This is a hard one to blog about, because it involves a dear friend of mine. She doesn't know about this blog, though, so don't worry your pretty little heads or wring your grimy little hands.
So lately I've been wondering if I'm "getting better." See, I was seeing a shrink for awhile, not for talk therapy but for hardcore meds, because this has gone on too long and there are parts of it that are too much for me to bear. The weight of this can be crushing. And none of it, I feel, is something I can "talk through." So off to Mr. PhD it was, at $300 an hour. It's cool, we gots mad insurance though my husband's badass job, right?*
*I discovered a month later that Mr. Dr. is not a preferred provider, so we owe the $300 deductible and 20% of every other visit I had, whereas usually every medical visit of any kind is completely, 100% covered. Surprise!deductible. Shitballs.
Anyway, at first Mr. Dr. was aiiiight, starting me off on a regimen of meds that he felt would work. He also quite literally prescribed, on a prescription pad, one hour of pure alone-time, each and every day, where I could do whatever I wanted, in total peace. I straight-up laughed in his face. Do you have children, Mister Doctor? I wanted to inquire.
I liked him a lot at first, but then he started rubbing me the wrong way. After a few less than stellar visits, one time I showed up at the bum-bum crack of 4 pm, my precise appointment time, and I waited in the office, alone, no receptionist in sight, for 25 minutes. Eventually Mr. Dr. emerged from his office with his previous patient, unapologetic, and soon after, we set about having our session. Our session had been scheduled as a 30-minute block that time. At the end of the appointment, he said to me, clearly irritated, "We got a little off track today. This went on for almost an hour, so next time we need to stick to the timeframe." I was struck dumb and just stood there and nodded, then waddled off with my tail twixt my legs like a dog what doesn't even know that it did something wrong.
When I got in my car, 1.5 minutes later, my car clock verified that it was 5 pm on the nose. Our appointment had run 35 minutes, max. More like 32.5. Not one hour. I was like, "Is HE the one who needs meds? Did he not realize his previous patient ran 25 bloody minutes over?!" It actually really upset me, for days and days, and kept me up at night! (I couldn't let go of it, for some reason, and actually considered emailing him to say, "Kind Sir, are you not aware that it was the extreme tardiness your previous patient which caused our 30-minute session to end at such a late hour? I demand an apology within the fortnight.") So that kind of put the last nail in the coffin. I didn't want to see him anymore, and certainly not at $300 a MF hour.
So instead I started seeing my general practitioner, whom I generally love anyway. I figured, if this was all about brain meds, and the psychiatrist got me started, she could continue from there. She ended up disagreeing with some of his thoughts and choices of meds (what's so wrong with taking large doses of benzos? o hai five klonopin and 6 xanax!! Er, never mind), and we worked out a slightly different med situation. I have been and will be continuing to work with her. I've been feeling better at times, and when the moment came where I thought to myself, "OSHITZ, Maya picked a crayon off the floor of the restaurant and then continued to use it, eh, fuck it, who cares!!!", I thought, "Hey! I'm getting better!!"
Well, then came the Acid Test.
A couple months ago, I hung out with a friend and her kids at their house. Both her kids are often sick. They are a family that just doesn't put the same importance on handwashing as I do, and it seems that everyone almost always has some illness or another. But because I know how often their kids get sick, every time I see one of them grab Maya's hand and trot off to go play their room, that vise inside me tightens. My brain sweats. My heart races. I want to scream out "NO! DON'T TOUCH HER!!" This sounds irrational, and yes, I GET THAT IT IS TO YOU, but it is not irrational to ME.* And I cannot stress enough to you how often and how badly these children and their parents get sick. It is one fever after one snotty nose after one deep hacking cough after another. Rinse, repeat. So every time I get invited over, or my friend wants to get all the kids together to play, I die a little.
And every time I visit them, almost without fail, the very. next. day, my friend Facebooks that her kids have fallen ill. And I think to myself, "Fuckshit!! I'mone die of teh plague."
*No, you don't have to tell me that this is my brain making excuses for my behaviors. I am aware that I have a disorder. However, many if not most of my behaviors and actions (handwashing, affinity for Lysol wipes, etc.), I will stand firmly by, disorder or not. There is right and there is wrong, and while I can be "extreme," I am also most assuredly right. pthtbhtbhb.
So a couple months ago, this friend (whom, honestly, I dearly love, despite her differing ideas and opinions on hygiene) invited us over to graciously cook us up a chicken dinner. After welcoming us into her home, she wanted to hold the baby, and she knows me well enough to understand that the Hot Tin Slider House Rules state in no uncertain terms that if you want to hold the baby, you wash your hands first. So God bless her, she washed her hands. After she held little Naomi, we all went into the kitchen to help with the meal. She started the chicken.
And listen. I don't mean to throw my friend under the bus. I am only here to report on what I saw, what I as someone who has OCD sees and notices. That is what this blog is about. What do I see, through my eyes? What do I notice, as someone who is obsessed with noticing germs?
And here is what I saw and noticed: chickin-drippins, they was getting everwhere. And her chicken-hands were mixing up the salad I brought, and touching the counter, and opening doorknobs, and all over the refrigerator, and so forth. She would use her hands to open the lid of the garbage can that literally had streaming ribbons of wet God-knows-what on it, and then shove something deep inside said garbage receptacle, and then carry on with food prep. The chicken sat out a good two hours before being cooked. She also kept using utensils (spatulas, fork-prongs, grabby-things, etc.), that she had dug out of the sink. The sink, FFS, where other dirty dishes lie, where raw meat has dripped, where hands have been washed overtop (well, OUR hands anyway), where all manner of epic, epic germs live. The sink, where an estimated 500,000 bacteria per square inch wriggle and writhe and mock me. Jesus mother of Mary. So, our chicken dinner got cooked up with a filthy sink spatula. Awesome. My soul cried.
Occasionally, she'd exit the kitchen to go help her daughter blow her nose, or help her son wipe his bum-bum after he screeched out, "Mom, I poooooped in the potttttty!!"
Not to mention, there was a pet turtle. GOD IN HEAVEN A TURTLE.* Kid #1 was touching it and letting it crawl all about. I kept trying to quietly get Kid #1 to wash his hands, but he wouldn't.
In addition, my friend's boyfriend/babydaddy was sneezing, and both the children were looking feverish. The boyfriend actually asked his listless son at one point, "Are you feeling sick?" Cue my total mental meltdown. My heart shrunk ten sizes that day.
Then Kid #2 wanted to play with the baby. If you remember the Slider House Rules, you'll know that I make no bones about it, and I told her that she had to wash before doing so. But she'd wash, then come over and yank at the baby's hands for a few minutes, then go roll all over the carpet, yank a boogin out her nose, scratch at her wee bum-bum, shove a hand down her crotch, possibly even go pat Turkey the Turtle, and then come back for more baby touching. I didn't know how to stop her, without looking like a paranoid mental patient having heart palpitations and a severe case of dry-mouth. Which I am and was.
Now listen again. None of this makes my friend or her family BAD. It means they don't see what I see. My friend was raised differently, and she does not suffer my disorder, and she just plain and simple doesn't worry about the things I do. And again, none of this is to say "Wow, what a terrible person she is." It is to try to share MY experience, to show it to you through the eyes of someone suffering from intense germ anxiety. To show you how my eyes act as a Crimestopper Chopper 4 helicopter pilot with infrared night goggles, where germs are the hot-blooded robbers on the getaway. I see them. I see the germs, I feel the germs. I see everything, and it causes horrible anxiety.
And that anxiety can ruin everything. Even lovely evenings with true friends, whom I love regardless of sink germs, and who love me regardless of the fact that they see me as totally apeshit bananas crazy in the noggin. My beautiful friend, she can be a saint to put up with me sometimes, I swear. This doesn't mean I don't wish she would take care with the chickin-drippins though.
So the day was full of all the things I fear most. Raw-meat germs. Bum-bum germs. Escherichia coli germs. Sea-creature germs.
Alas, what should have been a pleasant dinner with a favorite couple and their darling children turned out to be something that caused me to panic. I played along, joked, laughed, talked, even forced down a few bites of Chicken Con Staphylococcus Aureus (an exotic recipe she picked up during her travels) (I kid, I kid), but inside I felt miserable.
And I was just waiting, waiting for the next day, when I knew that my friend would be Facebooking, "My poor darlings have come down with 103-degree fever, Roseola, purple spots, Dengue fever, black hairy tongue, severe food poisoning, cold sores, pink-eye, swine flu, and The Grippe!"
Finally we made our exit. I make light of it, but all the way home I sobbed. I cried. I cried from the pressure that had been building up inside me. I cried because I was afraid. I cried because I'd wanted to have a good time and my disorder simply wouldn't let me. I cried because I feel helpless and hopeless. I cried because my friends are so generous and beautiful, and yet I can't always be comfortable around them. I cried because I don't want my infant to get black hairy tongue.
Now, granted, I don't usually feel THIS much anxiety when visiting other people. (So if you're my friend and you're reading this, honestly, my OCD-meter is not turned up this high when I am with you. Because you are not this particular couple with their particular couple-o-kids.) But it's still not fair that I couldn't enjoy myself. It's not fair that I spent the entire time panicked. It's not fair that I can't let Maya play with her two little best friends without wanting to scream, "OK, BUT DON'T TOUCH EACH OTHER!!"
And it's not fair that nothing's going to fix this. There is no pill I can take that will make me forget that there are germs on things. There is no pill I can take that will let me dreamily lounge around on my dear friend's deep, cozy velour couch (OMFG LICE) with an icy bev in hand, happily chatting away whilst her children are hacking and snotting seven feet away and playing Ring Around the Rosie with my daughters, hand in hand. There is, it always seems, no hope.
Because that day was the Acid Test. Are all my pills working? AM I GETTING BETTER? AM I??