Saturday, July 30, 2011

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.



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  2. No offense meant by this, but you need to see someone about this, this is not healthy. OCD is often accompanied with a logical rationalizations for the actions (germs are out there, therefore i need to protect myself and kids), but that does not make them any less troubling or damaging, being fearful of germs enough to not touch anything is to go through life scared and fearful, this alone is doing a major disservice to yourself and more importantly your children. get some help, there's plenty of people out there who can help you get over it, you're not alone.

  3. Thanks, but don't worry, I am seeing someone and seeking help. But that's a post for another time, because I can't blog it all at once, can I? :) I have a lot to get through and a lot to explain, but trust me, I know that many many Things I Do are not typical nor healthy (though I will remain ever the vigilant handwasher), and I am seeking help.

  4. Sometimes I find myself doing this too...constantly checking over and over to make sure doors/windows are locked. For me the big thing is when we go somewhere and I panic about forgetting to lock the car (I had my car broken into once when I DID forget to lock it). I've been known to leave in the middle of a movie to run out to the parking lot to make sure the car is locked. What helps me is when I lock it, check that it's locked, then say out loud for everyone to hear - "THE CAR IS DEFINITELY LOCKED!". Saying it out loud for others to hear helps cement it in my mind and then I don't stress about it.

    Although then I find myself asking the hubby "I said that car was locked, right??" several times, but at least I don't have to get up...

  5. That's me too. :) Whenever my husband and I arrive at our destination, unload the kids, the diaper bag, and the kitchen sink from the car, and start walking through the parking lot, I immediately ask him, "Did you lock the car?" It's like once we're out of the car and on our way into [insert destination here], I grow immediately deaf and do not remember if I heard that soul-soothing sound of the car lock BEEPING its heart out. So usually he tells me with a sigh, "Yes, I locked it," and I guess I just missed hearing the beep, but sometimes he actually does forget to lock it, so after I ask, he will. I figure it can't hurt to always nonuple--I mean double--check, even at the expense of a weary, irritated husband. :) So yeah, I'm a car-lock-checker too.

  6. You are brave to be sharing this stuff, and even braver to be seeking help for it.I am so seriously hooked on your blog.

  7. I am so, so glad, EddieD. It's always a challenge to share it with people I know, but I'm really gla I told you about it. And I'm even moreso glad that you like it. I hope you continue to. :)


  8. Hi Jo! I love your blog. This post makes me think about the OCD types of things I do. A couple come to mind.

    1) Alarm Clocks. I set my alarm clock. And then I check it about 10 more times before I can let myself go to sleep. In my mind I'm like "WHAT IF IT UN-SET ITSELF?!" So lately I've started setting TWO alarms, and now I only double check them a few times. Is this progress?

    2) Cooking with gas. I've always had an irrational fear of things that can either electrocute you or blow you up. In my new apartment I have to cook with a gas canister, ya know, one of those big ones that hooks up to a stove? Kind of like indoor camping. Anyway, you're supposed to unscrew it a bit to let the gas flow, then do your cooking, then screw the gas canister knob tight again to stop the gas flow. It scares the hell out of me. I bet I check that knob to make sure it's tight every single time I walk past the kitchen. And a couple more times before I leave the house or before I go to bed. Today a man came to change the canister because I ran out of gas, and I hid in the other room while he did it. When he left I ran to the kitchen to make sure the knob was tightened.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing everything you do! You've got company :)


    1. Ha!! EJ, I am sooooo with you on the alarm clock thing. I stare at it for like 12 minutes before being "satisfied," then I wake up and panic all night long, thinking it's not going to go off. Because I've had too many times when it didn't.

      And NO THANK YOU on the cooking with gas thing. Scary as crap.


  9. hey. i check doors also. I made lila sleep in my room with me for a long time partially because she didn' want to be in her own bed but partially because I was afraid of EXACTLY this Jessica Lunsford situation. I now sleep with the door at the top of the stairs barricaded and her windows are locked tight and the doors between our rooms are open. i check on her multi times per night also. :)

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