I was standing in the kitchen when I became aware that someone was talking upstairs. At first I thought that my college daughter and my teenage daughter were having a conversation, but then the sound turned angry. Parental ears are very attuned to picking up when the children sound distressed or angry. I went upstairs to see what was going on and the words became clear
“What?! No! Why did you do that!”
My teenage daughter was yelling at her tablet computer in full tearful meltdown. She was barely coherent and ready to shout at me. Her hands were shaking. It took me three minutes to get her calm enough to tell me what was going on. It turns out that Microsoft tricked her into upgrading to Windows 10. It was not something she wanted to do. She just mis-clicked a single button and then was unable to cancel the upgrade. The only option she was offered was to reschedule. Not knowing what else to do, she let the upgrade proceed.
My daughter has OCD. She has a doctor who prescribes medicine and a therapist who helps her with cognitive techniques to manage her issues. Among her coping strategies, she uses her tablet as a tool for emotional regulation. It contains music designed to be soothing and to help her with meditation. She uses the device for distraction when the intensity of her anxiety gets too high. Any time other people touch her device she gets stressed because she depends on it daily and the thought of not having it sends her into a panic attack. She has those too, full-on curl-into-a-ball panic attacks.
The upgrade had changed the functionality of everything she wanted the machine to do. She was in a panic because she couldn’t find her music that she relies on, couldn’t find Internet Explorer or her favorites list, all her app buttons had been shuffled and re-organized. Instead of having everything categorized and on separate screens, everything was all on the main desktop, which felt terribly unorganized to her. She was terrified that her coping tool was permanently broken. She was furious that Microsoft would do this to her without giving her a way to opt out. The thing that was supposed to assist her with anxiety was causing massive anxiety.
I sat next to her and tried to talk with her, but she was unable to be rational. This is one of the core manifestations of my daughter’s OCD. When the obsessions and compulsions are triggered, her brain is less able to be logical about anything. This upgrade was an invasion of her ability to control her environment, the worst thing I could do would be to take the device away, fix it, and give it back. She had to be angry and figure it out for herself. All that Howard (he heard and came too) and I could do was sit nearby and give suggestions for how to reconfigure. Our suggestions were met with an angry shout of “I know that!” or “I’ve already tried that!” Half the time she would then follow our suggestions and bring her device closer to functioning the way that she is familiar with.
Ninety minutes of active distress got the device into a configuration where she felt it was usable. By that time she and I had missed the first part of church. She was not in a state suitable for public, so we turned on a show that she loves and let her be distracted for awhile. Then she lay down and slept for two hours, completely worn out from the emotional upheaval.
I was worn out too. This is the third time this week that her OCD has been triggered in a way that took multiple hours to help her get herself right side up again. It breaks my heart a bit to see how hard she works for emotional equilibrium that other kids just have without effort. She is amazing and strong every single day. She has to be. I know that life isn’t fair, but this week I saw the unfairness more clearly than usual. It made me sad and tired. Here’s hoping that the coming week is less eventful than the week just passed.