I survived! (So far.)
I am working on moving out of my apartment into a new room, in a new house, shared with new people and one good friend. While I am looking forward to the change of environment and a chance at a fresh start, in many ways it is also a struggle. I am basically taking a wrecking ball to the one place I consider "safe" and "clean" (well, at least parts of it), dismantling it limb from limb, stuffing it in "dirty" boxes and putting it in my "dirty" car, only to reassemble it all in a room that doesn't feel "clean."
On top of that my safety net is being taken out from under me as well. I rely upon washing my hands and showering to restore the feeling of cleanliness that is so easily lost. What if these rituals no longer provide the same comfort in this new place? What if I am forced to drastically cut down my compulsions at a rate that I am not comfortable with to hide the symptoms of my OCD? What if the shower at the new place doesn't feel clean (I'm sharing a bathroom with guys...)? How will I be able to shower there? Will I be able to shower under 30 minutes as I am supposed to? Will I be able to feel clean after showering? Will I find a way to make the new bathroom set-up work for me and my OCD? Will the sink where I wash my hands seem clean? Will I be able to wash infrequently enough and for short enough periods of time to avoid calling attention to myself? Lots of questions like these float around in my head. I guess I'll just have to wait and see, and take things one step at a time.
I realize that, in terms of exposure, this new place is some sort of heavenly gift, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't seem terrifying half the time. I am excited to have a real (though negative) motivating factor, (namely hiding my OCD from people who don't know about it and avoiding inconveniencing others) to provide the push and the desire to fight that all too often seems to be lacking. I have gotten so much better since my contamination issues reappeared close to a year ago now. And yet, I think I lose sight of just how limited I still am. I have grown accustomed to my routine and have adapted my world to my symptoms. Ultimately, however, I know that I cannot sustain this lifestyle. I think about all the things I'd like to do and realize that it would be very hard to accomplish them without regaining a greater degree of "normalcy." Hopefully this new home with its new housemates will remind me what "normal" is since I seem to have lost track of it.
I know I can do it. I know I can improve. I have been from one OCD episode to the next many times in my life. This time, though, I am finally getting treatment for the disorder. I am fighting it rather than just pushing it aside and replacing one form of symptoms with another. And I think doing it this way, the right way, takes time. But I hope by taking the time to do it right, that what I have and will continue to learn will stick, enabling me to avoid such severe relapses in the future. I also hope that I can do more than just return to being "normal" in terms of contamination issues. I would really like to tackle other difficulties that I have had, difficulties that I can now see were probably created or exacerbated by OCD, to improve my life in general. But for now, I am taking one moment at a time. Not even days, just moments, and that approach seems helpful. I can get through this as long as I don't get too far ahead of myself!