Turn the shower faucet on. Squirt face soap into my hand. Step into the shower. Pull door closed the second time to make sure it’s sealed.
Wet my face with one hand. Rub face soap on my cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, cheek, nose. Rinse my hands until they’re free of soap. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face and rub hands across my face. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face. Splash water on my face.
Rub my eyes to the rhythm in my head. Open my eyes and pick up liquid bath wash.
Squeeze bath wash bottle with my right hand to put soap in palm of my left hand. Hold soap bottle under my left arm to use my right hand to wipe off any soap residue from top of bottle. Slowly close bottle cap to hear it click. Hold the bottle under the running water to wash off any soap residue before setting it back in its place.
Cover body with bath wash. Each part gets a number of swipes and scrubs according to the rhythm. Rinse bath wash off. Rub skin until it feels free of soap residue.
Wet my hair. Rub my eyes to the rhythm in my head. Pick up shampoo bottle.
Squeeze shampoo bottle with my right hand to put shampoo in palm of my left hand. Hold shampoo bottle under my left arm to use my right hand to wipe off any shampoo residue from top of bottle. Slowly close bottle cap to hear it click. Hold the bottle under the running water to wash off any shampoo residue before setting it back in its place.
Rub shampoo into my hair. Rinse hair. Rub eyes to the rhythm in my head. Squeeze water out of my hair.
Cup my hands to catch water and splash any soap off the shower walls. Squeeze water out of my hair again. Splash water again. Turn off water. Push the lever one more time.
That’s my shower routine. I don’t take 30 minute-plus showers anymore. I can finish up on good days in about seven minutes.
But I can’t seem to let go of a lot of the little rituals, little movements that are embedded in my shower routine.
I didn’t realize that I had so many rituals regarding showering until I started thinking about the things I do that take me significantly longer than it takes my husband.
Maybe a seven to 10 minute shower doesn’t seem like much, but that’s on a day when I’m focused. And the other grooming tasks that I have to do in the morning before leaving for work make the whole process take too much time.
And since the process is steeped in rituals, I dread it and avoid starting, which makes me take even longer.
My parents used to fuss at me for how slowly I performed tasks. Besides the long showers, I took a lot of time to wash dishes, to perform household chores and to get ready to go anywhere.
I researched OCD slowness and discovered that the term obsessive slowness and similar terms are controversial. I found one expert who seemed to write about what I experienced in a commonsense and helpful way.
Fred Penzel, Ph.D., wrote an article called “What the Heck is ‘Obsessive Slowness?’” for OCD Chicago.
He believes the term obsessive slowness is not useful: “There are a great many subtypes of OCD, and many of them cause sufferers to do things slowly or tediously. OCD usually makes sufferers inefficient because of all the extra steps and activities it adds to their lives.”
Penzel goes on to explain that it is important in treatment to determine “why some OCD sufferers do things in what appear to be painfully slow ways.”
He names doubtfulness, waiting for the “just right” feeling and perfectionism as reasons for slowness.
I think all three apply to my shower routine.
With my new awareness, and in my continuing quest to weed out the “hidden” aspects of OCD in my life, I am starting to try to combine and delete steps to become more efficient and to free myself from rituals that are only weighing me down, not just in my shower routine, but all my routines.
And I plan to discuss this with my therapist at my next appointment.
Do you have OCD rituals that slow you down? What success have you had in letting go of the rituals that were not useful and just time consuming?