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Friday, July 26, 2013

Vacations and OCD

   So right now I am really stressed out.  My family wants to take a vacation and I just cannot bring myself to plan it.  My OCD has been worse this summer for some reason.  I'm not sure why, I'm hoping I'm not spiraling down into more severe OCD.  We have only been on 5 family vacations in the last 10 years....2 of them were really before I ever developed OCD, 3 of them have been after.  Each vacation after I have developed OCD has become increasingly harder to manage.  The first time we went to Disney World, and I was fairly mild at that point, in retrospect.  Standing in lines for rides/attractions didn't seem to bother me.  I ate at restaurants and at the Disney Parks, just making sure we could go in and use the bathroom to wash up before eating (that's very normal I think).  I rode in airplanes and taxi cabs and didn't seem too bad.  I'm fairly sure I didn't have an issue at the hotels, other than making sure I brought sanitizing wipes and cleaned remotes, lightswitches off.  I was able to sleep in the hotel bed and use the hotel towels.  (You will see that things change by the Colorado vacation).  At that point I think it was the germ factor on the hands that bothered me, so as long as I could wash up and have my hand sanitizer, I didn't feel uncomfortable.
     The next time we went to Kansas City and things were about the same that time.  I think I still used the hotel towels and slept in the bed.  I remember standing in line again for rides and not feeling crowded by other people.  We ate again at restaurants and the amusement park, just washing hands before we ate.  Normal, I think.  The one change I did notice at that time was that when we went to a Royals baseball game, I wanted to sit in the very back of the stadium.  I did not want to be in the center of the crowd, so maybe things were starting to bother me back then.  We even at the stadium...which I would not be able to do currently.
     A couple of years ago we went to Colorado to the mountains.  This vacation was very difficult for me.  I remember feeling uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping in a hotel bed and using their towels.  I also was having trouble eating at restaurants at this time and using silverware.  My packing and the preparation that went into this was very difficult.  First of all understand that my husband doesn't get OCD, so I continue to try to hide it from him.  I also let him do his thing, but my OCD affects what I do with my daughter, because I want to keep her safe too....I brought bath towels from home for my daughter and I--packing enough for a new one each day of our trip.  I brought blanket and sheet for the hotel bed.  Put our own big blanket down on top of the bed and used our own sheet to cover us (my daughter and I slept together in the same bed).  Brought our own pillows and pillowcases.  I also brought a bag with me to take around to all of the sites we saw with stuff in it that I might need--especially plastic silverware, regular silverware, and wrapped straws.  Why, you ask?  Good question!  Sometimes when you get takeout they just throw some plastic silverware randomly in the bag and I wanted to have some that were protected in a plastic bag or box, something that a restaurant worker would not have touched.  The regular silverware is because it was shortly before this vacation that I started having trouble eating off of restaurant silverware.  If we went to a restaurant and I ordered a meal, I planned to "swap out" my clean silverware for the restaurant silverware when my husband wasn't looking or went to the restroom, and then swap them again before we left.  I even had 2 plastic ziploc bags--one to keep the clean silverware in, and another to put any dirty, used silverware in, that would eventually be washed when we got home.   To make things simple I discovered eating burgers or sandwiches or pizza was the easiest way to deal with this.  Then I didn't need a fork, and I could just go wash my hands after ordering and eat.
      You can hopefully start to see how exhausting this can be and how the idea of a vacation starts to seem like a lot of work.  I really want to go on vacation with my family this year, but I don't want to deal with the OCD on vacation, and I know it will be there.  When I think of how much worse my OCD is now compared to the Colorado vacation 2 years ago, it stresses me out just thinking about how much prep it would take me, and I am a lot more worried now about crowds and being around in people in general.
     I really don't want to let my family down.  My daughter knows all of my concerns about going on vacation, but I'm fairly certain my husband doesn't have a clue as to what all stresses me out about this.  It would be nice if I could talk to him and feel understood and maybe if we could have a good conversation and be honest, we could make it work.
   Here are my concerns about vacation this year:  I have 4 of them.
1.  The hotel.  This time I would be bringing my own blanket/sheet/pillow/pillowcases again.  I would also have to buy some new things for his trip.  We don't have any luggage currently, so would have to borrow/buy.  I don't want to borrow of course, so would end up buying.  Could probably get by with a few duffel bags for me and my daughters stuff.  I would have the silverware issue again.  I would also not want my feet to touch the shower floor or the floors in the bathroom, so I would probably put bath towels all over the bathroom floor (I'd be okay stepping on them, but not drying myself off with them), and wear flip-flops while in the shower.  I would have to wipe down certain parts of the room--lightswitches, remotes, hotel key card, sink/bath faucets, lamp switch, alarm clock, refrigerator handle, etc.
2.  Eating.  I don't want to eat out anywhere, so this is probably the hardest thing for me.  In a separate post at some time soon, I will go into detail about why I have a hard time eating out at restaurants.  But let's just say this would definitely be very stress inducing for me...three times a day.  I honestly don't know how I would do it....this is exhausting just thinking about, let alone trying to write it out, which would probably take pages!!  :)
3.  Going to the attractions.  My concern with these is being stuck in positions I can't get out of.  Currently I have a lot of problems being in crowds.  I want to be in the very back if this is the case.  I don't want to be in front of someone, in case they cough on me, or sneeze or something.  I think I would have a very difficult time standing in line for rides or being in an auditorium for various shows...
4.  This is a new one for me, that hasn't bothered me in previous times.  I have a really hard time with people being in our house anymore, apart from our own family of 3 (plus a dog).   I don't like when people come to visit, and you can be assured that when they leave I'll know exactly where they've been and if they've touched anything.  Right now our house is really a "safe place", a comfort zone for me.  We have a dog which would need cared for if we go on a trip, and likely my parents and my husbands parents would probably be coming over several times to day to let our dog out and feed her.  This really bothers me to think of people (even our own family) in our house while we are gone, because I don't know whats going on.  What if someone were to use our bathroom and not wash their hands and touch something in our house?  What if they picked up the dogs "doo" and again didn't wash up and were touching things in our house?  Here's how crazy my OCD mind can get...I even worry what if they want a glass of water while they are in our house and drink out of the cup, and then even FURTHER...what if they don't want to leave a dirty dish on the counter so they handwash it and put it back in the cupboard, and I never know???  You see, its all a bunch of what-ifs for me?  They say OCD is the "what-if disease"--its true.  I am not making this up or trying to be funny.
This is all very stressful/exhausting to me, so it is probably clear why a vacation doesn't really seem like a vacation.  The idea of going somewhere with my family and seeing some new places sounds very fun.  If my OCD could take a vacation for those few days, that would be great!!!  :)  But, I know it won't.  There are actually some triggers at home that I would get away from home that would be helped on vacation.  I would be away from some things in our house that cause me to do rituals, so I would get a break from that.  But as I look at the entire situation, I just don't see how I can do it this year.
   I feel terrible.  I know my daughter really wants to go somewhere, and there are so many things I don't let her do because of OCD that I feel like I owe this to her to have some fun.
My husband keeps asking her what she has planned, and one of these days very soon I just need to be open and tell him that I don't think I can do it.  To me the idea of a "staycation" sounds more relaxing.  We can do fun things in our town, but yet come home to our own bed every night.  I can still make our own meals, and we don't have to have anyone come over to our house when we're not here.....
Stressed, yes......I think I just helped myself process my decision.


  1. I know this is an old post! But I just stumbled across it, and I understand that any hotel vacation would be really stressful for you. I wonder if you have tried camping? You could buy your own tent and bring your own sleeping bags, and even bring the dog - and kids love camping! I hope you are feeling better these days and wish you all the best.

    1. Yes, this is a really old post, but I would still have most of the same problems. I would probably do a little bit better with the clothing contamination, but staying in a hotel would be quite difficult for me. Unfortunately camping would be even more difficult I think :(, but thanks for the suggestion. I am feeling somewhat better these days, but OCD still is a big part of my daily life. Thanks for the comment, and take care!

    2. Are you still working on your ocd? Can we talk over email?

    3. Are you still working on your ocd? Can we talk over email?

    4. Yes, I would be happy to talk over email. Are you also suffering from contamination OCD? Please just post your email address on here, and then I will delete the comment (so your email address doesn't stay on here) and I will send you an email message. Thanks!

  2. Hi, I struggle with contamination OCD too, I used to travel a lot but now the idea of sleeping on a hotel bed scares me so much. How do you keep all the items you bring to a hotel clean? Thanks, V

    1. Hi V! Thanks for reading. This is a really old post, but I would still have most of the same problems unfortunately. I would probably do a little bit better with the clothing contamination, but staying in a hotel would be quite difficult for me. I would definitely have a problem with the bedding, towels, etc. To be honest, I haven't even stayed in a hotel since I posted this. If I did I would bring my own linens. I would also bring some disinfectant wipes and wipe down everything in the room (I guess mostly just doorknobs, lightswitches, faucets, remotes, etc. Whatever getes touched often). I'm not sure how I would keep things clean, that is probably part of the reason why I avoid it. Because I just don't know how I would deal with it. As far as sleeping on a bed, I would absolutely bring a big blanket that could cover the whole bed, and then some kind of sheet to cover myself with, and my own pillow. Not to add to your own concerns, but I am terrified of things like bed bugs or just icky contamination being on the bed. I realize that probably most hotels don't wash the comforters between guests, and that really really bothers me. Sorry to hear that you're struggling with it too. It seems like it's always bringing challenges every day, as you well know. Take care!

  3. I can't stand it when anyone refers to a mental illness and says they're ADHD or OCD or have panic attacks or anxiety when they just are going through regular situations where most people would feel the same way. Just because you are temporarily anxious about a test or something, you do not have an anxiety disorder. I've seen people saying if you aren't diagnosed you don't actually have the disorder, and I'd have to respectfully disagree. Many people live with disorders for years but are afraid to open up about it and talk to someone because they are embarrassed... like me. Contamination OCD is my issue. For me, there are basically two categories, the "outside world" filled with germs and things that are contaminated, and the safe things, or things that I keep clean and will not let anyone touch. Public places are my enemy. I will not touch door handles unless I have a coat on, which I will use the sleeve then fold it so I won't accidentally touch it, then wash it immediately after getting home. My clothes I wear outside in public have to be changed before I sit on my furniture at home and my bed. If my bare skin touches anything out in public which I consider dirty, I'm going to head to the bathroom and scrub it off with some soap and water. Hotels are also very big trigger. The beds... The only time I touch the actual bed is to put my sheets I brought from home and my comforter and pillow on top of the hotel's. I scrub my hands right after, of course because if I don't, I'll be thinking about it up until the time when I get to wash my hands. Tissues and my best friend in hotels especially, although they are always something I couldn't live without. Need to touch the door handle, faucet, remote controller? Just the tissues. I bring my own towels, because the hotels towels have been used by countless amounts of people. Certain things I have like my phone for example, will be dirty due to being outside with me, but I will scrub the case and wipe the screen with alcohol and soap and water as soon as I get home. It's a long list of things, but there are many more. For me, it's a constant embarrassment and takes so much time and energy out of me to performer these rituals I my mind can't be at peace because it constantly worrying an obsessing over contamination.