Friday, July 2, 2010

Sticking With It

Some goals are too embarrassing to bother posting. However, since I have made some progress, I will fess up now. A few challenges - some new, some old, dealt with in the past several days:

My children have a new swing set. Things not within my home are not within my control. Thus, the thing feels like a source of possible contamination to me. I am afraid of it. They, however, are not. And the thing is awesome. The mere thought of having such a something in my backyard at their age nearly gives me butterflies just thinking of it. They must play on it. Though my 0 - 100 anxiety level was a 90 when it arrived, I am now at about a 30.

My kitchen has been relatively clean. Back in the day, before this contamination OCD took over my life, my home used to be the envy of others. It's not big, it's not fancy, and it's not even new. But it was nice and tidy all of the time, even when my children were babies. Funny how fear of touching everything makes keeping a tidy home impossible. Dust accumulates, dishes pile up, crumbs sneak up on the kitchen table and seem to multiply while there. But my kitchen is currently, aside from a few dishes in the "soaking side" of the sink, clean. And it has been all week. I have been touching the dirty dishes, loading the dishwasher, putting clean dishes away, all like clockwork. Easy? No. But it is getting easier. I am really proud of myself for sticking with it.

I have gone full 24 hour days without washing my hands, 3 times this month. Now, I am not going out of the house on these days, nor am I doing laundry, but I am doing other typical household necessities. The episode of The OCD Project where everyone had to give up their rituals inspired me. These exposures, I think, have led to massive progress elsewhere. A couple of months ago, this would have been unthinkable.

I cleaned the kitchen floor. There was a semi-permanent layer of film over the floor from accumulated floor soap. It took me all day today, but I did it. And I did a load of laundry - after messing with the nasty floor all day. And I cleaned my kids' summer sandals and shoes and they are ready for wearing, also after the floor. Exposures, exposures, exposures.

And I am really feeling good.


  1. Severe OCD is tough, I know. I was diagnosed in 1990. It got so bad, I could hardly leave my house. I was a hand-washer too, with the skin on my hands often bleeding. Two years ago, I felt enough better with the help of Prozac, that I was able to have my memoir about it published.

    I wish you well, during your struggle!

    Ruth J. Hartman

  2. That's awesome! I can relate so much to having your home paradoxically become dirtier the more severe your contamination issues become. My apartment became a disgusting, atrocious mess when my OCD got really bad. The complex I lived in already had a roach problem, and my inability to clean was pretty much an open invitation for them to move on in. People who knew about my contamination problems would see the roaches and say things like, "I don't mean to freak you out more or anything...but you know roaches spread dirt and disease, right?" Yes, I agreed. Roaches were gross. But how could I face cleaning when touching anything even remotely dirty could trigger hours of washing? Ironically, not cleaning of course didn't help me get over my contamination issues, but it did help me habituate to the presence of roaches! I went from barely being able to be in the same room as one to watching them scurry off and thinking "oh well, nothing I can do about it!"

    I am really impressed by all the exposures you have done, and your success reminds me of all the things that I could still work on...but in a good way. I often have moments where I succeed at an exposure and then freak out because I feel like I suddenly no longer have OCD. If I no longer have OCD, who am I? What do I do? Having just recently discovered that I have probably lived with it my whole life, it seems like an integral part of my identity. But the work you have done to fight your OCD reminds me that challenging OCD is a continual and ongoing process and that there is much left to work on!

    Like I said, I am highly impressed with your dish-doing, floor-cleaning, and 24 hours sans hand-washing. I can certainly appreciate how difficult that can be and hope that I eventually get to a point where I can do similar exposures! Congrats!

  3. This is great! So awesome that you're feeling better about the swing set.

    It's interesting to see other people whose fear of contamination leads to a messy house. My family totally doesn't get that!

  4. Don't ever be embarrassed about posting something on your blog. I have some incredibly shameful stuff on mine but as long as it lets people know they're not alone, makes them feel a bit better and gives them a chuckle, I think it's worth it. I'm not saying I laugh at your blog (I don't) but something that may seem embarrassing to you will probably help out a reader a great deal by letting them know they are not the only one going through it.

    Keep up the great work!