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Monday, April 28, 2014

The trail of contamination/OCD train of thought

Clothing contamination is a huge issue for me right now.  I have thrown away so many articles of clothing over the last few months that I have basically depleted my entire closet.  I have been frequently buying inexpensive clothing online from places like Old Navy or Kohl's just to replenish my closet.  It seems like more often than not anymore, something is always happening to my clothes to contaminate them, to the point where I feel they are ruined and I don't want to even wash them.  I feel horrible throwing all of this away.  Certainly a lot of this could be donated, but of course my OCD tells me its not safe for anyone to wear, so I just throw it away.  I want to list several examples of how I feel my clothing gets contaminated, and where my OCD mind goes at these times.
       A couple of days ago it was so beautiful outside that I decided to take my dog for a walk.  It was very windy outside and we live in a neighborhood where there is a lot of construction going on right now.  As I turned the corner off of our street the wind really started blowing and I felt things being "pelted" at me for lack of a better word.  It was more than wind or breeze, but felt like something was actually hitting me, like sand or dirt, who knows?  That is the problem with OCD.  There were some people working on framing a new house and my mind just started to go all kinds of different places.  Was it sawdust from the wood?  Some type of chemical they sprayed?  Dirt?  I just didn't know.  As I got home I felt itchy on my body, I'm not sure if that was my imagination or not, but I felt like all of my clothing was contaminated.  How would I ever know what had gotten all over me?  I wanted to go through a drive through to get dinner, but I couldn't get in my car with those clothes on because then I would contaminate my car and I did not want to have to go through the process of wiping down the seat in my car with soap and water to decontaminate it.  I took a shower and changed into clean clothes and discarded everything I was wearing on the walk--everything.....shirt, bra, jeans, and underwear.  I couldn't even bring myself to wash them because I would always feel like there was something in the clothes and I didn't want them tumbling around with my other clothes in the wash.
     Another example is that I have been throwing a lot of socks away lately.  My hands have been so dry lately and I have developed warts (proably as a result of frequent handwashing with my OCD), so I have been trying to do Vaseline treatments on my hands at night and covering them with socks.  In the morning I throw the socks out (I bought a new pack of socks to do this for a week straight), but when I looked at my sock pile to wash recently I was worried what if one of those socks that I used on my hands somehow got in my pile of normal socks?  Then I was worried that there would be wart fluids on the socks and they wouldn't get killed in the wash, and then when I put them on my feet I could get warts on my feet.  So I threw out every one of my socks and went and bought several new packs to start all over.
     If you read through previous posts, you'll find how I throw out lots of laundry that is in the process of being laundred when my husband comes home.  Somehow I feel my husband contaminates them, and I have problems with the indoor plumbing and obsessions that once the toilet or sink goes off, that that water will somehow go into the washer and contaminate my laundry.  So please refer back to previous posts as I describe that very much in detail in my laundry ritual post in particular.
     My family (parents and sister) came over the other night, and this has caused a lot of problems for me anymore, having people come into my house.  I'm always worried what they are going to touch, where they are going to sit, etc.  My mom noticed some new shoes I had on and said she liked them and wanted to try them on.  Well of course I don't want anyone trying on my shoes.  My family doesn't know I have OCD, so I probably looked very rude during all of this.  Then she asked me to take off my shoe because she wanted to look at the inside to see what style it was.  Well, I didn't want her touching my shoe because then she would contaminate it.  Here is the ironic thing--it was already contaminated.  I had actually just got back from the store to buy a new pair of shoes to replace the ones I was currently wearing.  My dog licked my shoe and I couldn't stand the thought of wearing that shoe and feeling like her saliva was on me everytime, so I went to the store and bought a new pair of shoes.  Well of course if I had new shoes, I needed new slippers because if I put the shoes on my socks, they would contaminate my socks, and then my socks would contaminate my slippers, so I needed to make sure I had new everything.  I was going to keep myself contaminated for the night (socks, shoes, and slippers), and then after my shower replace everything.  I couldn't let my mom try on my shoe or touch it though.  Finally she acted kind of put off and just said "never mind then".  I have bought a lot of new shoes lately--5 pairs to be exact--in the last month probably.  One of them fell off in the garage so I felt it was contaminated because it "might" have landed on the part where my foot goes in.  Another couple of pairs were contaminated because my husband "might" have touched them....I accidentally left them out not realizing he was home, and I wasn't sure if he moved them.  I asked him and he said no, but my OCD can't trust that and I don't take a chance, because he is contaminated to me.  My dog licked the other pair, and now I'm on my 5th pair.  Very expensive.  Also have gone through countless pairs of slippers for the same types of reasons, usually because my dog drops her ball on my slipper, or some other reason like that.
        I've also spent way too much money on bras lately, and they are not cheap.  A couple of them were stuck in the washer when my husband came home, so then they were ruined (refer back to my laundry/toilet contamination post).  Most recent problem I had with them is I bought a couple of new ones and had just washed them and everything went well.  I dropped one on the floor in my daughters closet (where I currently keep all of my clothes), and all I could think about was how my husband had been in her closet one time after we moved in, to fix a closet rod.  So that triggered me into thinking my bra was somehow contaminated because it touched the floor that he stepped on, with possibly a dirty sock of his (keep in mind he stepped on this carpet probably over a year ago now).  So then I made my next mistake of hanging the bra up with another dirty bra of mine, that was going to go in the wash.  Well of course then I realized I had just contaminated the other bra too because whatever contamination was on the bra that dropped on the floor had now spread to my other bra because they touched.  Well then my 3rd bra was ruined on the walk the other day, so I had to go buy new bras again.  So frustrating.  I was able to get them washed up and hung up to dry.  Here is where things are starting to get really weird, and I am really nervous for how badly things are spiraling out of control recently.  My thoughts are starting to become very far fetched and irrational.  The good news is I do realize they are irrational, but I so badly want reassurance that everything is okay.  I hung the bras up to dry in my daughters room, and my husband left for the afternoon.  I work from home and use the computer downstairs, so usually I will hear if the garage door goes up.  I am so paranoid anymthat he might come home and I might not know it.  So I'm obsessed right now with what if he came home and I didn't know it?  What if he walked into my daughters room and touched my bras?  I know that is so irrational, but I can't get it out of my head.  I don't even want to wear them anymore.  I want to ask him so badly if he was in there, but I know he will just get mad.  But if I don't ask him, I am worried I will throw the bras out just because I think he "might" have been in there.  It seems like I have to be really mindful of what I do anymore, if I make one wrong move then something becomes contaminated.
My puppy is also causing a lot of problems with my OCD because she has been vomiting in her bed lately, then she eats it, but it still hits her blanket and kennel and I know she lays in there before it can get cleaned out.  I am worried that somehow there is vomit on her and when she brushes up against me it will get vomit on my clothes, and I feel so many of my things are ruined because of that.  She is aso a source of "secondary contamination" with my husband.  He picks her up and she is all over his clothes, which are contaminated in my mind.  Then she comes over to me and runs by and brushes up against my leg and I feel like his contaminated clothes gets on my clothes through the dog.  I am really having a hard time lately.  It seems like most of my days are spent making sure that my clothes are clean, and avoiding having them contaminated.  I'm afraid that my husband will brush up against me as he walks by.  Even if he is 10 feet from me, my OCD mind is still telling me that he might have brushed up against me.  I'm absolutely mortified by the thought of his clothes touching me.  More and more, everything in my house is starting to feel contaminated.  I am going to post about my "safe zones" next, because I spend most of my time anymore keeping my "safe zones" safe and contamination free.  Hope you all are fighting this OCD monster better right now.  I am not doing so well and feel like I am losing miserably to this monster.  If anyone has dealt specifically with clothing contamination I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this!

12 comments:

  1. Yes, I too have struggled with clothing contamination. Over the years I have thrown out a TON of stuff, both clothes, shoes, and other things. In my experience, the way to beat clothing contamination, is, unfortunately to start wearing some of it, and eventually wearing it IN your safe places. Oh I know about safe places too. To some degree I still have them, but I'm not nearly as fanatical about keeping them clean and perfect anymore.

    So, my overwhelming thought while reading your post is that you desperately need professional help. You are suffering so incredibly much and I think you need someone to help lead you out of the woods. Would you consider residential treatment? I suggest this because you've said that there are no experts in your area, perhaps residential would be helpful, because you could get top notch intensive treatment to really help you get a handle on this. I know that is probably a frightening suggestion to you. But frm what I have personally experienced and seen, this will not go away on it's own. Or maybe Skype treatment, like I suggested in my latest reply to you on my blog. I know these things are expensive, but so is throwing out tons of clothes and other things. I did have to spend a lot beyond what my insurance paid, but my life is so much better, that I believe it was more than worth it. Anyway, just wanted to share some thoughts with you. I'm so, so sorry you have to live with OCD. Oh how I hate that illness!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I don't think I could do residential treatment, I know I couldn't. I am hoping to start looking for a therapist and starting some treatment this summer. Hopefully I can at least get a grip on things and start "expanding" my life a little bit more piece by piece. I agree though, I could definitely benefit from residential treatment, I probably am a good candidate for that, but I know I just can't do that now. The suggestion for Skype treatment is great! I checked into LA center and they will not do Skype treatment for those outside of California. I'm not sure if Dr. Grayson's center will or not. You had replied to my comment on your blog about the center in Philadelphia too. I have read his book 'Freedom from Obsesive Compulsive Disorder" and I start reading it am getting along fine until he starts talking about immersing yourself in the contamination. The thought of thought just puts me over the top! I realize that I need to take much slower steps, but I'll never get there if I don't start making those baby steps. I need to sit down one night and really spend time looking at my fears and write out a hierarchy and start trying some very low exposures. For instance the thought of touching my husbands clothes, then rubbing my hands all over my face, my clothes and my hair about sends me over the edge! There is no way I could do that right now! Even the thought of touching a paper towel to his clothes then putting the paper towel on a countertop and just not wiping the counter clean bothers me, but if I HAD to choose one....of course I would choose the paper towel, because then its not direct contact. Maybe those are areas which I need to start really small in. Doesn't sound like much progress, but like I said I'll never get to the big stuff without going up the ladder of exposures. I am also sorry that you have to deal with this illness. Reading through so many of your older posts I can relate so much to what you have said. It is isolating, it is lonely and it robs you of your life!!!

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    2. Glad to read your reply. I've been a little worried about you.

      Hmmmm personally I agree with you instead of Grayson when it comes to the ERP thing. I prefer a slower pace myself. I agree that making a hierarchy is a great idea. There were times when an ERP ended up being too much, so my psychologist would help me break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. She always recommended working on something that was like a 6 or 7 out of a possible 10. At the very beginning, maybe start even lower, just to get some success under your belt? And don't minimize any success, no matter how small. The idea is to move forward, no matter how little at a time.

      I don't recall what state you are in, but you might want to see if there are any expert centers there that will do Skype treatments. Teaching hospitals are always a good place to look. Also, I have a link to a Behavioral Therapist's national site on my home page. That might also be a good place to look.

      Yes, OCD sure can be lonely. I'm so glad to say that it doesn't have to stay that way!

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    3. I hate ocd too i suffer from that too. Your story gives me hope and i hope my situation gives hope to you too.��

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  2. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry this has happened to you. I have lived this.

    Are you able to use the washer and dryer? Do you know what it is about the clothing that makes them "contaminated" or is it just that they feel contaminated? I am not always successful at this, but it find that when I start asking myself "what if" questions about clothing contamination, I disregard the thought because that is all it is--what if--you have no idea if that actually happened or not, and you can tack a "what if" on top of pretty much anything. It sounds like your husband contaminating things and your cycle of replacing clothing is just spiraling out of control, as I'm sure sunny (above post) and I have both experienced. I just want to encourage you again to check out the ocdfoundation website and try and get in contact with them to find a specialist, even if you have to drive out of town like I do. It is worth it. It has truly, truly, truly raised my quality of life and frankly, saved it. I cannot express that enough, as someone who was so resistant to this idea and thought I could never find my way out and no one could help me because it was so bad. My heart is just hurting for you right now with the clothing stuff. Also think about the pros and cons of living with ocd as you are now (and most likely it will continue to get worse) or trying treatment and potentially raising your quality of life. I started my blog five or six months into my treatment--there were many, many exposures that I had completed before my first post, and many details that were left to exposing just how consumed I was. Another thing about ERP (exposure and response prevention) is that YOU get the controls--your therapist cannot make you or force you to do an exposure. That has helped me immensely. Will you please make that call or even let me know the state where you live and I can see if I can find someone for you through the OCDFOUNDATION?

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  3. Hi! I am able to use our washer, but not the dryer. The dryer has felt contaminated to me for a long time since my husbands clothes go in there and I feel they are dirty (even if they are washed), I do not use the dryer for my daughter and my clothing. I line dry everything of ours, which started out as a real pain, but of course with a lot of OCD rituals...you just get used to it over time. I cannot do laundry when he is home (because I am obsessed about toilets flushing while the laundry is going and I hide this from him), so I do all my laundry when he is gone. He is gone a lot between work and other things, so its been easy to hide my OCD from him for a long time (at least how bad it is). I used to put his stuff through the washer, but now I don't even do that. I handwash all of his clothes, which really bothers me too. As far as the clothing feeling contaminated, I believe you hit the nail on the head. It's always the "what-if's". When I KNOW what has happened to the clothes, I feel better laundering them. But if I don't know, and my mind starts going in a hundred different directions I just feel they are contaminated. They just feel dirty to me, like washing will not really clean them. I never had clothing contamination problems before last summer. It started when my niece touched my outfit one day (and she always has a runny nose), and I started to become much more aware of stuff that could get on my clothes. For example today I took the trash outside to our outside trash can, and as I was flipping the lid down to put the garbage bag in, some dusty stuff appeared to fly off the garbage can and I started worrying about what it was and if it got on my clothes. Right now I feel contaminated. I took off my lightweight hoodie, and am just now wearing my T-shirt under it. As I mentioned in my last post, the last time I felt contaminated I threw out every single thing I was wearing (including bra and underwear!) I don't feel I should throw out my bra again, especially as I mentioned above how many I've been replacing lately. A lot of times if I feel I must wear something again after its been contaminated, I find myself washing it multiple times through the washer. I did check the ocdfoundation website and I'm not sure if there just aren't any therapists in my area, or if the page just never loads properly, but it doesn't pull anything up. I know I need to start making some phone calls and start getting some help. I agree with what you said above to, I am smart and feel like I totally know how to treat OCD, I just can't get myself through it. I feel like I could probably design a program for someone else by now! :). I live in Nebraska in a fairly big city (225,000 people). You'd think that there would be an OCD specialist somewhere. I am an RN and work in an office where we have child psychologists that deal with OCD, so I actually know/see a lot of patients that have this disorder. My heart hurts for them too! I can't imagine having this as a child. My OCD didn't start until I was in my mid-20's.

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    1. I understand about the handwashing/washer and dryer situation--I also hand washed all my clothes for a really long time, which as you know, gets really time consuming and tiring and old. Out of all the exposures I have done, being able to wash and dry my clothes has been one of the most positively life-changing. I think one of the characteristics of having severe ocd is that it happens to very bright people. I know that for me, I figured I could handle it on my own, which obviously was not the most successful plan. I live on the opposite side of the country and have never even been to Nebraska, but I'm going to do a little research for you. It might be good to recognize, as you already have, these new obsessions, like with the trash can. I've found that catching the new ones early and refraining from rituals right off the bat makes it sooo much easier.

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  4. hi i have the same problem, ive had it my whole life and its even worse now. i dont think exposure therapy works, at least for me. What would work that i havent tried is to try to stop protecting my clothes. What youre doing, and what i do, is protect them from getting contaminated and it takes so much effort and its a losing battle. Ive tried protecting things forever - safe zones and the like- and it always gets ruined. What if you took out your best clothes and let them stay contaminated... imagine you were going to throw them out anyway... and then just keep those as the clothes you wear normally. so in essense your "best" clothes are now actually the contaminated ones. you can save a separate set of completely clean clothes for when u want to feel totally clean. also for me, the less I expose, rather than the more, makes me more open and willing to retrain myself to label things as contaminated from the beginning, rather than trying to protect it later on. I think ocd is all about being in control and protecting some things bc you cant protect yourself from other things in life that happen. at least clothes you have control over. but then you spend so much time/effort trying to protect them and more effort when youre upset they get contaminated. i havent tried my own approach yet, but i do know that when i wear already contaminated clothes i would have thrown out , then I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that im "done" protecting them because I already failed. i dont know if this will help, but id love to know if it does. Im actually a doctor myself, well almost, supposed to be studying for boards but just obsessing all the time about clothing contamination issues. id love to talk to you esp. if you think you can help me with my problems., Elliot. call718-436-0605 or text only 347-581-5862

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    1. Hi
      I have same problems with clothing ans shoes. But i tried wearing them
      again. But though i feel relaxed and even forget that contamination,but
      again after some time i feel the clothes are clean but once again new contamination hits and i give more severity to it or start protecting for new contamination other than original one and it goen on

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  5. Hi! Just reading through your message here, sorry its been such a long time!! Wow, it sounds like we have a lot in common with clothing issues. Do you have an email address that we would communicate with??

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  6. I have such a long history (over 25 years,) of many contamination types (including my huge share of clothing contamination). You want someone to talk to, please talk to me. I know EXACTLY what your talking about, I have been through so so so so much. Please respond to this message. Who knows, after that we maybe can communicate via email or something.

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    1. Astro Ocean,thanks for your comment. This particular blog post is about 3 years old, but I still very much struggle with clothing contamination. I like to think I've improved some since this post, but the truth is that it still has very much control over my life. I do actually have my email address posted on my home page, it is connectwithmyocdstory@gmail.com. I would love to further chat there. Thanks!

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