My second post in less than 24 hours. I’ve just had dinner (well, half of it) and finished part of my assignment for this weekend. That was when I started surfing the net. Haven’t seen that phrase in a while huh? Intrigued by the Hong Kong crime drama I caught last night, I googled criminal psychology. One link led to another and eventually I ended up on Psychology Today. A pretty good website to get your curiosity fixed, I might say. Browsing through their extensive collection of topics, I stumbled upon this article on OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I had to read it. I just had to.
According to PubMed Health, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is “an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.”
Okay, I hope PubMed doesn’t sue me for that chunk up there.
Well, in short, people with OCD keep doing certain things over and over again because they have some irrational thoughts or fears that can only be subdued if they well… keep doing certain things over and over again (and no, writing the same phrase twice does not constitute to having OCD).
My brother is 12 going on 13 and you can call him a pretty normal boy. He just got into secondary school this year. Like most boys in that particular age group, he’s egoistic, absorbed with electronic gadgets, crazy over games and he mostly just thinks of himself as the smartest kid in the world. Everyone else is stupid and whatever they do is lame. Like his older sister who goes blogging. Who in the world blogs?! Millions, apparently. He just doesn’t know. See, those of you who have brothers or sons or relatives of this age, isn’t this how they behave?
However, hidden from plain sight is his compulsion to wash his hands. Sorry bro, but I gotta share this. Of course we, as his family, identified the issue and a I guess his best friends just think he’s a very hygienic boy. There was once when his friends came over and he told them to wash their feet. His really nice and pleasant friend laughed it off by saying, “Oh! He’s always like that!”. It was adorable, but I was fighting so hard to keep the emotions from surfacing. Most times, I’m really ashamed to say that I laugh when he washes his hands, but beneath that laughter is a bitterness that can only be expressed in private.
Years ago, when my brother was little more than a tot, my parents enrolled him in a kindergarten. Everything went fine, he got second place for a singing competition and all that, but then this teacher had to ask him to wash his hands. Everything changed from then. My brother became this kid who visited the sink more than he said “Mummy”. I, being the geek in the family, read up and realized that my brother could have OCD. I told my parents, but who would believe a young teenager who generally thinks too much?
It was not till I was 16 that my parents gave in to my persistence and took him to a doctor. I thought it would make things better. I really did. But every mention of his upcoming appointments drew screams. It pains me. My parents feel that doctors don’t work and are trying as they had, to cure him by scolding him. My mum is more forgiving. She understands that stress triggers his hand-washing too. My dad just shouts and makes the action of wanting to slap him. I used to shout back at him when he did that, but I realized it won’t work. Of course it won’t. He doesn’t want to admit that there’s something wrong with his only son, just like any typical Asian parent.
For awhile, we thought my brother was getting better, but recently he went back to shouting at us if our feet touched any property of his. That includes his own feet. His chair is out of bounds to anyone, including himself, unless they have showered.
I accept that it’s a long and arduous journey back to normalcy for my brother and we feel the strain too, sometimes more than he does himself. I remembered hearing my dad thinking aloud (very loudly indeed) in Chinese. He asked himself why he produced such a child. It took me so much effort to not let the tears flow. When we are affected by a loved one’s affliction, all we desire is that he will get better. I honestly don’t know how long it will take, but I’m not giving up hope. I take it as a blessing that he still cares enough to call me an idiot, that he doesn’t bathe himself in disinfectant, but deep inside me there is a gargantuan fear I don’t want to speak of. Especially after I read the article.
To everyone out there with loved ones caught by this monster known as OCD, don’t give up on them. Care for them as you would do a normal person because beneath this obsessive-compulsive behavior, there is just a normal human being who needs your time and attention. Don’t blame him for behaving that way. He can’t help it. Most of all, don’t blame yourself for being unable to help him or you’ll end up crying under your covers at night. That’s not going to help. Really.
Now why do I have this feeling that I’m talking to myself?