CORONAVIRUS! It’s all anyone can talk about these days. Understandably so, as it’s a very serious and very scary pandemic. From what I understand, if you do catch it, it is not as similar to catching the Flu, but more similar to a severe Pneumonia. This genuinely frightens me. I am doing my best to self-isolate as much as possible. My managers have allowed me to work from home, and I only have to come into work 2 days a week. On those days, I can also get a taxi, which they will reimburse, rather than me taking the metro for 45 minutes. I definitely find this to be a bit of a relief. Right now, I want to stay at home as much as possible!
Now, I know a lot of people are scared right now. There has been lots of panic buying, mask-wearing, social distancing… What I’d like to chat to you about is living during this current pandemic while suffering from OCD.
I already wash my hands more than the average person. And although some people with OCD do this due to the worry of germs and contamination, mine is slightly different. I do worry about germs, as I tend to get sick very easily and catch everything, but I also wash my hands a lot as they just physically feel dirty. The way I usually describe it is: You know when you’ve been petting a dog for awhile, and then your hands feel like they have a film or layer on them…? You feel like you need to wash your hands, right? Well, I feel that layer quite often throughout the day. At any point in the day, my hands will suddenly feel grimy and “dirty” and I will need to go wash them. I won’t feel comfortable until I do. I also don’t like using bars of soap, as I see them as a breeding ground for dirt and germs. I much prefer liquid soap from a pump dispenser. I also don’t like using hand towels, as other people have used them, so they are “dirty”. I prefer kitchen roll or something of the sort. One-time use and disposable. Much cleaner.
Now, you may have been experiencing this over the past few days, but imagine being constantly and acutely aware of everything you touch. Feeling the constant need to wash your hands after touching certain things. The fear of rubbing your eye or itching your nose in-between touching a doorknob and washing your hands again. Noticing every single cough or sneeze from another person, and worrying you were too close to them when they did it. Having someone get close to you, and panicking that they’re breathing on you and you’re inhaling their germs as we speak. Going on a metro or in an enclosed space, and wondering if you’re currently breathing in germs while just being there. You may be able to relate to some of these things from over the past few days, due to the Coronavirus. But for some people with OCD, we’ve been feeling these feelings and thinking these thoughts and constantly worrying for years now. This is our life on a daily basis. Have you noticed how exhausting it is? All the constant worrying and constant alertness? Or how sore your hands get from all the washing? Although this Coronavirus is horrible, maybe it has given some of you who don’t suffer, a glimpse into what a typical day with OCD is like. And if you think the constant worry of being clean and not spreading germs is exhausting, try having that, plus 30 other things in your head which are just as acute and just as concerning, all at once. People don’t often realise how tiring it is having OCD. Our thoughts are never-ending and go a million miles an hour. We fear things that we know are completely irrational. We are constantly switched-on and can’t find the off-switch.
I could go on and on about what it feels like to have OCD, but it would be too much for one post. With everything that is currently going on, I just thought it might be useful to share what it’s like from an OCD sufferer’s perspective. This may be one of the only rare times people get a chance to try walking in our shoes. To be honest, you’ll never fully understand OCD unless you have it, but maybe this current situation can give you a small idea of how we live and feel day-to-day.
Whether you suffer from OCD or not, I hope you are all staying safe, and please be considerate of one another! We are all in this together, and we will all get through this together!
Those of you with OCD… How is Coronavirus affecting you right now? What are your struggles? How are you coping? Any tips for other sufferers? Let me know!
Here are a few tips I have for fellow sufferers during this difficult time…
- If your hands are getting sore from the constant washing, every evening when you go to bed, put hand lotion on and then some thin cotton gloves (if you have some). It will help rejuvenate your hands and combat some of the damage you’ve done during the day. I personally recommend Neutrogena Hand Cream Concentrated. You only need a dab and your hands practically transform overnight!
- Stay indoors as much as possible. We’re supposed to be staying inside right now anyways, and it can trigger you less if you’re not exposing yourself to the mayhem outside. (However, once this has all died down, don’t continue to isolate. Get some CBT Therapy or help from loved ones and don’t let OCD house-bound you. Staying in is a temporary solution in an already very stressful time).
- See if you can set-up a Skype or phone session with your therapist. If you have contamination fears, you’re going to need your therapist now more than ever. Don’t fight this alone!
- Use your support system! Your stress level is probably through the roof right now, but try to talk with friends, family, whoever your support system consists of. Tell them how you’re feeling. Talk through things. Bottling up how you’re feeling is only going to add to the stress and exacerbate your OCD even more. Again, don’t fight this alone!
Hang in there! We’ll get through this!