SPOKANE, Wash. - Pokemon, puppies, and playing outside. These are just some of the things 10-year-old Thor loves.
“He's got a big heart, he's very compassionate; He's a very loving child,” said Thor's father, Greg.
Thor also has big dreams of being in the spotlight, as an actor and singer.
“I like singing, and it calms me down so it's like a big thing for me to be able to sing,” Thor said.
But a couple of months ago, seemingly out of no where, the music in his heart was silenced by the thoughts in his head.
“He became scared of so many things, he was just clinging to us,” said Gina, Thor's mother.
“The thoughts got so bad and I was having nightmares and I couldn't go to sleep,” Thor explained.
It got so bad, in fact, they knew they needed to do something about it.
“I think that drive to the emergency room was pretty scary for us," Gina said. "I remember seeing things as we drove along, and having no idea what was going to happen at the other end.”
Thor and his family spent the next three days there. The absence of child psychiatry units in Spokane meant the Emergency Department was the family's only refuge.
Those days and nights were filled with a flow of doctors coming in and out of Thor's windowless room, asking question after question until finally, an answer: OCD.
But the type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Thor was diagnosed with is not the kind one typically sees portrayed on television shows, with obsessive cleaning and organization as the main symptoms.
Thor's OCD plagued his mind with intrusive thoughts; thoughts that caused his nightmares to creep into his daily life.
“That was really difficult and it did feel like our son was taken from us,” said Gina.
Thor describes it as a 'hijacking of the brain.' While the diagnosis gave one answer, it brought with it a lot more questions.
His mom wondered if things would ever get back to normal. “I remember thinking 'is life going to be different from this point on?'” she said.
And as time ticked away, it seemed the only answer was to continue to wait in the Emergency Department or return home to piece together a plan on their own.
“I think for us we felt like we were sort of on a tight rope,” said Greg.
Just when it seemed they were out of options, a new bit of hope arrived in the form of a program called Best.
Best is an out-patient program at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital for kids struggling with mental health issues.
Five days a week the children spend their day working with professionals like psychologists, counselors, nurses and teachers, all with the goal of getting them back to every day life.
“They kind of just help you understand what's going on. And how life is going to get change,” explained Thor.
“They have all the services that we would have had to put together on our own,” said Gina. “Had we left the emergency room and tried to pull all these things together I don't think we could have done it. I think we could envision that this might work for him.”
And sure enough, after just one week, it did.
“Everything just seemed to kind of change. And I could gradually feel myself getting better,” Thor said.
Gina feels better knowing her son is in good hands. “I know it's not going to be an easy route, but I can see we're headed toward recovery,” she said.
“It's a challenge not to see yourself as being OCD. But I think it's helped him realize that OCD is a thing separate from himself,” said Greg.
And now this little boy with big dreams of being in the spotlight is also determined to shine a light on his battle in hopes of helping others, and erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“When we were asked as a family if we would consider doing this interview we talked about it, and Thor was the one who said we needed to do it, and the reason he said we needed to do it,” said Gina.
Thor wanted to share his message with other kids like him. “You know if there's other kids like me going into the Best program, I want them to know that it's okay to talk about it, it's all right to be different. And even if you feel like you're not normal, I know life is going to get better,” he said.
And with that renewed hope returns Thor's dreams for a future filled with song.