The phone call that everyone dreads happened. My sister-in-law died unexpectedly. She was in her mid-forties. I didn’t know what to think or what to do. It was early in the morning, and I was getting ready for work. I decided to go in to work because I couldn’t deal with it at the time. I knew that I would go see my brother after work and sort things out then.
Naturally, my heart went out to my brother, but I could not help but think what it would mean for me – hugging. There was going to be a lot of hugging in the coming days and that would mean many super-showers for me. I know it was extremely selfish of me to be thinking so much of myself at that time, but that’s how OCD affects me and, I assume, every other sufferer.
I did go see my brother, and I listened to him relate the awful story of his beloved wife’s demise, and then we hugged. I felt sorry for my brother, and I felt sorry for myself. His life had changed dramatically, and I had to go through a super-shower. Sometimes what is just as bad as anticipating the super-shower is the waiting before it comes. I cannot do the shower until right before I get into bed. So there may be a delay of several hours when I cannot touch my face and hair or perhaps even my shoulders and arms because, since they are in an extreme state of contamination, I have to keep my hands clean to be able to function through whatever my daily routine brings.
Worse than going through one super-shower was that I knew there were many more to come because of what had happened. The day of the memorial service was a good example. That is a day no one ever wants to come, but at least I was looking forward to visiting with relatives that I had not seen in years. I think most of them know about my OCD, but I was expecting there to be at least one hug. I wish I had been wrong. So many times I have wished to be wrong, but I’m usually not. In less than a minute someone was approaching me with outstretched arms, and it was over. The event I had been dreading was over. In a way it made the remainder of the memorial easier because I didn’t have to wonder if it would happen or try to avoid embracing anyone. Now I was free to go up to my family members and initiate a hug myself. I was grateful that it was a cool day as I was able to wear a long-sleeved shirt and my cotton gloves without feeling overly self-conscious. This made it slightly easier to make it through the ordeal.
I did have to do a super-shower that night. The interim hours were uncomfortable, as anticipated. And there were many more occasions for embracing during this difficult time.