My freshman year of high school was eventful. I have discussed at length my struggle with reading. That would pale in comparison with what was coming.
I had a simple, ordinary conversation with a friend at school. It wasn’t a lengthy discussion, just long enough to change the course of my life. My friend casually asked a question. She said, “Do you know what the dirtiest part of the body is?” She paused. Many things raced through my mind, but I never imagined that her answer would be, “Your hands.” I was confused, so she explained that her uncle had told her that the hands are dirty because you pick up germs from everything you touch.
And there it was – my life-altering moment! Does everyone with OCD have a moment like this? From then on I thought about everything I came into contact with. To be honest, it was a small beginning, but I did start noticing things that I had been blissfully blind to up to that point in time. In that era in the school restroom the only way to dry your hands was to use the one long reusable towel that just kept going round and round in the dispenser. That was one of the first items I remember identifying as unacceptable to touch. Instead I would walk back and forth in the restroom waving my arms around to dry my hands.
Another early memory is going with my mother to visit an aunt. My mother asked me to bring a vase over to her so that she could look at it, and I picked it up with curled up fingers so that it would not touch the palms of my hands. “Why are you doing that?” asked Mother. I didn’t have an explanation. I think I ended up saying something like I wanted to see if I could do it.
I also recall putting on my seat belt in the car with curled fingers and trying to use only the area between my fingers to touch the belt itself. This was so that I could still use my fingertips to touch my face or anything else I wanted to keep clean. The question always arises, though, what made the seat belt (or whatever else I did not want to touch) dirty? It wasn’t the entire belt, only the two parts that latched together. It had to do (and it still does) with the proximity of those parts to my body. The closer to the floor a part of my body, or any object, is, the less clean it is. To me the dirtiest part of the body would have to be the feet. Take a look! The hip region where a seat belt latches is just low enough for me to want to avoid touching it.
Of course, OCD being like a snowball, the cumulative nature of the beast has caused it to grow and change throughout many years. My numerous accounts relate rituals that go back a long time and also newer compulsions. A year from now it will be different still.