Living with OCD

Living with OCD

What do restaurant menus, credit card electronic signature pens, library books, ATM machines, hotel room remote controls, bowling balls, counter tops, light switches and door handles all have in common? I can’t touch any of them with my bare hands without becoming extremely agitated. I even have a hard time flushing my own toilet. I use a tissue. Then I wash my hands. And before you ask why I’d feel the need to do this in my own house, let me say this: I have two kids. They’re pretty much walking, talking germ-balls. I also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and emetophobia (fear of vomiting, a story for another time).

For those of you who aren’t mentally ill (congratulations!), OCD is a chronic disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts ( obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions). For me, the reoccurring thought is “germs are going to make me and my family sick” and the behavior is hand washing and avoiding touching things. It’s gotten better over the years with medication, therapy and the advent of hand sanitizer. Yet every once and a while, I feel my OCD flare up again. These flare-ups mostly occur during flu season. Lucky for me, I have the ability to work from home. I didn’t always.

Before I worked from home, I worked in an office environment for, like, 12 years. It was AWFUL. I had to see people and talk to them. I’d have to interact with sick coworkers. But the worst part was dealing with the office bathroom. I couldn’t touch the door handle, that was out of the question. And driving 15 miles back home every time I had to pee wasn’t feasible. So I had to rely on my innate survival skills and creepiness to get me through. I’m good at lurking, for example. None of my coworkers would notice me lurking outside the bathroom door if I pretended to be texting on my phone. I’d lurk until someone came around, then sneak in behind them.

Ways to open the office bathroom door without touching it

Over the years, I came up with a variety of strategies to avoid contaminating my hands. Here are a few of them. Some worked better than others.

  1. Lurk outside the bathroom until Grace’s coffee kicks in, then slip in ninja-style behind her
  2. Wrap your hand in a roll of paper towels. If anyone questions where all the paper towels that were in the breakroom went, blame Andy from the IT department. (Everyone thinks he’s a serial killer anyway.)
  3. Wear extra long sleeves, even in the summer, then pull them over your hands and use them to open the door (Warning: this can be tricky if you’re dealing with a slippery handle or knob.)
  4. Pretend you lost both your hands in a tragic boating accident. Your company will be forced to install an automatic door to accommodate your disability per ADA regulations
  5. Tell your boss you’ll drop the sexual harassment charges if he opens the door for you (without following you inside this time)
  6. Use telekinesis


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