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

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus or COVID-19 overload

How strange I wrote a post last month entitled ‘Don’t hug me’ when the Coronavirus COVID-19 was not my main concern, as it was predominantly an issue in China, but I just hated being hugged or having close contact with people due to my OCD, but now it seems a great many people feel the same way without having OCD.

‘Social distancing’ is mentioned regularly on television, in newspapers, via social media and in our daily conversations – keep 2 metres apart suits me just fine.  To prevent the risks of contracting Coronavirus it is also recommended that we:

  • Wash our hands thoroughly with hot water and soap for 20 seconds – videos explaining the technique are circulating but I downloaded this diagram years ago for this blog

Hand washing technique

  • Do not touch your mouth, eyes or nose – studies have found that this can happen up to 20 times per hour and the virus can enter your body from your hands if they are not clean
  • Clean hard surfaces regularly as they can harbour the virus for up to 3 days, soft surfaces such as cardboard for 24+ hours

Clean hard surfaces to prevent spread of Coronavirus

  • Clean door handles, stair handles, phones, keyboards – anything that is regularly touched by more than one person – safeguard other people as well as yourself.

What is slightly comforting is that the I have been doing the above recommendations for many years due to my OCD – infuriating to live with, but now I don’t feel so different as I see that a vast majority of people are adhering to these hygienic behaviours.  The advice is that it’s easier to learn to do something rather than trying to remember not to do something, such as learn the habit of keeping your hands below your waist to ensure you don’t touch your face 20 times an hour is easier than remembering not to touch your face.  I have been doing this for years, so no problem for me.  I say no problem, but only in the context of this new Coronavirus, because it is hugely annoying to adhere to when you have an itchy eye or nose, or food between two teeth!

anti-bacterial gel for clean hands
Coronavirus essential

I’d hate you to think that the above (almost smugness) implies an easier ride for me in these hugely challenging and worrying times, because the down side of the Coronavirus is that I am now in total panic mode with all my ‘contamination’ issues fully in the spotlight and making daily functioning even more difficult.

Preventing contamination is heightened especially as I have an elderly mother with severe health issues (the high risk category continually spoken about in the press) that I see daily, and need to protect from being contaminated – both from other people and me.  Daily living with OCD means I interact in a bizarre manner with my mother, but now I am at the point of self-isolating away from her as I’d never live with the guilt of passing this virus to her, especially if she was hospitalised (or the unthinkable).

OCD worry is exhausting

In my opinion, that is why cautious (and anxious) people are panic buying provisions in readiness of self-isolation with little, to no, notice – we are told that if you have a raised temperature, a new cough, headaches or aching body we must immediately self-isolate.  My cautious mind is thinking if I can’t open the door or leave the house what do I need to survive for 7-14 days?  I can live without fresh food, milk, tins, dried food etc however I cannot live in isolation without the comfort of soap to wash my hands and toilet paper/wipes – there is no substitute for these two essential items.

In an attempt to try to see some kind of humour in this, I have heard several people say that “there never used to be toilet paper and in the old days, they used newspaper” well I hope they had a plumber on hand because soil pipes these days struggle to function with the products intended to be flushed!

OCD clean to avoid spread of Coronavirus

My thoughts are that OCD cleanliness, to avoid the worry of ‘contamination traits of OCD’, accommodates all the professional/medical advice currently being given to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.  Stay safe readers.

When will enough be enough

It’s a couple of months since I wrote a post, as I do try to live in denial that it wrecks normal day to day activities, but last night I was so angry that I have to live with OCD that I was motivated to share how annoying this (expletives galore) condition makes normal living.

Because my OCD manifests itself with handwash after handwash every hour of the day, it is important to plan the most mundane of activities to minimise how many times I have to go through this palaver.  So obviously tasks need to be done in the order of dirtiness e.g. empty the dishwasher immediately after you’ve washed your hands and don’t get distracted by anything else like putting the kettle on or moving items in the pantry.  This means continually thinking about the order of jobs that need doing and often I plan them in my head before launching into everyday tasks.

In this exacting order, it stands to reason that once I’ve sat down on my germ-free sofa, with my germ-free dinner plate and germ-free glass of juice, I don’t want to get up to add salt and pepper from shakers that are not germ-free.  I therefore work out everything I need once I’ve sat down with freshly washed hands to enjoy a couple of hours relaxing (both physically and mentally) in front of the TV with my dinner, dessert and drink.

Last night was no different, I filled my juice glass, I filled my wine glass, I selected my knife and fork – all lined up on my sofa side-table ready to sit down.  I added salt and pepper to my dinner and washed my hands ready to enjoy my meal on my germ-free sofa.  But ….

OCD Happy knitting on sofa
germ-free sofa

After I’d enjoyed my meal I realised I had forgotten to get my dessert prepared in a germ-free way on my side-table.  I decided I was thoroughly sick of washing my hands that day and that I could get some kitchen roll to tip up the opened tube of Toblerone chocolate to extract the foiled wrapped (meaning germ-free) chocolate.  Alas, as I used the kitchen roll to up end the tube of chocolate my hand accidentally touched the outer dirty germ-ridden wrapping.  I told myself that it was only a small amount and for a nano-second, so with my “mind-over-matter” strength I should live with this and not feel the need to rush to the sink to wash the germs off my hand.

Even though I knew this was a difficult dilema, as I went to sit back down on my sofa ….  I slightly bumped the side-table with my big backside and knocked the (expletive) TV remote control onto the floor!  Aaagghh now the remote control is filthy dirty and I needed to clean it with “Kills 99% of all germs” spray, and then wash my hands AGAIN!

 

Germs OCD frustration

 

There is absolutely no escaping this nightmare thinking that OCD causes, minute after minute, hour after hour and day after day – I HATE OCD and feel so angry, which leads to being very upset.  I wish my mentality was “don’t get angry, get even” all I ever end up doing is dissolving into buckets of tears after I get angry.

I try to rationalise my OCD by telling myself how it isn’t that serious, it isn’t living with cancer or a similarly serious condition – at the end of the day it is within my control to kick it’s backside into touch, but I haven’t been able to for approximately 30 years.  Should I give therapy with a professional a try?  Should I put as much effort into a solution, as I do into planning how to minimise washing my hands?  It’s so tiring living with this, my brain is tired out, and yet I’ve not done anything useful or lucrative to cause my brain to be so tired.  Should I just be grateful to be alive and able to see beautiful skies, the waves of the sea, and the birds sitting on my patio?

OCD Exposed

 

 

World Clean Hands Day

Hooray, this is a great day for those of us with OCD!

I wonder how many people know that today 5th May 2015 is World Clean Hands Day?  More importantly I wonder how many people will take notice and wash their hands more thoroughly and more frequently today?

I am imagining all the coughs, colds, and viruses that will be prevented today if this event is taken seriously – great news for all concerned.

Hand washing

I was using a hotel rest room one evening during our works Christmas ‘Do’ and whilst washing my hands a lady asked

“Excuse me but are you a nurse”?

“No” I responded puzzled, thinking it is the least likely occupation with my OCD condition, and why would she say that when I was dressed up in my very best evening frock looking as glamorous as I could?

“It’s just that I noticed how thoroughly you are washing your hands, so I assumed you have a job in medicine”.

I found that a huge compliment – at least I was doing something correctly but little did she know I’ve been taking this activity to its extreme conclusion for way too long.

 

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