I've been reading and working thru a workbook called The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD- book review in progress, coming soon. They really want you to practice focusing on the present/ the task, not on your intense, possibly out-of-control feelings. One of the things the authors say is that: intensity of feelings does NOT equal truthfulness of the thought. I've been thinking on that and the papers-not-floating-into-the-vase experiment I commented on a few days ago. I really want to be able to do laundry without showering or being hyper aware that I'm not touching the laundry bag, washer or clothes except with my hands.
I've been already not concerned about laundry just strewn on the floor, under the bed etc. because those would be my non-contaminating daughter's or just clothes abandoned due to laziness. The problem comes with the clothes I put into the laundry bags. Sometimes I put towels that I've used to wash hands after doing something I think is contaminating (ie. laundry). So just in case some of the 'contamination' didn't wash off in the water/ soap part, it might have been wiped off in the drying part. So that towel 'might' be contaminated. So far, until last Tues. nothing seemed to blast thru my mind that 'might-be' doesn't equal 'toxic waste'. I also throw damp washcloths etc. in that may have been used to clean up a spill. Actually I often try to put those on the metal parts of the bags (they're 3 cloth bags attached to a metal frame) so they can dry. As I am chucking them onto the bags, I might miss and thus there could be damp laundry stewing in the bags for up to a week. This also equals 'contaminated' in my mind, even tho I've seen no mold coming from that practise yet. This leads me to today's experiment:
Still wearing pj's, I grabbed the laundry from my daughter's room and shoved it in the machine . Repeat for the laundry pile in our room (sometimes the bags get full and I also tell my husband not to put his pants in the bags because it fills them up too fast.). That was easy. Made sure the laundry touched my clothes.
Now for the potentially contaminated stuff in the laundry sack. I undid the bag without touching the metal ( that's for next time's ERP) and made sure my pj's touched the bag. I stuffed it in the washer and then put laundry already on the dryer and washer into it. I wiped off the machines -just -in case- my usual routine- and went upstars to wash up. So far so good. Didn't feel contaminated at all. Just a twinge of dread. But off course I hadn't done anything yet. I still could just throw my pj's in the laundry, have a shower and be just fine. But I didn't. I washed my hands to the elbows and then the dread started. "But you want to use a towel and throw it in the laundry- just-in-case, right" says OCD. " DO NOT use the towel on the rack." I caved in and listened. I let my hands air dry.
But then I started pushing back. I was thirsty and picked up a cup with a bit of water left in it. At this point I could just put it on the counter with the dirty dishes, but I didn't. I went to the fridge, opened it and got some more water. The hard part about this is that even after the dread leaves, I remember what I've touched and so, I often have to stomp out more OCD thots later on. Sometimes I just cave in, if I'm not feeling energetic enough to do battle again. I let the fridge door touch my pj's and came to work on this blog. I just touched my shirt all over to make sure I couldn't tell myself later that my pants barely touched any dirty laundry-that I held it in my arms against my shirt and thus the computer didn't get contaminated..
While writing this down (which takes time because my curser jumps all over the keyboard so I keep having to redo what I've written), the dread has left. The next 'dread' spike will come when I throw my pj's on the perfectly clean bed. Which brings me to another point made in 'The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD' and that is this: Perfection is an impossible state to continue in. Once you've 'reached' perfection, the only place from there is down. So a just-clean shirt can only get dirtier! Perfection is a false goal... an OCD goal, that can never be attained, only OCD fails to say that part.
So I'm now supposed to go throw my pj's on the bed and pick them up tonight and wear them and sleep where I threw them. I'm soooo tempted to let that go till the next ERP but that will just stretch out the agony. Remember, Karin, intensity of feelings does not equal truthfulness of feelings.. Repeat.
Not only did I put my pj's on the bed, but I laid in it first & I touched my library book (oh no!) and my breathing mask. Had a shower and didn't wash the faucet handle before I came out - 1st recontamination. Had a drink and came on the computer -2nd recontamination, 3rd recontamination.
One thing I noticed is the more I paid attention and focused on what I was doing (ie drying off) the louder that is and the quieter OCD and dread were. Which maked it easier to continue what I was doing and ignore ocd.
Also, what I thought I'd never be able do- not worry when I'm doing laundry (once upon a time, long ago, before contamination OCD hit, laundry was my favorite chore.) I am hopeful that one day I can do again! Up until now, I thought that my new laundry routine was just a 'scar' from having ocd, it doesn't take up much extra time but it'll always be different than it was. Now, maybe not.