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 …
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.
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.
Apologies for the lack of blog entries, but I seem to be suffering writers block – hopefully it’s because I’m not experiencing stressful “meltdowns” however a couple of days ago there was an incident I thought might be worth writing about ….
My partner suggested a cocktail (one of our favourite treats) on a rarely relaxing Sunday afternoon – usually it’s chores followed by a last minute supermarket dash at 3.00 p.m.
The sun was shining, but the wind was whipping up as we walked into a coastal bar with a glorious seaview that gave the feeling of being abroad. The barman looked nervous when we requested the cocktail menu (list??) which my partner jokingly commented on as he passed it over to us, and then shot behind the scenes leaving his colleague to do the shaking and mixing.
We drooled over the descriptions and I carefully selected one that we weren’t familiar with, a Long Island Cooler that had vodka, rum, tequila and midori amongst its ingredients, whilst my partner went for a Manhattan. We were relieved that the barman, left behind with nowhere to hide, looked excited at the prospect of not serving coffees or pints of lager and had something he could “show off” with.
Unfortunately I then noticed he had a blue plaster on his index finger, which is a big ‘no-no’ for me, and whenever possible I stop the purchase – this applies especially in shops and supermarket check-outs (I have been known to put my groceries back into the trolley and move along to avoid the checkout person touching my purchases with a potentially bloody wound. However in this scenario I found it hard to say “Sorry I’ve changed my mind and now I don’t want a drink”. I could feel my anxiety rising and my heart starting to beat faster, with my smile quickly disappearing.
The barman filled a tall glass with ice (presumably to cool it, because that got thrown down the sink and refilled before the liquid was added which got me thinking was something wrong with the ice) and then he tossed a stainless steel mixer in the air, hoping to look like Tom Cruise, but unfortunately it slipped from his hands on to the floor.
My already growing OCD warning signs now notched up to a red-high-level – please don’t use it now it’s been on the floor I thought as I desperately looked for another he could use?! My partner immediately spotted my perturbed look and said “Don’t worry, I’ll have this cocktail to save you having to worry, and you order another”. Happily though the barman replaced the dropped mixer with a fresh one – phew.
He then went on to pour the alcohol into the glass from a free-flow spout rather than use an accurate measure but half of it missed the glass and went over the counter. Feeling deprived, I said “You missed” to which he ignored me but I must have ruffled his confidence because he then went on to top the glass up with Coca-Cola from the mixer trigger rather than soda or lemonade, making a dirty brown top to the pretty lime green cocktail below.
He looked mortified at this mistake and said “whoops” as he emptied it down the sink whilst I was saying “don’t worry” but it was too late and the whole process had to start again, but not before he got a notebook out and wrote down all the ingredients that had been spoiled for stock taking purposes – in your own time I was thinking.
Half way through his preparation I also noticed how dirty his finger nails were, so I quickly said “Don’t worry about adding the fruit around the side of the glass” to keep the contact with his hands to a minimum, but the fruit slices and umbrellas do make fun of having cocktails.
At that point another customer interrupted the barman’s show by saying “Excuse me mate have you got any toilet rolls only my son is stuck on the toilet needing one”. What!?! There I was trying to get into the mood of sipping a Long Island cocktail, and all of a sudden I was reminded of poo and toilets. How to completely spoil a moment.
This must have distracted the barman so much that he had to get a sheet out to look up the ingredients that this cocktail consisted of – blimey how much longer I was thinking. I got my straws ready from a glassful of them on the bar but whilst I was saying “I have straws thank you”, he ignored me and grabbed two straws with his dirty-plastered finger tips and man-handled them into a bent angle and added them to the glass. What I found amazing is my partner had been clocking all my expressions of worry and as quick as a Ninja Warrior swooped up the straws from my cocktail and whipped them into his coat pocket so that I could use the ones I had selected and wiped in case of germs. This is what years of living with me has lead to – a type of OCD carer instinct that I was well impressed with. He did it so quickly during the barman turning to make his Manhattan cocktail – there was no chance he noticed this manoeuvre but I was amazed and grateful.
My partner’s cocktail was made with less interruptions but when the barman came to flaming the orange peel and rubbing it around the edge of the martini glass you can imagine it didn’t go exactly smoothly. Singed hair and manky finger tips, rather than flamed orange was added to the glass, but my partner was one step ahead of this when he offered me a taste. “Use your straw to taste my cocktail” he said.
I think this story shows how tuned into my OCD my partner has become after years and years of watching out for me. I am very lucky.
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.
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)!