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Monday, January 23, 2006

McReadie: Not Above Having A Major OCD Freakout Every Once In A While

I often give thought (in a completely non-obsessional way, you understand) as to whether I regard myself as "cured" of OCD. Do I still regard myself as an obsessive compulsive? Or am I a recovered obsessive compulsive? Or perhaps a recovering obsessive compulsive?

I think the last is closest to reality. On the one hand, I'm not the OCD-riddled person I once was. On the other, it is clear to me that I am not ridded of my obsessive tendencies - they have not gone away completely, and I don't think they ever will. During therapy, and immediately after its conclusion, I was in a state of perpetual awareness of my thought processes - on constant guard against the OCD. Living, to some extent, in fear that it would all come back again.

After a while, you settle down. You start to become more relaxed. You start to, maybe, become a little complacent. You wash your hands because they feel dirty, even though you know they don't really need washing. You allow ruminations about contamination to begin again. You think twice about letting something "dirty" touch something "clean".

And, rapidly, it escalates. Hence, on Saturday, I staged a major OCD freakout the likes of which I've not seen for a while.

All started with a pair of shoes. Before Christmas, I became concerned about these shoes. One had a mud-like substance on the bottom. I didn't panic too much, until the thought occurred to me that this might not in fact be mud, but may instead be dog waste.

Much obsessive analysis - including the classic sniff test - ensued. I became concerned that, because I'd worn that pair of shoes to the doctor that morning, I could have harmed my doctor and her unborn baby. Yes, this was indeed becoming obsessive. Time to take action. Action was putting the shoes on my bed. And sleeping in said bed. Action caused me to panic, and to weep, but action proved just about successful. I went home for Christmas, and didn't really worry about The Shoes.

But the thoughts started reoccuring this weekend. I started to avoid the shoes. Their very presence in my flat bothered me. I began to think about how the contamination had spread throughout the whole flat. The sniff test seemed to prove more certainly than ever before than this was no mere mud.

Friday night, I had difficulty falling asleep. Saturday, I decided I had to take action. But the action I chose was daft - in that it was obsessive. I decided to clean the shoes. But cleaning the shoes was tough, because I had to make sure I didn't become contaminated in the process. Let's just say that a bucket was thrown away once the cleaning was complete.

Sure enough, in an OCD-fashion, the cleaning was not enough to satisfy me. So I threw the shoes away.

Slippery slope.

Before I knew it, I was disinfecting the entire floor surface of my flat. And cleaning the sinks in my flat. And washing both rugs in my flat (so desperate was I to free one of the two rugs - trapped under a bookcase - that I did take to the damn thing with a pair of scissors). And worrying about whether contact with the rugs would harm the person in the dry cleaners who was going to charge me a stupid amount to clean 'em, or the person in the launderette who offered a far more reasonable price.

After all this, I felt the way one always does after engaging in an obsessive ritual: exhausted, and unsure it had been sufficient. I felt I needed, quite urgently, to wash the clothes I'd been wearing, and to take a shower. I'd planned to see my Grandmother, but I felt I couldn't do that without decontaminating myself. Else I'd harm her.

It was at this point that it finally hit me (sometimes I'm a little slow): things were getting out of hand. Spiralling out of control, one might say. It was time to fight back.

So I rolled around on my bed in my "contaminated" clothes. I then phoned my Grandma, and went round there. When I returned home, I did not shower. Instead, I went to bed. Next morning, things were better.

This whole experience, and many other things in my day to day life, prove I'm not a recovered obsessive compulsive. Nor I am an obsessive compulsive. I'm a recovering obsessive compulsive. It's an important distinction. I don't think the temptation to obsess and worry will ever go away. No, in fact - I know it won't. It's a clever little bastard is anxiety, and it'll try more or less anything to get your attention. Keeping my guard up against it can be hard at times - when I'm physically ill, or tired, or (as was the case this weekend) stressed. Or when all seems to be going well, and I start to relax.

But when you let the guard down, even for an hour or two, you remember why you have to keep it up. So it's back up again now. Gotta keep it that way.

Oh, and by the way, dear Nuggets reader... It's never too late to put your guard back up. Or even put it up for the very first time. It's tough, but it's better than having no guard up at all.


  • At 3:04 AM, Anonymous BB said…

    Oh no... now I'm freaked out by your shoes :)

    I'd have chucked the shoes straight off... slipped them off at the door and left them outside and remembered on the path where I'd walked so I wouldn't step there again... whew.

    I guess I'm OC :(


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