|A view of Walden Pond in 1986.|
It was October 1986, and I was taking a class at Bowling Green State University that included the works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Our professor set up a trip for the class to visit sites around Salem and Concord, Massachusetts, including Walden Pond.
About a dozen of us, making up a variety of ages and backgrounds, piled into a van and drove for hours from Ohio to New England. We were greeted by the cold but also by beautiful autumn leaves.
|Another view of Walden Pond in 1986.|
We visited a replica of the cabin that Thoreau stayed in during his time at Walden Pond, we visited the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bronson Alcott; visited other historical sites; and spent an evening in Boston.
|A replica of the cabin Henry David Thoreau stayed in on Walden Pond.|
But what I remember most about our trip was how uncomfortable I felt.
I was in the midst of the really bad OCD years, when I was consumed with contamination fears.
We stayed in a student hostel, and it was cold and damp. I worried about using quilts that others probably had used.
I had to use a shared bathroom. While the bathrooms were divided for men and women, there were four other women on the trip.
I tried to follow all my usual rituals in grooming, including brushing my teeth, showering, drying my hair, and putting in my contacts. The rituals took a long time when I was home.
Putting in my contacts was an ordeal, because they had to go in without any scratchiness in my eye or I had to take them out and redo them. I also had a set way of brushing my teeth and showering.
At the hostel, I had all the rituals I usually had in getting ready for anything plus the added rituals of trying to keep myself clean and avoid contamination in a strange environment.
I probably took at least an hour in the bathroom every morning.
I remember the irritation if not anger of one woman in particular because I took up so much of the available time for getting ready in the morning. I can’t blame her.
But I also couldn’t tell her or the others why I was taking so long. My OCD was my secret.
Another reason I felt uncomfortable was because I had started having bouts of diarrhea, what I euphemistically called “stomach problems.”
I was terrified about going on a long road trip and being unable to get to a bathroom, and having to use public bathrooms.
So before the trip, I visited student health and was given a prescription for medication to help me.
Despite my worry that the medication wouldn’t work and I would end up in an embarrassing bathroom situation, it did work.
But the medication made me incredibly sleepy and dopey. I fell asleep during one lecture at a museum we went to.
It was the first trip with others that I took when the OCD was so bad, and I felt isolated. Maybe that’s why the worries and rituals are what I remember the most about my New England trip.
Have you ever felt like your OCD or anxiety caused you to do things that inconvenienced and/or irritated others? Has your OCD or other mental illness caused you to feel isolated?