How Reiki helped my OCD / Sensory Son

My sweet son was INCREDIBLY sensory sensitive as a little guy.  He is the reason I discovered all that I do today, the reason I found Reiki and energy work, simply to help him, and I often tell him how grateful I am for his struggles as they were of great service to me and my journey as I now help countless others.

I was always so grateful that my little boy was normal, sweet, helpful, smart, loving and perfectly functional 95% of the time.  But that other 5% was INTENSE from about age 3-9.  

Son almost always reacted strongly to crowds, loud music, bright lights, clothing textures, greasy/dirty hands etc., especially when over-tired.  

He didn't wear undies or socks until about age 8.  He didn't wear jeans until age 12.  He peeled his first Cutie tangerine at age 7 due to never wanting to get juice on his fingers.  He couldn't go to concerts in the park until about age 8.  He couldn't sit on his own seat in a restaurant until 8-ish. 

He could not be easily distracted from the bothersome things as many little ones are, so we had to learn to navigate him and reduce his stressors as much as possible while trying not to overdo the compensating or special tailoring life to him.  But meltdowns really weren't fun in public.  At times it was maddening, exhausting and downright depressing, especially when we felt like we were walking on eggshells in our own home, or helicoptering with solutions at the ready in public.

Sometimes I would crank up Pandora and have an impromptu dance party in the family room, and for a few minutes Son would get amped up and start doing his hilarious gyrations.  But then in an instant, he would flop on the floor wailing and screaming and clawing at his face like someone has just poked his eyes out.  The minute I turned the music off, he was fine.

Sometimes he would come to the table for a meal, eager to devour whatever food was in front of him, only to take one whiff of said food and gag and gasp and fall off his chair and run to the couch declaring that the food smells "SCUSTING!"  He would then not be able to eat anything, even all the ice cream in the world, unless the offending foods' scent was nowhere in the vicinity.  To many, (ahem, my mother and grandfather) it sounded like he was just being dramatic, and many times my husband and I exasperatingly accused him of that, but we grew to learn it was much deeper than that.

Sometimes he would put on 12 pairs of pants, declaring each one "HORRIBLE," flopping around like a fish out of water, grasping his appendage and yanking it up and over the waistband as though the pants were burning said appendage.  If he was feeling at all "out of it," his genitals were what had the most sensitivity to textures, which isn't too unusual, especially after the trauma of circumcision (which I regret, but my husband does not).   Sometimes the pants did not even get on and I threw him in the car wrapped in a blanket with 3 choices of pants next to him to put on in the school parking lot.  There were many mornings I had to physically wrestle him into the pants and then physically wrestle him into school and into the arms of so many loving, understanding teachers.   He did not willingly walk into school on his own until he was in 4th grade.   


Sometimes, make that all the time, he would wear only undies during the freezing winter months, and sweatpants and long sleeve shirts during the hot summer months.  This was because by the time he got used to the feeling of wearing the appropriate attire for the season, said season had already changed.   It slowly no longer was a strange sight to close friends and family, however, it was maddening for us parents.

And exhausting.

His OCD bedtime routine had been getting progressively worse at one point, to the extent that I realized he'd end up on the show Hoarders if I didn't get help soon.  He had all these little bins and bags and buckets on top of his dresser, the only place out of reach of baby sister, and he kept all his little treasures in there:  favorite Hot Wheels, dollar store birthday favors, quarters he earned for chores, my old deactivated credit cards, sample cologne vials Daddy gave him, multiple brand new chapsticks from Christmas stockings, a little tube of lotion he wanted from my purse, an old lock and key from my childhood diary....the list goes on.

If anyone should so much as breathe on these treasures, may the Good Heavens above show you mercy and keep you safe from the wrath that is to follow.  Even little sis knew they were off limits and would nervously look around before standing on tippy toes to strain and reach in hopes of just touching the edge of one of the treasures.  If she heard brother coming down the hall, she would quickly withdraw her hand.  It's amazing what a 1.5 year old understands.

This was all not too strange.  I got this.  Heck, I even did this myself as kid.  I clearly remember my own mother scolding me for not letting my friends play with my "good" Barbies, the ones I would not allow to be altered from the exact state they'd emerged from their box in.  No clothes-changing, no hair-brushing.  I, too, had an entire wall of beautiful, long shelves lined with my treasures, my special things.  I also remember getting a little hysterical when my well-meaning Dad threw handfuls of my things into boxes when we were quickly trying to pack for a move to a new home.  

Son needed his space, his special things, and the time and space to do what he wanted with them, which I gave him ample of.  But on the night I envisioned the show Hoarders, things got a little too crazy.

He was completely unable to focus on the task at hand of getting to bed.  He had become hysterical because the cologne vials wouldn't stay standing because he kept bumping the dresser trying to fix his plastic pirate sword which was TOUCHING his new Lego bag, and the Lego bag was not sitting correctly in the bin, and there was nowhere to put his nightlight turtle, which he needed for bedtime, even though it usually went on top of said bin, but it couldn't go there tonight because of the Lego bag sticking up funny, but he NEEDED the turtle to go to bed and OH MY GOD it's all just too much and all he can do is flop on his bed in agony and yell and cry and if I so much as reach for any of the treasures to try and remedy the situation he screams even louder and he can't possibly think about getting into bed because all of this has to be RIGHT before he can think clearly and.......holy shit.

Me?  I'm standing patiently by the dresser, using every ounce of my will to stay calm, since my angry threats clearly fall on deaf ears.  In my head I am putting my Tourettes-prone husband to shame with all the expletives flying around, but on the outside I just stand there wishing there was a MUTE and PAUSE button I could press, go downstairs and grab a bottle of wine, and then come back up and enjoy my beverage while I watch the raging show.  Or if there was just a STOP button, that'd be even better.  Then I could drink wine in peace.

I really don't remember how we both emerged alive, much less got to bed.

And i'm pretty sure we both took a nap the next day when little sis took hers.

But it got harder.  

I have to admit, my husband warned me on this one.  And I didn't listen.  It was a Saturday morning, and my firefighter husband was on a 72 hour stretch at work, so I wanted to break up the days without Daddy and meet my brother, sister-in-law and nephews at the beach.  Son whined and said he really didn't want to go to the beach, that he didn't want to get dirty and sandy (this was a HUGE issue for him).  I told him we'd rinse off at the beach just like we do every other time, and then get all clean in a bath when we got home.  He continued whining...I continued packing for the beach.

The kids had a great day with their cousins splashing in the waves, poking at a dead sand shark, throwing rocks, building sand castles, and just plain getting muddy and sandy.

Then Son was ready to change out of his sandy clothes (which was long cotton pants and long sleeve cotton shirt) and put on dry versions of the same.  I held a towel around him so he could change on the beach surfer-style, with lots of time to air out and let the skin dry and brush sand off before putting dry clothes on.  But the poor kid got increasingly upset that the tiny remaining specks of sand wouldn't come off his legs and that I wasn't holding the towel well enough so people wouldn't see him naked.  Meanwhile very patient and very muddy and sandy baby sister was getting increasingly impatient for some Mama Milk and some dry clothes of her own, which meant Mama was getting increasingly frustrated at Son.

My dear sister-in-law swooped up Little Sis, I swooped up Son and our bag of extra clothes, and we trooped up to the beach bathroom for the shower.  The water was very chilly and I rinsed off a now-crying Little Sis as best I could, drenching myself in the process.  SIL was meanwhile trying to talk Son into getting some pants on, but he refused to move on the dry bench he was standing on, and was intent on picking off microscopic specks of sand off his legs while clutching a towel around his body.

We traded kids, and I tried to stick Son's legs in the streaming water, but he screamed bloody murder and flailed and clutched at me like the water was hot lava.  I put him back on the bench and tried for 20 agonizing minutes to get him to put some clothes on or let me rinse his legs off or SOMETHING!  I tried to wrap him in a towel and just scoop him up to carry him to the car but he refused to let me touch him or any of his clothes.

You know how when you rinse off at the beach there are still some specks of flat sand or sparkles or tiny bits of tar that stick to your skin?  He was madly picking at those on his legs, crying, obsessed, unable to think clearly.  He refused to put on any article of clothing, refused to go anywhere or do anything other than pick at his legs.

I was fluctuating between calmly coaxing him and being angrily frustrated.  My head was exploding from not understanding why he couldn't deal with the 10 granules of sand that remained on his legs, and my heart was sinking with the knowledge that his obsessiveness was just a bit too much.  Something was making him obsess about these specks of sand, and that killed me.  I was almost dizzy with the realization that this was not right.  This was not normal.  My little boy finally needed some help.  I was devastated.

This had never happened in public before, not like this, not over something so minute.  The shower area was walled off but open to the air, so I figured someone would be calling CPS on us soon given the screaming that was going on.   I couldn't take it anymore so I wrapped the towel around him, and gripped him as tight as I could with him fighting against me, and walked out to the car.  He screamed and yelled the whole way, and I wondered if anyone thought I was kidnapping him.

He continued to have a fit in the car for about 10 minutes, but once his sweet cousin came to sit in the car with him, he got dressed and was completely fine.

HOLY SHIT.    What had just happened?

I was scarred for life.  He was munching on crackers and giggling with his cousin.

Cousin ended up going home with us for a sleepover, despite the little voice in my head saying that would only make him more tired and sensitive, but they had been asking for a sleepover for two years.  Plus I figured Cousin would be a great distraction for him and I could deal with any consequences on Monday when hubby was finally home to help.   Son had a little bit of an issue at bedtime that night with his OCD routine, and with sister getting into what they were building, but other than that he was pretty much back to normal.

The following Monday, I left a message with our Kaiser insurance to see how to get the ball rolling for a consultation with an Occupational Therapist.   And I began getting Sister to bed a bit earlier so that I could do "Special Bedtime" with Son, alone.  I always did Special Time with him when Sister napped, many days a week, and tried to do Special Bedtime with him whenever she could get down before him.  He loved this time with me, and it really made a difference in our connection and his relaxation.

I managed to create a new game out of me trying to get his bed "set up" just the way he liked it at night, and I earned a sticker if I got a thumbs-up from him. Taking the bed set-up responsibility off his shoulders, and also giving him power over me worked wonders.  I learned this idea from Patty Wipfler, who I discovered after seeking help after his first insane meltdown, and I tried to implement it every way I could.  Kids have little power over their lives, so trying to find little ways to empower them can transform struggles.  Patty's parenting philosophy is one of those things that feels like "home" when you discover it, and helped us tremendously.

My husband and I slowly learned to change our parenting reactions, which is hard to do given they are embedded in us from our own childhoods, and Patty Wipfler's work is what I always come back to.

Son loved being in charge and deciding if I'd earned my prize or not.  And luckily for me, I got a thumbs-up every night, and never had to re-do the bed!  He even got managerial about it and pulled out some business-like gestures and phrases that were adorable and made me laugh, which in turn made him feel so good.  I started getting hugs and kisses out of nowhere, which made my heart soar.  I really hadn't gotten many of those in the last few months.

This new routine was great but took a lot of time.  He was getting to bed too late and I was getting zero Mommy downtime.  I had to weigh the pros of its healing benefits to the con of it just continually making us tired.  At least Son could sleep in and nap during the day if he was tired enough, but I still had to get up with Sister and didn't have the luxury of naps.  Husband was away on a wildfire and we didn't know when he might come home.

Then one night Sister was definitely not ready to go down early, and I was really in need of a little Mommy time, so I told him we had to do bedtime "all together."

His world came crashing down.  He begged, he pleaded, he cried, he wailed, he punched pillows, he called me names.  I stayed calm and told him I knew how much he loved our Special Bedtime, and that I did too, and that maybe we could have it again tomorrow night.  Another Patty tip: repeating their worries so they know we're really listening and understanding.  He wailed as I tucked him in, wailed as I went into Shelby's room to get her to sleep, and wailed until he fell asleep 20 minutes later.  It makes me sad when he cries himself to sleep, as this has happened many nights before.  I know there's an unresolved fear of being alone behind those cries, or scars from prior life abandonment, or something of the sort, but we had yet to get to the root of that particular issue.

A few days later I was emailing with my friend who was a Reiki Master, about her 1-year old's sleep issues, and I was relating Son's sleep issues and this whole Insane Meltdown.  She offered to do Reiki on both kids that night from a distance, and I thanked her and hoped it might make a slight difference.   She texted me that night that Sister had needed quite a bit of work to relieve some stresses and fears she was harboring, and that Son was all clear except for his central chakra, the power and control center, which was quite blocked.  That made a lot of sense to me as our struggles are often about power. 

The next day went SO smoothly and I was wondering if it was just luck, and how bedtime would be that night.  I was astonished that night while tucking a happy Son into bed and RECEIVING HUGS, KISSES, AND SMILES!!!!! and I realized holy shit, the Reiki had done something!

This is the text I sent to my friend that night:

Holy S.  Tonight was the 1st night in A MONTH that bedtime did not involve tears, threats and anger.  I am in awe.  The OCD was almost non-existent tonight and after reflecting on the whole day I realized he was pleasant with my mom which hasn't been the case lately, even saying Thank You to her with one prompt instead of 10, and almost none of his usual mood swings.  Pretty sure his one freak out today was because he'd just eaten gummy snacks at the neighbors and those nasty food colors seriously affect his behavior.  I don't allow any foods with them in the house!  He was so sweet and pleasant today I can't even tell you what a difference.  I almost don't want to get too excited for fear it was a one day fluke, but I know in my heart that's not the case.  So, dear friend, we are your 1st paying customer.  How often should this be done on him?  Whenever we see a change?  You're hired!!!!  I'm in awe.....

Days went by, we even took a beach camping trip later, and the Reiki magic was still going strong in him.  And yes, you read that right:  beach....where there's sand.  Are you dying to know how he did?  

He. Was. Fine.  And he even got wet and sandy and his pants were sticking to him and we tried to rinse off on the walk back to the car but just got sandier and he was fine.

I was blown away. 

That experience led me to decide to take a Reiki 1 class with my friend - JUST Reiki 1, I said, learn the basics to continue helping my son myself, helping my husband with his neck-injury and resulting headaches, and my daughter with some fears....and the rest is history, as they say!

I now teach it to others and work on people all around the world.  

I worked, and still work (he's 14 now!) hard to keep his belly full of healthy foods, which can be quite a job since he has a very high metabolism. Keeping his body well-rested was a challenge as he's a super active, very physical kid.   He's always been mostly dairy- and gluten- free by choice, and I kept him artificial colors/preservative-free as long as I could.  He's now responsible for being aware of those choices himself and how they make him feel.  

If you have a kiddo who struggles in ANY way, shape or form, let me know.  I'd love to chat with you about it and see if a distance Reiki session might just be the energetic massage their Soul has been so in need of. 

I'm so blessed, and I can't wait to share blessings with you and your family! ~Kim