I’d like to tell you a bit more about my warrior son Joshua...
Joshua is 11 years old. Like any parent, I think he is beautiful, kind, caring, strong, witty, funny, intelligent...I could go on. If you met him I hope you’d think some of the same. One thing you would not realise, and this is testament to his unbreakable spirit, is that for the last 2 years or so, Joshua has been the target of a merciless bully.
“Go to the school”, “Go to the parents”, even “Go to the police” I hear you say it, but I can’t. You see, Joshua’s bully isn’t a person, it isn’t even real at all...albeit very real to him.
My son Joshua, at the ripe old age of 11 was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Now please don’t misunderstand, this kid of mine does not have a tidy bedroom - it’s a tip! He doesn’t flip light switches and our electricity bill shows just how much he never turns a light or socket off and getting him to have a shower is like a Junker v May deal breaker negotiation - I play the role of Teresa and true to form I usually lose! In fact all of the preconceptions you hold about OCD do not apply to my boy.
He has thoughts. Intrusive thoughts. Uncontrollable, nasty, cruel and scary thoughts. These thought tell my son he is a bad person, that he has done terrible things, that he has hurt people and that he must go to prison. They force him to confess to outrageous and ridiculous acts. They tell him somebody is going to hurt him, that he can’t trust anybody...at their height they say he can’t even trust me.
If it was a real person saying these things to him I’d know what to do. Joshua would have all the necessary support from all the right services to deal with it. But this isn’t real, this is ‘just a thought’ but on some days these simple thoughts take over his life. It is torture.
In the Summer of 2017 Joshua blurted out that something was telling him to get out of bed in the night and do star jumps, and if he refused he’d have to burn himself. Instead, thankfully and through deep sobbing he told me. I was numb.I had no idea what was happening. We’ve went straight to our GP and were referred to children’s mental health services. This was, and continues to be a long, arduous battle that nobody should have to experience in a simple quest to get medical treatment. I often wonder, if Joshua were experiencing the symptoms of diabetes or asthma, would I have to fight this hard to get him seen..?
OCD affects approximately 12 in every 1000 people but it is expected that this number is actually much higher as many attempt to cope alone. Now please note, this is not those people who like to chuckle and say how ‘OCD’ they can be about their wardrobe being colour co-ordinated or their car being hoovered once a week. Most people have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors at some point in their lives, but that does not mean that we all have OCD. In order for a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder to be made, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes so extreme that it consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of important activities that the person values. Trust me, you can’t be ‘a little bit OCD.’
For those that know me well, you’ll know how much I have struggled with feeling useless in all of this. My son is suffering and as a parent, or any adult who loves a child, all you want to do is stop it. However I can’t. If this bully was real I’d stop them. If this illness was a physical one I’d get the right medicine to kill it off. For OCD there is nothing I can do other than support, which just feels so pathetically small. I used to run but an injury to my knee (and any other general excuse) made me stop. Well it’s time to start again and what better challenge than the Great North Run! I’m doing it in the hope that it will go a very small way to showing Joshua that no matter the challenge, he is stronger. No matter what gets in his way, he can get past it. And I thought, if I’m going to do it, I may as well try to do some wider good at the same time.
Over the last 2 years the charity OCD-action has been a great source of support. When it’s 2am and I really don’t know what else to do, just something as simple as accessing information on their website is so helpful because it reminds me we’re not on our own. They have a sister charity OCD-youth which has been great for Joshua. This helps him understand what is happening at a level he will understand, gives him tips on coping and shows him he is not alone. It makes him feel normal and as you will probably remember, this is something that is really important to you when you’re a kid. So if you can spare a few quid to help me raise some money for this charity so close to us, or just to push me on another few meters of that 13.1 mile torment you’d make me and my beautiful boy super happy!
Just a final note: everything you have read above was written with Joshua’s permission. He read it and agreed it and corrected a few grammatical mistakes along the way (SATs education paying off!) All he asks is, if you do ever meet him, or anybody else with any mental health condition, please just remember they are normal people who do normal things just like you. They are people just like you, they are not defined by a condition. Joshua is a boy who lives for Rugby League, both playing for Wigan St Pats and supporting the greatest team Wigan Warriors. He loves music and can play the James Bond theme tune in 3 different instruments. He’s that kid that will debate with me until he’s blue in the face about what his bedtime should be or how much X-Box screen time he should have. He is always “starving” but amazingly most of his hunger can be satisfied by chocolate and he’d be lost without his dog Elsa. Oh and just one other very small thing, he lives with OCD.
Thank you so much for reading. Let’s get running!
#itsokaynottobeok #itstimetotalk #ocdawareness
Taking on the Great North Run for OCD Action because I’m supporting my warrior son
We support people affected by OCD to help change their lives for the better
Charity Registration No. 1154202