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.