First of all, I don't actually have to many exposure "assignments" these days - more like life guidelines for the exposure opportunities that seem to constantly bombard me in everyday life - dishes, hand-washing, showering, doing laundry, etc. I may not be doing something special and out of the ordinary right now to combat my OCD, but I've been doing better following the "guidelines" for regular life activities. Here are some of the areas that I've been working on:
1. Dishes. Big deal, right? Dishes. Everybody does them. Well not me. At least I hadn't really been doing them since my big OCD relapse began. However, since I moved into my new apartment about a month ago, I have really pushed to change this. My new kitchen is SO MUCH CLEANER than the kitchen I had before, and this in turn makes the task of actually facing the process of washing dishes seem that much more approachable. Don't get me wrong - coming out my cave of paper plates and plastic silverware was still a challenge, but at least my kitchen (and house for that matter) no longer looks like it belonged to some sort of strange cross between a frat house and a dive bar. It's definitely easier to face because of that.
These are the guidelines I am supposed to be following:
- Wet sponge and put small amount of soap on sponge (i.e. don't wash sponge separately before embarking on dish-washing extravaganza)
- Rinse dish for no more than 5 seconds
- Wipe inside and outside of dish for no more than 10 seconds
- Rinse dish for no more than 5 seconds
- No hand-washing before of after
So, I don't adhere to this perfectly (yet), and I still force myself to complete a lot rituals in the washing process (I count in my head to keep track of the number of seconds spent washing/rinsing), but it's getting easier and I try to use and do my dishes regularly. I haven't gotten pretty good at not washing my hands before/after the dish doing process. Not washing before isn't so hard - it's the not washing after that usually feels a bit icky. But I've been doing my best to adhere to this one.
As for the amount of time spent washing/rinsing, I wasn't coming even close before, but this past week I have been trying to limit myself to an amount of time closer to those limits advised by my therapist. I try to spend no more than 10 seconds washing the inside of a dish, 10 seconds on the outside, 5 seconds for other random parts, and 10 seconds rinsing. (Side note: If I ever doubt whether I *actually* have this disorder, I should seriously just read that last sentence I wrote.) I still allow myself to cheat quite a bit even on my modified guidelines, but they're a bit easier for me to realistically adhere to (if my therapists guidelines seem just too ridiculous to me, I tend to go into things like dish-washing without any intention to really adhere to them at all which means that I then wait until it feels "right" to stop instead, and that method just never, ever turns out well...). In writing all this, I think I begin to see just how weaselly I am when it comes to doing my "homework." Goodness, maybe I really do have OCD ;).
All jokes aside, doing dishes really has been incredibly liberating. It has opened up my food options - I can expand my diet beyond those entrees that can be simply prepared on a paper plate or in the microwave. Doing dishes also means that can eat healthier. Plus, having greater variety and fewer restrictions on my menu brings my mood up. Let me tell you, eating Lean Pockets day after day gets old. Going to the grocery store is intriguing as I can now purchase and prepare items that I have long avoided, items that I had, for almost 2 years, written-off as "un-preparable." I still don't completely realize the things I can make - I'll walk by an aisle and think, "nope, not that one, nope" and then realize - wait, I can eat that now! I do dishes!
I still have work to do in the dish-washing compulsions department, but I am finally washing them again and have begun doing some simple cooking, as well (I still don't like eggs, raw meat, etc...maybe someday!). It definitely makes life easier and it's one less "oddity" that I worry about others noticing.
So, when I started this post I thought I would write about more than just my dish-doing exposure work, but clearly this has become a post in and of itself. In an effort to not overwhelm myself with writing "perfectly" thorough posts (and to spare anyone who has bravely made it this far in reading my dish-washing odyssey), I guess I'll save the other exposure work I'm doing for another day. AND it will give me a reason to actually DO what I am supposed to be trying to do ;).