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Monday, February 16, 2015

Progress Update, Ideas?

Just a quick update on my progress, since I've posted a lot recently but have neglected to talk about my progress over the past few months.  Where I'm gaining victories and where I'm struggling.

My husband:  Biggest OCD trigger by far.  I just can not seem to get anywhere in this category.  Of course this is because it would require that he cooperate and learn about this part of my OCD, which he at this point seems very resistant to doing.  His level of contamination continues to grow.  As I've pondered this a lot lately, I've tried to come up with some theories of why I feel contaminated by him.  It is contaminated in a dirty sense, but also emotional component.  It started out with his hands that were contaminated, then it grew to his body.  Then it grew to his clothes and his personal items.  I want a 5 foot bubble around me when he is at home, because I'm afraid he is going to contaminate me.  His clothes really bother me.  I've pondered what if I started washing everything of his through a sanitary wash cycle on my washer?  I am not able to hug him right now, so by default there are a lot of other things that don't go on and haven't for quite some time.  What if I started making a plan with him as far as what I am willing to work on, provided that he does indeed change the things that are of sanitary concern (such as picking up his clothes, finding a hamper for his clothes), cleaning his sheets.  I need to come up with a list of exposures to start working on.  The way I deal with other people feeling contaminated is to come home, take my clothes off and put them through the washer by themself.  In reality, I can not do this every day with my husband.  I would honestly like to get to the point where I can hug him, or have his clothes brush up against me, and it doesn't bother me.  His hands feel less contaminated to me, than his clothes.  I am going to start making a hierarchy and working on exposures, such as placing my hands next to him, having him touch my hand, and working my way up the ladder.  Of course, again this necessitates that he understands what the purpose and goal of the treatment is.  He does not like to talk about my OCD, and I am not sure how this conversation will go.  If he starts rolling his eyes and sighing at me as I'm doing an exposure, I'm not sure I will feel like this is going to be something I want to pursue.  I need his support and I need him to understand that.

My dog:  I have more trouble with her when she vomits in her bed, which she doesn't do very often.  Then I feel like she lays in it, and somehow there could be vomit particles in her fur.  Then when she brushes against me, I don't like that and feel like that transfers to my clothes.  I haven't been throwing things away anymore though because of this, so this is good.  It doesn't bother me as much anymore.  She acts as a source of "secondary contamination" between my husband and I.  So when he is hugging her or holding her, then I feel like his clothes contaminate her, and then she could pass that contamination onto me if she brushes against me.  Overall though, I feel like I am doing better with her than I was previously.  Because she used to pee in the house a lot, I started wearing slippers.  I was replacing slippers very often, sometimes daily, 6 months ago, and I have been much better about that too.  If her ball gets my slipper I can deal with it better.  If her ball gets my clothes, that will put me over the edge though.  I'm not sure if its the fact that it's been in her mouth, or that my husband has handled it...but it is too contaminated for me.  In those cases, I would still throw my clothes away.  Because of this, I am really careful around her.  If I pay close enough attention, then it's not a problem.  But if it does happen, it is still a obviously I am still having issues in that area.

Handwashing:  Terrible again.  I had been doing better at using non-antibacterial soap, but I'm finding I've reverted back to antibacterial most of the time.  I have the warts on my hands which are still causing me a lot of problems.  I feel like I want to wash when I've touched the doors to let the dog out, especially if my husband has touched those doors.  I still don't want to touch my clothes without washing my  hands first, for example even when using the bathroom.  I've been wearing gloves which has helped to reduce handwashing some.  My hands are dry again and unhealthy looking.  I really need to push myself to get back to using more non antibacterial soap and try to limit my handwashing.  I need to start finding safe items in my house, maybe starting with the remotes, laptop and tablet...that I could contaminate myself with (touching objects, rubbing hands on clothes and not washing), and working my way up to higher contaminated items.  I have made progress in this area before, but I keep falling back.  I think if I'm consistent, I can do better though.

Laundry:  Doing pretty well with this overall, I am pleased with how far I have come in this category.  Last week I found a coin trapped in the washing machine that came from my husbands pants, it was stuck in a divider in the washer.  Everything with the OCD screamed at me to throw away everything I had washed after that, because it is all contaminated by the coin now.  But I have made so much progress in the last 6 months or so with the laundry, that I can not allow myself to do that.  I will not throw anything away.  It did feel contaminated, but I knew I needed to deal with it.  I continued to wash clothes in the washer the entire week, basically "contaminating" everything I own, and didn't throw it away.  Surprisingly, it didn't even bother me that much.  He has removed the coin since.  This is a huge source of victory for me, as this would have been something even a month ago I would never have been able to do.  Every item, had this happened then, would have been thrown away and I would have been replacing probably $200 worth of stuff (towels, gym clothes, and sleepwear).  But I kept it all and I am proud of myself for that.   I am still shutting off toilets when I do the laundry (master bath and downstairs).  I am only washing loads one time through at this point, where previously I was doing multiple cycles through the wash.  I am still separating out loads by "level of contamination"--but this is okay right now.  I find I'm spending significantly less time on laundry.  Washing my  husband's stuff on the weekends and cleaning the washer afterward, so my weekends are much freer in that sense.  Even am able to not do laundry for 1/2 day or even a couple of days, if I really needed to, which means I can get to the grocery store and appointments better.  I am not nearly as tied down.  Also not "watching" the washer like I used to.  I do check a couple of times to make sure there are soap suds, but I don't stand there for 3/4 of the cycle like I did 12-18 months ago, "making sure they were getting cleaned".  I think the next thing in this category is maybe combining more types of clothes.  Eventually getting the toilets to stay on while I do laundry.  But for now, I am pretty happy where I am with this.  Probably need to concentrate more on other things right now.

Clothing contamination:  Have thrown away a few things, but MUCH MUCH better in this area.  I can tolerate the feeling of being brushed against at the store.  For items that do feel more contaminated, I wash those separately, but still only once.  I was able to wash and rewear the clothing that we wore to families over Christmas, which was huge for me.  I need to keep contaminating myself and sitting in public places and washing the clothing.   

Food:  Doing better in this category.  I've been able to make lots of progress.  I still for some reason like to eat at my "safe" restaurants.  I bought cinnamon rolls the other day at the bakery, even when I had seen the bakery girls blowing their nose and sneezing the day before.  I ate lasagna I picked up at Italian takeout, even though one of the workers there was rinsing their hand on the water and appeared to have cut themselves.  I see the rusted pans in the bakery and I still eat the foods there.  Checkers and sackers at the store have licked their fingers to peel off a plastic bag and I just deal with it and move on.  I used to have a harder time with this.  I still don't like it, it grosses me out, but I am able to move on and not let it affect me all day anymore.  I do need to work on expanding my food and eating at some other restaurants or going through different drive thrus.  Once we get through flu season, I need to get back into a restaurant and try eating there.  For now, I should make goals of trying different places for take out though.

Germs in General:  This is tough, because influenza and pertussis are a problem in our town.  Also measles is being reported throughout the US.  I am still finding myself wanting to go to the store during non-peak times, although I do sometimes go on the weekends and afternoons/evenings, when they are busier.  I have had people in line behind me cough on me, and I am still very observant about what is going on around me.  I think I deal with this better in general though, than I used to.  I don't want to be in the same room or area where someone that is sick with a cold/cough is, but just to be out and about in general I'm finding is easier.  Part of this is probably because I avoid crowds of people.  I need to get back to church and be more social in general.  Get to more gatherings, go to concerts.  I suppose then, that the fear of contamination, still bothers me here. 

Work Issues:  Doing much better with this, as well.  I have become much more productive with my work, compared to where I was last year at this time.  I still catch myself falling into "magical thinking" at times.  Thinking if I don't chart "just so", then something bad will happen.  What I really need to do to push myself to completely break this category and obliterate it from my OCD routines, is to start "charting wrong" (I'm a nurse).  What I mean is to chart abbreviated and in incomplete sentences.  I have been starting to do this.

Safe zones:  Big problem right now.  Still don't want to spread the trail of contamination between my "clean" and "dirty" worlds.  I have not washed the couch for about a week now, and I didn't even wash the kitchen chairs the other night before we ate, which was huge for me.  Safe zones on our side of the house are off limits to my husband.  I have something else I've been doing as a big compulsion in this area, but I'm too embarrassed to even write about it on my blog, so I won't for now.  :)  I don't want to sit with my jeans that I've worn out in public, on the couch.  I very much want to separate outside from inside.  I have expanded to sitting on the other couch cushion of our loveseat, and that was big for me too.

I feel like the areas I'm making the biggest progress in are work related issues and laundry.
I think that my world outside of OCD would expand if I worked on the clothing contamination and safe zones. 
I think that the issue I have with my husband is ultimately the biggest piece of the puzzle with my OCD and other things including chemical contamination and safe zones might work themselves out on their own, if I started working on the issues with him.  But the problem is I need a commitment from him to work on this, and I'm not sure I can get that.

Where do I go from here:  Devise a plan that I can share with my husband and encourage him to commit to.  I am willing to work on a plan that we can both be happy with, if he can commit to encouragement, working on his part, and being supportive.  Try a new take-out place.  Contaminate my clothes (don't wash hands before going to the bathroom).  Start trying to mix clothing together in washer, that I normally wouldn't. 

I need some good exposure ideas, friends.  I know what I should be doing, but they all seem difficult for now.  I would love to hear if anyone has any ideas.  For those of you that are way ahead of me in this, where did you start?



  1. Hopeful - Gwen here, question for you - have you been on any vacations since your OCD kicked into high gear?

    I'm wondering if the habit of being in a specific location triggers you as well.

    I was away for a month and my OCD lessened a lot, although always still there. But when I got home the OCD was 100% worse.

  2. Hi Gwen! I have not taken any vacations since my OCD got severe. I have written a couple of posts about it in the last year. Hotels would be a major trigger for me. There are certainly places that trigger me more than others. My house is my "safe spot" and my husband is my biggest trigger. That is why I feel like I have to keep certain areas off limits to him, because I need non contaminated places in my house. I think for some people, being away from their house can make things better...because you get away from all the places that trigger you, and its easier to not engage in compulsions or rituals when you are away from the place you normally do them.

  3. Hey Hopeful,
    There is a lot that I want to say, but I wanted to offer one piece of advice for the handwashing since I have been there. Since you said you were backsliding on a couple of the handwashing rituals, can you pinpoint one that you recently back-slid on? Since you've done it before, you KNOW you can do it again, and you know you will be okay if you do this specific one that you've already so recently done before. It has helped me to give myself the rigid mentality of not giving myself the option to go back to handwashing or many of my old ways. For example, I used to have a difficult time touching my phone and then eating, but once I did it and told myself there is no turning back from this decision that I MADE, that I have control over, that was it! It was over and done with--no more of that ritual, ever. Can you try thinking about it like that and see if it works for you? Baby steps in ocd can get you everywhere....progress is progress and it feeds on itself, just like how ocd snowballs sometimes and gets worse--it can be the opposite, too.

    Sometimes it helps to have someone talk you into doing an exposure, and then you just do it--kind of like jumping into a freezing pool. I know how hard it is, and hard is a definite understatement, but sometimes it helps to have a really pushy doctor or best friend or someone you admire the heck out of telling you to do this. Can you consider some of this?