Working with preschoolers has gotten noticeably easier since I started at the beginning of June. I remember being convinced that I couldn’t handle it. Now it’s no big deal. Bathroom trips still trigger some anxiety, but nothing like I experienced at first. The last couple of weeks have been a breeze! Then on Tuesday, we had a staff meeting and things got scary again.
To set this up, the preschool is really just a few classrooms out of a building (we’ll call it The Conservatory) that is mostly used for music lessons for people of all ages. The people who run The Conservatory have been complaining about the state of the bathrooms after preschool leaves each day. Kids aren’t very good at keeping soap or water in the sink. The counters are always covered in a thick layer of water and there are piles of soap underneath the soap dispensers. So now the assistant teachers–that’s me–have to wipe down the counters every hour. I didn’t like this assignment, but I was dealing with the news and focusing on remembering to breathe.
Then one of the other assistant teachers decides to add that some of the boys aren’t very good at aiming and that there is occasionally pee all over the toilet seat, so we should probably wipe off the toilet seat regularly, too. I wanted to leap across the table and slap her! It was a valid point, but I reeeeeally hate toilets and urine and everything else involved. I almost had a full-on panic attack a few days ago when a little girl needed help getting toilet paper that was stuck. Wiping urine off the seats? Hellllll no! I once again felt the urge to quit, to run home and curl up in a ball under a blanket and cry. I only have two weeks left there, though, so it would be silly to quit now. I think I’m just going to conveniently forget to check the toilet seats, that or check after every single kid and make whoever pees on the seat wipe it off themselves!
We also discussed one of the little girls who has recently started playing in the toilet after using it (yes, before flushing). A few days ago she made a mess of her dress and her parents had forgotten to leave a change of clothes for her that day. Luckily, she wasn’t in my class when this happened, so I didn’t have to deal with it, but I had very high levels of anxiety just knowing that it was happening. Now every time I see this girl, I stay as far away from her as possible. I avoid coming into contact with her. I worry that if I touch her, I’ll break my rule of not showering immediately after work. I don’t think I’ll be able to resist.
Anyway, I was cringing during this whole portion of the meeting and my director noticed. She knew I had a hard time with bathroom-related responsibilities when I started and asked if I was acclimated yet or still having trouble. I told her that it was getting easier but still hard sometimes. I didn’t want her to think that I was lazy or something, so I let her know that it has taken me so long because I have OCD. Her response was frustrating. She said that she used to have OCD before she had kids and it’s “just something you have to get over.” Sigh. If only it were that easy. Surely if she had OCD, she would know better than to say something like that. Because it’s not something that one can just get over. Of course she doesn’t know how hard I’m working, that I don’t use OCD as an excuse, that I’m fighting as hard as I possibly can, that it has been a life-long struggle. It’s not for want of trying, that’s for sure.
I know many people don’t understand just how difficult and slippery OCD can be. Some parts of it are tangible and can be dealt with accordingly, but even that takes a long time. Training a brain to work in a way that it has never worked before is not an easy or quick task. I think that’s what people don’t understand: that a person with OCD must train his or her mind to work in a completely different manner, must completely rewire the alarm system in his or her brain.
To those of you non-OCDers who have loved ones with OCD: I know it’s tough. I know we seem crazy. Please be patient with us, though. There is no quick fix and pressure will only make things worse.