Most women enjoy buying shoes but not me, with extremely severe OCD, they are a necessary annoyance. Trying shoes on, that stranger’s feet might have been in, is definitely not fun for me – dirty feet, blistered or bleeding feet, verrucas, nail infections to name just a few of the conditions shoved into new shoes and often not bought but left ready for the next (unsuspecting) foot to be inserted.

So there is quite a performance involved when it’s the necessary time to purchase replacement shoes. I enjoy ordering them online, as going to shops is too stressful since the pandemic in 2020, but when they’re delivered they sit there for days in their boxes reminding me it’s a complicated procedure to see if they fit. This process requires me to have a bowl (specifically kept for this new-shoe-trying-on purpose only by the way) of soapy water with antibacterial spray added to the water and reams of kitchen paper at hand.

I put the new shoe on and walk a few steps to assess the fit, then spray my foot with additional antibacterial spray before it goes in the bowl of soapy water with added kitchen roll to act as a foot flannel that can be disposed of. After a few minutes swooshing the water/kitchen roll (which sometimes has started to disintegrate, depending on the quality of paper) my foot is allowed back into my plastic house-slipper because if my foot touches the floor it needs spraying and washing very thoroughly – I never go bare-footed in the house except on a bedside rug and a bathroom rug. I then have to be extremely careful whilst walking with a wet foot in a slippery slipper (coincidence but a perfect name for my footwear at this point).

As I cautiously and precariously balance on the foot that has been cleaned but is perilous in my wet slipper, I repeat the whole exercise with the second foot but now I have two wet feet to try to walk in slippery slippers! It’s so annoying to go through this palaver but fifty percent of the time the new shoe tried on is the wrong fit, and will have to be returned, and a second choice of order means going through this whole process again. Too often I’ve kept ill-fitting shoes in the hope that they’ll miraculously be more comfortable on another day!

If the new shoes do fit, and I’m not sending them back for a refund, I then need to clean the insides of them with an abundance of antibacterial spray and kitchen roll. To prevent damage, this entails me spraying liberally and then placing my foot into an envelope of kitchen paper before putting the shoes on, wriggling around, removing the foot and then peeling the wet kitchen roll off (which is inevitably in shreds by now) before putting my plastic slippers back on – this stage of the process tends to leave a trail of wet tissue behind me for the rest of the day.

Add to the above the fact that as I age, and have a tendency to fall over an unseen leaf on the pavement, the attractiveness and height of my heels has gone from wow to woah – bending down to do buckles or laces is hard now too – maybe large simple wellington boots is the answer, but not such a good look with an evening dress.

So as you’ll see from the images below shoes are now practical unfortunately and not the sort to be displayed on shelves in walk-in wardrobes, but hidden under a table. Being female and liking to buy shoes has shifted to the simpler method of buying handbags instead. They still need to be cleaned before use, but I don’t have the faff of trying them on.

High heels OCD
Display worthy high heel shoes worn in 1993
Practical shoes worn in 2015
Flat shoes worn in 2022 and hidden under the table

First signs to diagnosis

What causes OCD?  What are the very first signs?  Does OCD germinate in childhood?  Does the trauma of grief in childhood trigger abnormal thinking?

My potential triggers are explained below, when OCD was unknown to most of the general public.

My first memory of abnormal thinking would be after my father unfortunately died from lung cancer when he was only 31 years old, and I was just 10 years old.  Decades ago, death wasn’t handled as well emotionally as it is in the 21st century, added to this was the stigma of cancer being less talked about, and the delicacy of my young age, meant I was mostly kept in the dark (metaphorically speaking, not literally of course).

My mother took advice from my teacher and family that it was wisest not to let me attend my father’s cremation service, and that I should have the normality of attending school that day.  The lack of communication, and the intention of protecting me from the sad truth of his death and funeral were all done with the best of intentions, but it is now understood that the consequences meant I was left with lots of questions and ‘a lack of closure’ as it is probably referred to now.

I watched my father become more and more ill, and less and less capable of being fun with me.  He had a single bed put into our lounge, he stayed in his pyjamas and lay on the bed all day and night, became frail and coughed continually.  I sensed a change in mood in the house before he died, but had no idea he was going to die.  He died in hospital a couple of days after being transferred from his bed in our lounge.  I don’t remember it, but a few hours after his death my mother returned from hospital and apparently sat me down to explain he’d died and wasn’t coming home to us. 

No memories

Why can’t I remember such a significant moment?  I can only remember what she’s told me happened.  I don’t have any memories of how I felt on that massively important day, and yet most humans can remember being ten years old.  I envy the details people remember, like ‘that day it was cold’ or ‘we had just eaten breakfast’ etc.  These are my memories of that period in time:

  • There were hushed voices and whispers.
  • Doors were closed on me with instructions like “you go and watch the TV.”
  • Faces, especially my mother’s, seemed sad all the time. 
  • It seemed wrong to laugh. 
  • I mustn’t overhear my mother on the telephone in case I hear something I shouldn’t.
  • I must be on my best behaviour, and I must have decided not to ask too many questions.

Probably all of the above is normal at a time of grief, especially when a ten year old is involved, but my thoughts also took on a stranger curiosity:

  1. Is my dad really dead, and I won’t ever see him again?
  2. Did my mum and dad split up or get divorced and I’m being told he died as it’s more final but he’s just gone away?
  3. The one that I most often thought about …  Is my dad badly disfigured or still really ill in hospital, so rather than upset me, they are saying he’s dead, but he’s not really?

These thoughts were not healthy and tormented me, but I didn’t feel able to vocalise them until I was in my fifties.  I suppose I felt guilty for thinking these thoughts, and sure enough my mother was very shocked to hear my doubts when I eventually told her.  It would have been so quick to nip my imagination in the bud, but how was anyone to know I was having these awful thoughts.   I was clearly in denial and clinging to false hopes. 

Losing my father and our happy family home life being shattered is bound to have impacted me negatively mentally, but ten year old children dealing with the death of a parent shouldn’t mean they’ll automatically have to live with severe OCD many years after the tragic event?  So I try to reflect on any signs back then that could be relevant to behaviours now. 

Is it unusual that my mother would tuck me up in bed each night and the blankets would be tight across me (that’s not unusual) but I wouldn’t move in case the blankets became untucked and that would be a ‘bad’ thing?  I avoided bad things, and presumably I thought it would be bad luck to let the blankets become untucked.  I would stare at the ceiling that my dad had decorated with random 12×12 inch off cuts of wallpaper used around the house (a very creative, unique and economical way of decorating).  I’d count the matching patterns over and over – one pattern had storks in a pond, so I’d count how many squares had the storks on, how many storks were there in total, and so on and so on.  This counting ritual at night aged ten years, could have been the start of my OCD counting trait? 

I think the next thought process I had that may not have been normal was I started to say in my head ‘If I count to xx and if xxxx hasn’t happened, it will mean bad luck/I should do xxxx /I shouldn’t do xxxx.’  It was a way of making decisions, or a type of fate I’d apply to my actions.  I did it recently, when I couldn’t make a decision about travelling somewhere and I happened to be weighing myself on scales when I thought ‘If I weigh xx I should travel, but if I weigh xx I shouldn’t.’  Is this normal?  Was this the start of unusual thinking for me personally, or do other people think in this way?  I do find it hard to make significant decisions, I don’t like the responsibility because I always lean towards the worst case scenario, or fixate on what could go wrong and that would be my fault.

Counting to help anxiety

I do remember when I was 10 – 13 years old, being asked to walk to the village postbox to post a letter for my mother.  It must have been important to her because she said “Don’t lose this letter, make sure you post it properly.”  This was my first recollection of staring at the postbox slit, the floor around, and consciously thinking ‘the letter did go in the slit didn’t it?’  When I stopped staring thoroughly I walked away, but returned to double check.  It seems I was hopeless at being given any responsibility from an early age.  If only I’d known then that I would still be doing this checking ritual decades later.  Recently when a letter I sent didn’t reach its destination I stressed over it for days beating myself up that I hadn’t taken a photograph of the stamped addressed envelope as proof;  it turned out it had arrived but the recipient made a mistake, I hadn’t!

When I was 16 years old I used to look out of my bedroom window watching cars go past waiting for my boyfriend to arrive in his car.  I used to think ‘If the next car isn’t his, he doesn’t love me’ and then ‘If his car isn’t here after the next four cars pass my window, he is seeing someone else.’  Needless to say, I’d wind myself up mentally before he’d even had chance to arrive and say hello!  At this time I also started to ‘take control’ of calorie counting by logging everything I eat in a notebook and counting the calories from a little yellow book (very popular at that time).  I tried to get to 100 calories a day.  I would even count the calories in a stick of Wrigley’s chewing gum.  I eat tinned low calories soups that were under 100 calories and not much else.  Fortunately family circumstances improved and I did not go on to get anorexia but I it was heading that way.  Looking back to that period of time I was unhappy, lonely and had no control to be able to improve that, except I could control my food intake.

Counting numbers still figures highly in my current daily OCD traits because every time I turn off a tap, before I leave the room or last thing at night before bedtime, I hold my hand under the tap to make sure it isn’t dripping and count.  The numbers are different but can go as high as twenty-something when I’m really stressed, to make sure the tap doesn’t start dripping.  I have read that with OCD there is a problem in the brain not trusting what the eyes can see?  Why is this, nothing really makes sense with OCD.  Whenever I lock the door I push the handle down and count each time I do it, 1, 2, 3, 4.  I then start to walk away and often return to the door to try the handle again and count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 this time. 

When I was in my late teens still living with my mother, and now a step-father that I didn’t like (a minor reason was he always seemed to have dirty hands), I started to wash my hands more frequently.  During this period of time I also wanted my own ironing board in my bedroom because a lady used to do the family ironing but I didn’t think she was clean enough so I didn’t want her touching my clean washing.  This meant my step-father would laugh and ridicule me by saying “You’re like Howard Hughes”. 

Wash everything clean

The cleanliness and unusual thoughts were initial signs of what was to come when AIDS hit the headlines with horrific impact in 1987.  This killer disease (as it was in 1987) baffled scientists but my thoughts crystalised shockingly into avoiding places where there could be blood that could potentially be contaminated with AIDS, that isn’t curable, and could contaminate my children or me and then I could contaminate my children during daily contact.  This included avoiding hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, dentists, and even the worry that head lice feed off blood, which again could be contaminated.  My fear of blood and the possibility of contamination had begun but I didn’t recognise it as OCD, back then it was a phobia. 

My OCD became noticeably problematic when I was about 25 years old, married with two young children.  My behaviours relating to protecting my children’s health became extremely obsessive.  All mothers protect their children, but unfortunately I took this instinct to an abnormal level, and it was detrimental to a normal happy family life – OCD wasn’t diagnosed until I hit a massive low point in my early 40’s.  Since then it has got increasingly worse over the years, until now it is disabling – it’s the disorder that just keeps taking – give it an inch and it wants twelve, give it twelve inches and it wants twenty-four!   

Fully vaccinated but …

Just to finish off where I left the last post …

I went for my second Covid-19 jab after 10.5 weeks from the first (difficult) experience and thankfully it all went much smoother. This could be because my anxiety wasn’t as high with me knowing what to expect and thankfully the nurse was very understanding – she also presumably noticed my prominent ‘I have OCD’ badge on my coat as I walked in. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need to strip off all my clothes into the washing machine and have a shower as soon as I returned home, but it was futile – the full de-coke (as I call it, and maybe nobody else?) just had to be done.

Talking of de-coking … it is well known in my family what I mean when I say that. I’ve just looked it up on Google and the definition is to ‘Remove carbon or carbonaceous material from (an internal combustion engine).’ The only word relevant is ‘remove’ but in the context I use the word, I want to remove bacteria, germs, dirt, and therefore contamination. My partner dreads the words “You’ll need a full de-coke when you get in the house” because it means all items of clothing in the washing machine and then straight into the shower.

Talking of washing machines … I’m planning to have my own personal washing machine on my landing (near my bedroom and bathroom) because sharing a machine in the kitchen causes so much palaver. I either have to thoroughly clean with anti-bacteria spray the machine door, rubber opening, and surrounding carcass of the washing machine before adding my dirty washing, or alternatively, if any of my clean washing touches one of those areas as it’s being pulled out it has to be returned and re-washed.

I have my own personal laundry basket for dirty clothes, and my own personal plastic (washable) basket to empty the clean washing from the machine. To empty the washing machine I have to scrub my hands after opening the door (as that is difficult to clean to my satisfaction), empty the clothes into the basket without touching anything, and then hold the basket on a long walk from the kitchen, up a huge flight of stairs, as a dead weight in front of me – in the style of a power lifter! Without OCD I would hug the basket to my body to reduce the dead weight effect, but that is impossible. Add to this difficulty the fact that I have to change slippers from downstairs slippers to my ‘only worn on the stairs, my landing, my bedroom and my bathroom slippers’ and attempt to hold up my dress from touching the stairs – unfortunately I only have two hands but need three to hold the dress. So I have to go one or two steps on the stairs, stop, balance the laundry basket on the step and take a breather whilst hiking up my dress, and then do another one or two steps and repeat. There are seventeen steps – I have experience of counting them off before expiring breathlessly.

My blood pressure, pulse and body temperature is off the scale by the end of this exercise. I then need to wash my hands two or three times after touching the handles of the (clean) laundry basket before hanging my clothes on my own personal clothes airer. Mission accomplished phew, but then … my OCD bully kicks in! He says “but did you remember to add the washing tablet?” and then starts the doubts. I smell the washing – yes I’m sure it smells fresh and I did remember the tablet. But did I? I leave the room and try to distract myself but the bully is back “imagine if you didn’t put the washing tablet in, and you’ve cross-contaminated all the clothes in that wash into a germ-ridden soup” and guess what? I decide I can’t take the risk and can’t stop worrying about this niggling doubt the OCD set off in my head so, you’ve guessed right, I take it all off the clothes airer and start the process all over again to give me peace of mind. Damn you OCD gggrrr.

I watch television, or my family, and see how uncomplicated this task should be, and was for me until OCD started 30+ years ago. To think back to when I was in my early twenties, I had a twin-tub washing machine where you put the whole family’s whites in first, then the dark colours and no constantly refreshing water – the water was a disgusting grey colour as it was emptying. The jumble of clothes/underwear/bedding/overalls were then thrown over a washing line in the garden, where birds and insects merrily sat on your clean washing, and invariably the wind blew it onto bushes or wooden fences, sometimes the pegs came loose and it draped on the grass, but as long as it wasn’t muddy I’d swoop it up – job done. Definitely no time or option to rewash because a nuisance in my head was bullying me – oh happy days and happy memories before OCD ruled me.

1st COVID vaccination done

After avoiding visiting doctor’s surgeries for years, it wasn’t possible to avoid the need for this, part one of two, vaccinations. For days I’d resisted the temptation to postpone the appointment and anxiety was massive, especially after badges declaring ‘I have OCD’ didn’t arrive to display prominently for the nurse administering the jab to see, and hopefully understand.

I was surprised to receive a text as early as I did, inviting me to book an appointment via my phone, and once done I decided not to think about it too much until the day before, but that was so much easier said than done. I rehearsed in my head how it would play out, what was best to wear, and what needed to be decontaminated when I got home.

On arrival there were two (security?) stops with people checking identity followed by a squirt of hand sanitizer with a leaflet handed to me, that I didn’t want to take as it complicated how to hold that whilst imagining how to expose my arm but not let my clothes touch anything. I entering the room (which was clearly ordinarily a doctors consulting room) to which I said to the nurse “Hello, I’m sorry but I’m highly anxious as I have severe contamination OCD and haven’t been in this kind of environment for many years”. She had a facemask on but her meager response and eyes told me she didn’t know what to do with that statement (my confession).

She said “Well shut the door and sit down” and seemed as nervous as me when I shut the door, not using the handle, but the edge of the door with my little finger and said “Is it possible to stand please?” She said “Eer yes” unconvincingly and continued to ask the mandatory questions. I felt awkward, and know from my past Emotional Intelligence training that standing over someone sitting is very bad body language on my part (but clearly not intentional).

So I tried to ingratiate myself by saying “I’ve been so tempted to postpone this appointment but managed to resist it” but she merely responded factually “well it would need to be done eventually” – not wrong, but not warm or friendly. After questions were finished she stood to do the jab so I said “Is it possible for you to wear fresh gloves and show me the needle is in a sealed blister pack please … oh I see you are taking it out of a packet, but could you put on clean gloves please” to which she answered “No these were clean” – presumably she put them on before I entered the room but I rehearsed in my head that they should be put on at the point they start the treatment not for the pc/desk administration.

I was so flustered, and embarrassed, by now that I can’t remember her adding the vaccine to the syringe, and worried about it later that night at home, but have to trust that she did her job as trained perfectly, and that I hadn’t distracted her to the point of making an error. Fortunately she didn’t touch my skin as she administered the pin prick and mopped up a small amount of blood (that dreaded word) on a clean cotton wool ball.

The hand on the arm wasn’t used during my vaccination, which was a bonus

I quickly dropped my sleeve and rearranged my clothing, noting that I’d been successful in not letting my long coat touch the surgery floor, or anything else for that matter. She passed me a small card with the name of the vaccine, said I’d be notified for my second vaccine, and to move to the waiting room for 15 minutes to ensure I didn’t have a reaction.

With difficultly I opened the door, which was slightly ajar, with my little finger and said “Thank you, I’m sorry for being painful.” I can’t remember how she responded, it wasn’t memorable, probably, “that’s ok” or even “don’t worry” and I headed to the next and final stage of this horrible experience, the embarrassment of standing in a waiting room of ten seated people, with surplus soft/cushion seats available. On TV I’ve seen seats being sanitized as each person moves forward, but these chairs could not be cleaned – my nightmare – spongy cloth seats at a doctors surgery – it shouldn’t be allowed, surely plastic or leather to allow cleaning should be made mandatory in the 21st century, where people have infectious illnesses, body fluid leakage, and now COVID-19 virus.

So many chairs are available that can be cleaned

The people sitting on them appeared totally relaxed, but I of all people know that appearances can be deceptive when I’m conducting my swan portrayal – appearing calm on the surface whilst flapping crazily below the surface. They all gave me a discreet glance, wondering why I was standing when there were seats available, but luckily no one said the obvious. Why I stood there looking like a fish out of water for the full 15 minutes baffles me now, but I suppose I wanted to conform and follow instructions, but it would have been more comfortable and less embarrassing to wait in the car just feet away outside for those 15 minutes.

I was so relieved to walk out of the building, cover my hands in sanitizer, and head straight home to strip off all my clothes/facemask into the washing machine and wash my arm thoroughly with hot water and soap, before a bath to wash away any possible microbe of contamination. All done, mission ‘vaccine 1’ successful until the second vaccine. The only evidence being a tiny mark at the top of my arm and tenderness in the surrounding area of the arm for about 30 hours.

Family and friends knew that I was going to find this vaccination process incredibly stressful so texts started arriving asking how it went, to which I responded briefly with “Good news; it is done and wasn’t as bad as I thought it could have been so won’t need to worry so much for the second jab, but the bad news is I don’t think the nurse I was allocated knew what to do with the statement “I am extremely anxious with severe contamination OCD.”

I should point out that I am grateful to be given the vaccine when there are people desperate, and more worthy, to receive it. That said, I hope the above account might help someone else with similar anxieties cope with the unknown, but not really optional, medical process. I hoped that being honest and confessing my disability to the nurse, she would have taken just seconds of her day to say something reassuring, or to acknowledge the stress I was clearly displaying with a wobbly voice – facemasks only inhibit reading mouth expressions, not eyes and voice.

So the above experience continues to motivate me to improve awareness of how difficult everyday activities can be when living with my type of, contamination, OCD. Unfortunately it hasn’t allayed my fears so I continue to worry that the older I’m getting I’ll need to be hospitalised and have to encounter a mixture of understanding/lack of understanding 24 hours a day rather than this ten minute procedure.

Ding ding – “Round 2” in 10-12 weeks time but at least I’ll know what to expect, will be able to make a clear unambiguous statement by wearing my ‘I have OCD’ badges, and keep my fingers crossed that it won’t need to be an annual visit to top-up efficiency or difference in COVID strains.

I have OCD badge for vaccination

A big step made yesterday – I ordered two ‘I have OCD’ badges to pin to my coat when I leave the house at the end of this week. I have been called for the COVID vaccination, which is positive and necessary, but as I’ve not visited the doctors for many years, it is very daunting and scary.

The thought of entering a building and sitting on a chair waiting for a needle to be administered is frightening for me with contamination OCD. On the rare occasion it has been necessary to visit a doctor I’ve stood up in the waiting room, reading the posters pretending to be interested, to avoid sitting down, and perching precariously on the edge of the patients chair with at least five layers of clothing, when speaking to the doctor.

Will I be allowed to stand up waiting in line for the vaccination? Will I be able to have the jab whilst standing, because I can’t wear my usual five layers of clothing as my arm has to be accessible?

The staff there are busy doing a fantastic job, so they won’t want me to hold up the process by saying “would you mind wearing a new pair of gloves please” and “could I see the needle be taken out of a sterile sealed blister pack please” – will they? Or would they understand?

I’m hoping that wearing a badge saying ‘I have OCD’ on both the left and the right side of my clothes will forewarn the person with the needle that I am extremely anxious not obnoxious.

I am so tempted to avoid this embarrassment and forego the vaccination, but I have a duty to my family, friends, and the greater good of reducing infections, so I must attend and then do it again in 12 weeks, followed by annually it’s looking increasingly like – oh blimey.

Over the 30 years plus of having OCD I’ve been so fortunate to be able to avoid many medical preventative procedures and interventions, but on this occasion I’m all out of avoidance tactics or practical work-arounds, and no excuses can be valid when this virus causes such devastating outcomes.

Apart from the anxieties above, I will be admitting, in public for everyone to see, ‘I have OCD‘ – that is a huge step for me!! Will I be confident enough to wear these badges when I eventually feel confident enough to go shopping? Perhaps best to take the first step in this direction by gauging responses (looks and comments) whilst being vaccinated as it’s non-negotiable and it is a medical environment so people will hopefully be understanding. One thing is for sure, a large glass of wine will be waiting for me when I return to the safety of my home.

Visuals depicting OCD

‘A picture paints a thousand words’ as the saying goes, therefore today I’ve been exploring which visual best suits my life with OCD. Is it a bully whispering in my ear, if so what does this bully look like? Do I have a bird sitting on my shoulder chirping nuisance OCD thoughts in my ear to prevent normal behaviour? I entered keywords into Word ClipArt for inspiration without much joy, so moved onto for images to buy.

Entering ‘OCD’ in the search box resulted in 2,174 images – I duly went through half of them (clearly obsessive) but still struggled to bond with any photographs/illustrations. So I entered ‘Mental Disorder’ in the search box – this resulted in 36,344 images! I was on a determined mission, but even I couldn’t look through more than a few hundred, but again nothing really resonated with me.

My partner, who is an illustrator, came up with the image above to represent me living in COVID times, but I’m afraid I wasn’t too impressed that it reflected the reoccurring nuisance thoughts. To be honest, at first glance I thought the dangerous red virus droplets were poppies falling on the umbrella!

So I’ve given him a more specific brief of: brain synapses/neuro transmitters, ping-pong thoughts going back and forward in perpetual motion like a Newton’s cradle, and thought bubbles with scary words in them like contamination, blood, germs, dirt, poo. These things are how I think of my OCD.

I look forward to his next illustration that I’ll add in my next post.

Opposite of Mindfulness

I object to the ‘ful(l)’ in this therapy. What word could be used to empty my mind that is full already with OCD worries? Mindlessness? The definition for mindlessness is certainly not attractive or one you would feel happy to use, but perhaps Mindlessen would work?

I appreciate the purpose of ‘mindfulness’ and the popularity it has gained – my therapist tried hard to get me to do this, but it doesn’t work for me and I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe how I want to reduce thoughts or remove thoughts bouncing around annoyingly and continually, pestering me. Drinking alcohol is the only time my mind doesn’t race at speed – not ideal, but true, and easy/enjoyable to apply rather than medication.

The definitions for ‘lessen’ are: diminish, reduce, decrease, decline, lower, minimize, cut, tail off, ease off, let up, and die down – yes please to all of the above! I need to apply ‘Mindlessen’ rather than mindfulness and that is my slighly controversial thought for today.

Mindlessen rather than mindfulness
Mindlessen rather than mindfulness

Recycled tubes for OCD solution

For me, an OCD problem of decades has been using supermarket trolleys because the handle will have been used by thousands of people and never cleaned – UNTIL Covid-19 came along that is!  It was amazing to finally have supermarkets notice that germs are smothering the trolley (and basket) handles – a source of contamination, especially for babies sitting in the front of trolleys and teething/sucking on the handle in front of them YUK.

Up until March 2020 I used to only touch the metal on the trolley, rather than the handle, to get to the flowers section (usually at the entrance) so that I could legitimately have a protective plastic sleeve to put the flowers in, however instead I placed the empty plastic sleeve over the handles of the trolley whilst shopping, so that I didn’t need to come into contact with the germ-ridden handle – prior to Coronavirus, taking anti-bacterial wipes to clean down the handle looked so obvious and slightly over-the-top, making it noticeable that I suffer with OCD.

Then in March 2020 most supermarkets started to sanitize the trolley handles (be it a little inefficiently) but I’ve noticed that after a few months this became too much effort.  So since summer 2020, due to cleanliness being very acceptable, I’ve been able to wear pretty cotton gloves whilst shopping, rather than rubber gloves that look a bit too clinical, without unwanted critical attention.

Now I have a second solution to this problem that is eco-friendly and may be appropriate for men that suffer OCD …

Wrapping paper tubes
Inner cardboard tubes from wrapping papers

I use the tubes inside Christmas/birthday wrapping paper to cover the handles.  Just cut along the length of the tube and then cut it down to manageable size for two hands, and slip it over the handle bar.  It isn’t too obnoxious or noticeable.  You can then either remove the tube after you finish shopping and reuse next shopping trip, dispose it in your home recycling waste, or leave it there for another customer, because as I also used gloves, the handle wasn’t left too contaminated or dirty.

OCD solution
Recycle wrapping paper tubes for OCD solution to dirty shopping trolley handles

What a ‘win win’ scenario – I can cross one anxiety off my “going shopping list of anxieties” and wrapping paper inner tubes are put to good OCD use before heading for recycling.  I hope this solution helps someone else too.

Please leave a comment of your OCD daily solutions.

Covid precautions, OCD and taps

It’s been such a long time since I last posted on here – I should have made more New Year Resolutions, with allocation of time to this blog being an important one.  In my defense, time just flies by with huge ‘To Do’ lists every day leading up to Christmas, and then a chaotic New Year with family illnesses (that is my excuse over).

In all seriousness, living in a world plaqued with Covid and all the necessary precautions, and my OCD behaviours of decades on top, maximum concentration and effort is needed to be vigilant with ‘hands, masks and space’, and that is just in my home!

Due to work and sick family members my partner is “exposed” to life outside of my protective bubble, namely home, so he has to wear a mask around me as much as possible and wherever possible keep a distance if he isn’t wearing a mask (i.e. whilst eating and drinking), and as for washing his hands?!

Social distancing and masks for Coronavirus

Life was unbearable for him living with me ‘on the hand-washing front’ prior to Covid contamination, but now everything he touches that enters the house with a shiny surface in the last three days means it potentially has the virus lurking, ready to be digested by him or me, and we have all seen the awful consequences on the 24×7 news bulletins.

I used to wash my hands far too often prior to 2020, but now the thoroughness, duration and frequency has become an occupation.  They say you need to spend a minimum of 20 seconds (singing Happy Birthday twice) but that never feels sufficient for me – three times 20 seconds and then after drying it might not “feel right” so start the process all over again.  As anxiety is extremely high, tap checking for no drips takes much longer than usual, it goes like this:

  1. After turning off both hot and cold taps, stare to check for no drips – off, they are definitely turned off.
  2. With my hand under the turned off hot tap count to random number, say 4, meaning a countdown of 4 seconds – yes there are no drips, the hot tap is off.
  3. Then do the same with the cold tap – pick a number, perhaps 2 for the cold tap, meaning 2 seconds – yes there are no drips, the cold tap is off.
  4. Maybe I’ll just check that hot tap again (if would cost more if it was dripping), another number, maybe 6 (I prefer even rather than odd numbers and it can’t be 13), meaning 6 seconds of checking passes by.
  5. Right I’ll dry me hands now. Oh, but one more check of both taps before leaving the bathroom.  Yes both taps are off.
  6. I’m leaving the bathroom now and start to descend the stairs, when that horrible OCD bully creeps into my head and whispers menacingly “But what if the tap isn’t turned off and the plug is in the sink and it overflows, and water damages the important technology devices on the table downstairs, directly positioned under the bathroom, what if that happens and you destroy all the files with years of work in them, imagine hours of dripping taps, how much water would that be and what destruction and damage would that cause, how much would that cost to put right?”  I try to ignore these worrying thoughts, with worse-case-scenarios, but no, the bully wins again.
  7. I need to go back into the bathroom and do a couple more checks with my hand under both taps.
  8. Yes both taps are off and are not dripping, so I exit the bathroom, but then … I smell my hands to ensure they smell clean with a residue of highly perfumed soap but oh dear, I can’t smell soap, and up pops OCD bully “But what if your hands are not sufficiently clean, and you touch something that could contaminate a loved one, imagine if you made them sick, best you go and wash your hands again?”  If time is tight, this worry has to be ignored but occasionally the bully wins.

Dripping tap
Drips are transparent

This process is for one hand wash, so you can work out how much of my day, and night, is wasted when I visit the bathroom.  No wonder I feel like I’m always busy, but have very little productivity to show for my waking hours.

It is so annoying that as most people are now washing their hands so frequently to prevent Covid contamination, that some thoughtless people say “I’m so OCD”.  No, OCD is more than a quick rinse of soap and water.  OCD plagues your thought processes.  OCD doesn’t trust what your eyes can see – my eyes can see there are no drips and the tap is off, but oh no, the OCD bully won’t let me trust the sense of sight, it wants the sense of touch involved too, not just once but many times over.

The OCD bully
My OCD bully


OCD worry is exhausting
ocd exposed worry

World Mental Health Day 2020

The year of 2020 has tested the mental health of millions of people all over the world, not only for the usual reasons but with the added horrors and complications of living with Coronavirus Covid-19.

World Mental Health Day is surely very significant to so many more people this year that I want to do my little bit to promote it and it’s value.

Today I saw that a card company, has a range of cards depicting messages that help to lift spirits – the card designer that initially caught my attention in a promo email, Jessica Rachel Sharp, apparently took the “helpful words” she received during therapy and designed what appears to be ten cards that can be sent expressing that help.  I have absolutely no affiliation to the card designer or the card company by the way.

I was really glad I’d taken the time to read the messages on the above range of cards, because in addition to the ten mentioned above, there was a much bigger range/category of motivational messages that inspired me to do this post.  It only took minutes to scan the text on several cards ‘sorry your brain chemicals aren’t doing their thing’ or ‘I’m not close enough to hold your hand but I’m here for you’ or ‘through clouds you are my sunshine’ – not exact quotes from the cards (my memory isn’t that accurate or retentive) but you get the sentiment behind them.

Help needed for OCD

So … my suggestion is that if you are struggling with your mental health (let’s face it, there’s not many who don’t give it consideration in 2020) why not scan read uplifting quotes or messages in bulk on any appropriate site, such as the ‘thinking of you’ section on any greeting card websites.  It’s free, you don’t have to book in to see a therapist, you can have a cup of tea (or glass of wine) whilst doing it in the comfort of your own home, and importantly it will remind you that you are doing the best job you can to keep yourself happy and motivated to face the next challenge the World throws your way.

Additionally, you could select a card to send to a family member, friend or colleague that is finding life tough right now.  A small thoughtful gesture can make a big difference to the recipient.

Recently I was having a really awful, sad, down, frustrated day – the very black and intrusive OCD clouds were literally clouding my ability to cope with the ‘new normal’ day-to-day living with Covid-19 – when I received an email from someone I miss in the family (due to a marriage breakup) that completely unexpectedly brightened my day with a ray of sunshine.  I felt like someone cared and took the time, other than the usual people around me.  We should all take the time to brighten someone’s day if we can.

Giving away a little secret about me …  The photograph below has been my screensaver for many years as it depicts to me the beauty and serenity of a gliding swan, appearing to be in full control, that is having to peddle like crazy under the surface to keep moving but no one can see this, whilst it’s wings are pulled and puffed up to be protective of it’s head – it even has a little mark on it’s head, like I have OCD in mine.  It so resonates with my way of living.

Swan in protective pose