Monday, April 16, 2012

The Bedtime Ritual

Going to bed sucks.

Once upon a time, when I decided I was too sleepy to remain awake any longer, I would turn off the lights and TV, walk to my room, hop into bed and snuggle in for the night. Sometimes I would fall asleep reading a book if I didn't feel sleepy just yet. And I never imagined I would long for that simplicity.

Now, bedtime happens between 2AM and 8AM. It involves a ritual where I must clean under my fingernails with a 50/50 bleach/water solution and a toothbrush, wash my face, wash my neck, wash my arms, clean the bandage on my possibly diseased and thus encased in a bandage thumb, then wash my hands. I can't dry with paper towels, because that has bit me in the ass too many times to count. Paper towels are littered with paper-ish things, like random color variations and speckles. My ocd doesn't like it. So I air dry. And I could accomplish all of that fairly fast, except for the fact that there is uncertainty, and I almost always screw something up. On a great night, I can accomplish the ritual without any additional cleaning (floor for dirty water splatters, etc.) and be done in about 15-30 minutes. On a terrible night, I can end up tearfully completing this nightmare ritual in as many as 5 hours. Some of those nights I've just said f%#k it, made a ton of coffee, and just stayed up.

The worst part of this isn't even the painful loss of sleep. Having kids means I can't sleep all day, because they're up pretty early, and their needs are not optional. The worst part is how ill-equipped sleep deprivation leaves me to cope with stress and take those necessary risks.

I often wonder how other people prepare for bed. Prior to ocd, I would go into my master bathroom, wash my face with a yummy-scented face wash, brush my teeth, grab a book, and climb into bed. I was usually in my pajamas from the second I got home. I never washed before that, either, and now I wouldn't dream of not scouring myself and dumping my contaminated clothes in the wash bin before changing.

For that matter, how often does the average person (or even the person with the flavor of ocd that isn't germaphobic) wash their hands? I remember sometimes looking at my manicured nails (you could not pay me a million dollars to get me to go to a nails salon and let people poke and prod at me with instruments used on God knows how many people now), thinking, yuck! I have a bunch of crud under there and really ought to invest in a nail brush. Eh, screw it. I'm showering later anyhow. What I would not give to feel that way again, filthy or not!

Anyway, some positives for today:

  • Had a healthy breakfast and a multi-vitamin.

  • Didn't wash myself and everything I touched a billion times before being able to sit down and eat said breakfast.

  • Got to bed last night with a very short washing ritual. Resisted the urge to re-do several things.


  1. I'd say those are some great positives! Congrats! I hope you were able to get some sleep last night.

    I washed my hands relentlessly for years. That is a ritual that medication really helped me with.

    I wonder how "normal" people leave the house or relax at home without checking to make sure the lights are out, the ceiling fans are off, there's nothing on the carpet the cats could eat, the washer and dryer are off, the shower faucet is off, etc. Checking is a big one for me, and it gets worse the more anxious I am about other stuff. I am using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques--relabeling, refocusing and moving on beyond the checking. It's hard, but I am seeing some results.

    You will get to the place where you can go to bed without thinking about it. You will get there.

  2. Thank you! Your words give me a lot of hope. And yes, I actually got 8 hours of blissful, restful, wonderful sleep last night. Even if it was on the floor, I didn't care. It was sleep, and it was the best thing in the world.

  3. I can completely relate to having a long night time ritual because of OCD. I have to allow an extra hour to prepare for bed because of it. I feel like OCD sometimes controlls my life but I found a lot of great advice for controlling my OCD from Also, I think that it is great that you list positives from the day. I feel that remaining positive like that is the best way to deal with pretty much anything.

  4. I'm happy you had some positives.
    Sometimes I think I have lost track of what is normal, and that's part of my problem. How many times does a normal person wash their hands? I dunno. I do know that people don't wash them for 15 minutes or longer like me and why the heck do I have to do my wrists too? Somebody told me to sing "Happy Birthday" and that was enough. I tried it and wasn't even soaped up after the song and by golly I got to get them rinsed and that takes me another 10 minutes.
    Like Tina, medication has helped me but more with my checking than contamination. But still, it was significant and changed my life. I have been thinking lately of biting the bullet and finding a therapist that will do ERP / cognitive therapy so I can work on the handwashing..I am looking at 1.5 hr drive (3 hr. round trip) for a therapist
    so I keep putting off making an appointment.

  5. Really, really good work! I'm sure that was very hard not to re-do stuff. I do understand messing up a set of rituals and having to do them all over again. I don't think there are many things more painful or frustrating.

    Sleep is very important for me. I've discovered that lack of sleep is my number one trigger, more than anything else in the world.

    Maybe you could add to your current success by removing one little item from your bedtime ritual. You could keep working on that until it not longer feels scary, and then maybe you could subtract another one. Anyway, just some thoughts.

    Definitely take the time to celebrate your victory. You deserve it! Keep up the good work. Before you know it, one thing is added to another and then all of sudden you realize you've made huge progress.

  6. Lol I just posted something about paper towels and paper products as well. I remember those days of just being able to wash up quickly and hop in bed as well. Those days are long gone. Hopefully I can start trying to regain some control of my time. What drives me crazy though is my husband. He likes to take his showers in the morning. Me on the other hand, I can't get into the bed until I'm squeaky clean. Which drives me crazy when it comes to covering up with the same blanket. I always feel like his side is dirtier than mine. Which it's not, he's a very clean person. It's just my crazy mind telling me otherwise. Anyway, I'm glad you had some positives for the day. Any improvement is always a blessing. :)