Having OCD has been holding me back most of my adulthood. I can’t even say what sucks most about it: feeling the need to wash my hands constantly, having damaged skin because of it, losing so much time I could use elsewhere… Having people not understand me and being forced to explain myself is high up in the ranking too. But I guess worst is not being able to do things I love.
Some of my favorite things in this life make me feel dirty.
And no, I’m not talking about sex. It can be as simple as a club visit where I have to use filthy bathrooms with no soap to wash with. I guess no one loves the restrooms at techno clubs. They are usually dirty, that’s not even my OCD. But that shouldn’t hinder me from going as I really want to.
I had to continue doing what I love.
The first couple of times, I’ve gone to a club, I had to disinfect all my belongings after returning home and I had to throw all my clothes in the laundry. This process got less complicated over time and I progressively quit disinfecting my belongings. It started with my phone, being followed by my glasses. Today, I’m wearing the same pants I’ve worn in the club yesterday. You don’t need to tell me that they might be dirty. That’s the point.
Accepting that some things are objectively dirty has helped me with my OCD.
I know now that a dirty bathroom in a club is nothing to worry about, so I will also survive other situations where I objectively know it’s just my OCD clouding my judgment. I’ve always have the voice of realism, but also the voice of a troll (aka my OCD) in my head. Over the last couple of months, the voice of my OCD became less present. It’s still there and probably will be for a very long time but I’m getting better at shutting it up.
I could write a book about how to avoid feeling dirty.
I can’t go to a club without having hand sanitizer with me. And there are little tricks to avoid feeling dirty. However, when you start opening doors with paper towels, you will not only feel like a fool but you will feed your OCD. That’s why everyone will advise against doing that. I do not fully agree. If you can only do something you love because you’re using rituals to ‘survive’ the stress, that’s completely fine for the start. But just be aware that this is not the end game. Everytime you perform a ritual, your OCD will become stronger and you’ll have to confront your OCD more often.
Having a clear motivation helped me the most.
To be honest, when I was in a relationship, I wasn’t as motivated to get better as when I was single. Everything was ‘fine’ although it clearly wasn’t. Being single, I had no other choice than working on myself so I could find inner peace. I always have to remember why I am doing what I am doing. There’s nothing more rewarding than successfully facing my fears, especially after having failed many times in the past.
Artwork by Thomas Lamadieu