations can bring humor. Joy need to be worked on. Put your “Joy” card in a place to remember you have joy in you and maybe a laugh (or a ½ smile). Joy card at end of book.

Share your joy!
Don’t just survive this day, live this day!

What “should be” typical milestones often bring sadness to parents of children with OCD. The developmental milestones that other children pass through so quickly may be delayed or non-existent for our children. The cognitive, emotional, and social skills are often delayed or at times seem non-existent.
The difficult thing about milestones is that there are so many pivotal points, countless moments, from birth to young adult. There are so many firsts. We ask ourselves so many questions that run the gamut of “Will he/she be able to…?” We can fill in the blank with so many. Sometimes it can feel like our children’s peers are forging ahead blazing new trails and we are stuck in what often feels like a time warp.
We ask ourselves, “What trails are we blazing?”

School Age Milestones
• Invitations
• Camps
• School successes
• Babysitting jobs
• Sleepovers
• Independence
• Play dates
• Grades
• Achievements and awards
• Dates/dances
• Driving

At times, we compare our child’s milestone moments to those of a sibling, a neighbor, a cousin or liked aged children. While it’s impossible not to notice the differences or to feel the pangs of sadness, we see that milestones are really the “wishes” we have or had for our children. Grieving occurs, but so do unexpected joys and “Plan B’s” creating a different path. (Some examples of Plan B might be babysit-ting while the parent is home; hosting a get together at your house; looking for unique mentors.)

Anxious feels like “Pins and Needles.” We just don’t know how whatever is planned (school, play dates, appointments, holidays) is going to go. The reality is it’s hard to predict anything at all.
We may feel like we walk on eggshells all of the time. Maybe you are a polished professional, a real planner. Maybe you like things placed neatly in a box. This life of predictable behaviors of our children causes anxiety and can be a real stretch. We may develop our own habits (some not so healthy) that we didn’t know we had or were capable of. Our own body and personality may change. We may isolate and look burdened, or seem like we have lost our zest. Others may handle it by moving to extremes with their workouts, hobbies, researching and advocating. We all handle stress differently.
Sometimes caregivers feel they have developed OCD by raising their children who have OCD. It is energy draining trying to fix, predict and be one step ahead of all situations. It’s exhausting and draining and can never be achieved.
(OCD is unpredictable and the rules can change. Remember you are human!)
How can we be CONTENT when we feel anxious?

Content is being here and now in the moment. Like joy or peace, we are able to be healthy in spirit and attitude in our current situation.
You will find a “Be at the Gig” card at the end of the book. Place this card where you will be reminded to be present. IF IT IS A GOOD DAY, BE THANKFUL. If you are drawing with your child or shopping, be present. Don’t try to predict the next moment (as hard as it is) or worry about the dishes in the sink. Enjoy the time you have and be really present in that. Notice the joys and abilities of your child. As musicians say, “You have to be really present to be at the gig.

Often, we are exhausted physical and emotionally. When raising children with OCD, we need extra rest and down time because our job is that much more! There are more of many things all day!
Here are a few tips:
• Don’t expect to please everyone.
• Don’t expect to be “put together” at all times.
• Do not focus on all the negatives.
Recharge your energy and find some peace.

How do you RECHARGE?

Try a sign on your door (see enclosed card). The sign could read, “Mom’s or Dad’s Time Out or In.” Prepare your child with OCD that the sign means you are busy and must not be interrupted. An incentive for your child to separate might be effective. If this is not possible at home, find a recharge place such as the library, a coffee shop or somewhere outside.
So watch a movie, meditate, pray or read. This time should be just yours. The family can learn to “not’ rely on mom or dad for every-thing evening, afternoon or morning. Have someone capable take over the family routines, even if it means hiring someone for an hour. Take care of yourself and recharge! OCD parents need to recharge!

We hear that worry is a waste of time and it won’t fix anything but……….

• How will school go?
• Play dates?
• Medicine? (black box warnings; judgment about child-hood drug therapy)
• New doctors?
• Travel?
• Holidays/birthdays?
• Family get-togethers?
• Moving?
• The future?

Worry leads to BURN OUT!

Look for Peace.

Peace is personal. It is time to feel relaxed, calm and nurtured. For some, time is needed to get back in to the routines of life which include the following:
• Walks or exercise
• Work
• Hobbies
• Music
• Candles
• Writing or journaling
• Coffee or tea
• Friends
• Watching TV
• Faith
• A good book
• Self-Care
• Games
• Arts
• Theatre

How about you?

Broken Dreams
The words “broken dreams” sound harsh but they simply imply that the things we dreamed about for our children and family have changed due to our child’s OCD diagnosis. The way we envisioned or framed our lives needs to change. We can reframe, while acknowledging hardships do exist. Because tough times bring strength, we need to be our own spin doctors.. Hardships do not have to define who we are or how we function as a family. We don’t have to be victims to these difficult circumstances or let them bulldoze over us.

You know the “classics.”
• The glass is half full.
• It is an ability not a disability.
• There is a growth experience here.

There are “POSITIVE REFRAMES.” What could yours be?

There’s too much! My suitcase is full! I can’t pack one more thing! Do you shut down, panic, feel rage and anger? *Maybe you are parenting alone or your partner is traveling or present but not an active participant in your family dynamics. Maybe your extended family isn’t able to help or even understand OCD and the same can be true of friends. It takes a lot of energy to muster support and ask for it.
The truth is as parents of children with OCD, we have more choices and decisions than many other parents, big choices, life altering decisions (school strategies, therapies, medicines, etc.). It can seem unfair that these decisions are placed on our tray (so often our children are so young and lack the tools they need to cope).
We also have other responsibilities – family, community, volunteering, etc.

*(Maybe your partner is “contaminated” or off limits due to OCD, and because of this label, cannot be of help in this present time).

How do we find BALANCE?

Balance needs to be practiced. Keep on that balance beam, but it takes focus and concentration. We need to learn how to balance on the beam and be grounded in mind, body and spirit. One misstep, one more shirt jammed into an already full suitcase can set us off. Rest if needed. Hire a sitter, look for respite. If you fall, don’t be too hard on yourself. Maybe find a cheerleader in the audience of your life that helps you up and applauds your accomplishments. Stay away from toxic people or those who don’t encourage your health and growth.
Toxic comments that are NOT helpful:
• People might say, “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t.”
• She or he is a spirited child or a handful.
• People putting you in a victim mode such as talking to you like they feel sorry for you all the time. (No one really wants to be a victim and we have to be careful to not settle for that).

Often, our internal voice is what we follow.

• “No one knows what this is like, raising a child with OCD.”
• “No one can help me. I’m in over my head.”
• “Could I be exposed as a not perfect mom, dad or family?”
• “I’m embarrassed by our family dynamics. “ (especially if you have a child with loud or aggressive outbursts).
• “No one would understand the complexity of our family or my child.”

We can shut down or like a jack-in-the-box retreat in the box. Sometimes we need to retreat. We need to take time off or away. Sometimes a call to a friend or family member who understands is a lifeline.

We need to look for SUPPORT and accept support.

Take a chance. Find that lifeline. Find that someone who you can trust with your family’s or child’s personal information. Sometimes we need to just get out of the house (the box) and pull up our energy to get to a support group or a grocery store, or out with a group of peers. Often our sharing can help another parent who is struggling. WE never know who else struggles behind closed doors.

How about you?


Just like road work, there are detours in raising our unique children. There are doctors, diagnoses, options or resources, support, insurance costs, lack of development, education, social and emotional growth, etc.

What are your detours?

Look for Hope…HOPEFUL

Don’t settle for status quo. Always seek out information because information is always changing. Our culture discusses mental health much more openly now and television programs are showing OCD for what it is. This is hopeful for educating others and advocating for our children. Medicines, science and technology are also evolving. Research and doctors are becoming more educated about OCD and Panda’s OCD. This is all hopeful. Keep researching and you will become a more effective advocate for your child and have the ability to ask vital questions of the insurance and healthcare industries.

The truth is that as parents we already judge ourselves harshly. You may feel judged in social settings, with family, friends, school, church, etc. As parents, we don’t have an east road. Remember, others do not know the whole story. Maybe they choose not to as it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or foreign to them. We can be judged or our children are judged for behaviors that are not a true reflection of the entire story. The behaviors are often part of the disorder.
Hold your head up high! You are doing your best with this situation. Everyone has “something” they have to deal with. We all probably have more in common than not.

Family, friends and acquaintances lack the understanding or in-formation about OCD and our situation, but we can educate our family and friends if they want to learn. WE can write updates or send email; purchase books to share; tell them about television programs that pertain to your family’s situation. When we hold on to grudges, it is toxic and makes us victims to anger and resentment, maybe even jealousy. Family members may also feel broken dreams for us and our children.

In Closing
It’s all in how you distribute the weight in your suitcase, alter the way you carry it. Use a strong shoulder. Ask for help and accept help.
Sometimes we feel stronger than other times. We can carry our bag and someone else’s too, at least for a while _ as long as it’s healthy. Parents helping other parents can bring support, encouragement and understanding to one another. By sharing our personal stories, taking chances and turning out for support groups, we allow our load to be lighter and realize no one escapes this life without some baggage.

The following thoughts are good information to share with extended family members and close friends.
Thought #1

Often OCD is a disorder that manifests itself in the home of the sufferer. At school, in social settings, youth groups, etc., others may not notice the symptoms readily.
Home becomes a safe haven to let your guards down and decompress. It would be safer to have emotional outbursts and letdowns at home. Often the obsessions and compulsions are centered I the home. Some examples include: contaminated rooms, furniture, garage, yard, bathrooms, thresholds, and family members. Often certain sinks are used for hand washing. Checking doors, locks or light switches are also common for OCD sufferers. Seeking reassurance from and repeating questions to certain family members in the household setting are also ways that an OCD sufferer tries to reduce anxiety.
Often extended family members or friends will say, “I don’t no-tice a thing.” (about the OCD symptoms). The truth is that over time others would notice the disorder because it can’t be hidden. Just like any other disease/disorder, it does not disappear. It is hard for the sufferer’s family members to hear this when the home, car etc. Can be a battlefield of OCD symptoms and the family experience can be I turmoil due to the disorder. It is hard to explain every symptom or to explain OCD to others. It is part of an isolation family members can feel.

Thought #2
It is expensive to treat OCD. Many insurance companies or plans do not cover the costs. Often, providers are out of network, or “residential care” is not covered in plans. Out of pocket cost can range in the hundreds of dollars per hour to see a competent provider of OCD. While insurance may cover some of the costs, it is often a fraction of the total out of pocket expense, and dealing with the paperwork and phone calls with insurance providers is time consuming.
It would be nice for parents to receive counseling as well, to discuss the family situation, feelings, education, parenting strategies, etc. It would also be a benefit for siblings.
Unfortunately, the cost of treatment often prohibits this option. Setting up treatment for the sufferer is the first priority and often all the expense a family can afford.

Thought #3
When you suffer from a physical illness you know when urgent medical help is needed. You are aware of this through:
• Blood tests
• Scans/ultrasounds
• X-rays, etc.
A picture is worth a thousand words! With mental health disorders there are really no images to see when the brain is in a highly exasperated state. We wish for a picture, something tangible instead of descriptions of behaviors to go on. It is often hard to know when medical help is needed and where, what type, if it is safe, and the affordability. Parents need to view their child’s behaviors or “episodes” and make difficult, stressful calls. Is urgent medical help needed now? You may be having a peaceful evening…when out of the blue “contamination” ora “brainstorm” takes your child over in language, behavior and volume. It can be extreme, lasting minutes or longer. It is exhausting. Do you go to the emergency room? What happens when the episode declines and calmness, or regret, or exhaustion comes over our children? It is hard to know what to do. Is it vital we go today, tomorrow? When and what if it happens again? Do you have a crisis plan? It takes enormous energy just to get through a crisis. It is exhausting, calling for help. Commuting, screenings, and various questions arise. It is a big “call” for parents. It is scary and it creates stress for everyone in the family including the sufferer.

Thought #4
Parents, please laminate the card below and present it at the arrival of a doctor appointment. It can assist in the contamination issues that are related to waiting rooms and will provide a discreet way of advocating for your child and yourself, the caregiver.

My child has OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Dis-order). Can we placed in an exam room immediately? Waiting rooms with sick people will create severe anxiety for my child.

For any parent of any child, patience is a moment by moment task all the way! For children with OCD, it is something to work on each hour. It is hard to watch a child wash over and over or ask a repetitive question all day. We need to look at the situation with compassion, remembering the child never asked for OCD. Not “fixing” everything for our children but understanding that their world is complicated and often not rational. This can often help with building patience. Re-member, we as parents are only human!

Siblings of Children with OCD
When you have a child with OCD, they receive a lot of attention. This disorder can often wax and wane for months or years. Siblings can get lost in plain sight. Make time one on one with your other child/children. Take him or her out for dinner or get a treat from the drive thru. Talk and stay connected. Be honest with the situation if your child is at a good age. Try to build compassion by showing compassion.
It’s not just the sibling, but also your spouse, significant other, parents, coworkers, community, church, friends pets…the list goes on of trying to fit everyone in and give of ourselves.

Family Boundaries are Invaded
When we raise children with OCD, we have a constant barrage of people in our space. Our personal and private life is open to many and boundaries can be blurred.

• Doctors
• Therapists
• Pharmacies
• Resources
• Teachers
• Mentors
• Insurance companies
• Schools – IEP’s, etc.
• Social Workers
• Interested family members and friends

At times, the day is taken up by emails and phone calls all center-ing on our children with OCD. It can be exhausting. It can be hard to get away from it all as a family because OCD often travels with us. There isn’t a “get-away” from a physical illness, either.

The following material contains tips for supporting our friends and family members who have children with mental and/or physical health issues.
The kindness and goodwill of friends has higher value than any material thing in the world. Both individuals in a healthy friendship fill one another up to the brim with encouragement, support, laughter and a listening ear. Friends have a mutual respect and always feel at ease with one another.
Friends talk about their hopes and dreams for themselves, their families and their children. They never stop believing in one another eve if they have moments of self-doubt. The smallest complications and the toughest decisions are made easier when friends show up for each other.
I have a friend whose daughter has OCD. You may also have a friend or family member that has a family struggling with OCD, diabetes or a learning disability, etc. Whatever your situation or circumstance may be, the tips below can help you build strong relationships with others. We all need friends to join us in experienc-ing this sometimes wild adventure called life.


1. Be available. Have an open door policy. Let your friend know that you are available to help and support her. Tell her how you are available. Maybe you are available to take her children sometimes so she can have some time to her-self. Maybe you can invite her over to your home for cof-fee or help out with an OCD fundraiser. There are lots of ways to make yourself available.
2. Be authentic. There is no room for superficiality or toxic attitudes. Create a loving space where all is safe and calm. Surround her with goodness.
3. Be present and listen. It is important to your friend to have the opportunity to express herself and sometimes vent. Be-ing empathetic, open and accepting is key. She needs to fell understood and supported.
4. Be flexible. OCD can be a roller coaster ride for parents. Plans can change quickly with your friend if her child’s OCD decides to go into overdrive.
5. Offer your opinions ONLY when you are asked.
6. Validate your friend’s concerns, choices and decisions.
7. Acknowledge what IS working with her family, home and job. Note the progress being made and CELEBRATE those successes with her.
8. Applaud your friend and let her know how much you ad-mire all her parental efforts. Also, congratulate her child for his or her successes, too.
9. Attend and/or help out with OCD fundraisers.
10. Take your friend on a “girls’ night out.” WE have a birth-day club and we go out for dinner to celebrate. Take her away from it all and go shopping, attend a workshop, go for a long walk, see a movie or invite her over to your home for wine and chocolate cake. We all need a break from home, family and work sometimes.
11. Give the entire family some fun by including your friend’s children in your life, too. Both the child with OCD and his or her siblings need breaks. Here are some examples: bring them to a movie, grocery shop, invite them to your home for dinner, play games, have them mentor your younger children, give them opportunities to shine by inviting them to help with things such as setting up Sunday School class-rooms.
12. Show your support in small ways as little gestures mean a lot. Stop by your friend’s home and bring little surprises that she enjoys such as Coffee, homemade baked goods, magazines, books or your own presence so she has you to chat with for a while. Send cards and emails to encourage her and build her up. This isn’t about spending a lot of money. It’s all about showing up in one way or another to show your support.
13. Have a sense of humor. Laughter goes a long way to light-en things up and helps us to see life from different perspectives and not get stuck. Laughter is the best medicine.
14. SHOW UP. It’s all about showing up. Live by this mantra. “Sit long. Talk much. Laugh often.”

Support Group Ideas and Concepts
The following pages include ideas and concepts to start or assist in Support Groups for family members.


Luggage is a personal thing. You pack what you think you need, the essentials for your journey. At times you over pack, the just in case extras, the what if’s, shoulds, coulds, and of course, all of the other stuff people throw in your bag to fix and figure out. After a while, your suitcase loads you down and wears you out.
Despite this, you guard that suitcase. You may carry it on your shoulder or lug it behind you. What is inside the suitcase? What makes it so heavy, so personal? Wouldn’t it be nice to look once again at each piece packed inside to quietly consider and reconsider what you really need to carry around and try to lighten the load on the journey? AS you open the luggage, try not to be too hard on yourself. Consider all that is inside and rest your aching shoulders.

Tips for Leaders

Have various suitcases around the room for a visual effect. (some worn, some new, and a small one representing a lighter load)
Use humor to demonstrate how people guard their luggage or car-ry around too much!
Have one “main” suitcase. You can put t-shirts and write the feel-ings in the curriculum on each shirt. You can pull each one out as you discuss the topics.

Leader Ideas

The Outline
When you have a child who is exasperated to the max with OCD, it is tough to be the parent you want to be or the parent you thought you would be. It is a 24/7 world that feels overwhelming and pressing to the primary caretakers. OCD is not a rational disorder and is hard to correct or change easily. Sometimes in pure frustration, you may say something you regret. Use the visual of an outline of OCD being next to your child like a shadow. For example, if she is on the sofa, it is an outline of her body sitting next to her. Say it is the OCD (the shadow, the outline) that you are upset with. It is the disorder that you are venting to. Explain it is something you have and it does not need to be all of you. It is a disorder that we can both be frustrated with at times. Those with physical illnesses are frustrated with their diseases as well.

Jack-in-the-Box Prop
Like a jack-in-the Box, parents of children with OCD can go up and down. (Just don’t stay down too long). We all need to go in the box at times. We need down time.
OCD can go up and down. When my child is better, I pop up and go out. When my child is suffering, I go down. I feel pushed down. How do you come out? Do you come out with energy or do you come out slowly?
Isn’t it interesting how we can be surprised each time the box opens? Isn’t it interesting how OCD can be up and down or brig up new obsessions or compulsions and at times it can be surprising or startling?

Tides OCD
The tide cycles. OCD has cycles. When the tide is high, life is a battle, an overwhelming challenge, maybe almost suffocating. The tide washes ashore new things all the time. OCD is like a tide. It can wash in new obsessions or compulsions (hand washing, counting, the need for reassurance). When the tide is high and you are standing on the beach, what do you hold onto? Beaches are sparse (same with OCD). What do you do? What can you hold on to?
Enjoy the warm waters and warm sand when the water is calm. Don’t anticipate or focus on a high tide and enjoy the moments of peace.
You can bring in sea shells – props of what the tide can wash in.

Puzzle Exercise
This exercise is intended to make a profound statement about the challenges and lack of support when raising children with OCD.

Leaders will need:
• Large puzzle with NO picture or directions on the box
• Steps and commentary listed below

Leader, throw a large puzzle on a table or floor to make a state-ment.
Raising children with OCD is a lot like this puzzle, chaotic and overwhelming. Where do you start? Can you do it alone? Where are the directions, guidance, and support? Will the pieces fit and how will they fit? We often are not sure at the time of a diagnosis where to access information, seek professional, appropriate medical and psychological help or insurance and costs. We often ourselves have never dealt with OCD. It may be a sudden onset – medications, therapies, treatments, doctors, support groups, and talking with the education system. All this can be daunting, like a puzzle, and we are on the floor trying to put it all together.