Contamination OCD is not just washing your hands a few times
Contamination OCD is not just washing your hands a few times.
Sometimes I washed my hands with disinfectant and bleach. I used to wash them so much that they bled and were so sore it made me cry. They also used to get infected through the overwashing, needing antibiotics and steroid cream to help them recover - only to be overwashed a few days later and for the cycle to continue.
My bathroom used to feel contaminated all the time even though I cleaned it thoroughly every day. I used to think my feet would be contaminated from walking in the bathroom and would leave trails of germs around the house. To prevent this I would lay sheets and towels along the hallways and round the rooms then I could pick these up so my hubby wouldn't catch the germs when he came in. (No-one else was allowed in the house for a long time to prevent them getting these germs on them). Sometimes I didn't have anything left to lay over the floor - all were probably in the wash or in the room I had piles of contaminated clothing waiting to be washed and only I was allowed to go in there.
To be honest it was safer and easier to stay in bed - the only place I felt safe.
When there was nothing to protect the floor I would crawl around the house on my hands and knees so I didn't walk the germs around the house. If my hands also felt contaminated then I had to crawl round on my elbows and knees - difficult getting up and down the stairs - to be honest it was safer and easier to stay in bed - the only place I felt safe.
I always felt my bottom was contaminated even though I was over zealous in cleaning myself after using the loo. I started to wear two pairs of pants to stop the germs, then three and finally four. Then just for good measure I'd put a pad inside my pants to prevent the spread of these germs. In my car or in my own house I'd sit on a towel (or two). If out, I invariably stood or if I had to sit I would balance on one cheek so that the contaminated part of my bottom couldn't spread germs on to others' chairs.
My hands could become contaminated very easily - perhaps I touched my nose or my jeans' back pocket or maybe something else I considered dirty. If then I was in a shop and touched something I had to buy it. If I didn't someone else might touch it or buy it and become contaminated and maybe take that contamination home - I would never know where that contamination would then go but I feared it would somehow spread. Of course I didn't use the items but threw them away. Shopping was often an expensive occupation.
I felt everything that was in my bathroom was contaminated. Nothing that went into the bathroom came out again except to be wrapped in bags and thrown away. When I cleaned my bathroom, all the contaminated paper towels, wet wipes, cloths would have to be disposed in bags within bags. Each time I would wear gloves to tie the bag and put it inside another - then take off the gloves, wash my hands and put on a new pair of gloves to put it in yet another. On dustbin day, I'd be in the garden - often for up to an hour - making the rubbish safe. I was too worried to let the dustmen pick up these bags in case they got germs and so I used to carry my rubbish to the lorry and throw it in the back of the truck. Then I was worried that the bags would burst as they were crushed and that germs would come out and spread into the atmosphere.
Eventually I stopped letting the dustmen take the rubbish from our house.
Every time the dustbin became full I would go and buy another (after a long cleansing process to make sure I was clean enough to go out.). We ended up with 8 dustbins in our garden and I only let them be emptied when my GP convinced me that hoarding the rubbish in this way could cause greater problems and potentially attract rats and disease.
Every aspect of my life was affected.
There were many more bizarre procedures and many more situations where I had to work out ways to prevent the spread of these germs. Every aspect of my life was affected.
However, now I am virtually cured; I have my life back. I had the most marvelous GP, psychologist and psychiatrist and over a number of years - probably three or four of weekly treatment - I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel. I was put on medication - initially it had no effect, but eventually a combination of medications was found that allowed me to fear germs and so on less. Eventually I was able to access the exposure work in my therapy which allowed me to fear these germs even less. Gradually things improved, I feared germs and contaminating others less. I could touch things without buying them, shake others hands, hand them my items, walk anywhere in the house, sit on seats in other places than my own home and even allow others into my home.
After eight years during which I lost my job, took two overdoses with resultant stays in hospital - one overnight, one for five days and a further five days in a secure psychiatric unit - I am back in permanent work. Only 15 hours a week but it's a start and I truly feel my life is back on track.