Should shielding end today officially?

NO it should not end.  Officially it has, I suspect for Government cost purposes, but there are still a huge number of people contracting Covid-19 and 2,000,000 people in the UK are still highly vulnerable – the vulnerability of sick people is increasing not decreasing – operations and treatments have been placed on hold in hospitals.  Admittedly the chances of coming into contact with a person carrying Covid-19 has reduced per 100,000, and masks are being worn in most public places (thankfully at last) but the worry doesn’t end abruptly on a date dictated by the UK Government.  With this in mind, how do I cope with my OCD?

Well I’m still shielding all these months on, for my elderly/sick mother’s sake, and my health might not cope with the aggressive and varied ways the virus attacks the body.  I’ve not been out of the house, not even for shopping or prescriptions, except to walk to visit my mother who hasn’t left her house since the first week of March 2020 and has no plans to leave in the foreseeable future.  However as my family around me are now experiencing a more normal life, it is adding pressure on me to manage or let go of the rigid, and thoroughly clean, behaviours I’ve added to my original OCD demands.

Help needed for OCD

It is such hard work, I’m starting to buckle, and entertaining the thought of it not being possible to have other people near me whilst trying to apply shielding constraints – these close/few people to me have the right to live as normal as is possible.  It is now dawning on me that you either live totally on your own, have shopping dropped at your doorstep, you wash it thoroughly with soap and water, and have no one visit unless they are 2 metres from you and don’t touch anything, and don’t use your toilet, or …. you aren’t shielding and you are then purely trying to minimise risks.  As the Government says “Stay Alert” and “Control the virus” – five little words, but blimey it is so hard to put into practice in busy daily living!

I am one of the many people who are too scared to start to integrate into the outside world.  So many people are feeling nervous and anxious of any contact or exposure, whilst trying to function as they did in January/February of this year.  It is only human to worry about the risk of contracting the virus, especially as it is in every news bulletin, but I have to add on the complication of my 30 years ingrained OCD rationales of contamination.

Coronavirus cleaning rituals
Coronavirus Covid-19 cleaning

I do feel vindicated that the sense I apply behind my contamination OCD worries are now being encountered by the general public all over the world.  It is now recognised that hugging, toilets, unclean hands, touching your face, handles, salt and pepper, menus, hairdressers towels, and the close proximity of strangers etc (the list is huge) carries the risk of being contaminated – admittedly, ordinarily with diseases less fatal than Covid-19 though.  I have had friends and family say that they understand my OCD weirdness a little better now, but it is no consolation.

Whilst it will take millions, no billions, of people a long time to find a “new normal” living with Coronavirus Covid-19, it is going to take me a hell of a long time longer – if at all.  It feels like I am climbing Mount Everest when I used to climb Scarfell Pike.

I try to inject some humour into these posts, but today it is really hard to find a happy note to end on, except to say at least in the UK the number of deaths (from Covid-19 only but not other diseases) is currently reducing for now, but boy oh boy what a horrid few months it has been since February!

Germs OCD frustration
Always be alert for Coronavirus Covid-19

 

 

 

 

Social distancing and extra hand washing

How the world is changing so fast and confirming so many of my long standing ‘contamination OCD’ worries and behaviours.  It seems weird that so many people are now having to think in the same way that I’ve been thinking for decades.

I find it reassuring that people now understand my mentality of continual hand washing to aid protection from virus and bacteria contamination – with this Coronavirus COVID-19 being potentially fatal it takes importance to a whole new level!

I also find it reassuring that people are now keeping two metres away – I used to want my personal space, and didn’t like it being invaded, but now it is imperative in most interactions, be it social, shopping, business or even relatives.

 

Social distancing for Coronavirus

I feel guilty, but glad, that two years ago I worried about having a cough so ordered a box of medical face masks to prevent me passing any germs to my family – these masks are in short supply now but was readily available on Amazon at the time I ordered them.  I do hope that now the world sees the importance of face masks, they will start to produce attractive, non-scary, ones – maybe with flowers for women and funky patterns for men?

The other thing I find strange is the recommendation to wear rubber gloves wherever possible, because although it is perfectly understandable for the medical and caring professions to use them on patients and their procedures, after contact with anything contaminated they are as dangerous as unwashed hands – they still enable contaminates to be passed around to other surfaces, your face, your mobile phone etc.  If a delivery man is wearing gloves whilst holding your parcel, the parcel might still have the Coronavirus on the packaging so you still need to wash your hands after handling it.  I hope the general public don’t see rubber gloves as added protection?

Various protective gloves

 

As you can see from my photograph, I have three levels of protective plastic/rubber gloves, depending on the severity and dirtiness of the job, and I attempt not to waste plastic so re-use my gloves wherever possible – you can also see how my bleaching has destroyed the paintwork of my table!

I use disposable/flimsy gloves to do extremely dirty jobs like emptying my household rubbish into the outside bin because by touching the bin handle I would need to scrub my (OCD) hands, but by taking the plastic glove off I can just wash ordinarily (well OCD ordinary).

Whilst on this subject though, my hand washing is off the scale!!  Having ‘Contamination OCD’ means that I wash my hands as many times as necessary for them to ‘feel right and clean’ in normal conditions this tends to more than once, but with Coronavirus living this can now mean I do them three or four times for 20 seconds each wash.

Having previously stocked up enough on hand washing liquid for my OCD living, it is now a big daily worry that I have sufficient, as it seems in scarce supply in the supermarkets right now – the experts say that it doesn’t have to be anti-bacterial liquid soap as this is a virus but merely the OCD in my mentality means “I’d rather be safe than sorry”.

Why isn’t more effort (and therefore probably expense) being put into making basics like liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer easily available in our ‘essential shops’?  The UK Government insists we all wash our hands for 20 seconds thoroughly at every opportunity, which is very sensible, but I can only imagine how much soap is needed for a large family confined to the house and not expected to travel too far or too frequently for their shopping – I already do this but today I read that everyone should wash their hands before and during preparing food, and then again before eating food.

Even before Coronavirus recommendations I would wash my hands three or four times whilst making a sandwich and I WILL HAVE TO travel as far as necessary to stock up on liquid soap I’m afraid.

Hand wash for 20 seconds

 

 

 

 

Safe Sofa Zone

Does anyone else with this frustrating OCD condition have certain clothes for their ‘safe zones’?  My favourite comfy clothes are saved for my Safe-Sofa-Zone – an oasis in the house that no one else (not even my gorgeous grand-children) can go near.  This is my living area to relax in and the OCD bully has a job to reach my thoughts.

Safe Sofa zone
Safe Sofa Zone

The cushions and throw on my safe-sofa are welcoming, cheerfully bright, and only ever been marooned on my white leather sofa.  If, and it’s a big if, they should drape or fall off the sofa, they are immediately swooped up into the washing machine, and then dried on my own clothes-dryer, in my bedroom.  No one touches these items, and I always wash my hands before touching them, or sitting on my sofa.  There is one other Safe-Zone, and that is my white leather bedroom chair, next to my desk where I write this blog.

This obviously presents problems when I have guests in the living room because I have to guard my sofa to minimise stress and cleaning/washing.  However it is so worth it!  I can sit on my sofa with my safe-items at hand on a small side-table – they have all been scrubbed clean, such as my iPad, note book, pen, box of tissues, hand sanitizer gel, and hidden behind my large cushion, a packet of anti-bacterial wipes (just in case of an emergency contamination such as someone touching me or my sofa and it’s clean contents).

The above ritual is complicated by the fact I can only wear my safe-sofa-clothes in this area, so housework has to be done in another set of clothes, and then going outdoors is yet another set of clothes, with bedtime meaning a further set of clothes (usually pjs).  This can even play with my mind, let alone the people around me.

So often my family look baffled when I nip upstairs to change my clothes after making them a drink upon arrival, but if we’re to have a relaxing chat on sofas in the living room …. well it’s all explained above.  However, if we then move into the dining room to sit and eat, or decide to visit the shops or pub, it will mean another change of clothes (or two).

Family (but not friends) know of my indoor/outdoor clothes rule, and bless my children for abiding by this rule since they were small (I think it started when my son began school and wore a uniform), but over the years a third category has infiltrated my ritual – indoor AND safe-sofa clothes.

It is a bizarre world I have manufactured for myself but I do obviously blame the OCD bully and envy the simplicity of normal changes of clothes e.g. when they NEED washing.  Another thing I am jealous of is when people enter their home after a long day, put the kettle on, and then flop down to enjoy a cuppa whilst kicking off their shoes.  My routine is enter, take off outdoor shoes, wash hands, upstairs to change clothes, wash hands, make cuppa, wash hands, then flop down.

Always be alert for germs
Always be alert for germs

 

Spiralling thoughts

Don't worry be happy

I think too much time on your hands can be unhelpful when trying to keep OCD thoughts at bay, here is an example of this.  Italic text shows my peck-peck OCD thoughts.

Feeling cold whilst sitting on my sofa, I pulled on a cardigan from my wardrobe and returned to the sofa.  Simple you would think, but no, far from it.  As I sat there feeling the benefit of the extra warmth from the cardigan I started to doubt whether it was freshly washed when added to my wardrobe (I’ll do a separate post about the complications of my wardrobe rituals).  I smelt the arms, which smelt of washing powder, but that wasn’t enough because the peck-peck of my contamination OCD thoughts were not through with me.  I tried hard to ignore the thoughts, and distract myself knowing that the warmth was improving and I mustn’t let the OCD win.

I tried but failed to beat it, so I took the cardigan off to see if there was any creases that would indicate it had been worn previously – no, the opposite.  There was signs that it was washed and put away without being ironed, as this cardigan was for casual wear around the house, so no creases on the inside of the elbow, or creases on the back to indicate I’d sat in it.

So I put the cardigan back on and tried hard to relax and ignore the next peck-peck of OCD thoughts.  This time they played hard-ball.  When was the last time I wore it?  Could it have been in a public place where germs were transferred to the back or the arms?  Did I wear it on a public chair where someone else’s waistband had touched the chair, and that person had been to a dirty toilet and passed germs from the toilet to the public chair that I sat on?  I was now rubbing the germs I’d picked up off the chair onto the cushion behind my back, the leather of the sofa I was sitting on, and the throw on my lap?  I pictured the scenario of later resting my head on the contaminated cushion, dirtying my hair, that would then contaminate my pillow on my bed.  That is an ‘Ultimate No-No’.

Stop thinking like this I kept telling myself, relax.  I tried thinking about something more interesting and pleasant, but the peck-peck of germs being on my cardigan and transferring to my “safe” environment would not go away.

I know from the CBT workbooks that I’ve read, that I need to ride out this storm and last as long as possible before caving in to the OCD thoughts.  Remind myself the cardigan smells and looks perfectly clean from the section of the wardrobe that I add ONLY clean clothes to.  Try to relax.

Grrr
Grrr

After five minutes more, the cardigan came off and was put into the washing machine.  The leather sofa was sprayed with Dettox and rubbed clean (a frequent activity that does no harm).  Then the cushion I was leaning on was sprayed with Dettox, rubbed furiously with kitchen roll, and moved to dry out – I managed not to put that into the washing machine because it was “out of site and out of mind” to dry.  Luckily the throw had not been contaminated because I took the cardigan off in time, but I headed into the wardrobe and pulled out enough clothes to make up a load for the washing machine.  I feel sure the clothes were already clean, but I didn’t want to re-enact the above situation in the future.  My rationale is get rid of any doubt and reassure myself, but I was weak.

So in conclusion, because I wasn’t busy and was trying to relax, I ended up being busy, and OCD won (this time)!

Keep clean and carry on