I have many OCD conditions. Today I am going to discuss one of my major and debilitating ones. I have contamination fears. This has made it impossible to work and go into certain situations.
I don't like the term contaminated. It seems too nice of a word for what I experience. I use the term tainted. From as long as I can remember I have felt certain things were dirty. It's not just an emotional reaction I can physically feel it. It would feel like my hands were coated in warm wax but I could see there was nothing on them. Going into a place my mind has deemed tainted makes me feel like I am cloaked with a warm moist towel. It smothers my pores and I can feel my skin suffocating. It becomes hard to breathe and I feel like I can't escape the situation. I have trigger places and trigger people. Big trigger places for me are the doctor's office and the hospital. Signing in with their pen is torture for me. I will hesitate a good two minutes before I can talk myself into picking it up. My palms get sweaty and it's hard to breathe. Then I have to antibacterial gel my hands several times. I can feel the germs on it. In these places I am a reverse mime. Instead of not talking and using my hands, I keep my hands in my pockets and do nothing but talk. Certain people,even a couple that I love in my family,are unclean to me. It's nothing that they have done and yet I am unable to change my feeling on them. Other clean people can live with them and not make me feel dirty. I realize that they share the same germs and yet I have no problem with them touching me. My brother, that I love dearly,is a trigger person. He thinks I react that way to everyone. He jokes and purposely does my triggers to upset me. He thinks my reaction is funny. I haven't the heart to tell him the truth because it would hurt his feelings and I would never want to do that. His favorite trigger is to touch my face. It totally flips me out and disgusts me. Sometimes when he leaves he will give me a peck on the cheek. As soon as he leaves I will run to the sink and scrub that spot with soap and water until it is angry and raw. I can still feel where his lips were. My cheek is tainted. I feel so guilty to have this reaction but I can do nothing to change it. I have tried. How sad is it that I can not hold hands with my brother or kiss his cheek? I can only hug him if our skin doesn't touch. It's torture not just because of the tainted feeling but because I so desperately want to be able to do normal things with him like everyone else does with their siblings.
Smells can also be triggers. I can not be around the smell of pine sol. When I was a child I would visit family in a old folks home. It reeked of pine cleaner. It was so strong I could taste it. It got to where if I went there I could not swallow my own saliva. My spit was tainted. I would have to spit it in the collar of my shirt. If I smell pine cleaner then it is tainted and I can not be around it.
This physical feeling of dirtiness can last for hours. It can make you wash your hands until they are cracked and bleeding. If touched by something "dirty" you can still feel it hours later. You can shower several times a day. Many carry antibacterial gel with them wherever they go. You may be unable to touch surfaces or people. You may be unable to go to certain places.
Imagine living your life avoiding the most normal of interactions and places. Not out of choice but out of necessity. To prevent the torture. To prevent the overwhelming feeling of suffocation. To avoid the disgust and feeling of being dirty. It is not a joke. It is a painful and isolating experience. It is a heart breaking and guilt ridden illness. If you know someone with contamination fears please don't laugh at them. Please don't trigger them for your entertainment. Just try to imagine what life would be like if you had to walk in their shoes.