In her blog post, she makes excellent points. Mostly because it seems she basically agreed with me. Heh. I found myself thinking, "Well, she's not wrong about that...or that...or even that...Hey! I said that too!"
And then I bristled a little bit. I took a moment's offense at the statement "I simply cannot avoid all the germs she can. I have a life."
I took offense because, obviously, it seemed to be telling me I have no life or that I need to get one. And I know Dar would never hurt my feelings on purpose, but at first, I must confess, I was stung.
But then I thought a little more. And you know what? I TOTALLY DON'T HAVE A LIFE. Or, more accurately, my poor babies don't. (Well, OK, one of my babies, Naomi, is too young, at five months old, to have a life or to know about cold germs and bum-bum germs--although whenever she sneezes, we jokingly say, "Noey, Christsakes, cover your sneeze!!")
But yes, that's the whole point, of this disorder, of this blog: I don't have a life. You're right, Dar.
The whole problem with my OCD is that, indeed, my life and my husband's life and my children's life are drastically impacted. I am consumed with panic and fears about germs, and that means that either (1) I just don't GO anywhere; or (2) I freak out internally whenever we DO go somewhere, which is no fun. No fun at all, I assure you. I don't have a life, because getting out there to live it scares me.
I am a stay-at-home mom. Aside from things like taking time out for the kids' naps or allowing time for my all-important surfing of the web, my job is to raise and grow and inspire and stimulate my children by taking them places in this world. Instead, we stay home. When I say I'm a stay-at-home mom, I got-damn mean it.
So do I have a life? No, not really. Occasionally, when I wake up on the right side of OCD, I do take my kids out--to the park, on an errand to Babies R Us, to the neighbor's house, even, like whoa, into the backyard. I know, right??
Sidenote: What's sad about that is that it's not a joke--it takes extreme effort and motivation to just plain take my kids into our own yard. It's less about germs than it is about motivation--I think that's a whole separate issue. Often, I tell Maya, "You can go play outside in our [fully-fenced] yard by yourself. Mama can't go outside right now. But you can, and I will watch you through the window." Needless to say, this isn't a very ideal suggestion for her, since she wants to play, and play with ME. But one of the
...or I'm just plain and simply a fat fuck what won't get off the couch,
or else I'm just a lazy ass,
but all I know is I suck for a plethora of reasons. A cornucopia, if you will.
Anyway. So those were my two first reactions to Dar's "rebuttal" to my Hygiene Hypothesis post: Agreement, yet at the same time, a little pain.
But she is right. She has a life, and can't spend all that time worrying, like I do. Or, more accurately, she just doesn't spend all that time worrying, because she doesn't have a mental disorder. See, she's lacking one crucial thing:
I joke. I joke so I don't cry. Tears of a clown, and all that shit.
No. Not that clown.
No. Not that clown either. Jeez, you guys.
(Can I interrupt this regularly scheduled program to tell you all that I HAVE MET TIM CURRY IN PERSON? OK then. Back to bum-bum germs.)
So, while Dar may basically agree with me on a lot of points, the thing is, it doesn't occur to her in the same way it does to me. She might go to a friend's house and not notice if the friend washed her hands before starting dinner. She might let her kids play at the McPlaguePlace and keep popping over for more bites of fries before heading back into the tunnels, without using hand sanitizer three times in a row first. She might go for a walk and let her kids pet the neighbor dog, then go home and just keep playing without needing to wash first. She might, sin of all sins, wear shoes in the house. ;)
Because while she knows good hygiene, and agrees that handwashing is very important, things don't occur to her like they do to me. I can't even say things ever even do "occur" to me, since the thoughts never left in the first place.
A couple of her quotes stood out to me:
"Yes, washing your hands is good. Yes, it's clean and I advocate it strongly for everyone. But to the point of compulsion? If I see a compulsive tendency popping up in my kid, taking care of that (provided they don't have a mental block that predisposes them to compulsions in general) trumps hand washing."
The only "good" thing I can say about my OCD is that I don't compulsively wash (or make my kids wash) in the way people imagine most OCDers do. I don't wash 12 times in a row. Once is fine. I don't jump up off the couch with the sudden and random compulsion to wash. I wash at what I think are very appropriate times. So I'm not one of those people who washes compulsively, except...I don't know what else you'd call it. I guess you could say that I DO have a compulsion to wash. Just not until my hands bleed, or in the middle of the night, etc. So thank goodness for that, anyway.
Then Dar said:
"They really haven't lived in a bubble, and that's okay. I'd rather them be sick sometimes if it allows them to live a little."That's also where she and I differ. I'd prefer ANY option over my kids getting sick. This is the obsession, the constant worry, the all-consuming fear I can't get over. And another of her quotes really got to me deeply:
"Mental health is as important as physical health."
She hit the nail on the head with that last sentence. That's where I struggle to find balance. Because I believe strongly that there are bajillions of horrible germs on the toys at the Children's Museum, I can't let my daughter play there without having an extreme panic attack. And I'm not giving my daughter a chance to play, explore, learn. So I don't know what to do--how to balance it all? Go to the Museum anyway, at the expense of MY mental health, just to make my kids happy? Or keep them home, where I feel safe and clean, at the expense of the richness of their lives?
Obviously, the answer is, I need to find a way to NOT feel terrified and horrified by taking my kids to the Museum. Win-win. Kids play, I feel fine. But it's the "I feel fine" part I'm working on, and trying to find a fix for.
Because months later, many visits to the doctor later, and all MANNER of medicinal nonsense later, I'm still where I started. Living in a bubble and keeping my kids chained in there too.