Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roommate with a Disclaimer

Sometimes I feel like I should just come with a disclaimer taped to my forehead for any potential roommate, apartment-mate, house-mate, or whatever:

WARNING:  Proceed with caution.   This individual may exhibit odd behaviors and may spend an excessive amount of time washing/showering/doing laundry/avoiding dirty things.  Will do best to limit strange behaviors around you and to avoid inconveniencing you.   Roommate will initially seem normal and will go out of her way to be a polite and considerate roommate, but odd behaviors will begin to become apparent over time.

I'm in the midst of packing and there's a lot to do, but I thought pausing to write about some of my worries would be a bit stress-reducing.  In fact, I suspect the immense pressure I feel to act "normal" during this stressful time will be leading me here frequently over the next few days and weeks.  So much is changing, and it's exciting.  But it's also overwhelming - especially for someone like me, someone with OCD who is quite inflexible when it comes to her home environment.

In the moving process, the separation between clean and dirty gets compromised.  I'm forced to either touch or throw out things I've avoided all year.  I have to adapt to a new environment, and its triggers.  I have to figure out a new way to make things work in a new home.  And on top of it all, I feel immense pressure to minimize my compulsions during this time of heightened anxiety, all so that my new roommate won't discover my not-so-"normal" side. 

The good thing is that, in new environments, it's usually easier for me to break old habits.  It's a good time to let go of old compulsions and to renew my fight against OCD (as much as part of me hates to admit this).  Being in a new a place with a new set-up means that all the "rules" feel less concrete.  There's room for them to shift and slide and change before again becoming ingrained and tied so strongly to my new environment.  I'm hoping that I can take advantage of this time to push myself onward, as terrifying as it may seem at the moment.  My new home will provide strong incentives to be and appear "normal," and I hope that I can use that drive to help me get past my fear of moving forward.

Moving is stressful for most people.  Moving with OCD presents its own *special* challenges.  For me, that stress means a strong urge to make myself feel better through compulsive behavior.  To make things even more fun, I feel this strong urge while simultaneously feeling immense pressure to suppress those very rituals I want so badly to perform.  It's a bit crazy-making.  A bit overwhelming.  But I made it through this process somehow last year, and I know I will make it through again.  I will come out on the other side...perhaps not feeling as "clean" as I would like to, but I will make it!

2 comments:

  1. Good luck with the moving. Ug. i hate moving with OCD. i wish i could leave him/her behind, but it keeps following me around. :(
    I have had really bad (not just around meat) handwashing ocd for the past 5 years; and the first time i moved (a family of 4 ) i insisted on washing just about EVERYTHING before it went into a tote or box. i threw out all sorts of stuff that had 'ocd' on it, including my wedding dress. The second move was even worse. We found out that this house had had mice (a REALLLY REALLY big trigger for me) so that involved actually throwing out the kitchen cupboards cause i was so upset. I also spent a lot of time trying to clean my little daughter's toys before i packed them (fortunately i thot my books were still clean enuf, so i didn't bother with them again, thank goodness)that the new house owners were trying to get in as we were still packing. We just left stuff there.

    I only had a bit of washing ocd when i was at university- most of it was just thots that wouldn't leave, or feeling overly responsible if i dented the landlord's walls etc.

    So good luck with the move and with the new roommate (s).
    - Karin, from Ontario, Canada.

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  2. Moving is one of the hardest things for me--our last move I wanted to move "perfectly" and my husband finally had to tell me to please stop, because it's not possible. It sounds like you are doing what you can, and aware of the vulnerabilities. Good luck! And remember everyone has weirdness, so don't assume you are something defective and your roomate is perfectly normal.

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