As we approach the end of March, I thought I’d do a brief review of the month, in particular looking at how my own OCD has been going. I usually consider March to be the longest month—it has 31 days and no real “holiday” or day off (yes, there is St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s not like we get the day off work or school).
For us, this March was extremely busy, which didn’t really make the month not seem long, per se…. it just made it seem long and crazy, I guess.
We started the month off, of course, with going to Utah for ADAM Conf. My OCD wasn’t so terrible there, ironically, or thankfully? I do have to admit that when I went to the bathroom at the conference, I did wonder if anyone else in the bathroom had read my book and was waiting to see if I would wash my hands a lot or something.
After our Utah trip, we went to London for my husband to speak at a conference. There have been times when flying has really triggered my OCD and brought out sanitizing compulsions and obsessions about getting sick. I handled it pretty well this time, though I am still worried about touching airplane floors and avoid that as much as possible (one time one of my kids spilled orange juice all over the floor when we were flying back from Hawaii, and I cleaned it using a napkin. I got the flu a few days after getting home and attributed it, correctly or incorrectly, to my cleaning the floor on the airplane).
Having to use public transport in England and be around so many other people were good exposures. I did get/have a cold (thanks to my son) for most of the trip, and that was a bit troublesome—I used hand sanitizer more than normal because I was worried that maybe the influenza was coming back.
Probably the biggest OCD issue I had was when I had to use the bathroom at Kew Gardens with my kids and brought my bag into the stall and there was no hook on the door. My bag had to go on the bathroom floor. From that point, I considered the bottom of my bag to be “dirty” and unclean and really tried to avoid touching it, putting it on a chair or anything like that.
As for successes, I used public toilets frequently for all, ahem, issues. This is something I try to avoid for multiple reasons, so doing that was necessary, yes, but also a great exposure.
Besides the trip, I still deal with bathroom contamination OCD and hand washing issues—I usually use too much soap and wash for too long or wash my hands twice after using the bathroom.
There have been times, though, when something happens that, in the past, would have resulted in my engaging in a compulsion (like changing my clothes or something), and I’ve resisted that. Of course, there have been times when I’ve given in as well. I think one thing that is good to remember (and that my psychologist has mentioned) is that, when you “fail” in OCD exposures, it’s pretty easy to go back and correct it. For example, if you give in and wash your hands an extra time, go recontaminate them by touching them on something you consider “dirty” and don’t rewash. We sometimes beat ourselves up when we give into a compulsion, but we can just go back and mess with the OCD again and not do the compulsion that time.
Another thing I wanted to mention was that we saw the movie, “Love, Simon,” about the gay teenager. Without ruining the story line, I just wanted to talk about how I related to him and his “coming out” by having a mental illness. After people found out that he was gay, it seemed like that was all people saw about him, when before they didn’t notice or care about that aspect of him. When you are “normal,” people don’t mention it, but if you (obviously) deviate from the norm, suddenly that becomes your defining characteristic.
There is a scene where his dad confronts him (nicely), asking him about how long he’s known he was gay, etc. For some reason, it made me remember how it felt like everyone was only asking me about my OCD and nothing else in my life, or asking “how I was” all the time once I was open about having obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s like people forget that you’ve been dealing with it for a long time already, surviving without them knowing about it for potentially years—and it’s just so weird that suddenly that’s all anyone cares or talks about.
I mean, obviously mental illness and sexual orientation are different, but I could relate to this idea of having a “secret” to deal with and then suddenly being exposed and having people get really excited or put out about it… it’s a strange thing to go through, and I understood a little bit of what he was dealing with in that regard.
Anyway, I guess that’s all I have to say about March, besides what I’ve said in other blog posts this month, of course 😉 It’s been busy, and we have a lot of exciting things coming up (check out Mental Illness Matters for updates and conferences, changes, etc). Thanks everyone for your support!
How has your month been going? Anyone seen Love, Simon?