Imagine…social distancing for months and even years
Currently we are experiencing an entirely different level of social interaction due to the COVID-19 virus. I have no intention on using this platform to discuss best practice, etc. as I am far from an expert, but I would like for you to IMAGINE!
I am (similar to some of you I suspect) feeling anxiety regarding what we are currently experiencing. I am (similar to some of you I suspect) having irrational thoughts. Washing my hands, use of hand sanitizer, isolation-it is all my current normal. When I listen to the news, I ‘hunker down’ even more.
I have canceled all of my courses through the summer. It is the rational thing to do. But, listening and reading the news is making my once rational thoughts become a bit irrational.
It is taxing. It is inefficient. It takes way too much of my time. It is also exhausting. I feel tired. Is that a symptom? I feel myself catastrophizing a bit. What is wrong with me? I am well educated in the medical field. I know fear lowers the immune system. I should know better.
I DO KNOW BETTER, BUT I FEEL I CAN’T TAKE THE RISK FOR OTHERS AROUND ME.
Anyone else feel similar? I (like many of us) eventually calm down but imagine that initial context on a daily, monthly and even yearly basis. Never ending!
Welcome to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I am specifically referring to the contamination obsessions with cleaning compulsions subtype of OCD.
Imagine having these thoughts all the time.
Imagine washing your hands so frequently that your hands are red, cracked and occasionally bleed. This only makes it worse. Germs can get into those cracks.
Imagine thinking every door handle you approach is another hurdle. You are in public. How do you approach it without looking foolish? At some point you don’t care. You use your long sleeves and forearms to open it. You have even learned how to use your foot.
Imagine having to wear long sleeves all the time-even in the hot, humid south summers. No, you don’t stand out.
Imagine being in high school. Going through the hallways with hundreds of people. It is impossible to not touch someone. Imagine the anxiety that builds. The noise. The ‘inconsiderate’ friends who slap you on the back. How do you react normally with all of this anxiety?
Imagine being in a class and thinking only about if your pencil touched the floor when you took it out of your bookbag. You did not see it touch, but it COULD have. Imagine thinking of this and similar thoughts the entire time you are in class. Imagine thinking this way when taking quizzes and tests. Imagine trying to explain to your parents (or boss if employed) why your work is not achieving the goal.
Imagine having to now home school. Your sanctuary. Your ‘safe place’. Yet, there are still hurdles here. Inanimate objects carry germs. You live with other people. They are dirty. Their hands are not red. Did they wash their hands?
Imagine having a ‘clean area’ in your room. That means there are areas that are not clean. Imagine not being able to use pens or pencils. Even new ones. Someone touched them to package them. Remember, germs can live on inanimate objects.
Imagine having clothes to wear in bed. Different clothes to wear in the room. Even different clothes to wear out of the room. Did they cross-contaminate. Did you mix up putting them in the correct locations when you took them off? Take them off, get new ones! They will all have to be washed…separately. Yes, three small loads. It is the second time today you have washed them. It is noon.
Imagine that process. You put on ‘outside the room house clothes’ to take down the laundry. You start the laundry and come back to your room. You left the door open, but it closed as you walked through. You have to use your foot to open it. You take these clothes off, go into the bathroom and wash your hands, and then change into your room clothes. 10 minutes later you now have to go into the bathroom. Why didn’t you go when you were in there?? You take these clothes off. You are only in your underwear. That is what you wear in the bathroom. You wash your hands…. again. You go back to your room. You put on your room clothes again. You sit down and try to study. You keep asking yourself-did I get soap between my 4th and 5th fingers? Did you go both clockwise and counterclockwise in rubbing in the soap? You are not sure. You go back into the bathroom and repeat the entire process. This time the process was repeated 2 more times. That is about your average. Sometimes a time or two less. Most times a time or two more. The whole process took 1.5 hours. You used a lot of water…your parents have told you so. The water bill says so. The city has posted a note on your door to look for a water leak due to water usage. That aside, now you can finally set down and study.
You are notified your clothes are done in the washer. Your family member offers to put them in the dryer for you. You decline. They are not clean. They try to convince you they will replicate your ritual. You again decline. Yet, you let them cook your food. You know, the stuff that actually goes into your body. What?? You know this is irrational.
Imagine another 1 to 1.5-hour process. Imagine this happens at least 2x/day. Your parents and teachers wonder why you cannot keep up in school. You got what you wanted…home schooling. You should be succeeding.
After much angst and tension, your family begins to ‘get it’. They try to help, but suck at it. They try to do things for you. They don’t understand. It is too exhausting to explain.
Imagine seeking professional help. Imagine taking medication. Imagine both help a bit, but at a consequence of being even more tired. You are actually less efficient. You may not graduate high school. You sleep for 10-12 hours (after a 1-hour ritual of getting clean enough to get into bed). You wake up and fear getting out of bed and the rituals that will ensue. You no longer communicate with your friends. They think you are weird anyway. You were an introvert prior, but even this is too extreme for your mental good.
Imagine getting to the point where you limit and fear getting out of your room, let alone your house. You know this is not normal. You just can’t convince yourself otherwise.
YOU DO KNOW BETTER, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE THE RISK FOR YOURSELF.
IMAGINE and, perhaps, APPRECIATE what some were going through prior to COVID-19. They will continue their routines after the rest of us calm down.