I turn on the shower but don’t get in yet. While the water is getting warm, I squeeze face soap on my hand. I get in the shower.
I wet my face with my right hand. I scrub my face with the soap. Round and round on my cheeks. Over and around my nose. Skim the forehead.
I splash water on my face and start rubbing my eyes. With the tip of my fingers of both hands, I rub each eye inward. I don’t count the number of times I rub them, but I know when it feels right.
I pick up the bottle of liquid bath soap. I squeeze soap into my left hand. With my right arm, I hold the bottle against me and wipe the opening with my right hand. Then I hold my right hand under the water to wash off any soap residue.
I close the bottle top with my right hand, making sure I hear the click of it closing. If the click is too soft, I open the top again, wipe the top, rinse my hand and close the top.
Then I hold the bottle under the water and rinse the whole thing before setting it down.
I wash in the same order using the same motions as always.
After rinsing, I wet my hair. Then I rub my eyes again until it feels right.
I pick up the shampoo bottle, squeeze a dollop into my left hand, hold the bottle against me, wipe the opening with my right hand, close the top and listen for the click, then rinse the whole bottle under the water.
I scrub my hair and then rinse it. Then I rub my eyes until it feels right.
When I’m done, I gather water into my hands from the spray and splash it on the shower floor, trying to get rid of any leftover soap.
I squeeze the excess water out of my hair and splash the floor some more.
I turn off the shower. I push the off lever at least once more to make sure it’s off.
I get out of the shower.
That’s my shower routine. It’s probably apparent why I don’t take quick showers, why my husband sometimes asks me after I get out of the shower, “Did you fall asleep in there?”
It’s only fairly recently that I realized all my little movements and rituals I do when taking a shower were symptoms of my obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about some of my touching compulsions. Apparently, touching and movement compulsions are similar.
In “A Touching Story,” an article on the Beyond OCD website, Fred Penzel Ph.D. writes that touching and movement compulsions can include a variety of behaviors, including two ways that affect me: moving in symmetrical or special ways and moving in special ways while carrying out certain activities.
Penzel writes that there are subgroups of this type of compulsion, including performing the compulsion as a magical or superstitious ritual to keep something bad from happening; performing them to have a sense of completion; and performing them to satisfy an urge.
I fall within the first subgroup. I perform the rituals because not doing so would make me feel like something bad was going to happen.
I want to take quicker showers, and I don’t want to be driven by OCD, so I’ve been tackling the problem.
Opportunities for exposure come often because I shower every day.
I’ve been trying to stop the movement rituals as soon as I realize I’m doing them. I am refusing to reopen and then re-close bottles of soap and shampoo. I am trying to stop rubbing my eyes beyond getting any water out of them. I am trying to push the off lever of the shower just once. I am trying to refocus my attention and move on.
Some showers are easier than others. I can feel the anxiety when I am not sure if I washed off the shampoo bottle or closed it properly, even though part of me knows I did.
My goal is to not do any of the rituals because I know doing rituals encourages me to do rituals.
I just have to keep working at it.
Do you have movement rituals? If so, how do you manage them?