Commentary: My mother’s obsession


Anneliese Saenz, Staff Writer

OCD, also known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, is something my mother suffers from. Ever since I was a little girl I could remember the effects this disorder has had on my mother; every little outburst and confusing moment. To those who don’t know what OCD is, it is a mental disorder that causes people to have recurring unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions). To get rid of the thoughts, they feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions).

When my mother would have her compulsions, they would be in a set of 5. Meaning she would tend to repeat a step or task 5 times in order to put her mind at ease. If my mother didn’t do things in a set of 5 she would have these dark cogitations; cogitations of her possible death or the possibility of her children being harmed. These recurring convictions controlled her mind, it was all she ever thought about.

Being a little girl when my mother was at her worst was suffocating. I could never understand why she would have to wash her hands 5 times in a row, or why she would braid my hair to unbraid and rebraid it 5 times later. It was so confusing. My mother would never tell me why she did it, she would always say “I just have to, you don’t understand”, and she was right I don’t understand.
I have 2 siblings, making me the middle child. I had lost my father at the age of 5, leaving my mother with her 3 children and a relentless illness. Things had gotten worse with the death of my father, my mother had to rearrange her whole life for the benefit of ours; we had moved to a new state, leaving behind everything we once knew, a fresh start is what my mother called it. It was not the fresh start we needed, my brothers and I seemed to be losing ourselves; days seemed to drag with the never-ending thickness of the air in our home.

Months after moving to Florida, my mother had a mental breakdown. The weight of my father’s death, taking care of 3 young children, and her OCD had taken the last bit of strength she had. I learned to grow up during this time; 6-year-old me learned to grow up and take care of what she had left. I remember making sure my 4-year-old brother was fed and ready for preschool, learning how to use the microwave for the first time, and most of all, the anxiety that began to sprout in my soul.

It seemed like forever when my mother finally came to her senses. My grandparents had found out about our situation and stepped in to help. They had sent her to a rehabilitation unit in hopes that she would learn how to manage life with OCD; she spent a year there.

Living with my grandparents was weird. We had moved to a new district, which meant a new school, new people, a new everything. I had lost all my friends once again and I felt so lonely. I wasn’t used to having a stable home, my grandparents were always on top of me and my brothers, they made sure we had clothes that fit and real meals to fill our stomachs. You could call it bliss, but I had missed my mother and the life I had before.

During my mother’s 12 month stay she had formed a new version of herself, a better version. My mother told me that her life at the rehabilitation center was structured. She had a schedule that she followed everyday and people that she would see everyday. Her day started with a 15 minute walk in the gardens, then she would have her breakfast and take any prescribed medication, afterwards she would have a group therapy session with her peers.

The group therapy was very emotional, so after the hour-long session, my mother was given a 2 hour window where she could do recreational tasks. Once her recreational time was up she had a one on one therapy session with her personal therapist, then dinner was served, leaving the rest of the night to relax and prepare for bed. She had this structure for a year before she transitioned to living in a world where she couldn’t know what to expect.

After my mother’s year-long break, she had taken roughly 6 months to transition back to her new life. My brothers and I still lived with my grandparents during this time, but after 6 months my mother had felt ready to take up the responsibility of her children. My mother had changed so much during our time apart: She no longer looked so tired, and she had this glow to her. It was beautiful. On the first night of seeing my mother, she had explained to my brothers and I what had happened to her before she went away. Being so young I couldn’t comprehend everything she said, but it felt so nice to finally have an explanation.

Being 18 now, I am glad to say my mother still has her beautiful glow. Although she still has OCD and her struggles, she never gave up like she once did; my mother is a fighter, my own hero. OCD may have once controlled her life, but that didn’t stop her from being the amazing woman she is now.