Every morning Teghan wakes up happy. She is very vocal in her bedroom, and waits for us to come and get her. When we open the door, she excitedly runs past us. She turns on the hallway light, closes the bathroom door, and jumps into our bed.
She has to turn on that light and shut that door.
When we are in the living room, she needs to have the coffee table open. It’s a tea trunk style coffee table, where both sides open up. She will only allow us to close it if she is eating there, and as soon as she is done it comes right back open again.
The basement door must always remain shut. She will open it very briefly to let the cat down, but that cat needs to move fast. Teghan has little tolerance for an open door.
These behaviors are pretty familiar, really. They remind me of my own childhood OCD- except I was much better at hiding it. It makes me wonder what other rituals are going on in her world. If she brushes up against something with her left arm, does she have to turn and do the same with her right arm- sometimes twice? When we go for walks, does her right foot always have to step over the sidewalk crack first? When she taps on things, is there a designated number of taps that must be achieved each time? When she runs back and forth in her room at bedtime, how many times does she need to touch the wall before she is satisfied?
I think my OCD was quite severe as a kid. Sometime in Junior High I made a serious effort to stop. I haven’t given into any such behaviors since, but I can still imagine what it felt like. When I watch documentaries on OCD, no matter how crazy it seems, I still kind of understand it. I can still imagine what it felt like to need to push the hot water faucet off three more times, or check that my alarm is really turned on over and over again- or touch that light switch just one more time. I don’t do it now, but I remember the overwhelming feeling that it had to be done that way. I couldn’t just stop myself.
Kids can be fidgety, and they are always doing little things that don’t make sense. I suppose no one really noticed most of the time. As I got older the behaviors got stranger and I became more self-conscious. People were noticing, and it had to end. Teghan may not be so self-conscious. So, I won’t be a bit surprised when she starts adding more obvious and bizarre rituals to the list.
I know the rituals can change frequently. For a while she was obsessively coughing. Then it was replaced by a strange, repetitive vocal noise. She has since moved on, but they will probably return in some new form. The rules can and will change. I mean, there were periods of time when my right foot had to actually step on the sidewalk crack instead of over it…. And sometimes I changed how many steps I was allowed to make between the street and my front door. (That’s all normal, right?)
They say OCD is common in children, and that many simply grow out of it. Some are more severe cases than others. It’s easy to lump OCD in with the autism, and they do often come as a package; but the more I pay attention, the more I see a lot of Teghan’s behaviors as simply OCD. And you know, that is a lot easier to wrap my mind around.
I know how autism makes her think differently than me, but I don’t really understand what that’s like. But this- this I get. And not everyone does. My husband cannot relate to it at all. But somehow it gives me a strange reassurance every time she turns on that hallway light in the morning. Even after all these years, it still makes complete sense to me.