Surrounded by family and friends, 16-year-old Maggie Grace and her mother, Jennifer Watkins, on Wednesday celebrated the launch of their children’s book, “Maggie’s Friend Otis.”
This book allowed a younger Maggie to personify her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which separated herself from her illness and made the disorder more tolerable.
The hope is that this book can be used as a tool to aid children in coping with OCD and alleviate some of the stigma associated with mental disorders. Maggie and her mother will present at the S.C. Council for Exceptional Children Professional Development Conference later this month in Myrtle Beach. They will share their experiences and talk about how the book can help parents, teachers, counselors and students understand and manage OCD and other anxiety disorders.
Maggie’s anxiety, and later being diagnosed with severe OCD, resulted in her being homeschooled as a rising sixth-grader. One day, Maggie’s assignment was to draw what OCD looks like – and the colorful Otis was created.
“This is how we started referring to Maggie’s OCD,” Watkins said. “Maggie would say, ‘Otis is really bothering me today.’ Or I would say, “I’m not talking to Otis anymore right now.’ Giving it a name made it a whole lot easier to talk about it with her.”
This also helped Maggie realize she had an identity separate from Otis, that her disorder did not define her. In time, when she would have irrational thoughts, Maggie would tell herself, “That’s just Otis. That’s not real.”
“This is a great book for children who feel alone in their struggles with mental health issues,” said Maggie’s therapist, Jeanna Smith. “It is also a good resource to help children identify their own Otis.”
Mackenzie Hall, an elementary school counselor in Lexington County School District 1, said when she met Maggie at a school counseling conference earlier this year, “It was one of the best moments in my life.”
“I will forever cherish this book,” Hall said. “It actually led me to create a school counseling kiosk in our library. Thank you again for writing a book about OCD. It changed my life and inspired me to share my story with others.”
“Maggie’s Friend Otis,” published by Palladian Publications, is available to purchase at A Boutique, 1425 Boiling Springs Road, at Facebook.com/MaggieAndFriend, and at maggieandfriend.com.
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