Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Because Wouldn't This Permanently Fuck Up ANYONE?

You know what? Maybe all this self-evaluation, exploration, introspection, and reflection is bullcrap. Maybe it didn't start with my filthy, fruit-fly infested dump of a house. Maybe it didn't start with surprise!water breaking. Maybe it didn't start with watching doctors at their own doctors' office exit the lavat'ry without washing their fucking hands.

Maybe I am trying too hard.

Maybe it all started with that one time when I was 18 and was on a roadtrip with my two best friends, and somewhere down near Smith River, CA, we picked the least expensive motel we could for the night, and upon settling in for some sweet dreams, we found a human turd under the duvet cover.

Origins, III.

For the most part, I am comfortable with my OCD. Like I've said, it makes life ridiculously difficult sometimes, and living with a constant level of extreme anxiety isn't my favorite thing. But the reason I am mostly comfortable with it is that I believe I'm right. I believe there are germs on things, and I believe they can make you sick, and that is all I need to know. So I like to wash those germs off. End of story, right?

And anyway, what's so hard about washing your damn hands? Give it a try. You might like it. It tickles!

The cold/flu phobia, I am far less comfortable living with. I feel like surface germs, germs that get on your hands, are, for the most part, something I can attempt to control. If I want clean hands, I wash them. If I want clean carpets, no shoes in the house. If Maya drops a cookie at the park, we throw it away (no three-second rule in this house, you mud duck!). If Maya plays at the park, we employ heavy amounts of hand sanitizer. Simple! (Well, simple except inside my brain, wherein it is screaming panic-ridden obscenities. If my brain could sweat, it would be at all times in a cold one.) But I can't control the fact that we breathe other people's air. And to be constantly afraid of breathing in cold germs or that flu effluvia is going to enter my eyeballs (see previous entry), this is too much anxiety, even for this OCDer. I have no control over breathing in germs. I can still wash my hands, but I still have to breathe, now don't I. NOW DON'T I? I ask you. I can't walk around holding my breath and looking down forever, can I. NOW CAN I? I demand an answer.

So except for this "being deathly afraid of colds" part, basically I am actually OK with being OCD, because I don't think I'm wrong. There are other types of OCD that don't make sense to me personally, like incessant counting, not stepping on cracks, rituals, needing to do things a certain number of times, etc. They don't make sense to me because they are not based on things that can really happen. If you step on a crack, your mother will not die. There is no reason to count every step you take, every blonde you pass, every chew of your food. If you don't lock and unlock your door 37 times in a row exactly, nothing bad will happen. But if you use a payphone, you get all kinds of shit on your hands. If you touch the ketchup bottle at a restaurant, you get all kinds of shit on your hands. If you touch the pen used to sign your name on your receipt, you get all kinds of shit on your hands. And some of that shit can make you sick like the dog. And I don't want that shit on my hands, and I don't want it in my house, and I don't want it on my babies. So I wash. Fine.

But lately I find myself with new little tics, new little compulsions, and it freaks my shit right out. Because isn't germ OCD and flu phobia enough?

See, there's one more Thing I Do. It's in the realm of the "things that don't make sense" that I listed above. Like how there's no reason to check 40 got-damn times that your stove is off, when you KNOW IT IS. But I am beginning to do things like that. Well, one thing in particular. But once again, there is an Origin.


Years ago, I heard a horrifying story about a young girl who was taken from her bed, kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered. Her name was Jessica Lunsford. (Warning, graphic details.) Her abductor and murderer entered through an unlocked door in the middle of the night. I also heard a similar story about a younger child, I think she was around age three, also abducted in the middle of the night, and her abductor, too, entered through an unlocked back sliding glass door. Again, kidnapped, raped, killed. I have never been able to get these stories out of my mind. They haunt me.

So I always make sure that our back sliding glass door is locked. You feel me dawg?

Except that sometimes I forgot, and my husband never checks, and sometimes my mom would leave it unlocked while babysitting, etc. And every time I'd find it unlocked the next morning, a vise inside me would squeeze tighter and tighter, and my brain would break out into that cold sweat, and the panic and the obsession grew. I knew I was the only one who would check the goddamn back door to make sure it was locked. So I checked. And I checked. And the obsession started to take over.

Right now, as it stands, come nighttime, I will tug on the back door to make sure it is locked. It is. I will check email one last time, get a drink of water from the kitchen, and pass the back door on my way to the bedroom. Then I will stop, go back, and check the door again. But you only checked it two minutes ago, I tell myself. Jo, you KNOW it is locked. Sometimes on my way to bed, I try to continue to walk to my bedroom. But it's like you're in a dream where your legs won't move or you're stuck in concrete. You can't lift them. I cannot continue to my bedroom. I must check it again. I MUST. I go back and I give the door a tug. Locked. Of course it was locked. I had already checked. And the thing is, I had also already checked it five time previously, within the last couple of hours, even before I was ready to go to bed. Sometimes I check it every time I pass it, which is approximately exactly 9347543985 times a day.

So now, my compulsions are starting to edge into what I consider The Unreasonable. The Irrational. (Even though I know that 99.9% of my readers already fully believe that ALL my tics and compulsions and behaviors are totally unreasonable and irrational: to you, they are absurd at least, harmful and dangerous at most.) But I would agree, this thing is getting a little out of control. The door thing, it freaks me out. One check should be enough.

I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.
I know the door is locked.

I check it again anyway.

But you see, there was an Origin. Jessica Lunsford. And the other tiny little girl whose name I wish I could remember. One unlocked back door, one time, one night, that particular night, that is all it took to lead to unspeakable tragedy. And now, having daughters of my own, one the same age as the younger child who was murdered, the fear never leaves my mind.

So now my very rational* germ phobia has a new pal: irrational checking.

*(Rational in my own, and yeah, I know, ONLY my own, opinion.)

I will continue to check. Because I can't not. This is what OCD is. But again, I just wanted to explain to you how some of these things come to be. So you can understand that not all bizarre compulsive behavior is just because someone is crazy-go-nuts. Sometimes we have reasons. This is another of my reasons. And you can't just tell someone like me, "Stop it." Because I can't.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Origins, Part Deux: The Sequel.

And now on to the next origin of some of my bizarre-to-you phobias:


When I was pregnant with my first baby (actually, my second; I lost the first baby, but that is yet another story for yet another place. Well, no, same place, but...never mind.)...OK. So when I was pregnant with this baby, I had a terribly difficult pregnancy. Fear of another miscarriage (which was decidedly UNHELPED when I fell down the stairs at 6 weeks pregnant), intense 24/7 all-day "morning" sickness, early-labor scares (contractions, cervical changes, the whole nine), terrific pain caused by as-of-then undiagnosed Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, etc. So pregnancy sucked anyway. I was my usual careful handwasher throughout, but I worked in a place where almost no one washed their hands, and people always came to work when sick.*

*There is a special place in hell reserved for people who come to work sick, especially when they work closely with pregnant women.

If I may digress for a moment, the reason I knew that almost no one there washed their hands was because we worked in a building where for nine years I was lucky enough to have the office directly adjacent to the bathroom. The thin-walled bathroom. I could hear many things I never want to hear again. And of course, there was the lovely wafting of bathroom odors every time someone exited and strolled, 8 ounces lighter, past my open office door. So not only could I hear those sounds, along with the toilet and urinal flushing, but I could hear water running, the soap dispenser being pressed (seriously, I could), and I could hear the sound of our ancient, loud paper-towel crankyyankythinger. It was the kind with a lever that you pressed down over and over again to get your scroll of paper towels out. As I recall, about 12 depressions of the crankyyanky lever were sufficient to get the proper amount of paper towel.

Well. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Someone would pass my office, enter the adjacent bathroom, do their bidness. I and my keen ear (finely attuned to these particular sounds) would wait anxiously, so anxiously...but I'd say about 89% of the time, the person would exit without the precious sounds of water running nor the crankyyankythinger making its sound. Thus, absolute proof that they did not wash. And even worse was when that rank scent of bidness, that cloud of putrefaction, wafted after them. So not only did I know that they had not washed after doing their bidness, they had not washed after doing their NUMBER TWO bidness. Fuckers, all. You can see why I Lysoled the hell out of my keyboard and mouse on a regular basis, both because people sometimes used my computer and because I had to touch things around the office building that Nonwashers had touched. I also Lysoled the hell out of every touchable surface in the bathroom every day, and frequently had to refill the soap dispenser that had remained empty for God knows how long. I should have gotten janitorial pay.

I think one person caught on to the fact that I could hear the paper towel dispenser through the walls. My boss. He was always a Nonwasher, but at some point the following started happening: He would enter the bathroom; 20 seconds later I would hear the flush of the urinal; and then I would IMMEDIATELY hear the paper towel dispenser lever being yankcrankered. TWO TIMES. Two yanks. Two cranks. Halfheartedly, to boot. The thing is? Two yanks would expel approximately 2 centimeters of paper towel. This is of no use to anyone. Then the door would open 0.5 seconds later. So I know he was doing the yankycranky for my benefit, to try to fool me into thinking he washed. But Mister Bossman Sir, I am no fool.

OK, back to our regularly scheduled phobia.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, which was in October (hello flu season!!), everyone in the office was sick.* In overlapping schedules. First it was Christy and Sam and Lisa who were sick for a week. Halfway through that week, Bridgette and Ramona and Sara were sick for a week. Halfway through that week, Rachel and Danni and Theresa were sick. And so forth. And they all came into my office every 2.5 seconds for some godforsaken reason or another. After they left, I would spray Lysol into the air in the meek hopes that it would kill the breath they had breathed toward me. And I went through a vat of Purell weekly.


Alas. My attempts at good health hygiene were no match for 8998347543 colds and influenzas running rampant. My drastically lowered immune system (thanks, pregnancy!), gave up the ghost. I got sick.

I had gotten my flu shot on Tuesday. It didn't have enough time to work. I was already feeling kind of crappy, but then again, I always felt crappy (thanks, pregnancy!). Late the following Thursday (well, actually in the wee hours of Friday morning), I called work and left a message that I was sick and would not be coming (because I am not an asshole). I always hated to call in sick, especially on a Friday, lest they think I just wanted a long weekend. But I was DEFinitely sick by now. I had spent all of Thursday evening and night coughing my lungs out. This was a quickly worsening cold/flu, and it pounded me hard and fast (twss).

Friday morning at about 10:15 am, I woke up sick like the dog. As I went potty for the zillionth time since the night before, I sat there and coughed and coughed. I coughed so hard I thought I would break my brain or rupture my eyeballs.

Well, I didn't rupture my eyeballs, but I did rupture my amniotic sac. As I stood up, I found that my water had broken. From coughing that hard. What's amusing (?) is that, had I opted to go in to work that day (like an asshole), my water would have broken on the drive over, since every day I was in the car driving to work from 10-10:30 am. Instead, it broke and leaked all over my bathroom floor. Gallons and gallons, I swear.

I was early, only 37 weeks along, but thank God I could be considered basically full-term. Still, that baby should have baked for three more weeks, and here we were, with premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

The coughing so hard led to this spontaneous PROM, but since my water hadn't broken because I was, y'know, READY to have a baby, I did not go into labor. Instead, I had to immediately go to the hospital (instead of going into labor naturally, then laboring at home for a long time, like I wanted) for antibiotics, since I was GBS+. Once there, I tried everything I could to get labor started. Walking endlessly, rocking in a chair, nipple stimulation *tweak tweak!!*, but nothing got contractions going. They gave me several hours to try, but since my water had already broken, there was a window in which I had to deliver: 24 hours. Not everyone agrees with this window, but I did, so I was OK with that assessment. The doctors knew that even if labor HAD begun, it could still take many many hours to actually deliver, but since labor hadn't even begun whatsoever, we needed to resort to pitocin to get shit up and moving. I had never wanted pitocin. I had never wanted interventions. I never wanted drugs. I wanted as natural a birth as possible. I had also wanted to NOT HAVE THE FUCKING FLU. Bygones.

The pitocin ended up working, thank God, and contractions happened and dilation happened and all that shit, but the added pain from the pitocin made labor unbearable. After eleven hours of hard labor (hard anyway, but made harder by pitocin, and made hardest by having the worst cold of my life), and only being 4 cm dilated with 6 to go, that was it. Epidural time. Another thing I never, ever wanted. 

Eventually the time came to deliver. And guess what I got to do? Deliver a baby while coughing my brains out. Sick, sick, sick like the dog, and trying to push a human being out my vaj. Good times. Good times.

And here's more TMI, since you are at the edge of your chair begging, "Jo, please, tell me more about your crotch!!" I had an awful second-degree perineal tear, and my cold lasted another month (I kid you not), so every time I felt my lungs tickle, I had to cross my legs and press them together as tightly as I could, say a prayer to the Patron Saint of Torn Vajayjays, and hope for the best as I coughed my soul out. Needless to say, I had one sore crotch. YOU try coughing with stitches in your whatnot.

Anyway, back to the birth. When the baby was born, she had trouble breathing. Thirty-seven weeks may be full-term, but it isn't full enough term for a lot of babies. She was chalky, a little listless, and full of fluid in her lungs. Her Apgars were only 7 and 7. The plan was for them to place the baby on my tummy and do all the standard observations there, and let me hold and nurse her, but instead they had to take her away for deep lung suctioning. I didn't get to have her back for almost an HOUR. (And as a sidenote, I am convinced that this lung suctioning was so traumatic to my minutes-old infant daughter that it gave her an oral aversion for life. She has always had issues with eating, with gagging, etc. As a baby, she hated and tried to refuse the bottle because I think the nipple deeply in her mouth practically gave her PTSS. Flashbacks to when they shoved a plastic tube miles down her throat.) Can you blame her?

She also never nursed well--couldn't latch correctly, was wildly jaundiced and therefore incredibly sleepy, among other things. Yet another side effect of being born not-quite-ready. So we were never able to establish a breastfeeding relationship, and I ended up pumping exclusively for seven months. Pumping was the bane of my existence. The failure to nurse caused me deep depression, as did the getting-up-round-the-clock-to-pump-even-when-my-child-was-sleeping-through-the-night. My relationship with my baby was affected, because I couldn't hold her or play with her as much as I wanted, since I always had to pump.

ALL THIS, because some fucker had come to work sick and given me a cold.


How is it that I constantly digress so deeply?

OK, so. Phobia:

Three years later I got pregnant again with little Naomi. And now, in addition to the myriad fears I already separately dealt with (miscarriage, birth defects, listeria poisoning, umbilical cord accidents, oh I could go on and on), I had to contend with a brand-new (or  at least drastically worsened) phobia: Colds. Why? Because I was afraid I would catch one and cough and my water would break. It was that simple. It wasn't an unfounded fear, because that did happen to me before.

I was afraid my water would break at 10 weeks and I would miscarry. I was afraid my water would break at 22 weeks, juuuust before the baby was viable and the baby would die. I was afraid my water would break at 24 weeks, the point of viability but at which point your surviving baby will likely have incredibly severe health and mental problems. I was afraid my water would break at 30 weeks. I was afraid it would break at 33 weeks. I was even afraid it would break at 37 weeks, "full term," lest we go through more issues like last time. I was afraid. I was just so afraid.

On top of it all, I was pregnant once again during and throughout flu season, and everyone around me was sick with horrible flus. Not only was I afraid of catching the common cold and coughing my baby out too early, but I was terrified of the flu. Inside my head, a battle raged: to get the flu shot or not?

Because I had contacted Dr. Google a few too many times, I'd read way too many horror stories of women who insist the flu shot was directly responsible for their miscarriage or fetal demise. Now, I understand--I understand--the huge number of women who get the flu shot while pregnant, and they and their child are just. fine. I get this. And the flu shot can, duh, prevent the flu, and the flu can be incredibly dangerous to pregnant women and their babies. So this was one half of the internal battle that raged. The flu shot could save me from catching swine flu and (1) getting ridiculously sick, far sicker than most people, because of a lowered immune system (thanks, pregnancy); (2) not being able to use any effective medications to achieve symptom relief, since almost nothing is safe to take during pregnancy; or (3) uh, dying.

The other half the battle was all the information I had gathered on how unsafe the flu shot was. I read through all the personal stories, even found medical information on respectable websites that recommended against it. Not to mention, I couldn't help but wonder why the flu shot is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age, but it is OK for fetuses to get? I was just too scared. 

One day, I'd wake up thinking, "Listen, this isn't worth the risk of catching the flu. Flu is srs bsns for preggos. Flu can kill me and thus my baby. Or at least leave me devastatingly ill and thus threaten the health of my baby as well. I'm going in first thing tomorrow for my shot." Then like half an hour later, I'd be all, "FUCK THE FLU SHOT, there is no way in hell I am risking even the remotest of possibilities that it could cause miscarriage." I just could not do it. I just could not inject something into my body where, if something happened to Naomi, I'd never forgive myself. Back and forth, back and forth my decisions went. I was so torn you cannot believe it. Torn like my poor poor perineum.

I eventually decided on NO FLU SHOT (or rather, the debate kept raging and I kept chickening out of it, up until I delivered in March, when it became a non-issue). But during the pregnancy, I protected myself the best I could--my husband got his shot, my daughter got hers, and my mom got hers as well. We employed an EXTREME REGIMEN of germ-avoidance practices (too embarrassing to detail as of yet). And somehow, no flu. I say somehow, but it was likely due to our excessive handwashing and other such OCD behaviors.

But, friends and worshipers, my point is, this was the origin of my extreme fear of catching even just a cold. I was terrified my water would break. I was terrified to lose my baby. It was incredibly hard to live with that kind of fear, to live in a constant state of anxiety. 

And I was constantly around sick people. Every single time I went to a family gathering, at least one asshole showed up sick. And at my husband's family gatherings, the SAME asshole showed up sick, every.single.time. Birthday parties. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Coughing her brains out. I was not only furious (she knows exactly how phobic I am, not to mention, hello, COMMON SENSE, GET YOU SOME, pregnant woman in the hizzay, don't come over if you're sick like the dog)...not only was I furious, but I was petrified. All I could do was pray to God to keep my unborn safe...and wash my hands.

And BY the grace of God, and the Patron Saint of Pregnant OCDers, I never did get sick. Thank you, dear 8 pounds 6 ounces newborn infant Jesus, don't even know a word yet, learning about His shapes and colors. Thank you. My second daughter was born at a much healthier 39 weeks on the dot. My water broke spontaneously again this time, but not due to being ravaged by sickness. And I DID go into labor on my own, and I did NOT need pitocin, and things were all around just dandy. Except for the excruciating pain. But whatever.

Still. The phobia remains. I don't entirely know why, since I'm not pregnant anymore and thus not afraid of losing my baby (although I AM afraid of my baby getting sick, since Dr. Google yet again has provided me with more horror stories, this time of babies choking to death on their phlegm in the middle of the night). But even now, in the middle of summer, with a healthy, bouncing 4-month-old and healthy, bratty almost 4-year-old, I am afraid. I still live with extreme anxiety. I am still on high alert. If my aforementioned keen ears so much as hear someone cough a mile away, every muscle in my body tenses and I want to hold my breath and run away forever. I still live afraid. Because no one ever said phobias make sense.

...Although, I like to think that mine at least DID make sense, because now you know why, where, and how it began: I just didn't want to lose my precious baby Naomi.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Rest assured, fans, that there will be plenty more Things I Do posts. But for now, I'd like to delve into the origins of some of my main issues. See, the things I do, the way I am, all have very real origins. I have very real reasons for why I am a germaphobe, why I obsess, why I...compulse. I know that the very idea of sterilizing your kids or refusing to go to a mall play area is ridiculous to most of you, but hopefully this will shed a little light on how it all began.

My tales will take a lot of backstory. But story is what you're here for. Right? I mean, besides information on my upcoming seminar, "Tips 'n Trix on Maintaining a Gorgeous Homestead While Chemically Poisoning Your Loved Ones," or my upcoming book, OCD Like Me.


I grew up in a filthy, filthy house. Well, let me clarify. As a small child, our house was actually quite clean. Until I was two, my mom was married and she kept up a very nice home. After the divorce, she became an in-home daycare worker, and the house was always spotless. (With Polaroid Instamatic evidence to prove it!) I remember my mom washing and waxing the floor, I remember fresh shiny countertops, and I remember that we had a separate playroom just for toys, so everything was kept in its place. But somewhere, somehow...I don't know, with my mom being a single mom often working multiple jobs at once, life must have been kind of depressing. She has been an office worker, a janitor, a construction worker, hell she even sorted labels at one point to earn a few pennies. She often did many different things all at once. We were broke as a joke, and she did what she could, and that meant working, and being gone an awful lot. (And being gone an awful lot meant kids left to their own devices to create an awful lot of mess.) Later, she became a school bus driver, and often worked very late hours.

Point is, what single mom of two bratty, messy kids wants to come home at 11 pm and clean up the whole house (especially when you're getting up at 4:45 am the next morning for work)? The whole thing had to feel unbelievably overwhelming to her. And if she did have some kind of undiagnosed depression, well, do you really think she had the motivation to scrub down the shower every Saturday morning? And we kids were almost no help at all.

So our house got progressively messier. To the point where it could only be described as filthy. Not cluttered, not messy. Filthy. Disgusting. I have crystal-clear images in my head of the kitchen, where we would sometimes have 7 or 8 paper grocery bags brimming to the top with ancient, stinking garbage, even spilling over onto the floor, and cat bowls filled with crusted-on food, and the sink so full of dirty dishes that that the sink was unusable. The dirty dishes slowly encroached upon other surfaces too, until everything was covered with either old food, dirty dishes, or outright trash.

The rest of the house was full of crap, too, sometimes literally, since we had  a billion pets. (At least the poop got picked up--it didn't sit around or get shellacked as though on a hot tin slide--but still, our carpets were grotesque.)

The laundry room was crammed full, piled up to my shoulders (this is not exaggeration), again, to the point where the laundry machine was unusable. So, like the dishes, it just kept piling up.

The bathroom was a health hazard. Truly. The tub & shower walls itself--I don't know why no one thought to just spray on some fucking BLEACH, which would have at least helped. But the shower & tub were coated in an inch of grime, dead skin, and massive amounts of mildew. The ledge where we kept the 10,000 bottles of shampoo and soaps and conditioners was covered in swamp water. The bathroom floor was covered in wet, used towels, since we only ever used towels once (instead of hanging them up) and then just chucked them right there on the floor, so you can imagine what dozens* of wet, mildewing towels covering the floor might have smelled like. Or maybe you can't. I hope you can't. The one chore I did have was the bathroom. It was always my job, when it came to that one day a year we might clean. I always did a good, thorough job, but I practically had to kill it with fire. I should have worn a Haz-Mat suit, I honestly should have.

*We had approximately 90237498372543 towels. You would too, if you had dozens on your bathroom floor, and dozens more filling the laundry room to the ceiling. I think we just bought more as needed. Christ.

Oh, and the cherry on top, I had pet mice. Their cage, for some reason, lived in the bathroom. And I, being lazy and 11, never cleaned their cage quite often enough. And even when I did, even when I gave my mice baths (I literally let them swim around in the sink for awhile), the cage stunk by the next day. Oh the stink. Ohhhhhh the stink.

My own bedroom had no visible floor. It was entirely, entirely covered with everything under the sun. Clothes, clean and dirty, toys, crafts, papers, anything and everything. There was nowhere to walk except ON everything. As prepubescent, I guess I didn't really care. The only time I cared was when it was my birthday, and time for a party, and time to invite friends over, and that required massive amounts of cleaning, done almost entirely by my mom (because we were unruly, undisciplined children who would show no responsibility for our own chores). I genuinely have no idea how she did it, but by the time I got home from school and it was almost time for my birthday party, the formerly near-condemned house was clean. A lot of time, that involved shoving things under the bed or hiding them in the brimming laundry room, but she did her best. However, the second the house was clean for a day, it became a dumpster again. It was truly the Pit of Despair. (Hereafter, POD.)

Occasionally, I would clean my room, and I even enjoyed Pledge-polishing every surface regularly, for awhile. A short while. Then, POD.

And please don't get me started on the garage. We're talking Hoarders, on an epic scale. Even to this day. If the time ever comes for my mom to move out (she still lives in the same house I grew up in, and while it's not foul and revoltingly filthy anymore, it is truly worthy of a Hoarders episode--possibly even the Hoarders special two-hour season finale), or, God forbid, she's around no more, instead of ever attempting to clean out the house to sell, I'm pretty sure we will have to go all What's Eating Gilbert Grape and just burn that fucker down.

Anyway. I have a hard time remembering exactly when my "issues" started, but I remember they started subtly. I started wearing shoes in the house at all times, or at least socks, so that I could take them off when I got into bed and have fresh clean bare feet (or stocking feet). Because the carpets were that dirty. If you steam-cleaned them, the water would have been black. It's like, how much more black could it be? And the answer is none. None more black.

So I started wanting my very person to remain clean, even if that meant just my feet. That was around age 12 or 13, I think. The next memory I have of being really bothered by germs was in middle school, still around age 13, and watching the girls exit the lavatory without washing their hands. I explicitly remember one time my BFF and Spanish class partner, Joy, was about to leave el baño without washing, and this was our conversation:

Me: Joy, aren't you going to wash before you leave?
Joy: Why? I showered this morning.
Me: ...

I must have blocked out the years in between 13 and 22, because I can't remember how the "being a little bothered" became outright germaphobia. But when I was 22, I was done. I wanted to move out. Main reason? So I could have a goddamn clean house and keep it that way. Keep it MY way. Keep things where I wanted them. Not have none-more-black carpets. So out I moved, into my cute little apartment. And then it began.

First and foremost, it was a no-shoes apartment. Shoes inside would simply not be tolerated. I had a sign on my front door that my mom brought over for me, and it gently warned visitors, "Kindly Remove Thy Shoes." (This was a throwback to my much younger days, when my mom had a sign on the inside garage door that read the same thing. She didn't want dirty-oily-garage-floor dirt coming into the house, you see. This was pre-POD times.)

My apartment was my sanctuary. Even though no one ever wore shoes in the joint, I vacuumed almost every single day. Why? you ask. Because, I answer.

I DAILY wiped every counter, every surface, every doorknob and faucet and touchable, with antibacterial Fantastik, sprayed onto a paper towel. (This was before they invented the love of my life, the miracle wonder that is Clorox wipes.) I disinfected constantly, even though it was only I who was living there.

I never once, in my five years of living there, used the common washing machines (because, gross). I took all my laundry to my mom's, where somehow miraculously over the years, it had become accessible.

Oh, and I began the habit of washing my hands immediately upon entering the premises.

From there it all just took off. I began what you would consider the downward spiral into germ insanity, and what I would consider the upward spiral into healthy germ awareness and beautiful hygienia(TM). Yet over time...the germ thing burrowed, tunneled, and ferreted its way deeper into my brain...and I went from washing my fruit with soap, to practically stroking out if a server's thumb touched my salad as she served my plate to me. And the list of Things I Do grows and grows. And, while I still think that the Things I Do make SENSE, I am beginning to realize that they are extreme, and that the list of Things I Do is constantly growing and taking over more and more of my life, and it's becoming harder and harder to be the way I am.

Not gonna stop me from washing the top of my soda cans, though.

So now you have a little idea of where, and why, I began to want to live in an antiseptic bubble. A lot of people grow up to become exactly like their parents, or do things in the very same way, or be unable to escape the vicious cycle, but I did exactly the opposite. I wanted out of the POD, and into my own sterile heaven. This little germ of OCD (zing!) might have always been in my brain, it might always have bloomed, but God knows that month-old molding spaghetti still on the stove, and unidentifiable horrors on the carpet, more than contributed to my obsessive nature.

So there you have the origin of my OCD. In general. Basically. For the most part.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things I Do.

Lest you think this blog is all fun, games, jokes, and bum-bums, let me assure you, it is not. In the famous words of one Mr. Billy Crystal:

It's not funny being a mom with OCD. It's not fun being a mom with OCD. It really, really sucks.

I just wanted to give you a quick rundown of the Things I Do. A non-exhaustive list. These are my obsessions. These are my compulsions. This is my disorder.

  • I wash all my fruits and vegetables. Oh really? you say, nonplussed. Doesn't everybody? Well first of all, let me tell you that no, not everybody does. *shudder* When I met my husband, he did not wash his produce. He ate store-bought grapes straight from the bag, without so much as a splash of water. Let it be known, I put an end to that with a right quickness. But back to my point: I wash all fruits and vegetables......WITH SOAP. Now, some of you may have done this once or twice with a certain fruit, like cantaloupes. A few years back, there was a big e.coli outbreak, traced back to cantaloupes. Why? Because cantaloupes sit around in shit manure-enriched dirt all day long. News stations started recommending washing your melons with soap (that's what she said?). And suddenly, people started thinking, "Hey, maybe I too should wash my fucking cantaloupe before slicing e.coli straight through its delicious orange flesh!" Even wikipedia agrees with me:

"Because the surface of a cantaloupe can contain harmful bacteria—in particular, Salmonella—it is always a good idea to wash a melon thoroughly before cutting and consumption."

God bless you, wikipedia. But I digest. So anyway, some of you might wash a honeydew or two with soap, but let me assure you, I wash all my produce with soap. A tiny dab of dishsoap. That includes apples (naturally--I mean, just think how many hands have picked them over, looking for that perfect Braeburn; fingers that have picked asses, hands that have flushed toilets, hands that have been sneezed all over, hands that have been on the naughty bits, fingers that have been up noses...). I also wash, with soap, oranges (if you cut them or gouge your fingers into them to peel them, IN go the germs), tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, avocados (again--slicing the salmonella straight through), everything. Even...bananas. Because, who wants to touch a dirty banana (that's what she said?) that has been handled by hundreds of people from one country to the next? I just don't want to handle a dirty banana and then go wipe drool from my precious newborn's mouth, is all. I want clean bananas. So sue me.
People always chastise me, "But then your fruit will taste like soap!" Umm, ever heard of this thing called rinsing? If you wash your plates and forks and spoons with dishsoap, does all your food taste like soap? No. Because you, umm, rinsed them?

So yes. That is Thing 1 that I do. Here is Thing 2.

  • I wash my hands the very second I enter my home (after, naturally, taking off my shoes). The whole family does. The first thing we do, no matter how full the bladder, no matter how hungry the husband, no matter how urgently something else needs to be done, is wash our hands. For a fresh start. To keep the germs of the world out of my sanctuary, my home. And upon arriving home, after washing, we also use hand sanitizer. Yes, we wash and THEN we use hand sanitizer too. If my husband is taking care of washing Maya's hands in the guest bathroom and I am washing up in the kitchen, you will often hear me anxiously scream out, "DID YOU USE HAND SANI AFTER??" And the answer is always yes. Because my husband has been well-trained is no fool. But still, I ask, because I can't not. One could even say I ask...compulsively. HUH!

  • If I pass somebody who has the nerve to cough, or, God in heaven forbid, sneeze, as I pass by, I instantly hold my breath and lower my head and look down. I hold my breath (mid-breath, at whatever stage of breathing I was in) in order to not inhale their ferocious and surely deadly maladies, and I look downward so that minuscule droplets and effluvia do not enter my eyeballs. That's right. Because eyes are a mucous membrane, and you are more likely to catch a cold if you touch your eyes (with cold-germy hands) than your mouth. And in my mind, I can see those cough germs propelled at me, and I die a little inside, say a few prayers, hold my breath, look down, and hurry past as fast as I can. 

OK, last point for now, because there are so many Things I Do that they will require a separate entry. And trust me. Some of them get goooood (and by good I mean crazaaaay). And some of the Things I Do are so good that I will in fact never, not ever share them with you, because that are JUST THAT loony toons. They are THAT crazy. Well, the tricky thing is, they are crazy to you. Not to me. To me, just embarrassing. And to me, they are right and good and important. To me, they are absolutely necessary. To me, they protect my family's health and save my sanity. But some Things I Do are even too outlandish to share. Maybe someday... 

Anyway, one last Thing I Do:

  • I will not let my children play at the McPlayPlace. Will not. More accurately, cannot. I wish I could, because PlayPlaces are fun Places to Play. And Maya wants to go. I wish I could take her. But I am held hostage by my phobias. To me, the McDonalds PlayPlace is a hotbed of germs. Why do I feel that way? Because it is. And you've got to admit that. But see, even though that place is positively crawling with every disease and virus known to mankind, most moms can still let their kids play there. Because kids like to play, and moms like milkshakes. And most moms don't think, "If I let my child so much as crawl through one McTunnel, she will come down with swine flu." Well I do. And I cannot help it, and I cannot stop it. There was one time--ONE TIME--a couple of years ago that I took Maya to the PlayPlace. I don't know how I managed, but I did. (I had woken up on the softer side of OCD that day.) And every so often while she played, I had her come over and use hand sanitizer, then keep playing. There may or may not have been a few dozen shrieks of "Maya! HANDS OUT! DON'T TOUCH YOUR MOUTH!!" throughout the very tense morning. When she was all done, I wiped her hands with sanitizing wipes, then used hand sanitizing gel, then went home and washed thoroughly, THEN used hand sani again. I know, you're thinking, "This bish gonna give her kid skraight-up alcohol poisoning." Or else by now you are just dying, DYING inside to start spouting off "facts" about the Hygiene Hypothesis. SEE ENTRY #1, MOTHERFUCKER.
But my point is, I let her. One time. And guess what happened? She. Got. Sick. She caught a cold. The dreaded cold.* Coincidence? Correlation, causation, whatnot, whathaveyou? All I know is that the one time I took my gee-dee kid to McPlay around a little, she got sick. And honest to God, this is a kid that just doesn't get sick. She's had like two colds in her life. Thus, coincidence, I think not. So never again. You can just forget that particular indoor germ incubator.  The McDonalds PlayPlace can kiss my bum-bum.
You can also forget bouncy houses, Chuck E. Cheese's, Funtasia, coffee shop play areas, mall play areas (*herk*), and the play area at doctors' offices (the absolute worst of the worst). Taking my daughter to outdoor parks is hard (and rare) enough, but on a broiling hot day when the sun's intense rays are there to act as God's Disinfectant, if you catch me in a rare moment of lowered anxiety, I might take my kid to slide a little at the joint down the street (but these days I am vigilant about checking for fossilized poop on said slide). So we play a little, I hyperventilate a little, I scream out a little too often "Maya HANDS OUT!!!", and we head home. Followed by a bleach bath and a quick dousing in flames. I kid.
*This dread, this extreme and absolute fear of colds and flus, that is a story for another day. Sit tight and try to be patient, child.

I wish I could take my child places. I do. I joke, but seriously: the panic. The anxiety. You cannot imagine the fear. So, stuck in the house day after day, I suffer. And worse, my kids suffer. 

And this is the part that's not funny, that's not fun.


Passing the Torch.

For my daughter's third birthday, I could have gotten her anything. A tricycle, a scooter, some dress-up clothes, whatever.

Instead, this is what she got:*

At first she was all, "WTF is this shit, Mom? I wanted a giant creepy decapitated Barbie head where you can curl her hair and put clips in it and scrub blue eyeshadow on her face and stuff."

But then she cheered up as she remembered, "Oh yeah, germs really aren't for sharing, and everyone needs a little reminder every now and then. Hey thanks Mom."

*Well, I mean she got other shit too. But this was clearly the most important present.

I think the author (Elizabeth Verdick) did a mostly great job with this book. My only complaint is in this passage:

"When do you wash your hands? Before it's time to eat. When things get messy. When you sneeze or cough or go potty--or anytime you need to." 

What she forgot was, "And when you touch handrails on the escalator, which you should know better than to do anyway; after you hold menus at restaurants, because, gross; when you pump gas; when you change a diaper (even just the pee-pee ones), since OMFG no mother ever seems to wash her hands after changing her precious precious darling's diaper, because after all it's "just" a little BABY'S poop, which must either be (1) because baby poop somehow differs inherently germwise from adult poop, or (2) because baby poop is darling; after you touch a doorknob of any kind; after you dig for gold; after you flush a recently murdered spider down the toilet (because you touched the flusher); after you touch raw meat (in fact, please use rubber gloves before doing so); after you adjust your wedgie; after you handle cash or your credit cards; after using your cell phone; after you go grocery shopping; after you go to the mall; after you go anywhere; after you share the peace of the Lord at church (all that shaking of hands?? I mean, I love you, brethren, but it doesn't mean I don't secretly rub in some Purell after greeting one another while the pastor prepares us for Holy Communion. Please, by all means, share the peace of the Lord, but not your bum-bum germs); and so forth. So needless to say, I'm a little disappointed in Elizabeth Verdick for not adding in the line, "and also, every time you go anywhere, do something, or touch anything. Because germs are everydamnwhere, and they are most assuredly not for sharing."

At church, our departing remarks are, "Go in peace, serve the Lord." Instead, I like to quote this book by chanting, " 'Go and wash your hands, because germs are not for sharing.' Oh and plus Praise Jesus."

Just doing my best to raise tiny germaphobes.

Now That We've Got That Cleared Up, Let's Continue the Introduction.

I thought I should probably explain the title of my blog. Poop on a Hot Tin Slide. It's all very cryptic. See, this one time, I took my oldest daughter Maya to the park, and there was this big curving metal tube slide, see, and it was a hot day, see, and Maya wanted to slide. See? And there's poop involved. So like I says, cryptic.

So up to the tip-top of the slide she climbed, and I waited at the bottom and peered anxiously up the slide tube to catch my darling dear as she slid down on her bum-bum. Instead, halfway up the slide, I was faced with what could only have been a baked-on, caked-on, solid as the rock of ages, poop. On the hot tin slide. My world went slow-motion as my mouth opened and I began to yell to Maya, "Noooooooo! Dooon't gooo dowwwwn the sliiiiiiide, Maaayaaaaa!" But it was too late. She had slid. Right over the poop on the hot tin slide. I flew into such a panic that I thought I would perish. I imagined my child exiting the slide with some other child's diaper-dump all over her adorable, pristine clothes. I didn't even know what I would do if that were the case. My mind went wild with the horrific possibilities. Thoughts of dumping the pants, and the child herself, in the trash bin crossed my mind.

I gingerly but thoroughly examined her pants for evidence of excrement. I found none. I checked again. I saw no crap. One last check yielded no evidence that Maya had picked up any traces of shittery. I could only assume that (1) the poop had been on that baking-hot slide so long that it was now fossilized; (2) the child who had donated the poop had also at the same meal consumed latex, cement, silicone, papier mache, Gorilla Glue, Magic-Shell chocolate ice cream topping, and God knows what else, giving the poop an instant, rock-hard sheen and a stick-to-it-ive-ness the likes of which have never been seen (I'm almost positive that Post-It Notes were created in a similar lucky accident); (3) the heat and friction of so many tiny bum-bums sliding over that same pile of poop had seared it, nay, ground it, into the slide itself; or (4) the poop had been shellacked for posterity.

So I don't know what evil, hateful mother knowingly sent her child down the slide with a pantload, or what child would be so Damien as to stop mid-slide and take a giant duke, but either way, Maya's trousers somehow escaped duke-free.

However. That didn't stop me from stripping her naked from the waist down when we got to the car, before I'd dare put her in her carseat.

Just in case.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Get a Few Things Straight.

Here is the #1 ground rule for this blog. If you so much as breathe the words "Hygiene Hypothesis" to me, I will kick you in the slats.

No, actually what I think I will do is force you to lick the handle of a shopping cart, just to see how you like it. Then I might have you rub your face all over the vinyl seat at a restaurant. Then I will have you stir your morning tea with a ballpoint pen from the doctor's office reception desk. Then I will have you consume a sticky bun dropped on the floor of a Porta-Potty. Then I will have you go share a Kleenex with H1N1 Patient Zero. I guarantee a stronger immune system in just five easy steps!!!!

If you at any point mention that the mouth of a dog is far cleaner than that of a human's, first I will direct you to and then I will let you make out with my Saint Bernard at your leisure.

If you're the type to claim that the seat of a public toilet is cleaner than your kitchen counter, as so many people like to spout off without for one second thinking it through? I will make you a nice big spaghetti dinner, ground beef meatballs on the rare side, serve it straight on the shitter, and make you eat it with your fingers. After petting a llama. Who rolled in dung. Because after's good for you. Right?

I mean FFS. It's a Hypothesis. It didn't even make Theory status. You know, like the Theory of Gravity, or the Theory of Relativity? Observe this truth:
"A theory has been extensively tested and is generally accepted, while a hypothesis is a speculative guess that has yet to be tested."
It's a hypothesis, and an extremely flawed one at that. Not completely mistaken in every way, but generally illogical, unsound, and outright ridic in most ways. And people misinterpret its basic point so very deeply ("let the baby gnaw on the cat's litter-coated rogue poop, it's good for her immune system!!") that I want to bend them over my knee and smack their bum-bums with a sterile nitrile-gloved hand until they finally get it. The Shmygiene Shmypothesis: We could debate about it all day and all night, and trust me, I would soundly kick your ass with my irrefutable logic.

But I don't have the time for that because I am busy BLOGGING ABOUT IT DUH.

In other words, Hygiene Hypothesis my ass bum-bum.