We went on a road trip for Spring Break.
This was slightly terrifying for me and my OCD. With a fear and anxiety about having to use public toilets and bathrooms, going on a road trip was basically the worst. I had to use so many public bathrooms and experienced so many exposures that I won’t bore you with here because most of them are personal and gross. But let’s say I survived. It wasn’t pleasant most of the time (and on one occasion I flat out didn’t go to the bathroom and opted to wait because the bathroom was that filthy)…. but I survived.
I caved and bought some hand wipes for emergency and otherwise hard situations for me and the kids. We were out a lot, going to parks with questionable bathroom and other circumstances, eating out, etc. A quick hand wipe here and there felt okay and necessary. Maybe not essential, but oh well. I did it. It happened. We are okay.
We visited the Bay Area of California, taking time to stop into many of the cities and towns including San Jose (where we have lived), Los Gatos (where I grew up), Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Campbell, and San Francisco.
Traveling with OCD
Let’s just say that it’s extremely difficult for me to be away from home for a long period of time. While I wouldn’t say I’m a bad traveler (I’ve actually traveled a lot in my life time and lived in England, gone to other parts of Europe and Asia, etc.), my OCD has made being in new and different surroundings difficult. I worry about “what will or could happen.” What if there isn’t a bathroom or something happens or this or that? OCD really takes the beauty and joy out of being spontaneous and having adventures. OCD doesn’t like adventures. It wants certainty, and travel does not really specialize in certainty.
I did appreciate the fact that we had a “home base” rather than a hotel. We rented out a home while in San Jose, and although we had to share a tiny bathroom between the whole family, it felt good to have space and to be able to easily come in and out of our own house during the day.
The end of the trip was probably the most difficult. We stayed in San Francisco our last night and toured the city a bit, walking to China Town and Union Square, etc. I started feeling really terrible the night before our 10 plus hour road trip home. I’m fairly certain it was related to my endometriosis and/or pelvic congestion syndrome, but I was literally crying in pain and discomfort, wondering how in the world I was going to make it home driving/riding in a car all the next day. It was not an easy trip, nor was I a very pleasant traveling companion, but I’m grateful to my husband for his patience and fortitude to get me and our children back home safe and sound.
Side effects of OCD
I’m not sure how to make traveling more doable and less stressful when you have OCD. I allowed myself to not be so vigilant in certain aspects (hand washing, etc.), knowing other things would be causing me a lot of anxiety and stress. Sometimes I would just tell myself I had to make it through the week. That’s one of the things I hate about having obsessive compulsive disorder. It really robs you of ease and being carefree. It doesn’t really let you go with the flow or enjoy the moment. Instead, you are worried and thinking ten steps ahead, stressed about all of the things that could go wrong or be problematic.
Basically, traveling with OCD is hard. Life with OCD is hard. But we keep going because we have to. That’s just what we do.