One Day Without OCD: An Experiment (part 2)

So the hand-washing tally for yesterday ended up totaling 15 hand washes with soap and 2 soap-less rinses.  The rinses were cheating.  3 of the hand washes were cheating, but the rest adhered to the rules.  I also did not used hand sanitizer at all yesterday, not even once!


I rinsed my hands a couple of times as a compromise.  I really couldn’t handle doing nothing, but I really didn’t want to cave all the way and use soap.  Plus, these aren’t completely cheating (or at least that’s what I talked myself into thinking).  I got garlic butter all over my hands.  I probably could have just wiped it off with a napkin or towel, but I rinsed it off.  Then later when I was rinsing off a plate and a piece of food hit my hand, I rinsed my hands off.

My first illegal hand wash with soap was after loading the dishwasher.  I caved.  I couldn’t bring myself to touch anything after touching dirty dishes.  Dirty dishes cause me really high levels of anxiety.  My mom could never get me to help clean dishes when I was a teenager.  I flat-out refused.  Dirty dishes have always terrified me.  Unfortunately, now, if I don’t clean them, no one will, so I clean them and hate every second of it.  The anxiety was too much, so I washed my hands.  I beat myself up about it at first, but was able to forgive myself after just a couple of hours (I usually spend at least a whole day beating myself up over a failure).  See?  I’m learning!

The next illegal hand wash came after I showered.  I couldn’t resist washing after putting lotion on my feet.  I know my feet were technically clean because I had just gotten out of the shower, but I hate hate HATE feet.  Once again, the anxiety was too high, so I washed.  I was too tired to be mad at myself for more than a few minutes.  To make up for this, though, I went and emptied the dryer lint and resisted washing, which I am usually unable to do.

My last illegal hand wash was immediately before bed.  I couldn’t bear the thought of going to bed contaminated.  My hands usually end up touching my face and/or my pillow while I’m sleeping.  I just washed my sheets yesterday.  I’m not ready for them to feel contaminated yet.  So I washed.  I was ok with it because I knew that I had done well overall for the day.  See that?  No beating myself up.  That’s called improvement!

I had one other sort-of cheat.  It was mid-afternoon and I had some dirty laundry to put in the washing machine.  I knew that not washing my hands after doing so would be more than I could handle.  I also knew that I was hungry and that I would be allowed to wash my hands before eating a snack.  So I ran to do laundry and then washed my hands to eat a snack.  It’s technically legal, but I still feel like I cheated.  I should have done the laundry after eating a snack.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

There were soooo many other times that I badly wanted to wash my hands, but didn’t.  It was really, really hard, but I’m glad I resisted.  Success feels good!

Success with Exposures

I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon.  It had been raining all day, so my car was wet.  I touched it.  I touched the groceries.  I touched my car again to come home.  Once home,  went to get the mail.  After touching all of these contaminated things, I did not wash my hands.  I don’t know how I managed, because anything outside causes me a lot of anxiety, but I was able to handle it.

I cleaned my cat’s litter box and managed to not take a shower after doing so (I always take a shower after cleaning the litter box).  AND I only washed my hands one time with lukewarm water (I usually wash my hands 2-3 times with really hot water after cleaning the litter box).  This was a major accomplishment!

Then I did my homework exposures.  I touched my shoes with both hands and then proceeded to get on my computer, thereby contaminating it.  While sitting there, I pet my cats and continued using my computer.  I resisted washing my hands for all of this.  I didn’t wash until it was time to make dinner.

I took a six-minute shower and I didn’t do any hand washing rituals while in the shower.  I usually wash my hands a few times throughout a shower and my showers are usually anywhere from 15-30 minutes.

At the End of the Day

Overall, I think that’s pretty damn successful for a first attempt at a non-OCD day.  I’m definitely not doing it again any time soon, but maybe eventually.  I was so stressed out by the end of the day!!  2/3 of the times I cheated with washing were in the last few hours of the day.  It got harder to resist then because the anxiety had been building all day.

I avoided doing a lot of stuff throughout the day.  I did some exposures, but most of the day was spent on my couch avoiding contamination.  This shows me that I am not ready to give up exposures yet, but that eventually I will probably be able to do so.

I know some of you were probably hoping that this could be a regular thing if it ended successfully.  That’s not the case and please don’t be upset about that.  I was able to handle one day that was mostly spent shut in my house on my couch.  I can’t live like that.  I’m not ready to go up against the rest of the world without my compulsions just yet.  Someday, maybe, but I’m not there yet.  So please don’t be upset.  Today I am allowing myself leniency on hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.  What I did yesterday will help me cut back on contamination rituals.  I already avoided a couple of washed today because of what I did yesterday.  I am making progress.  It may not be as quickly as you would like, but it’s progress.  Just remember that.


14 thoughts on “One Day Without OCD: An Experiment (part 2)

  1. I don’t think you have to convince us. We believe it was great progress. Maybe you’re trying to convince yourself. Great job! I’m proud of you. You couldn’t have even THOUGHT of doing a day like that a month ago, let alone walking it out. It may seem you stayed in the house all day, but you did go to the grocery store.

    1. No, I don’t need to convince myself. I am very proud of myself and know it was progress. I went into it knowing it would only be one day. I just wanted to make sure everyone else understands that. I know you get it. It’s more for those who don’t understand OCD. Like I told you on the phone recently, it’s common for family members and loved ones of people with OCD to push for quicker and more dramatic results than what is possible to achieve. I just didn’t want any confusion when I went back to giving into some compulsions today. Yesterday didn’t cure me. I still have a lot of work to do. It was, however, a big step.

  2. I am very proud of you. I must admit, I only know a little bit about OCD, but I could feel myself cheering you on as I read your post. Give yourself a pat on the back, roads are travelled one step at a time….

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Elly. After looking around a bit, I am so impressed by your bravery and honesty as you go through this journey. It must be such a huge challenge. It sounds like you’re making progress though, which is awesome 🙂 Like kelly, I also feel like I was cheering you on as I read more and more of your post.

    1. Thank you! It is the biggest challenge I have ever undertaken, but also the most rewarding! I have struggled with OCD my whole life. It’s amazing to begin to have some control over it for the first time in my life.

  4. Don’t worry about us! Just worry about pacing yourself. You don’t want to overdo it, but I think this experiment really helped for you in the long run. You should be very proud of yourself. 🙂

  5. Some of the handwashing you called cheating seemed reasonable to me (but I do have OCD tendencies, but not fullblown). Mine comes in the form of checking the locks on my doors and my windows a couple of times before going to bed even though I know they are locked, but I can’t sleep unless they are checked 2 or 3 times. And then I have to have everything in its place or it drives me crazy (some would just say I am a neat-freak). And I tend to be obsessed with the format of my blog. I will grab someone’s button if the colors match with my blog (a little crazy I guess).

    It seems you did good yesterday, so don’t beat yourself up over it. There is always tomorrow.

    1. Thanks! I can’t tell you how many times I have changed the layout of my blog since starting it a month ago. It just doesn’t feel right yet, but I’m fighting the urge to change it again.

      Most of my checking involves my garage door (driving home to make sure it’s closed) and my car door (repeatedly clicking the lock button to hear the lock beep–my neighbors probably hate me). I would check the doors a lot at night, but I have entrusted that duty to my boyfriend. Every night, my urge is to go check them, but most of the time, I manage to not check them.

  6. Wow!!! That was an incredibly ambitious undertaking and I am super, super proud of you for doing so well – especially for not beating yourself up! The rinses and the first wash I think I would have done the same, honestly. I know I have a few over developed cleanliness issues, but I at least rinse my hands if I get any food on them while cooking or cleaning up. Regardless, I think you did an awesome job – congrats!!

    1. You are the best! Thank you so much for not only reading, but for commenting so much! Feedback makes the blogosphere go round! 🙂

  7. Hi I came across this blog on a Google search I too shower after changing the litter box I haven’t been diagnosed as ocd but I think I have it I had an issue with hand washing along with anxiety and depression at 18 and was put on zoloft but never used it nor did I understand what was wrong since getting out of the marines my anxiety and hand washing had gotten worse since having my son I wash my hands so much they split open and bleed or I guess old lady hands like one person posted

    Any advice?

    1. I’m REALLY sorry I’m just now responding. I hope things are better with you than when you posted this.

      There’s no easy answer to that, unfortunately. It’s a long battle. The most you resist washing, though, the easier it gets. So prevent yourself from washing as often as possible, or even delay washing if you can’t forgo the whole process. I’d love to hear how you’ve been since February!

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