If a stranger coughs near me or in my path, I have a difficult time remaining in the immediate area. I will actually hold my breath until I leave; if it was socially acceptable, I would cup my nose and mouth. And if I can’t walk away, I just think about germs flying through the air and into my nose and mouth. But if someone I knew coughed near me, I wouldn’t be worried at all. This seems to be only a coughing thing and not a sneezing thing and the mystery remains.
“It’s sticky! But why?! Why sticky?”
If I accidentally touch a sticky surface I go right into red alert mode. If I know why it’s sticky it’s not so bad, but I will acknowledge verbally that it’s sticky and tell everyone with me that I touched something sticky. But if I don’t know what the mystery sticky stuff is, time stands still. Radio static blares in my head. The earth’s magnetic poles flip. I wash my hands and arms and want to change clothes and move out of the country.
I’m usually fine with using a public bathroom. The normal germy precautions take place, but if I accidentally bump my sleeved arm into the side of the stall I get all weird. I actually get mad at myself. My whole sleeve is now flashing red like my armor needs to be repaired. If it’s my bare arm, I include that in washing my hands after. I can easily forget about it as soon as I leave the restroom, but then it pops up in my head hours later at home that my sleeve touched something dirty. The sleeve has entered my home so the bathroom has entered my home. I change shirts.
The Essence of the Shoe
My boyfriend and I recently moved and I’ve adopted the ‘no shoes’ rule. I’ve always lived in places where shoes were a thing and I’ve never cared until now. Sometimes people come in wearing their shoes and I’m still coming to terms with it. If they’re not making eye contact, I’m staring at their shoes like they are giant bugs. When they leave, I think about where those shoes have been and wrestle with myself to not scrub the floor. I did that only once so far and I’m considering that a win. I know a lot of households have the ‘no shoes’ thing. I know a lot of people have this preference too. My thoughts immediately jump to extremes. “What if ALL they walked in was poop before coming here? Only poop and nothing but poop all the time?” If I let myself scrub the floor, I will do it every time. It will escalate to me thinking about it for days, even after scrubbing (did I get it all?). It could escalate further to me demanding shoes be left at the door, or not having guests.
This is why I’m grateful that I know myself. I know the potential of my OCD, because I’ve seen it at its worst. I use it as a learning experience and check myself when I’m able to spot signs of escalation.