Monday, July 16, 2012

The things we do because of OCD: Lying

My apartment building in Bowling Green.
Have you ever lied because of your obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Jean at her Writer, Heal Thyself blog recently wrote a post about lying in response to her compulsive overeating disorder.
And I started thinking about the effects mental illnesses can have, especially relating to the fear of others finding out about our problems and judging us harshly because of them.
I have lied out of fear stemming from my OCD, but there’s one particular incident I remember well. It happened in 1989 or around that time, when I was a graduate student living in Bowling Green, Ohio.

I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment and kept it sparklingly clean, especially the bathroom.
I cleaned the bathroom every Friday. I would start at about 7 a.m. and finish about four hours later. What took me so long?
I wiped down all the surfaces—the floor, the sink, the toilet and the tub—with a water and disinfectant solution. And I didn’t wipe once. I wiped over and over, making sure I covered every inch with the solution.
After I finished that, I doused the whole room with disinfectant spray in order to ensure every bit of the surfaces were reached and cleaned.
The bathroom ended up being quite wet, and I wouldn’t use the toilet until it had completely dried.
But the day I lied to one of my best friends was not a Friday, and I had not just finished cleaning the bathroom.

B came over so we could go do some shopping together.
I had known B since I moved to Bowling Green in 1985, but we became really good friends during my last two years in town.
I was at her house almost every day, and she fed me and listened to me and studied with me. B offered her hospitality to anyone who needed it.
On this day that we were to go shopping, B arrived and asked if she could use my bathroom before we left.
Now I was very obsessive about protecting the cleanliness of my bathroom. I put a lot of time and effort into getting it clean to my OCD specifications. When I used the bathroom, I was careful to now mess anything. When I was finished, I would clean the toilet seat with disinfectant spray and toilet paper, to make sure any germs were killed.
I didn’t like other people using my bathroom, and if they did, I cleaned the toilet after they left.
I was inwardly panicking in response to B’s request. I wouldn’t be able to clean the toilet until I got back from shopping. I knew that I would think about it the entire time we were out.
“Oh, B, I just cleaned the bathroom, so it’s too wet to use,” I said.
“Couldn’t I take a piece of toilet paper and wipe it dry and use it?” she asked.
I panicked some more. I didn’t want her to go into my bathroom to use it. I also didn’t want her to go into the bathroom and see that it wasn’t wet, that I had lied.
So I told her no again. She looked hurt and confused.
Then we left my apartment and went to a big box store, where she used the bathroom. I was sorry she had to use a public bathroom, but at the time, I wasn’t sorry that she hadn’t used mine.

I refused to let a friend use my bathroom. I lied to her about it.
B would never have told people they couldn’t use her bathroom unless it was broken. I had been inhospitable to B, and that’s the last thing she would have been.


What about you? Have you ever lied because you were afraid?

27 comments:

  1. oh yes! I've done a lot of lying in my life.

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    1. Anxiety and fear can lead us to do many things, can't they?

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  2. Hi Tina, firstly I want to thank you for commenting and following my blog. With my OCD I don't have to clean the house. I go to a cafe every day to drink their awesome coffee and use my laptop. The staff have gotten used to me, we joke that I'm part of the family :) Anyway they keep the same table for me, table 21, it has to be 21. When I arrive I straighten the table so that it is perfectly lined up with me, then rearrange the chairs so they fit in line, put the salt and pepper where it should be, straighten my laptop and coffee cup so everything is "right". I count, the same numbers over and over, straighten my rings, and complete rituals. As I say to myself, "everything has to be right, or it's not right". I'd say the main feature of my OCD would be straightening things. I am also a perfectionist. Body cleanliness is also very important, cutting nails and scrubbing them, brushing my hair and putting every strand in place, and straightening the clothes I'm wearing. Well I just wanted to tell you a bit about myself, hope I haven't bored you. Regularly I get obsessions about certain subjects, the one at the moment is Google+, science, astronomy, art, and photography. Every day for hours I concentrate on these things, up to 6 hours per day every day. It's wearing me out physically and emotionally. That's enough about me. Lying - never. If something isn't right I will "fix" it, I don't care what people think of me, if they look at me, because I know if I don't perform the compulsion I will have an anxiety attack, and that draws more attention to me, that I don't want. I guess you could say that I know who I am, and I'm proud of my qualities, but not proud of me, if that makes sense? Susan.

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    1. Susan, Thanks for your comment! It sounds like you are pretty self-aware of how OCD affects you. I get obsessed with different subjects, too, at different times. I never thought of it as OCD until recently. I think our OCD qualities or characteristics can have positive aspects, though I have more negative myself.

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    2. Tina, I agree with you, OCD can have positive aspects, in the sense that things are "right", clean, in order etc, and these things look nice for other people too. The negative aspects though, for me, are that if I don't perform an compulsion, or think about an obsession, I become extremely anxious. My OCD becomes worse when I'm stressed and anxious, so I do the compulsions in order to calm myself, the thing is, it emotionally exhausts me, in both ways, whether I go along with the OCD, or try to ignore it. Catch 22 situation. Susan :)

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  3. Oh, I know I have lied many times because of OCD! Hard to remember a single instance - mainly I remember putting a lot of energy into hiding my depression and anxiety during college (well, and now). People would say, "You're so happy! You're so pleasant all the time!" and I felt proud of myself for hiding so well. Not good.

    I am so sorry OCD kept you from showing hospitality to your friend. It's obvious from the story that you wanted to really badly; I hate how OCD gets in the way of who we are and what we truly want.

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    1. It takes an incredible amount of energy to hide depression and anxiety, doesn't it?

      I do look back on the incident with my friend with regret, because I don't believe in lying and I know I hurt her feelings.

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  4. It's weird because I am very conscientious about not lying in other aspects of my life but to protect myself or keep my OCD private or hidden, I have lied plenty. I hate that. One time I was in a public bathroom and stuck washing my hands meticulously and another patron washed hers in the sink next to me lickedy split and looked over at me funny and questionably..so I told her that I was pumping gas and gas got on my hands and I was running cold water over them because they were burning. She wanted to go get the manager so then I had to do damage control because the last thing I needed was more people to get involved in the whole fiasco. I was so humiliated and ashamed that I lied. I rarely use public restrooms anymore..not because I think they are dirty but I have anxiety thinking of washing my hands and having someone watch.

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    1. Krystal, I am the same way--I hate lying and don't, but I have lied when it came to OCD. That pumping gas story sounds like something that I would do!

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    2. Krystal Lynn - I am right there with you! That story sounds just like something I would do/say!

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  5. Oh darling, this is so honest and I love that you undermine OCD by not letting it make you keep secrets anymore! This blog is the proof, proof that you are taking over! You totally go girl. You are an inspiration to all!

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    1. Thank you, Jodi! You are so encouraging--I appreciate it!

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  6. I lied a lot and regret that a lot too now. My first husband was an alcoholic and abusive, but because I wanted everything to be so perfect for the outside world I often told lies about all sorts of things. This turned on me later, when he committed suicide and no one believed me when I finally picked up the courage to try to explain what things had really been like with him.
    It has been a very very hard lesson.

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    1. Klaaske, I am so sorry you had to go through that. It must have been such a difficult time. It's a hard lesson to learn--that lying doesn't help the situation in the longterm. I should have been honest with my friend long ago.

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    2. You're so right about your friend Tina.
      But I think a lot of people with OCD are also absolute perfectionists. I for one am. And admitting something is wrong or that you have OCD is like admitting that not everything is perfect.
      I'm much better with it now, but it's still hard at times and very tempting to hide behind a lie. Which doesn't help anyone in the long run.

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  7. The first time I ever remember my son Dan lying to me was when he was 17 and really suffering from his OCD. Lying was so out of character for him as he'd always been such an honest child. I never really thought of it as "Dan has started lying," but more as "Look what OCD is doing to him." That's probably around when I started seeing the disorder as something separate from my son.

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    1. Janet, I can imagine that it was very helpful to Dan for you to be able to differentiate between him and his disorder.

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  8. Yes, I'm afraid that I have lied many times about OCD issues. I even lied just yesterday in the bathroom at church. I was washing my hands longer than is normal of course, and I made up a story that I was holding my wrists under the water to cool myself down because I was so hot. Ugh. It's so weird, OCD is really the only thing I ever lie about because I absolutely HATE lying and I hate to be lied to.

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    1. Sunny, What a frustrating situation! I wonder why we feel like we have to come up with a reason for an OCD symptom that is "acceptable" to others? I wonder what would happen if we just said, I'm doing this because I have OCD, or just didn't say anything?

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  9. Yep, I've lied countless time because of my OCD. Jean's post got me thinking about that too.

    I've had situations like the one you wrote about where I lied so no one would use my bathroom.

    Oh, there have been so many times through the years that I've lied to "protect" myself from other people's germs, from hurting people's feelings, from going places and doing things. Sigh.

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    1. That's a good way to put it--to "protect" ourselves from other people's germs. I've felt like that.

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  10. It is very brave of you to confess and share these experiences. It will help others not suffering with OCD to understand how it affects people's lives.

    Thanks for visiting!

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  11. Tina,
    I love love love your honesty about OCD.

    Yes, I've lied about stupid things. For example, saying I was busy when I really didn't want to drive someplace. I didn't want to tell them, in truth.... that I was scared to drive in the dark!

    Keep writing. Xx

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    1. Kim, Thank you! I think a lot of times lying comes from fear.

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  12. I had to lie now because I'm scared. if I didn't lie, I wouldn't have escaped

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