(This is an article I wrote a few years ago when I struggled with a laundry-related OCD manifestation. Thankfully, this particular obsession/compulsion seems to have cycled out.)
There comes a time in every person’s life when she/he must ask herself/himself a very important question: “Why am I sitting in front of the computer with no clothes on?”
A very important question, to be sure. (And no, the answer does not involve Internet porn.) When I asked myself this important question just minutes ago, the answer was simple: OCD. For some months now, my OCD has been telling me that certain just-washed things are contaminated. Yesterday while looking in the dryer for a t-shirt to wear to bed, I was overwhelmed with that certain “OCD” feeling – you know what it’s like: anxiousness, stress, impulse – that made me feel like the shirt that I just pulled out of the dryer was contaminated. Not by chemicals, germs, or anything like that – just by my thought that it might be contaminated. Just the thought of it being contaminated made it seem to my mind as if it was. Many of our OCD impulses go away or lessen considerably if we just delay the doing of the compulsion that our obsessions cause. But I became stressed quickly, and gave in. I threw the clean, dry t-shirt in the dirty laundry pile and grabbed another shirt.
Today, the bedclothes I actually wore last night were thrown in the dirty clothes pile not long after I got up. They were not “dirty” in the classical sense. But into the pile they went anyway. But now what would I wear tonight? No problem – I had a similar pair of pajama bottoms and another shirt to wear. Both clean. But wait – crap. Now I “felt” like those pajama bottoms were contaminated. In fact, I felt like all the clothes in the clean clothes basket with the clean pajama bottoms must be washed again. No one touched them but me. But the feeling was overwhelming, even after I called my Dad and asked him (as I always do – perhaps to the detriment of my recovery, but dangit, he’s so nice about it) for reassurance. So, I packed up all my clothes from the clean basket, the dirty pile, and the ones in the dryer, and stuffed them into the washing machine. Then I took off the clothes I was wearing. (After all, they felt contaminated now.) So into the washer went my Capri pants, my tank top, and my undergarments. I had, for the moment, given in to my OCD.
Failure is never fun. Yes, I feel better that my clothes will soon be clean, but who’s to say they’re not going to also feel contaminated this time I remove them from the dryer? That is the horrid cycle of OCD. I’m not afraid to say it. I have had some spectacular (or so they felt) wins. Glorious moments when I have soared on the wings of conquest around the golden sun of victory. And then tonight, like Icarus, I have considered soaring, perhaps even gotten into the air a bit, then lost altitude, crashing into a cow pasture onto a steaming mound of OCD and drawn-out analogy.
On the upside, since I’ve started writing this entry, my clothes have finished in the washer and are now in the dryer. I’m going to wear the first pajama bottoms and t-shirt that I pull out of that dryer. That’s my plan of action. Tomorrow is a new day, filled with the possibility of more victory, less laundry, and better analogies than tonight.