I can’t sleep. Maybe because I’ve just landed Cyprus? Maybe because I’m excited that I’m staying with family I love and haven’t seen for a year? Or maybe I’m just nervous that I’m not in the comfort of my own room?
That’s most likely it.
I’ve got everything I need here; bed, duvet, pillows, clothes, mirror, lamp, bedside table – but it’s all new to me. In my room at home I know that I’m safe. I know that if I do my little routines and checks in my room back home, I’m safe and so is everyone around me.
You see, for those suffering from OCD, they either see living in the confines of their home to be a hindrance or salvation. When I’m in my room acting out the obsessed compulses, I’m doing them to make the world outside my room better. To me, the checks, touching of objects, thoughts and sayings that go on inside my room save me. It’s hard to keep things to myself at work but I’ve learnt to hide things and just cope with the suffering in public, and within. But at home, in my room, there’s no one but me so I have to act on these thoughts because there’s no one to hide them from.
The room is the same every day. Nothing ever changes. Why would it? So this just reinforces the routines, and strengthens them so I do them without thinking, and it becomes part of every day life. It sounds silly but when you get dressed, the only part of the process you might consciously think of is do I need to iron this? Or what should I wear with it? Before you know it, you’re already in the outfit and on your way out of the door. It’s only if you find a hole or tear in the material that a problem is caused. A change has occurred, so you take a step back to assess your situation and how to move on from there.
It’s a similar scenario if someone’s in my room. Like that tear in the material, something’s different and I can’t go on the way I thought I expected to. If they weren’t in the room, I’d be completing my routines and checks, and be out of the door. But they’re standing there and I can’t touch the plug ten times or until it feels right to stop because they’ll see me. They’ll see the real freak that is me. It’s not my fault. They’re not going to believe me when I tell them by looking at the eyes of each of my nine teddy bears three times or so, that it’ll save the world, or at least get me to work safely that day.
So what do we do when we come across an obstacle or obstruction? Is that saving us? Is the act of not doing the routine because they’re there a cheat? A cheat that’s allowed? Is that a good thing?
When I used to attend Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), I learnt that one of the negatives of having someone around when you’re performing routines is that you might use their presence as a cheat, and therefore allow yourself to not act out compulses because they’re there, or you might even avoid the actions by getting them to do them for you without them realising.
They would then in fact, become your enabler. An example of this was when my other half first started staying over. It would frustrate the crap out of me that I couldn’t turn the light switch off and on as many times as I wanted until it felt right to stop or even hold onto the light switch with all ten fingers crammed onto the button pressing hard until the tips of my fingers went white, until of course it felt right to stop. I then started to get into bed before he would, so that he would have to turn the light off instead of me, which worked because then I wasn’t having to face the torment of the light switch if I wasn’t anywhere near it.
Although it made me feel better that night, the next night if he wasn’t there, I was left alone with the light switch. So things would often get worse and I’d feel like I’d have to make up for the time I missed the night before. So stopping ‘only when it felt right’ was just a nightmare because it then became never-ending and would keep me up for hours. CBT taught me that you need to face the problems yourself, if you don’t, it’ll only get worse in the long run. There are times even now though when he’s being polite and asks if I want him to switch the light off, there’s a moment of hesitation. I do get out of bed and do it myself, even if it causes me so much pain walking away from the switch after only turning it off once. Sometimes, just sometimes I’ll turn it off and on again when he’s heavily asleep.
But, what happens when you’re in a new environment? What do I do when I’m not familiar with the items and objects around me? Can I formulate a routine? If so, how?
If logic ever came close to being anywhere near this situation…surely it would be logical not to come up with a new routine because I’m only here for a week and I wouldn’t be able to sustain the routine for any longer a period of time in the UK, seeing as I have my ‘normal’ routines there.
Logic is a funny thing. Shame it’s not more prominent in the minds of OCD sufferers. Because then it would tell me not to make up new routines here that could potentially ruin my holiday.
But, we all know that I’m not going to listen to logic.