Yesterday I saw something.
A spot of red liquid.
Actually a splash of red/pink soap that had dropped onto the plastic skirting board between the sinks in the gents toilets at work.
This got me thinking…and as you can see, ultimately got me writing.
What would I have seen 4 years ago?
If I had looked at the same thing 4 years ago would it have looked any different?
The answer of course is no. It would have looked the same.
I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder not a vision problem.
A more testing question would be “would it have FELT any different?”
Felt different?? How can looking at a nondescript splash of soap ‘feel’ different?
The key with this ‘feeling’ is what happens directly upon looking at this red spot.
What does the mind do with this new information it comes into contact with?
For the non-OCD blighted brain, “not a lot” would probably be the answer.
Maybe “who made this mess?” possibly “oh, I’d better tidy this up” or “bugger, our dispenser is leaking”, but in all probability nothing – or at least nothing after that initial recognition and thought.
Certainly not any lingering fears that may still be tormenting minutes, hours or even days later!
So how does it feel to me?
Well yesterday it felt bemusing, and caused me to do some reflecting.
Reflecting on how this would have made me feel 4 years ago when gripped in OCD’s spiteful, twisting grasp, compared to the smirk it had put on my face now.
What had actually changed?
The soap? No, that was still just soap for cleaning hands; nothing more, nothing less.
The venue? No, it was still the staff toilet at work; no cleaner, no dirtier.
My eyesight? Well I need specs for reading now, but I don’t think my eyes were ever bad enough to mistake the whole scenario and write the stories in my mind that would have unfolded.
What has actually changed?
ME! My head, the chemicals in my brain and the way my mind responds to certain triggers.
Yesterday my eyes saw some red soap. My brain processed this; said “Haha that’s funny, I used to cower in fear of that” and then moved on to some other thought such as “are my flies undone?” or “can I manage to throw this paper towel in the bin without missing?”
What I didn’t do – Initially process the vision as that of some spilt soap, then throw doubt and suspicion on to that accurate assessment with a series of irrational intrusive thoughts which cast a whole range of make believe possible scenarios of what it was, how it got there and how it would affect my life going forward.
This sudden reverse biblical style skill of turning soap into blood and weaving a story of how this (now OBVIOUSLY contaminated) blood had jumped up onto the sink and taps and therefore on to my hands and thus, despite sustained repetitive vigorous hand washing, on to a tea bag or chip and into my mouth, before miraculously entering my bloodstream, giving me HIV and prematurely ending my life and those of my family that I had clumsily contaminated in some strange toothbrush related incident….you get the picture?
This wouldn’t be some side story to dip into when bored either; this would be the main act dominating centre stage, only interrupted by the need to occasionally focus on your job or some other welcome distraction.
Once this horror story had backed off a little in its intensity, I down scaled it slightly. Maybe from a Code Red to Code Amber.
Now my hands were clean ‘enough’. But the floor and hence my shoes were not. This was on the skirting board – shoe level.
These would need inspecting and isolating from home, maybe by leaving outside or in my van for as long as I deemed it ‘necessary’. Obviously I would need to wash my hands A LOT after shoe removal, well ‘enough’ anyway.
And what about the toilet door handle? If someone had bled it would be on their hands surely? A well-practiced system of hand washing/ hands-free door use would need implementing. Probably safer to just use another toilet all together, can’t be TOO careful …can we????
Ah, I can always play my trump card. I’ll ‘clear it’ with someone else, someone NORMAL.
If I carefully mention “oh, I see the soaps leaking” maybe a colleague will inadvertently confirm this thesis and relieve my pain. To ask outright would obviously blow my ‘cover’ – not cool with our mental health stigma still ridiculously in place.
Take a photo to show a loved one ‘in the know’ later? Never thought of that one personally, but some sufferers do apparently.
My preferred tactic to drop my anxiety levels was often to slyly swing the conversation around with my long suffering wife to “oh, I think our soap dispenser is broken, either that or there was blood on the floor (little laugh to make it sound unimportant) …DO YOU THINK IT WAS??!!”
Unfortunately/fortunately she wised up to this pretty quickly and ruined that little outlet of relief.
OCD just loves a willing/unknowing accomplice!
Finally I may have talked myself into starting to believe this is some harmless substance after all.
Best to make sure though, eh? How to do that? Take as many opportunities to inspect, stare at, check and convince myself as possible.
Feigning some stomach upset should give me ample excuse for frequent ‘comfort breaks’ throughout the day, each one lowering the specific anxiety but simultaneously fuelling the OCD beast inside.
OCD feeds off reassurance and rituals; the more you feed it, the more it craves and needs.
4 years, 1 spot of soap, 2 eyes, 1 mind. BIG DIFFERENCE.
RECOVERY, well worth the fight.