Itch and scratch

Almost everyday, I read to catch up on the news, get the scoop, stay in the know, keep up with the Kardashians, etc.  Well, today, there was an interesting blog post featuring OCD.  I always try to read articles, opinion pieces, or testimonials when it comes to OCD, not only because I enjoy learning about it, but because hearing about other people’s symptoms is usually very interesting and entertaining.  I’m not trying to poke fun at anyone here, but let’s be honest – some OCD symptoms are highly amusing simply because they are so off-the-wall that it is difficult for most people to wrap their mind around them.  What’s more is that people with OCD often come up with extremely creative and innovative compulsions to help relieve their anxiety, thus adding even more intrigue to the whole mess.

For example, the ‘patient’ from the featured blog post was experiencing extreme anxiety hearing and even looking at kitchen or bathroom sinks and anything that resembled a gas tank or nozzle.  Seems pretty bizarre, right?!  I mean, can you imagine covering your eyes every time you pass a sink?  Or breaking out your hand wipes when you drive by the gas station or see one on TV?  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  But to that patient, it is intensely uncomfortable.

To be fair, I will share one of my more embarrassing symptoms, too.  My uncle once told me that it “only takes a tablespoon to drown.”  Now, he has the tallest of all tall tales, the longest fish, fattest turkey, loudest laugh, yet is one of the most loving uncles that I have.  So whether or not this little tidbit is true is still left to be decided.  But to me, it didn’t matter.  If he heard it, maybe it was possible – or even entirely true – in which case, I was not going to take my chances drowning on any of my 64 daily ounces of water.

This little factoid has been burned in my brain since the day he shared it with me.  And although I don’t currently worry too much about it, there certainly have been times when all I could do was dread every sip of water.  I’d reach for my glass, then panic.  Would I breathe in too deeply while trying to take a drink?  Would it go down the wrong tube?  Was a tablespoon really all it took to drown an adult human being??

When thirst would finally win out and I’d take a drink, I would hold the water in my mouth for what seemed like forever.  Scared to swallow.  Afraid to breathe.  Sloshing the water around.  Mentally preparing to send it down the pipe.  Suddenly searching for anyone close by that could administer the Heimlich and give mouth-to-mouth should I happen to mess up a basic human instinct I had been successfully mastering since the day I was born.  I over thought the whole process so much I probably could have drowned!  It was ridiculous.

And not only was I scared that I would drown, but that anyone else who drinks liquid would, too.  I’d stare at my husband as he chugged down whole water bottles in one shot.  I’d lecture him on proper drinking etiquette and safety (his method of filling his cheeks like a chipmunk then swallowing in one big gulp was both disgusting and anxiety-provoking, to say the least).  The simple act of drinking became a major stressor for me, when I can guarantee most of the universe doesn’t think twice about it.

Kind of like the lady and her gas tank.

The psychologist who weighs in on the post describes obsessions and compulsions like an itch and a scratch.  You get an itch, so you scratch it and feel temporary relief.  And just like mosquito bites (and those pesky no-see-ems that are driving me crazy this summer), the itch comes back later.  And itches worse.

But he also points out that if you leave the itch alone, and refrain from scratching, eventually the itch goes away altogether.

Unfortunately, I’m a scratcher.  Bug bites, OCD, it doesn’t matter.  I have an itch, I’m going to scratch it.

Just give me a better bug spray and we’re in business…