I Have Thoughts

The episode “I have Thoughts” with Shelly, the elephant, approaches a mental health disorder that is often misrepresented among society. This disorder is OCD. The term OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder. Often, people use the excuse, “I have a bit of OCD,” whenever they are keeping things extremely clean—organizing specific objects in a particular manner. This, in and of itself, is not OCD. OCD is closely related to anxiety, where a person has anxiety over an idea or incident that is hypothetical ( it may or may not occur). This thought becomes an obsession, leading to a compulsion, which, in their mind, prevents the idea or thought from coming to pass. OCD takes upon a very broad range of circumstances and diagnoses. Each individual is unique and is triggered by something that causes their anxiety and fear to grow.

Shelly’s primary purpose in this episode is to explain the symptoms and causes of OCD. These vary from child to child; one child may manifest their compulsion by turning the lights off and on a certain amount of times before they leave a room. Shelly, for example, manifests her OCD by counting her trunk three times in the sand. Compulsions aren’t always external, however. They can be internal; a child may develop compulsions with their religious practices, finding that they have to pray a certain amount of times in order for their prayer to work. 

Because OCD is manifest in so many different ways, this episode does not include an art activity, as all of the other episodes do. Instead, this episode includes a different kind of activity, inspired by the story of Barrett Penrod, who grew up with OCD: At a young age, Barrett was diagnosed with OCD. He received help from a therapist who gave him skills to overcome his condition. One of these skills is a technique called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a meditation tool often used in yoga where the person dedicates time to sit down and be aware of what they are experiencing. In this state, the person is merely observing their thoughts and ideas, which is helpful for someone with OCD because it allows their thoughts to exist without weight.

To implement mindfulness into Shelly’s episode, without making it too complicated for young children, a series of visuals are used. Though this activity may not be suitable for all children, the goal of it is to create a resource for parents to utilize when helping their child who is struggling with OCD. As always, the first course of action would be to seek professional help.