The doctor warned me that I’d have a scar.
That was the least of my worries.
What worried me the most was how I was going to deal with both obsessive-compulsive disorder and the injury.
It happened on a Friday five years ago. I was working for the health department as a health educator. That morning, I was creating a database to use in organizing some information, and I decided I wanted something hot to drink.
I picked up a coffee mug and a pack of hot chocolate and headed to another office in the building where hot water was kept on a warmer all day.
I was wearing new shoes that were slip on and sandal-like. The floors had also recently been buffed. Whether it was the shoes, the slightly slippery floors, my own clumsiness, or a combination, I fell down on the floor.
My hand holding the mug struck the floor hard, and the mug broke. A sharp edge scooped out part of my middle finger on my right hand.
My first response was shock, then embarrassment. I stood up, looked down at my hand, and saw the blood starting to pour. I used my left hand to try to catch it, to try to keep it from landing on the floor.
Several co-workers, including some of the nurses, soon surrounded me. They wrapped my hand in paper towels and held it over my head.
They decided that I needed to go across our parking lot to the hospital, to the urgent care center beside the emergency room, to get stitches.
The light bulb
It turned out to be impossible to get stitches. There was nothing to stitch together, the doctor told me. All she could do was cauterize the wound to stop most of the bleeding and wrap it securely enough so that it would be protected while it healed.
A technician came in to wrap it. She took white gauze and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped.
I ended up with a bandage that resembled a big, white light bulb.
I immediately began thinking of all the things I did and the ways I did them and how not having full use of my right hand for a good six weeks was going to affect things.
How would I take a shower and get clean enough? How could I clean the bathroom?
And how would I keep the bandage clean?
I was supposed to keep the same bandage on until the following Monday, when I was scheduled for a recheck of the wound.
But I kept it on for one day only. I thought I could see dirt on it. Whether or not any dirt was there was not the point. I thought it was there and couldn’t stand having a dirty bandage on.
So I took it off and created my own. It still looked like a light bulb, except it had corners.
For the six weeks I wore the bandage, I learned to adapt. I discovered that I could clean the bathroom with one hand. I could do many things with one hand.
I learned to take a shower with a freezer bag over my bandaged hand. I held it in the air out of the stream of water as much as possible during my shower routine. Afterwards, I changed the bandage.
And I learned ways to raised my middle finger out of the way of food and other things that would get it dirty.
What I ended up doing was just figuring out new ways to do my OCD compulsions.
If I had known about exposure and response prevention (ERP) then, I could have used the time to deal head-on with some of those compulsions.
The doctor was right. I do have a scar. I’m still not worried about that.