I’d like to tell you a story. I spent last week on a training course to learn to teach mindfulness.
I was staying in a nice residential training centre. I’d paid a bit extra for a nice room with an en-suite bathroom. I was feeling suitably pleased with myself as I pottered around my room that evening in my pyjamas. I sat on the edge of my bed to send a text message to let people know I’d arrived and that I’d be turning my phone off from that point on. Whilst I was sitting there I noticed a stain. A red stain. BLOOD shrieked my brain. SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOOD it shrieked even louder. My heart started to pound and I could feel myself getting warm and then I became paralysed with indecision about what to do. I stood in the middle of the room like a deer in headlights trying to work out what the next best step might be (because well, you know, all good decisions are made like that)
I paced for a while, I probably muttered to myself a little bit. The sensible part of my mind that has been through CBT and ERP told me to just keep the pyjamas on and go to bed. The not so sensible part of me was already taking them off and convincing myself I’d never liked them much anyway. I walked down several avenues of thought. I could take them home and wash them on an extra hot wash. Nope not immediate enough, they would sit in my bag for a week festering away and just making the room dirty with their presence. I could throw them in the bin (that one was pretty high on my list if I’m honest) and so the thoughts went round. I thought I might text someone just for a little bit of reassurance. It couldn’t hurt my OCD brain wheedled, I’d be able to go to bed quicker that way and it wouldn’t ruin the course (yes I was already convinced that the course had been ruined by this point).
Then I caught myself. I could see I was stuck in a loop and I wasn’t getting anywhere far. So I struck a deal with myself. I wouldn’t throw the pyjamas away but I would rinse them out in the sink and force myself to wear them the next night and so that is what I did. Did it make sense? Nope not at all, I knew rationally that I wasn’t really making them any cleaner by washing them in a hotel sink but where there’s OCD there’s no logic. Was it ideal? No, not really. In an ideal world I probably should have rubbed the pyjama bottoms all over my face or some such business, all in the name of exposure.
So why am I telling this story? To show that even when you’ve been through recovery and months of CBT/ERP old fears can leap up and bite you on the arse (in this case it was a stain that bit me on the arse). Also to show that sometimes we don’t get it exactly right. I compromised on my compulsions and it was what I needed to do in that moment. I wore them for the rest of the week, it’s OK to not always get it 100% right.
I also thought I’d write it to show that there is no logic to OCD. Exactly a week later I left the course, went shopping in a charity shop and bought a really nice second hand skirt. I have no idea where it’s been or who it belonged to but I’m happy to own it. I will wash it of course but contamination? what contamination?
For more OCD related pyjama stories please check out Angie’s post here!