Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Shower

This evening i learned that ocd can have wonderful effects on our family’s quality-time communication together.   Bruce and I spent 10 glorious romantic minutes tonight looking at each other in the eyes while discussing an intimate and pertinent concern: what are the steps to properly shower and can I touch the shower curtain without personally imploding or causing the world around us erupt with soap scum?  Without ocd there’d be nothing  so fascinating to talk about! Even Katrina offered her insightful question when I asked her if touching the shower curtain made her wash her hands.  She wanted to know whether farts left their mark on curtains.  See, ocd can be discussed with any age level, bringing a family closer together sharing things we’d ordinarily never talk about- at least not out of the locker room. 

Goal: to take less time in the shower by not freaking out every time the shower curtain touches me and then scrubbing that part at least 2ce so it is clean again.

I was getting frustrated because listing shower steps in order sounds so easy until I tried to do it.  Because it wasn’t the showering directly  I have a problem with.  It’s the shower curtain.  So do I address THAT problem first like I did with touching the mop before using it and do I even want to dirty up my house with soap scummy shower curtain  dirt?  And no, I wasn’t planning to scrape my finger nails along the curtain to make sure I got REAL soap scum.  Potential soap scum is bad enuf.

 Then Katrina needed to go to bed so I got some books and read to her and sang silly Christmas songs to her and we discussed HER take on the shower issue (see above) and giggled over that and finally i just lay there singing until she fell asleep.  While laying there singing and not really thinking I wondered what my ‘silent observer’*  would say about the whole thing. So I asked and it said that to ask ocd to show her the dirt and when ocd couldn’t, to tell it that I only worry about real visible dirt and that if there is none, there is NO issue to be worried about.  (Uh, that’s what everyone else has been saying to me for years.)

Well, that gave me something to think about!!!!!!   I was kind of stunned at the simplicity and finality of the whole thing.  There is nothing wrong with the shower curtain above the tub level (where the water doesn’t get to, so neither does soap scum, and there is actually NO mold on this shower curtain ).    Any non real ‘what-if’ would just be answered with the repeat of the same sentence over and over. Any real dirt would be dealt with at the time.

 Ok so now I have the ammunition.  Next thing is the DREAD feeling ocd will naturally use to confuse me and get me to comply to it’s demands.  Side note: what does ocd actually get out of this??? It’s not like it is getting a trip to Switzerland if it wins.  So what’s the big deal with it anyway?   Dread- decreases with time.  So any body part that the shower curtain touched and still feels dirty by the end of the shower can get rewashed.  And we’ll see how that goes. 

So here are the steps.
1.     Have entertaining and insightful conversation with family members about showering and how to do it.
2.     Come up with a good statement to tell ocd off with.  (show me the (real) dirt.)
3.     Make thought record, if not already done.
4.     Remove clothes.  Get wash cloth/ soap if needed.
5.     Get in shower, arrange shower curtain ‘the right way’ (as per Bruce’s instructions) so it doesn’t touch me.
6.     Turn on tap with other hand.  Wash hands because there really is soap scum at the bottom of the curtain where the magnets are as the tub is once again not draining properly. Get someone to put down start time so that can be monitored in case it’s needed for later erp’s.
7.     Wash self.
8.     If something touches shower curtain and it has not been washed, wash it when the time comes. If it has already been washed then leave it alone until the end, ignoring the dread feeling while washing rest of me.
9.     If at the end, dread feeling has not vanished, wash all above parts again once, quickly.
10.  Do  Not wash  whole leg if it is just the knee that touched the curtain    
11.  Wash hands at end and turn off shower.  Open curtain taking care to not touch self with it.  Should that happen, see #5.  Wash only if the bottom of the curtain touches you.  Otherwise use statement from #2 to get ocd to shut up.  Get out of shower.
12.  Do not wash hands.  Faucet is not physically dirty.  See #2.  run around house naked until dread feeling goes away.  This should happen rather quickly because it is cold in the house and not even ocd wants to freeze to death… or maybe we should let it.
13.  dry and dress 

Future erps:  Next time eliminate step 8.

                     Next time cut shower time down by 1 minute if it is more than 12 min. long.

 Ok. Results..

·       shower 12 min. (I had Bruce time it from after I got the shower curtain put into position in case that took a while using his directions)

·       I wasn’t touching a part of the shower curtain so I thought I’d do it on purpose to see how long the DREAD would last. I had my elbow touch the curtain- at a clean spot I may add. Then a few moments later it happened naturally.

·        I did leave it alone until my elbow grazed my leg.  THAT wasn’t accounted for, so I just re-washed my leg quickly and continued on.

·         I decided at the end that I wouldn’t wash my elbow as there was no visible dirt on it.  DREAD was still there in the back of my mind so I just repeated the mantra: show me the dirt. 

·       Turned off the water, moved the shower curtain and got out. 

·       I forgot about NOT washing my hands afterwards (#12).  Oops. Such a habit.

·       Elbow still a problem so asked Bruce if I was right.  Then realized I wasn’t asking for a legitimate reason, I was only asking it for reassurance and I could ask it a million times and DREAD would still be there.  So I tried the running part...for a few seconds.  That was cold, which had the desired effect.  Suddenly a towel and warm clothes were more important to me than DREAD.  I dried off, dressed, took my pills and am now sitting here waiting for the melatonin to kick in.  and I wanted to get this written down before I forgot it tomorrow. 

·       DREAD feelings still here a bit but elbow already touched couch so I’m committed .  Will NOT wash couch so elbow/ arm is clean.  DREAD is disappearing. 

 I  was going to put this up last week, but didn't get to it right away.  Then the next time I
showered it didn't go so well, so i wondered if this was just a fluke- beginner's luck. Each time
after that some stuff went well, others didn't. I think that i am ok with not washing my hands
after i open the shower curtain and get out of the tub.  I did try to keep calm instead of getting
frustrated and angry with myself when things didn't go as well as i thot they should. 

Here's the worst one:       from my journal
Fri. nov. 25   ok here we go again.  I’ve been reading above steps, still may go with step 8 altho I don’t HAVE TO but it’s nice to have an ‘option’ should I need to use it.  also decided that as I didn’t pre-decide what to do with point #3 above, it goes like this:  if there is no dirt on me after touching the curtain, there can’t possibly be dirt on anything that elbow or arm touches, right.  Simple logic.  Ha. Like anything about ocd is logical. Ok, it IS logical but only after starting with a false premise!  Too logical.  Ocd brain is VERY sneaky.  … 

Ok results. I’d like to say it went well today but it didn’t.  I was putting the ‘extra-dirty’ laundry in the machine.  All the clothes used when someone does garbage, or major cleaning.  So I was a little on-edge anyway.  When I got to the washer that is. 

 Doing my thought record, you’d think I was going to do something  mildly risky, but fun,  like tobogganing down a large hill.  Anxiety of 60 or less.   HA HA HA.   I used up a ton of ppr towels cleaning the washer & the floor & carried them upstairs to the garbage in one arm, so I had more than dirty hands when I stepped into the shower. I washed my hands & then  tried to put the shower curtain where it was ‘supposed’ to go, but since I STILL felt too 'dirty' to touch it in the ‘clean’ areas (above the tub line),  it bunched up and wouldn’t flatten out.  

 To ensure that I didn’t ‘dirty’ up the shower curtain by touching it with my dirty arms, (and thus screw up any next potential shower erp)  I did a small ‘prewash’.  That also didn’t calm me down any.  So I did the best I could, not worrying too much about my erp plan.  Keeping calm, not frustrated was the new goal so I could get out in a ok time limit.  I did notice what I ‘wasn’t’ doing, forgot to classify it as ‘ocd talk’ (as per Jeff Schwartz of Brain Lock)  but noted that it was not normal people’s behavior.  
 Maybe if I stop doing a special load for ocd dirty laundry (I’m pretty sure that the washer will clean ordinary garbage- can- touching- clothes in a regular load of laundry too…???) ok, I’m not so sure, but I am sure that if I asked anyone else they’d say so, unless I was carrying a garbage can that had just been pulled out of an oil spill.

    * silent observer is the part of you that is watching/ listening to all you do. It is the part of you
that can think about a thot that you just had.  See Brain Lock or any book about mindfulness for
a better explanation 


  1. Not sure if this comment will help or harm. But I just wanted to note that my shower curtain would make you shudder. Soap scum, a little bit of mildew. Now, I wouldn't go in there and lick it, but every time I shower, the water cascades off that scum and mildew onto my feet, which I never wash. I figure the soap and shampoo hits them on the way down the drain, so they're clean enough.

    Oh, and sometimes the cat climbs in the tub, and I'm sure he doesn't avoid the shower curtain, so it's spread all around the house. Therefore, even my OCD-brain has long ago concluded that the shower curtain gunk is not deadly! I don't see you taking my approach anytime soon, but perhaps you'll feel better about your own shower curtain. :)

  2. @ Ann: so what you're saying, is that i need a cat?!! That would help the erp go much faster, but the poor thing would probably get kicked out of the house before long. Also hubby doesn't care about the shower curtain either, but i didn't want to know, so i never asked him. That way i did'nt have to clean it up either.

    @ Finding Normalcy: YOu asked on Pure o's site if exercise works. I can say that my thots are silent while i exercise, because i am consentrating hard on the dance, or whatever. I like to swim, and have done a bit of zumba and yoga. i don't do anything that uses machines others have touched yet.

    now, i'm not that disciplined or anything, so i haven't kept a record to see if i feel better, or have less ocd afterwards. Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks for writing out our erp experience. I tried to write about an ocd issue recently, and it was hard to share (thanks to additional irrational ocd thoughts of what would happen if I shared). But it's encouraging to read about other people working on it. And don't feel bad about not having perfectly fulfilled the erp requirements without giving anything in to OCD; I'd probably feel discouraged if you could do it perfectly, because I know that when I fight OCD, I usually end up giving in somewhere. :) But I try to count even delaying the compulsion a success. And partial success still counts as a success. Good luck!(and I liked how you found something good about OCD adding to your family time, even if you were being a little sarcastic. :)