Actually, it’s nearly impossible to choose the topic, because there are a bunch of things I want to write about but only a sliver of time. I’ll try to say a bit about OCD hand washing, for now. I’m going to talk first about hands, then the rest of the body.
I’m choosing Hand Washing as the topic for now because I recently read that this is what a good number of people think of when they hear “OCD”. So I wanted to write about it from my own experiences.
Thankfully, I have only had the literal hand washing issue very mildly. I do wash a lot more often than anybody I know, but it’s NOTHING like what so many people with OCD experience. As I child, I played in the mud and didn’t have to run and wash. I never used to care about washing before meals. I didn’t wash for long periods of time, etc.
However, as I got older, it did worsen. It reached a pinnacle in my first year of college. By then, I couldn’t touch any door knobs because they felt so “dirty”. I became quite adept at using my knees and even feet to open door knobs (except the stupid round knobs. Then I’d have to use a tissue or sleeve or something—contaminated clothes will have to be a separate post). I was washing fairly frequently, but still never for excessive amounts of time.
The blessing for me was getting sick with Mono. When I came down with Mono, after all that time and effort of avoiding touching any “germs”, it really hit me. I pretty much stopped at that point and realized I was going to get sick anyway. (I got Mono from one of my then-good-friends who didn’t realize she had it at that point. We were staying up all night studying for our Geology tests together and she was extremely ill. But she’d told me it was PMS, so I didn’t stay away. She later found out it was Mono.)
I do wash more often than anybody else that I know, but I don’t feel it’s outside of “the rules” given to the public by health foundations and such. For example, I wash after coming off of the train (but only if I have touched a railing or armrest or anything). I tend to wash when I come home from the “public” if I have handled anything, such as a shopping basket. I rinse before meals if I cannot recall if I’ve handled anything dirty (rinse is without soap). I have to be very careful because my skin breaks out in a rash if I wash too often, so I use soap ONLY when I KNOW I’ve touched things that are, you know, public. I always wash after handling the dogs, because I HAVE to — I am extremely allergic to them. But then, I do rinse while preparing their food, because of the textures. I rinse after touching the dry food because it’s gritty on my fingertips and I don’t want the salts to transfer to whatever I touch afterward, and I rinse after tearing up the chicken that the one dog gets, because I don’t want to smear chicken smell all over things. But, those rinses are without soap. Of course I wash fully after using the restroom. I often rinse after I eat a meal, because my hands will smell like food otherwise. See, some of this is more Aspergers / touch-sensitivity stuff. It’s hard to draw a line for those parts. OF COURSE I wash any time I have a cold or flu and sneeze or cough! I wash after I use any kind of chemical. Oh, and if I handle ‘dirty’ clothes, I’ll probably rinse off my hands. You couldn’t pay me to touch the lever of a public toilet, or the lid. Or the doorknobs. I’ve stood and waited for someone to enter the bathroom so I could leave without touching the knob if paper towels or toilet paper weren’t somehow available. I don’t touch hand rails or anything. And I don’t sit on public toilets; I’m a hover-er. I REALLY don’t understand why there aren’t urinals for women. I’ve come up with several designs in my head.
BUT where the OCD comes in is more for other parts of my body. I’ll leave the potentially gross parts to the end, and will start with teeth. In elementary school, I often brushed my teeth for upwards of AN HOUR (no exaggerating). However, I think it was also a very soothing activity, in addition to my need for them to feel perfectly smooth/clean. Nowadays, I don’t brush for such a long time. I brush for a normal period of time, then floss, then brush again (briefly). Just twice a day. The flossing is only at night.
I shower infrequently. I hate taking a shower. It’s impressive every time I take a shower, because I hate it so much (temperature/wet-dry changes sensitivity ::shudder::). It’s easiest if I have a heater in the bathroom, but there’s still the wet-dry issue. And just changing from night clothes into day clothes is something I really dislike, because of the temperature change. (But oddly, I don’t mind changing INTO night clothes — I look forward to getting all warm and snuggly.)
All right, I’m going to just get to the point now. Look away now if you’re squeamish, although I’ll do my best to use euphemisms. I have IBS and use the restroom extremely frequently. All day long. Typically every two hours (this had gotten better for a while, after avoiding my allergy foods, but it’s getting bad again. Maybe new allergies). This is every day EXCEPT for the rare day when I don’t have to leave the house/move much. So my guess is that it’s either movement-related or stress-related. And I never feel clean. No matter what. Even during and after a shower. So I use a lot of toilet paper. I could literally use an entire roll in one day (I try to count the number of squares I use to make sure I don’t). I feel so guilty about all the paper I use for this that I try extremely hard to save paper in other areas of my life. For example, I took all of my class notes on scratch paper from the library. I turned in my assignments double-sided, in spite of it being against professor wishes. I always look for ways to use less in other areas.
So the result is that my hind end hasn’t actually been healed in years. It is always cut and bleeding. It can’t heal because of me. And ironically, BECAUSE it is always cut, I take even MORE care to make sure it’s ‘clean’ back there. Of course I’ve tried things like baby wipes (successful but I feel guilty for being more wasteful on the environment, plus any scents or chemicals end up making my skin break out in the end), toilet paper dampened with water, various ointments or whatever. It doesn’t stand a chance.
I asked my ex husband to install a bidet once, but he pointed out that it took our apartment about 5 minutes before warm water reached us, so I’d be getting ice cold water for five minutes… So we didn’t do that.
BUUUUUUT!!!!! I LOVE going backpacking/camping! I’m talking no running water. Nearly all of my OCD rules leave me when I’m there. And they usually take a week or so to return. Being out in nature with just whatever you carry in on your back is very healthy for me.