The Pain of OCD

Any germophobe knows that OCD is going to bring pain at one point or another.  Sometimes the pain is mental; other times it is physical.

I can think of at least two times in the recent years that my mother has been rushed to the hospital with unusual symptoms.  After the medical staff was sure that she was stabilized and tests had been performed, I was allowed to go in and see her.  She was naturally upset in such circumstances and in need of comfort and reassurance.  I am really good at verbal reassurance, but even in this extreme situation, I struggled with her need to have a loving, comforting touch.  I knew that the only solution was to use my “designated hand” method.  My right hand is usually the one that gets assigned the “dirty” tasks, and my left is reserved for touching my own face, getting something from my purse, and driving home.

These occasions in the hospital were especially trying.  One would think that no place on earth is more sanitary than a hospital, but that is not the case.  I have seen nurses place trays lined with pill bottles on top of soiled linen containers.  Is it any wonder that so many patients acquire infections during their stay?  To me, everything in a hospital is teeming with germs, much more so than practically any other public place.  So, imagine my horror when my mother asked me to get a wet washcloth for her to place on her forehead.  The germs in that place were bad, but wet germs feel so much worse than dry germs.  And I had to get the cloth, turn on the faucet, and squeeze it out with only my designated dirty hand.  There was lots of mental pain that night.  I felt submerged in filth, and then there was the guilt from not simply being able to put everything aside to take care of my mother.

Then there is the physical pain.  Most compulsive hand-washers have felt the pain of dry, cracked, bleeding hands.  Owing to my use of disposable gloves, I have not felt that pain in several years.  Now I am facing a different problem with my hands.  I have my rubbing alcohol-filled spray bottles that I rely on constantly every day to keep my sanity.  Every time I feel I have come into contact with something dirty, I have to spritz.  If it’s something particularly bad, I have to spray myself or an object many times.  This system has worked well for me for a long time.

Now I am having a problem with the bottles.  I have used bottles from a few different companies through the years, emptying or using the contents, then refilling with the alcohol.  Gradually, one by one, each of these companies has ruined the bottles for me by making the spray nozzle (the important part for me) extremely stiff.  When one company did it, I moved to another.  I had several options, so it wasn’t a big deal.  But now all of them have stiff nozzles, and I have been stuck with them for four or five months now, and my fingers are hurting.  Even after a night’s rest, I wake up and they feel arthritic (at least I’m guessing that’s how it would feel).  It’s mainly the fingers on my right hand since I use them much more than the left.  Sometimes the pain shoots up my forearm, too.  How do people with arthritis function?  This is certainly making me empathetic towards them.

Do any of you germophobes have a similar problem?  Do you know of someone who sells a bottle with a nice, loose nozzle?  The companies that have let me down include Aubrey, Heritage Store, J.R. Watkins, AuraCacia, HomeHealth, and Starwest Botanicals, so please don’t recommend any of those.  I used to buy plain, unmarked, empty bottles also, but they are ruined now, too.  Four ounce bottles are the perfect size, but I am willing to give a little on that to ease the pain.  I am seeking suggestions, so don’t hold back.

Here’s to a pain free tomorrow!

About admin

I am a female in my early 40's who has been dealing with OCD since age 10 and a fear of germs since 14.
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One Response to The Pain of OCD

  1. Eli says:

    Since multiple fingers are hurting rather than just your index finger, it sounds like you are using spray bottles with the attachment on top that looks like a toy water gun, with a vertical, squeeze trigger several inches long, rather than a pump-type cap with the nozzle (hole where the alcohol comes out of) built into the cap.

    There are a few things that you can try:

    1. Rather than continuing to spray, which overexerts your fingers, you could unscrew the bottle and carefully pour some alcohol into your hand (or a very small container) when you want to clean your hands, or pour some onto a napkin and use that to clean a contaminated object or another part of your body. If you pour a little into a flat-bottom dish or a plastic sandwich container, you could roll the objects around in the alcohol. (You could pour the dirty alcohol into another bottle for disposal in the toilet later.) If you keep part of the bottom of the bottle touching the table while you slowly tilt the bottle, this would help you keep from pouring too much out. You could even try doing this for a while to give your fingers a well-deserved rest, maybe a week or longer, before going back to the spraying, if that’s what you prefer.

    2. You stated that you would like to keep the volume of the bottle at about 4 ounces (half cup) or so, but you may have to go to a bigger size since the squeeze triggers on the smaller size spray bottles that you have used in the past are now too stiff for you. If the additional weight is a problem, you could leave the bottle standing up rather than holding it when you spray your hands.

    Rubbermaid makes a 32-oz. (4 cups, not really too unwieldy) spray bottle that Target and other stores carry, and I’ve read that you can remove the top spray mechanism from the spray bottle and screw it directly onto the rubbing alcohol bottle, that it fits perfectly. This helps people remember what’s in the bottle, and you wouldn’t have to keep refilling your smaller-size spray bottle. If the cap would fit on your 4-oz. bottle except that the inside plastic tube attached to the spray mechanism is too long, you could cut the tube so that it fits. Dollar stores also have similar spray bottles of various sizes that you could try, but maybe you already have.

    3. You could switch to alcohol gel that comes in bottles with lotion-type pump nozzles that you could push with the palm of your hand, thus giving your fingers a rest. But it’s more expensive than rubbing alcohol, and leaves a bit of residue. My office has free-standing dispensers at opposite ends of the building that dispense the gel if you put your hands under the nozzle; you don’t have to touch anything.

    The occasional pain in your right forearm sounds like the beginning of tennis elbow, where the tendon attachment at the elbow become inflamed due to repetitive overuse. Sometimes you can get this from using a computer mouse for prolonged periods, but you indicate that yours is from squeezing the overly stiff trigger mechanisms on the spray bottles. If it gets worse, there’s a strap that you can put on over the forearm that reduces strain on the tendon, and physical therapy exercises that you can do. A cortisone shot reduces the inflammation and pain, but physical therapy exercises are better for long-term functioning.

    Good luck!

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