Thursday, June 17, 2010

Habituation Happened!

If there is a time of day when my rituals are at their worst, I would have to say right before I go to sleep. The thought of contaminating my bed is more than I can handle. Typically, my pre-bed handwashing ritual alone takes 25 minutes and half a roll of paper towels, and that isn't even considering the clothing change - the duration of which largely depends upon whether I do it correctly, and in the correct order. Being so preoccupied with those details, it is often that I make a mistake and touch something I "shouldn't" and have to start over from scratch.

The other night, I encountered a cashier at a convenience store with a very obvious infection on her hand. I was horrified, put down my items and immediately left the store. I now feel like that set of clothing, my car, my seatbelt, my purse, and anything I touched before I scoured my hands is contaminated. Last night, as I was about to head off to bed (all clean and ready), I touched a door with my bare hand - a door that I felt was contaminated. Initially, my anxiety was a 95 of 100. I felt that I had to change clothes and go through my handwashing ritual immediately. But I didn't. I sat with it. I kept reminding myself of all the times I have heard and read that the rituals are not necessary to reduce the anxiety, and eventually habituation will occur - and that is the key to freedom from this crap!

It took nearly an hour for me to even consider not washing before going to bed, but I began considering it. I calculated my stress level in my mind and figured it had come down to around 60. Impressed with the drop, I forced myself to wait longer. Not long after, maybe 20 minutes or so, I realized that I was comfortable going to bed without doing anything! Well, I did wipe my hand on my PJ pants, but clearly, that wasn't washing or changing so I will let it go for now. By the time I put my head on my pillow, my anxiety was about a 10. I am still kind of amazed about that. Equally interesting is how empowered I feel today, and how much quieter that bully is than usual.

1 comment: