I hear this everyday. Every. Single. Day. Every single time I touch soap and water, something in my head goes -
“just one more time” or “what if your hands are still unclean?”.
I feel helpless to struggle against it. But at the same time something in my head also goes -
“what do you mean you have to wash your hands again? You have done it 8 times !” or “This is ludacris”.
I feel annoyed. Immensely annoyed. But still. Some sort of irrational...thing...in me tells me to do it again...and again...and again.
You see, I struggle with germaphobia with a sprinkle of OCD-esque symptoms because why not?
And it's been going on for years. I used to carry around hand sanitizers EVERYWHERE (well in the light of covid, I like to believe that I was just really good at predicting the future..perhaps morbidly good at it). I avoid tightly packed areas if I can (not in an unfriendly way...I am not a hermit...I promise). I generally don’t like hugging and physical contact in general.
Now that I have everyone reading this convinced that I am a hermit and hate humanity, Let me walk you through what it feels like. It’s strange really...I know it’s not normal. But I can’t stop it.
Well it’s like this. Say I just ate something or touched a railing or something, and immediately my head goes -
“You need to wash your hands''
and then the rational part of my brain goes -
“But why??? Your hands aren’t unclean.”
But then the other part of my brain goes “you have to do it. You have to” and then that part wins.
It’s almost like you are losing a game against yourself while commentating on it live. It’s like a tennis match in my head and I am the only spectator. It feels really weird. Like. REALLY WEIRD.
But then there is the compulsion to keep doing it again and again. I wash my hands, at the minimum, over 30 times a day. That's too many times to do anything in a day. I keep doing it again and again. I wash my hands twice consecutively and I am like “ok...I am done” but then I hear the dreaded statement - Just one more time. It’s like I am being controlled. Because I cannot stop myself from doing it.
It’s scary in a way. Knowing that you cannot control yourself from doing and thinking things which make you anxious.
I find myself keeping track of “where” the “germs” are. I keep a mental list of things I am allowed to touch without washing my hands afterwards. This is just plain stupid. I mean hindsight is 20/20 right? And my hindsight is telling me that this is downright idiotic.
But perhaps the most annoying of all is the fact that my hand washing habit hurts. Literally. I have extremely sensitive skin which gets irritated when I use too much soap, but as you can probably imagine, I use a LOT of soap and this leads to me itching my skin until it turns raw. But of course I still wash my hands after that with soap. My hands burn after particularly bad allergic reactions. I feel tears in my eyes and find myself actually dreading the idea of doing yet another one of my “washing cycles”.
I have found myself avoiding perfectly normal situations as I don’t want to wash my hands again or because I don’t want to spread the germs.
I live a life which is getting structured around my germaphobia. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t normal. That this is not how things are supposed to be. And in many ways that's the most important thing we have to keep reminding ourselves. That this isn’t normal or that we can have a better life free from the chains of this fear and anxiety.
Here, I wanted to share somethings that I have found helpful in my struggle (which is still going on) against my habits.
Be optimistic about your ability to come out of this as a better person. Be optimistic about your ability to triumph over this. Be optimistic about yourself.
Always remember that you are an amazing and wonderful person, and having a phobia doesn’t make you strange or deranged. You are an awesome person. Never forget that !
While I do not recommend self diagnosis (especially if you are seriously in danger) I do recommend reading up on your symptoms as it helps you learn more about yourself !
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers with a platform to share and help others from their own experiences while also educating others on different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all teenagers around the world and support others. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.