One second I see a loving dog, the next I see a germ-infested monster. Being told to walk the dog feels like a death sentence. It seems that my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is still finding new ways to twist my reality against me.
My mother gave me the simple task of walking the dog, trying to push me out of my comfort zone and fight back against my OCD. I was not in a good place mentally, making the task of walking the dog even more daunting. I resisted and cried a bit, but gave in for fear of the consequence of disobeying (missing school).
While walking the dog I wished that one of the cars driving by would run me over, or that the person in the car would kill me. Kidnapping wasn’t okay because I’d miss school, but I was really hoping for a quick death.
I was stopping at each corner letting Lincoln (the dog) choose the direction, since I have a fear of making simple decisions (OCD is just wonderful). I briefly entertained the idea of getting lost, but I knew I’d always make sure I knew how to get back to a familiar face, since I fear uncertainty.
While leaving the house, I was told to be gone a half an hour or walk the dog multiple times, so I had to make sure I didn’t get back too soon. I was so focused on freaking out over walking the dog that I forgot to bring my phone, or any way to tell the time, so I was just guessing how long I was gone. Knowing my poor time estimation skills, I had absolutely no idea how far to walk.
Finally, my nightmare came true: Lincoln went to the bathroom and left a pile of poop that I had to pick up. Yes, I had the bags, but that wasn’t enough for my OCD. It said that his feces was contaminated and that I couldn’t touch it. It said that I would be contaminated through the bag, and that I had to stay away. Due to my fear of being a morally bad person, I also couldn’t leave it in someone's yard.
Being stuck between being forever contaminated or irredeemably horrible, I just stood there with the dog unsure of what to do, with panic slowly growing. It was starting to get dark, I was on the other side of the neighborhood, and I should have been getting back home shortly. To make things worse, the house I was in front of had a dog that was barking, which was exciting Lincoln and causing him to bark.
After maybe 20 minutes a man came out of the house and asked me if everything is okay. I told him that my dog had pooped in his yard but I couldn’t pick it up because it was contaminated. He was pretty confused and asked what I meant by contaminated. I explained that I have OCD, and seeing the confused look on his face signalling that he had no clue what that is, just said that I have a fear of germs. At this point I started to cry. I was still panicking about my dilemma, and the man thought I was crazy by the look on his face, not understanding how much more was going on than just germs, but I was too deep in panic to be able to explain it to him.
He offered to pick it up himself, but I told him that he couldn’t because it was contaminated and could kill him. I know it sounds far fetched but my brain was telling me that Lincoln could have some sort of disease that he could get by picking up his excrement and could transfer it to his dog and family, making it my fault that they got ill and potentially died. At this point I was crying pretty hard and the poor man had a look of sympathy on his face unsure of what to do. He attempted to say that it was okay and that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I felt horrible. I had interrupted their evening because I was too scared to pick up dog poop.
I felt absolutely humiliated. The man, while trying to be nice and not upset me more, was talking to me like I was a child. I know that he didn’t have ill intentions but I felt so small, like I was somehow less of a person. I know his impression of me is going to be forever warped by how the situation appeared, and he wouldn’t ever know the full story of what was going on.
For the first time, I felt ashamed about having OCD. I’ve had many tough experiences in the past, but the people who were around when things escalated knew about it and understood what was going on and all that I was dealing with. However, to the man and all those in the outside world, I look like some poor girl who’s terrified of everything and completely irrational. They don’t see me as having potential. I felt for the first time that my OCD could truly hold me back in life, that I would be judged harshly and would lose opportunities if people found out. It was the I want to sink into the background and become invisible kind of feeling, and I hated myself with an extreme intensity for not being stronger, for not being good enough to overcome my OCD.
While I know that I am strong for going through what I do and that I still have potential to achieve great things in life, I still struggle with feeling judged for being different, unable to enjoy life like those I see around me. It was kind of the why am I even bothering to try if I’m always going to be miserable and looked down upon kind of feeling. Even though I push on, I struggle with this every day.
The man asked if he could call someone to help and so I mentioned my mom, who he called and she came to get me. He asked me some questions about my life (like questions you ask a stranger you are trying to get to know) to keep me from crying. My mom arrived shortly, took Lincoln, had me go to the car, picked up the poop (she picks stuff up in our yard and since she has yet to die she is lucky enough to have an immunity to the potential diseases), probably apologizes to the man, and leaves.
I took a shower when I got home, trying to get clean of the contamination I felt from the event, trying to wash the memories away. I couldn’t stop crying, the shame seemed to rise up and consume me entire being. I then engaged in a different compulsions (not smart I know) to lower my emotional turmoil enough so that I was able to go to bed.
Despite incidents like this one and the many others in the past, I somehow continue to push on and fight to survive. I cling to the slight possibility of fighting my OCD, instead of being trapped within it. While walking the dog was kind of a failure in terms of standing up to my OCD, it got me one step closer towards getting better.