‘How is your house so clean with two kids?!’ They don’t realize the literal pain I feel inside when it’s not.’: Woman details navigating motherhood with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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“I used to joke for years about myself having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Then I got diagnosed with it a few months ago, and it wasn’t so funny anymore. It was almost a slap in the face that the joke was now reality. I was actually kind of embarrassed I never actually believed or even considered that I truly did have OCD. I’ve always needed things to be kept clean, in order, and things needed to be put in just the ‘right’ place. But I was always being told how organized I am, and how clean my home always is. I’m constantly asked, ‘How is your house so clean with two kids?!’ when people come over, but they don’t realize the literal pain I feel inside of me when it’s not. I have no choice for it to be anything but clean.

If something is left lying or not put away correctly, I admit I’m quick to anger. I’m forever moving things and rearranging stuff and never feel satisfied with anything, even if it’s in its assigned space. I obsess over making sure everything and everyone is taken care of, often neglecting myself because I’m so worried about everyone else. I will repeat things to my husband Chris 3-4 times within a couple hours because I have to check, double check, and triple check I didn’t forget to tell him, which he thankfully thinks is hilarious rather than getting annoyed at me. He likes to pretend he’s forgotten things I’ve reminded him multiple times to do just so he can see me get riled up, and then get a giggle when I find out he’s just playing. I truly love him for loving me as I am, repetition and all. For years, I thought it was just me and the way I was. No one ever minded or thought anything of it really, until I had kids. Then all of the negative feelings of the OCD came out that I had never experienced before.

Having OCD is a lot, but I absolutely under zero circumstances was prepared for a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). But what I really wasn’t prepared for, was a child with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). For a year and half, I’ve known my oldest son Jensen wasn’t just a typical ‘wild boy’ like so many claimed, including his pediatrician. I became pregnant with our second son Gideon during our time of struggle, and although the little baby in my belly was tried for and so wanted, I couldn’t help but feel scared. I had such a hard time handling Jensen alone, how was I going to handle two soon? Had we made a mistake bringing another baby into this chaos?

Mom with OCD holds her son with ADHD and ODD as they both smile
Courtesy of Kylee Cook

The months passed and my anxiety grew. Gideon made his arrival in February of this year, and it was at this point I made the choice to switch pediatricians. It was the best choice I made for both my boys, but especially Jensen. This woman helped kickstart a change in our lives. She got Jensen started in occupational and behavior therapy, and we found him a psychiatrist who has been nothing short of amazing in the short time we’ve been working together. When the diagnoses of ADHD and ODD came a month ago, I was prepared for it because I knew in my gut what it was all along. However, having the diagnosis for Jensen didn’t make any of our battles we face any easier for he and I.

Little boy with red hair points and laughs at the camera
Courtesy of Kylee Cook

The rage. The sadness. The frustration. The feeling of being unable to control the situations. The overwhelming feeling in my chest. The panic attacks. The hyperventilating. The never-ending weight of my OCD. My own OCD working against a toddler with ADHD and ODD, alongside a new baby. The extremely painful need to constantly follow behind with a baby in my arms and pick things up. The overwhelming thoughts while sitting in the chair and wondering if it’s worth it to put the baby down and listen to the screams for a couple minutes so I can clean something up. The feeling in my stomach that I need to get rid of all of the toys because its too much, but knowing I can’t do that to my kids who love all of their toys. Then there is the pure torture of watching the dropped snack litter the floor as I’m trying to rock an overtired and crying baby to sleep, knowing I’m going to have to sit and stare at the mess until the baby wakes from his nap. There are days I sit and watch the clock, waiting for my husband to get home from work so I can hand him the baby and start my cleaning and arranging before it nearly kills me.

There are silly things that are honestly ridiculous but I have to do, like rinsing and sorting all the dishes before I can wash them, because now I have more dishes I didn’t before from the kids. There is also the need to wash my hands anytime I touch anything in my kitchen near the sink. There’s the gnawing urge to scoot the coaster on the end table just slightly to the left, and adjust the tissue box the tiniest bit, simply because they look out of place. The sheer panic over the simple-to-clean-up messes, like the crumbs on the floor, or the couple water droplets that hit the table when my son took a drink. But there’s harder things that are more serious, like being unable to control the extreme tantrums and defiance from my child, and sometimes being overpowered by him when he has a serious breakdown.

It’s the abundance of yelling I do day after day because I can’t handle the messes. It’s the over stimulation I get so easily from too many things on the floor. The broken spirits because I can’t handle so many noises at once – the tv, the toddler talking, the baby crying, the microwave beeping, the toy making sound, and the dog barking. It breaks my heart how quick to anger I am at my children for things they absolutely do not deserve, because of this stupid disorder I joked about but never truly thought I had.

Until I did. And then everything made sense. The way I’ve been for as long as I can remember made sense. It was almost a relief to find out, and to be honest I cried at the realizations. I will forever be thankful for my new counselor for spotting it so quickly, because now I can get help. But I can’t help but feel cheated that I’ve suffered from these crazy compulsions and anger for so long with my kids (mainly Jensen) thinking it was ‘just me.’

Boy mom holds her newborn son while her toddler sits next to them with red sunglasses on and smiles
Courtesy of Kylee Cook

But now not only do I suffer, but Jensen suffers. ADHD/ODD and OCD, as you can imagine, do not go very well together. In fact, they go completely against each other, just as my son and I often do. We are two bulls in a ring, and we easily push one another’s buttons. I need control, but my son absolutely cannot control himself in any sort of way due to both disorders he has. He has zero impulse control; he can’t control himself or his mind which he often cries about, and if it comes to his mind he has to do it. If he doesn’t now, he absolutely will later. I have to have things clean and orderly, and his ADHD makes that nearly impossible. He’s constantly jumping around from different toys, to different rooms, inside and outside, changing the tv show – the never ending changes and new ideas in just a few moments.

I’m a mom with OCD, and though most of our days are as hectic as can be, I’m so grateful. I love my kids and I couldn’t imagine life without them. We do a lot of apologizing, explaining, and hugging around here… and I think it makes our bond much stronger than a lot of parents have with their children. My oldest son Jensen and I, we both know that we both struggle. He knows his mommy gets mad sometimes and he knows it’s not his fault, and he is so forgiving and kind. Especially when he grabs my face and kisses me with the biggest kiss he can give. Sweet baby Gideon isn’t old enough yet to understand, but I can only hope he’s as forgiving as his older brother.

Having OCD as a mother and wife isn’t all bad, though. When my husband can’t find the hammer he’s looking for, I know exactly where it is. His lunch is packed for him every night before bed, and sometimes I even lay his clothes out for the next day just incase he wakes up late. When my son can’t find his Iron Man action figure and his blast gear, Super Mommy is on the way because I know exactly which toy bin it’s in, and seeing the biggest smile followed by the happiest ‘thank you mommy, you’re incredible!’ will forever make my heart fill immediately with so much joy. I know when everyone’s appointments are, I make sure all our bills are paid, and a grocery list is always being immediately added to so we don’t forget anything when it’s time to restock. The laundry is always folded and put away, so no one is ever stuck with nothing to wear. My family is taken care of beyond measure thanks to my OCD.

Family of four pose for a family photo together, all admiring their newborn baby boy
Courtesy of Kylee Cook

The days can be long and so draining. But communication makes a difference. Never be afraid to communicate your mental health with your kiddos, you’d be surprised how much they understand even at a young age. We can’t be perfect, in fact we never will. But we can try our best to do the best we can, even if that means having bad days more than good ones sometimes. We can show our kids, and even our spouses, family, friends, and even strangers that we all have our own battles within ourselves, and all we can do is try better tomorrow. And if we fail tomorrow too, we try again the next day. We never give up on ourselves, even when we have disorders that make it hard.”

Courtesy of Kylee Cook
Boy mom with OCD takes a selfie in a baseball cap that says 'mom life'
Courtesy of Kylee Cook

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kylee Cook of West Harrison, IN. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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