For me, traveling with OCD can be difficult. Even with my recent trip to San Francisco for OCD Con, I felt anxiety before leaving on the trip. For that one, I was scared of using public bathrooms because I didn’t want to have to bring in my bag to the toilet area and touch my clothes/bag in order to leave the bathroom stall (but before washing my hands). The anxiety and fear surrounding this made me almost not want to go on the trip at all.
Preparing to go on a family trip for about a week on an Alaskan cruise (with a short stay near Seattle before hand) has brought up similar concerns. The OCD and associated worries bring not only anxiety but also intense preparation—separate bags for laundry (clothes and underwear), necessary toiletries, medications, bathroom “butt” wipes (basically enhanced toilet paper) for the kids and myself, etc.
I worry about clothes for myself and the kids. What if something gets dirty or contaminated? Will I have enough clothes? I worry about what happens if my daughter has an accident in her underwear and we are out on an excursion. What if I’m not prepared?
The uncertainty of going to a new place and not knowing what is in store makes traveling and doing new things almost terrifying and nerve wracking instead of fun and exciting. For me, adding children to the mix means there is even more uncertainty and chances for potential stress, “contamination,” and worry.
Personally, I have concerns about where and when there will be toilets and what state they will be in. Will there be hand soap? Will something triggering happen? How will I handle a tiny bathroom shared between four of us on the cruise ship itself? Will the kids make a mess of it? Will it all work out?
Of course it will all work out somehow. And of course, ideally I should be sticking it to the OCD and putting my foot down. I should go into it expecting the best and not the worst. I should try to overcome my worries or at least save my energy to address actual concerns as they arise rather than preemptively attempting to solve any number of potential disastrous situations.
My therapists in group encouraged me to try and overcome my mental ruminating—this is easier said than done, but it is a worthy goal. OCD can live comfortably in our thought processes, taking us round and round, over and over again without ever coming to a satisfactory solution or resting place. Ruminating and worrying constantly about things that have or could or might happen doesn’t actually serve to move us forward in a positive way.
We will be pushed forward naturally by life, and we can either go hand in hand with the OCD, dreading every step or try to accept that we have those thoughts and then let them pass without addressing and giving them an audience—if we do that, the hope is that we will be happier and actually more ready to deal with any issues that arise.
That being said, hopefully our trip goes well, and hopefully I can move on from the ruminating to enjoying and giving my full attention to the vacation and my family there.