When making sense of my OCD I create jargon to summarise the various facets. The term “fake” means that it feels like I was contaminated, my mind (if asked) says, “yep, you’re contaminated right now”, but I’m not.
Some fakes aren’t a problem can be brushed off in seconds as it is overwhelmingly clear that I wasn’t anywhere near, anywhere from 20cm to 2m, the object that I was supposed to have made contact with and had it contaminate me. The most common example is going near a surface that isn’t clean enough to use on the way to doing something else.
This evening however the fakes were about hitting items in the bathroom, where cleaning off the contamination would generate needing to have a shower immediately (which normally takes 4 hours, on a good day, without any special contamination) if not cleaned by other methods. I was aware that I probably didn’t hit anything, and every time I repeated an action that supposedly hit something I could see that I didn’t actually hit anything.
That didn’t prevent spending 40 minutes dousing clothing and my hands with disinfectant in a desperate attempt to remove enough contamination to avoid suffering through a 4 hour shower.
Eventually, well and truly fed up with the procedure, and safe in the knowledge that from any “normal” person’s perspective I’d have obliterated, multiple times, any biological or other material that could potentially cause harm I decided that “I hadn’t actually hit anything” and stopped there. Deciding that I had been hit would have required more cleaning, and a more intense version of what I had just done.
I use the phrase “a hit” to describe becoming contaminated which something as a result of impacting a contaminant or a contaminated item.
When I manage to avoid actually hitting anything, my mind seems so determined for a cleaning procedure to take place that it creates fake hits that I’m “required” to clean, unless I can show that they didn’t happen. Figuring out that I could avoid the cleaning by showing that it didn’t happened wasn’t what happened initially though, so lots of stuff got cleaned pointlessly (or even more pointlessly, as OCD isn’t solving a real problem).
I can temporarily distract myself and avoid cleaning a hit, but minutes, hours, days, or even weeks later the memory of the hit can impacts me at which point I’m compelled to clean everything I can to obliterate the memory of the hit – the logic being that by virtue of not cleaning the original hit the contamination has spread a lot.
The experience of having a hit overcome me long after its actually happened is what drives me to clean even when I feel that the hit maybe, probably, sort of didn’t happen, as getting past my anxiety to convince myself that not cleaning is OK feels impossible. So far I’m only able to bypass my mind when I can reason that the hit isn’t bad enough to require cleaning.
This brings me to more jargon I use. A “bypass” is when a hit that would normally require cleaning occurs, but I’m trapped in an important (for me) social situation, or deadline, basically something else is stressing me, a lot. This means that so long as I can vaguely reason that the hit “isn’t that bad” I will skip the cleaning is possible. The threshold for “badness” is low, so hitting the floor or shaking hands usually the worst I can bypass.
When trying to deal with everyday hits that no-one else is bothered by its sometimes possible to create a “skip” or a “cheat”, basically a rule that says that “in this situation, with this hit, it doesn’t count”. The rule is created after analysing previous stuff I’ve done, what other people do, so using logic to “skip” my OCD ritual. These usually require a trivial hit (knives and forks, say from a café) and won’t work when my anxiety level is too high and I lack the energy to enforce the “skip” as valid.
There is some overlap between a “skip” and a “bypass” as both provide practical advantages. However a bypass is created by sufficient stress overwhelming the distress created by my OCD, and a “skip” is created by using logic to work around my OCD, without actually beating it. As a “skip” doesn’t actually beat my OCD its also cheating in a way, as I’m not beating my OCD by overcoming it, just by side-stepping, hence the fact that I sometimes call it a “cheat.
P.S. Its been a while since my last post, a couple of instances of superficial cuts, but nothing since September, but my OCD has become worse and more overwhelming. My psychiatrist is referring me to a specialist OCD unit in London though, so that’s hopefully going to make a big difference.