Well that title should catch people’s attention!!!
A couple of weeks ago I restarted therapy for a problem that I have frankly been too embarrassed to talk about at length and deal with. Whilst I have made fantastic steps forward with nearly all of my other OCD problems, this is the one problem preventing cross that finish line of OCD recovery.
But before I talk about this present problem, it may be helpful to look back on my life with OCD, just to give you a picture of the problems OCD created in my life at one time, all of which I have dealt with:
- I could not use a toilet (even my own) without washing and showering myself for hours.
- I couldn’t touch a toilet at all, I would use elbows and feet to open bathroom doors etc.
- I avoided public toilets for anything but stand up urination for over a decade.
- If I had to use a loo when out, my clothes were so contaminated in my mind I had to throw them away.
- I had separate clothes, indoor and outdoor, and outdoor had to be kept in a box outside my room.
- I could not wear clothes, I would have to sot naked on a towel in my bedroom.
- I had to shower after going outside, even to local shop.
- During the daytimes I would avoid eating so not have to use the loo when out.
- I took pills to stop me needing the loo.
- I would wrap my mobile up in cling film in those early days of mobiles.
- I used to use several bottles of washing up liquid on my hands even at the kitchen sink.
- I would stare at the water taps and gas knobs to ensure they were off (not long, but still 10 or 15 minutes at times).
- I once had issues checking, and once drove around and around for 50 miles to check a cone I had moved was in the right place.
- I once drove back 40 minutes to check I had locked a door.
I am sure there’s plenty of other ‘mad’ behaviours I did because of OCD. As you can see above, although I mainly had contamination problems, it’s shifted to checking at times. That’s partly why I despise the acronyms, because OCD will shift and it’s not the theme or ‘flavour’ that is the problem, it’s the way we deal with the unwanted thoughts (obsession) that is the problem, i.e. OCD is the problem, not the letter some acronyms put before it.
As mentioned above, I have dealt with all of those OCD problems, for readers in a similar position it may be helpful if I also list some of my achievements over OCD:
- I can use a public toilet.
- I can use a toilet without washing my hands if needs must.
- I can put my hand in toilet water (I have a pics of this).
- Go out for a few hours without checking.
- Go out deliberately leave the gas hob on.
- I can lick sole of my shoe.
- I can pick dog mess up with just a dog poop bag.
- I can pick ship poo up in my hand (I have a pic of this).
- I can run my hand over sole of my shoe.
- I can drop my phone on floor of a public toilet.
- I can eat food I’ve dropped on the floor, even when out (within reason).
- I can pee all down my leg… long story, accident when cycling, wind blow back!
So with all that progress I am perhaps 90% recovered, or to put it in sporting terms, I am at the last hurdle of a 100m hurdle race with the finish line the other side of this hurdle. For a long time I have walked around this hurdle avoiding not just dealing with it, even talking about it, well enough is enough, it’s time to talk!!! Not just for me, but for others suffering in silence too.
So I finally restarted therapy (CBT), and whilst it’s early to decide if this therapist can help me or not, I am 100% certain that the CBT approach is my best chance of recovery.
I have debated if I should talk about this in public, and after asking a few questions about this issue on the OCD-UK forums last week, yesterday mid bike ride I decided I would talk more.. I then debated if I should post, but I know others are struggling with this, and if nobody else is going to talk about it then we need to start somewhere.. so here we go.
So on with the video… but first, let me just make this disclaimer…It’s embarrassing enough so please forgive the most unflattering video angle, and I didn’t bother shaving before heading out on the bike, by this point I had just climbed 800ft in 4 or 5 miles so I was not looking my best and it’s embarrassing enough so let’s all ignore my double chins.. ok! 😉
In the video I talked about when I am triggered I go through a ritual which takes two hours. It goes something like this:
- I can sleep after (in my mind the area is already dirty), but then when I wake I can’t touch anything or do anything until my rituals complete. If someone knocks at the door I have to ignore.
- Carefully tip toe to the bathroom, use the toilet and then bath (without touching shower curtain), then shower straight after the bath.
- Get out of the bathroom, open all the doors to the kitchen and washing machine door, set the cycle to run. Then strip the bed and carefully place bed cloths in without touching doors or walls and kick the door shut with my foot so the machine starts.
- Back into the bathroom, clean the toilet (in case anything on it from night before or before my bath), then shower myself clean.
- Spray with Dettol kitchen cleaner all the doors, walls and handles with I passed with the bed clothes, the outside of the washing machine, the edge of my bed and anything I may have touched i.e phone.
- Back into the bathroom and spray the bath, taps and anything else I may haver touched in the bathroom.
- Back into the shower to clean myself all over again.
- Keep running the washing machine until I see enough bubbles on the ‘dirty’ bed clothes to ‘feel’ they’re clean… although step 8 can be done as I get on with my day.
So at this point my ritual complete and wont bother me again for days or weeks until I next trigger myself.
So that’s where I am, that’s what I have problems with. I don’t think it’s the semen itself that is the problem, I think it’s what that represents, I get a surge in anxiety, but I can’t quite put my finger on what I am worried about, I think it’s something along the lines of disgust, shame etc perhaps mental contamination, I cant quite put my finger on it, and no amount of thinking when in that moment is leading to answers, which is why I have presented for more CBT.
That’s why I went back to see a therapist, in the hope she would ask me the right questions, to get me thinking in the right process and maybe, just maybe help me join the dots, even the missing dots. I truly believe if I can join the dots with what is keeping the anxiety and fear so high, I will be able to deal with and challenge and overcome by doing the appropriate behavioural exercises without showing or washing.
I don’t have any answers right now, but I think the first step is talking about it, and if this post helps one other person feel less alone, less isolated then my embarrassment is a small price to pay.
P.S. As you can see I am panting after just 3 or 4 miles in the video, so there is a real challenge to get myself fit to cycle 100 miles in just 7 or 8 hours thus summer, but that’s what I am working towards. If you think my story and the charity OCD-UK is worthy of a couple quid of your money then please do sponsor my cycling challenge for OCD-UK at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ocd100