Her hands are tiny birds that fly from here to there. The nimble fingers are bird wings that fly her to this wall, then to that one, over her shoulder to the counter next.
“She’s always dancing,” we tell people, and smile. We think of her inability to sit still as a precocious mind unable to be quieted, always moving. So she moves with it.
It is tiring, though. I just need her to brush her teeth so she can take a shower and get on pajamas and go to bed. Still, a half hour later, her hands are in flight. Her toes dance, too. Daintily she touches her toes to the floor in specific rhythms only she hears. Tap here, tap there. Twirl. Tap there. Her belly follows as she touches her body to the wall carefully.
I stand there holding the toothbrush with toothpaste already on it. “It’s time to brush your teeth, Pi,” I say for what feels like the hundredth time. She doesn’t hear me, it seems. Continuing to dance around the 5 by 2 feet of bathroom space.
“Pi? Hello? Let’s get your teeth brushed.” She startles but continues to dance. I get down on the floor, putting the toothbrush down.
“Why are you doing this?,” I ask her. “Is there some reason?” I caught her right after the last set of dancing hand flights. She looks me square in the eyes, and her eyes widen in shock. She crumples.
“Okay. I’m going to explain it,” she says. “There are lines I have to follow…”
She then went on to explain that she “sees” lines everywhere. That she feels she must follow the lines with her hands, sometimes also her feet or body. That she knows she doesn’t have to, but also knows she must. That she knows the lines aren’t there, but also knows they are.
She says the lines have always been there.
She says she’s sorry. She cries.
I hold the tiny 6 year old body that is my beautiful, intelligent, and yes, always sensitive and anxious daughter and tell her that it’s okay. That she can do the things she needs to do and it isn’t wrong. That it is her brain that is firing incorrectly, and not a thing that she is doing wrong. My smart girl understands this as I explain. She is relieved.
I tell her that we can do something to try to stop this. The next few days more things spill out.
The glow in the dark stars that we carefully set around her bed have been keeping her up at night wondering if they are maybe-possibly lasers. She knows they are not, but considers what if they were? The intrusive thoughts of Maybe They Are, But I Know They Aren’t fight it out for hours as she tries to go to sleep.
We remove the stars. We make appointments. I am heartbroken that such a heavy burden has been put on such a small child.
I am angry that she has to first see a counselor because that is all that is available to her in network. Yes, therapy perhaps, but also medicine. OCD is not something she is doing wrong. It’s something that is working incorrectly in her brain. While diabetics do need nutritional therapy, no one suggests that as a first and only step. Their pancreas is not working. They need insulin, and they need to be able to process it. Medicine helps both.
Why do we not treat the brain as we treat the body? It literally is the body. Why is this so confusing for so many people? Pi understood it immediately.
Our first appointment is on Thursday. Today is Saturday.
I’m waiting on some thing. Some solution to her flying bird hands, and laser stars. She’s waiting.
We wait together.