Secret Triggers

Last month I opened the doors to my Invisible Illness, I’ve lived with it so long now that I’m able to go about my day to day activities without revealing the true effect my secret triggers have on me. Far too many think that if something can’t be seen to affect you, then it can’t be having much of an impact on your life. This is far from the truth when it comes to OCD.

Secret Triggers

Most of my compulsions occur behind closed doors, literal and metaphorical. Ironically I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to complete compulsions until they felt just right, the longest being hand washing, lasting up to 30 minutes. Imagine 30 minutes, stood at a sink, washing your hands until everything feels just right and no one can tell you what’s right, as that feeling exists in the head of the washer. To be honest, there is no “just right” what’s right for one time is not right for another. The elusive feeling of just right, exists across a boundary that washing your hands can make feel quite distant.

It can be frustrating for those around me. They can’t see the invisible contaminations that can occur when washing your hands. Questions arrive into my mind at lightening speed and no answer is satisfactory. “Did my hand brush the (dirty) sink?” must wash more “Did I pump the soap the right amount of times?” must wash more “Did I wash enough to get the germs off that came off the tap onto my hands?” must wash more. Once this cycle is complete, a new inner turmoil begins. If I’m in a public toilet I am faced with using the hand dryer without touching the buttons or allowing my hands to make contact with the dryer. Or if there are paper towels, I must be able to take one without touching the container which houses them.

Then I am faced with a physical barrier, the door from the toilet. Statistically there are a lot more people who don’t wash their hands when using the toilet, than people realise.  If I have long sleeves then I use this to open the door, but during the summer my struggle with the door can be much more embarrassing.  The worst thing is if anything happens on the way out which makes me feel like I need to wash my hands, I have to walk back in again and start afresh. This can be quite humiliating  in public settings.

By the end of the winter months my hands are usually red raw and cracked. But for me it’s a small price to pay to keep my anxiety levels low. I’ve tried exposure therapy, which is where you put yourself in situations which would normally trigger you to wash your hands and then you try not to wash your hands for as long as possible. This kind of therapy does not work for me. Though to be fair it works for some, it’s just not my fixer. For now I’m happy feeding my secret triggers,  I know it’s not the answer to ridding myself of my OCD ways. But I’m not naive, I know that my OCD ball is with me for the long haul. We’ve trodden a really long path and we have a really long path to tred before us.

If I can turn one light switch of understanding on for someone (see what I did there?! yes I have a light switch compulsion) then I will know that my OCD is some form of gift. A gift of understanding, from me to those who have no experience with an  invisible illness.


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. mummydaddyme Reply

    I think it is very brave writing this post Kirsty, and I am sure you will help lots of others by doing it. I think because it is under the surface, a lot of people don’t realise the severity and life altering ways in which these kind of conditions can affect you. It is great that you are bringing it out into public awareness, and show that even happy, married couples and mothers can be affected.

  2. Lauren Reply

    I love these posts Kirsty, I love your honesty and that you are letting people in.
    I also love these posts because it’s interesting learning about how you cope or deal with the problems you face, and how it can effect your day to day life, things some of us don’t even think about x

  3. Hayley Reply

    I think the media have given people a false impression of what it is like to live with OCD. It’s far more complicated than I ever realised and obviously not something you can just snap out of. I think it’s great that you have been so open in talking about this and how it affects you.

  4. Mrs TeePot Reply

    Bless you for being so strong and putting this out there. I cannot imagine how hard it must be for you. I hope that you do find something that helps to ease the compulsions soon.

  5. Lauren Reply

    Thank you for posting this it made me feel less alone. After 3 years of seeing my psychiatrist, I’m finally talking to him about my obsessions with getting dirty. My baby will be screaming in the next room and I can’t even go pick her up because I’m stuck at the sink washing my hands over and over because I keep contaminating them in attempts to wash them faster. I can’t take my son to preschool or go to the store or even sit in my car without having to wash my hair and decontaminate my body before I touch anything in my bedroom. People joke about being OCD because they keep a perfectly clean house but it’s the opposite with me – my house is cluttered and nasty because I have so much anxiety about touching a dirty dish or dirty laundry and the massive amount of handwashing and decontamination of my body that follows after. It’s humiliating and driving my husband crazy. My 3 year old has started cleaning things with baby wipes like me and I’m scared for him to be like me. Anyway, thanks again for sharing! It really helped me to read it!

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