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Sunday, January 15, 2012


You know, it's amazing how much people without OCD take for granted. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking people who don't have OCD. I'm just saying that they do incredible things every day without even realizing it.
Take doors for instance.
It depends on what type of OCD you're dealing with, of course, but for a germ freak like me doors present a constant and maddening challenge. Doors, as we all know, are made to be opened and shut. The problem with that is that you have to actually touch the door in order to accomplish that. That's right, actual physical contact. Yikes.
The worst are the doors with round knobs. Doors without handles can be kicked open with a foot or shoved with a shoulder. Doors with handles can be opened by covering your hand with your sleeve, or pressing the handle down with your knuckles if you're not wearing long sleeves. But doorknobs?
Maybe it's just my lack of coordination, but I find it extremely difficult to open a door with a knob within the limits of my OCD while maintaining any semblance of being a normal human being. Paper towels (one of my favorite protectors against all things germy found in bathrooms . . . which is everything) are not always available with the advent of air dryers. Even when paper towels can be had, I've noticed a troubling pattern in public restrooms of placing the trash can at least 10 feet from the door; problematic if, like me, you're a bit of a poor shot. Even worse are those models of poor planning where the door is around the corner from the garbage can. I can't even remember how I made it out of those places. Sleeves can be used if they're long enough, but since you have to grip a knob with your whole hand, you really have to stretch the sleeve to get it to cover everything. And then you probably have to stretch out the other sleeve to make it 'even' and go around all day looking like your cuffs got caught in an escalator or something and you only just managed to pull them out. And knuckles—if you ever figure out a way to open a doorknob with your knuckles using only one hand, I want to hear about it. I always have to grip the knob between the knuckles of both hands and try to maintain enough pressure that my knuckles don't slip off while I wrestle the door open. I've not yet had anyone ask if I've heard of opposing thumbs, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
To illustrate how amazing you are if you can open and shut doors in the way they were obviously designed to be opened and shut, let me tell you about an experience I had.
Have you seen the 3rd Harry Potter movie? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? (Stick with me. Believe it or not I'm staying on topic.) You have? Great. You haven't? Don't worry. The part I'm going to reveal isn't exactly a spoiler. In the movie, Harry is staying at some kind of wizardly hotel. In one scene, after what we hope was a refreshing night's sleep, he exits his room and closes the door behind him. But here's the best part: He closes it with his hand.
For some reason, that part made my jaw drop when I first saw it. Yeah, yeah, so some other things happened in the movie too. There were wizards and magic and mysterious happenings, maybe even a werewolf or two. But all of that paled in comparison to the bit where Harry shut the door.
I believe at that point in my life I was still shutting doors with my foot. Sound hard? It is. But it was better than touching them with my hands.
Now, just in case you're wondering, yes, I had seen people opening and shutting doors with their hands before. For some reason, it just didn't hit me the way it did when I saw it on the screen. Maybe it was because Harry was alone in that scene, so he didn't have to act normal by shutting the door with his hand; he could have done it any way he wanted. Anyway, almost as powerful as the urge to grab Harry by his jacket, drag him to the nearest sink, and hand him a bottle of anti-bacterial hand-soap was the thought, He just shut that door with his hand! People open and shut doors with their hands. And then, I wish I could open and shut doors with my hands.
And you know something? I can. Sort of. I still do the paper towel thing, or the sleeve over the hand thing, or the knuckle thing if all else fails. But the point is, I've gotten to the point where I can do something I never thought I could. I'm realizing that I don't have to be normal, I just have to be better than I was. So I'm proud of myself. Look, Mom. Hands!


  1. Great post. I watch tv and movies the same way. I watch them through the lens of OCD. There are so many things that so many people take for granted that are an OCD'ers worst nightmare - like opening doors with their hands, or puking in a toilet without having to shower afterward, or changing clothes in a public restroom, or taking out the trash and then doing something else without washing their hands - the list goes on and on. And heaven forbid I watch Hoarders - the condition that some people live in is just appalling.
    Anyway, you're not alone. :) Public restrooms still give me the heebies. But you're right - sometimes normal isn't the goal. Sometimes we just have to compare ourselves to the person we were yesterday. And if we're better than yesterday, we've accomplished a lot!

  2. Congradulations!!!!! That was a big one for me, when i finally could touch doors again. And i look for the garbage can too, to see if i can throw a paper towel in it after opeining the restroom door!

    I notice the things i can do, now, that before i couldn't because of ocd and i wonder too, if 'normal' people actually are aware of how many things in life are so easy for them, things i fought hard to be able to do once again. STuff like pick my keys off the ground without having to wash them and my hands.

    And then there's the thot's i'll probably always have like when opening a door wondering where the 'cleanest spot' would be on the bar handle.

  3. Hello, I just found yhour blog and I'm glad I did. Great post! I had to laugh. You wrote about the "door problem" in such a humorous and HONEST way. I could relate so much. I've tried all the tricks to open doors without using my bare hands. It can get comical if you stop and think about it.

    I wonder what "normal" is too, and wonder what it feels like to not even worry about germs on a door handle. I agree with the comment above about focusing on the changes in ourselves from day to day and not worrying about being normal.

  4. Hi Sam! I was attempting to get in touch with your parents, but my e-mail was returned to me. Would you mind sending me their updated e-mail address? Mine is brooklynnussery [at] yahoo [dot] com. Anyway, I remembered your blog address from the newsletter you guys sent out in December. It has been so fun to read through some of your posts. I would have never guessed! And I have to admit, I feel horrible now, remembering back to when you came over for dinner with your family and all the germs surely floating around our house with 3 germy kids. SORRY!!! I'm so glad you came though. So much has happened since that "Homeschooling preview" and I'm excited about our family's future! So, thank you for contributing and giving me the courage to do this!
    Sincerely, Brooklynn Ussery

  5. Hi! I hope you don't mind that I totally infiltrated your blog and decided to 'follow' it - as a friend of mine turned me on to it through her 'Inspirational Blogs' listing. Although my blog addresses a different culmination of disorders (slowly but surely) I as well have OCD but mine is reactive to uncontrolled anxiety and a refusal to take medication for it. I found your blog particularly open, honest and candid about the truths of germaphobia OCD.
    I hope you don't mind I will be looking into your blog for updates. I like how you write and the occasional humour you bring to it all. Made me smile and cringe all at the same time. But most importantly the message you are giving, towards the end, is definately hope and motivation. Thank you!


  6. Thanks so much for your comments, everyone!
    I'm glad you're enjoying the blog and I love reading your comments and getting different points of view.

  7. i'm glad i found your blog, this is me everyday. anyone who sees me trying to open a door calls me a weirdo. i'm glad i have read that i'm not a weirdo i just need to control my ocd. thank you for writing this blog.

  8. I'm glad you found my blog too, and thanks for commenting! I always love getting feedback. It helps me know that I'm not the only person in the world dealing with this.
    Just like you, I can't always control my OCD, but I'm sure trying, and I wish you the best of luck as you do the same!