Isolation and shielding is tough

Being stuck in my own home should be easy for me – I have OCD so people and places raises challenges for me – but knowing you can’t interact, in even a limited way, is more challenging than I imagined it would be.  Shopping, or not being able to shop, is my biggest headache.

I feel embarrased that I was one of those “panic buyers” for toilet rolls and handwash in early March, so I’m grateful I have those essentials covered.  It took several trips to several supermarkets but mission accomplished and I breathed a sign of relief at my bounty and won’t be buying any more for several weeks (or even months) knowing that if IBS flares up or a stomach bug I won’t have to resort to kitchen roll that might block up the sewer pipes.  As I write this the shortage in toilet rolls seems to be over but anti-bacterial soap is still not available in abundance (I hear).

Panic buying soap


Toilet roll shortage

Because of my OCD I like to pick out all my shopping products carefully – I have a certain way of adding them to the trolley and putting stuff on the conveyor belt – no bread, pastries or cakes must touch either, it needs to balance on a sturdy item and not touch the bottom of my carrier bag.  Whilst stocking up on toilet rolls and handwash I took the liberty of ensuring I had the cleaning products I’d need for emergencies – anti-bacterial washing-up liquid, anti-bacterial spray, bleach, kitchen rolls and tinned staple foods.  The last shopping bill I had, which was over eight weeks ago, was over £100 but had no real meals to eat – the trolley looked similar to the drawing below and goodness knows what the check-out operator must have thought “she’s a fairly big woman so what does she eat as there’s nothing on this conveyor belt”?

OCD trolley full of shopping


I’ve never been able to do ‘on-line shopping’ because of my trolley/conveyor belt/carrier bag OCD dos and don’ts, as I imagine items being dropped on the floor or the person doing the picking/packing/delivering has not washed their hands after the toilet or just picked their nose etc.  The kind people doing my shopping now would not do either of the latter nasties, but there is no way they would think the way I do about how the items go in the trolley, on the conveyor belt or into the carrier bag (thankfully they think normally).

For the last eight weeks of isolation/sheilding (to protect my loved ones) has meant relying on lists for someone else to do my shopping and it reminds me that I buy and eat too much – I write one list and then edit out as much as possible – think of the rationing in the war years I tell myself, make do and be creative with existing food stuffs you have in the pantry.  I feel embarrassed when compiling a shopping list that someone else gets to see what I consume living on my own (especially chocolate treats and alcohol) and then has to put every item into the trolley, on a conveyor belt, into bags, into a boot and then onto my doorstep – effort that I enjoy doing ordinarily.  In fact shopping used to be the highlight of my week and could take several hours of mooching the isles looking for new products to try.

Retail therapy is, or was, my guilty pleasure, and for the foreseeable future I expect this pleasure will be on hold for several more months but at least my shopping list doesn’t have to include any cleaning products!!


Ninja straw swipe

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.

Cocktail shots
Cocktail shots

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.

Toilet turmoil
Toilet turmoil

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.

Know me so well
Know me so well

Workmen in the house

It’s a first for me.  How have I managed to get to this age and avoid having work done to the house that interrupts the sanctuary of my bathroom and bedroom?

Swan flapping below the surface
Swan flapping below the surface

The window installers are doing a great job, and being totally obliging, but they can’t possibly know how stressful it is for me.  Like a serene swan, I am trying to give off the air of calmness without making ripples in the water (or making their work processes awkward), but underneath the surface I am getting as exhausted as the swan’s webbed feet, thrashing around to keep moving forward – in my case my leg is doing a nervous twitch/dance, my hand-washing is excessive (even for me), and I’m continually clock-watching to count down to their home time.

My bedroom and bathroom looks like a forensic crime scene – covered in plastic sheeting and bin liners in an attempt to hermitically seal my precious belongings from human (strangers) contact.  I have a shocking amount of “floof” as I like to call it in my bedroom – all the knick-knacks from birthdays, Valentines, Mothering Sunday and Christmas presents.  They make every surface look pretty and home for me whilst I relax in my bedroom, and stop the living areas from getting clogged up with girly dust-catchers.  The trouble is I’ve had to collate them all into the smallest space I can make in my room, to give the workmen the maximum amount of room to walk and work in without getting anywhere near my stuff – I don’t know if it’s damage limitation for them, or me?

I did this “new plastic dust sheet wrapping” yesterday prior to them working on a window downstairs in a room that family and friends use, but was horrified to see that they had then attempted to be even more efficient by throwing over fabric dust sheets themselves.  Now that might sound efficient, but consider the fact that these sheets are so incredibly manky, with mud (or dog poo), and stains of unknown substances, from goodness knows which other properties they’ve worked in.  I’d actually prefer to take my chances on what might get walked in on their shoes than see my carpets/floors covered in these contaminated fabric sheets, but I don’t want to “be a pain” and have to explain myself to them.  This is the unfortunate part of OCD – you have to put up and shut up as much as possible, or sound weird.

The same grotty dustsheets have been placed all the way through the hall and stairs leading to my bedroom and bathroom, and I entered my bedroom just in the nick of time to prevent them draping these horrors over my newly purchased plastic, colour-coded (50p extra cost to the clear white ones, but they look prettier), dust sheets.  Obviously they think they are doing what is wanted, so they look quite offended when I politely said “Would you mind leaving my dust sheets as they are, and only use your sheets on the floor please”.  That is bad enough, because I’ll have to bleach the original Victorian floorboards once they leave – the vacuum cleaner won’t be sufficient for this job.

They must be getting a clue that I have issues though.  The sink and toilet has been embedded in black bin liners and secured in place with heavy duty white duck tape.  I worry they might be tempted to use my facilities instead of the toilet/sink used for the rest of the household.   Sealing my toilet and sink adds to my anxiety because asking for a quick toilet break whilst they are working in the bathroom isn’t really viable as I’ll still need to bleach-clean the area before being able to use it, and then I’ll have to envelop it all again in plastic before they’re able to resume work.

No toilet breaks from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. means no liquid intake, but just the right amount of food to absorb the fluid (urine) in my body, but not so much I will need a number two.  I expect you think food won’t absorb urine but it’s a theory I use to comfort myself when my toilet isn’t freely available, e.g. when I have visitors or leave the house.  Today I’m hoping the sponge part of Jaffa Cakes will absorb unwanted body fluid?  Another precaution I’ve taken to wanting a ‘number two’ whilst my bathroom is out of bounds, is taking a double-dose of Imodium, but that may leave me with an issue in the morning as I prepare for an 8.00 start to day three of the window installation saga.   I resisted the Imodium yesterday, but succumbed to it today, during a mini-panic.

I think I’ll be sleeping on the sofa tonight because the window installers are bound to want to finish off the windows tomorrow, and I dread the rigmarole of removing the numerous dust sheets in a way that they don’t touch the floor or anything other than the item I’m covering.  How do you fold a 12x12ft plastic sheet on your own without it falling on the floor?  If that happens, I’d have to go out to a DIY shop to buy more sheets to recover everything tomorrow morning before 8 a.m.

One thing that keeps freaking me out is seeing the house toilet being used by the workmen, hearing the flush, and then there’s not enough time elapsing for hands to be washed before the toilet door is being shut.  Not-washing-your-hands-after-the-toilet syndrome is horrid enough in any other situation, but I know that those dirty hands are going on to touch my door handles and stair handrail on the way up to my bedroom and bathroom.  I left them a kettle with tea and coffee making facilities (and biscuits) so that they can help themselves to a brew, but anything left will clearly not be going back into my kitchen!

I bought in two bottles of bleach in readiness for the big clean-up after the windows are installed and although my hands are already dry, cracked and sore (like numerous little paper-cuts), I think rubber gloves are going to be needed to prevent the cracks becoming crevices.  Cracked skin on my hands puts a stop to food preparation for my family and opens up another “can of worms of worry”.

I’m sure having windows that actually close, and don’t let the wind and cold whistle in will be worth it, and I will not take my bathroom and bedroom for granted ever again, but right now I can’t wait for those longed for immortal words “Right love, that’s us finished, your windows are in, and we’re going to get off now”.