Friday, December 7, 2012

OCD and ringing the bells

Sometimes obsessive-compulsive disorder gives me tunnel vision. I become self-centered. I focus on what I’m feeling and what I want or don’t want instead of other people.
OCD never completely goes away, and it can appear in any part of my life. It even showed up when I was trying to do a good deed.
The past two years, Larry and I volunteered to ring the Salvation Army bells outside a big box store here in town.
For just an hour, once the first year and twice the second, we stood outside the store and rang the small red bells and thanked people who put donations in the red bucket.
It was fun, and it really put us in the holiday spirit.
So we decided to do it again this year. I signed us up for two stints, and we did our first last week.
The bell ringers wear red aprons, the type with the bib and the string that goes around the neck.
When Larry and I relieved the people ringing before our shift, the man took off his apron and handed it to me.
I didn’t want it to touch me.
I had a coat on because it was cold, so I just put the apron over my coat, and then put the neck string under the collar of my coat to keep it from touching my skin.
Funny things was, Larry felt the same way. His apron had been lying folded up on the sidewalk beside the bucket. I helped him put the neck string under his coat collar, too.
Even with the string under my collar, I still felt anxious about it. I had to put my hand in the pocket to get the bell out, and I cringed.
I couldn’t wait to get that apron off.
I felt small and petty for worrying about such things when my real purpose was to thank the kind people who donated to the Salvation Army.
I try not to be selfish, but I’m not perfect. I have to accept that of myself.
But OCD has more than selfish moments. It has its funny moments, too.
Last year, while ringing the bells, Larry’s bell broke. The little piece of metal inside the bell flew off.
At first we couldn’t find it. I kept ringing my bell, and we kept thanking people, but the whole time, we were scanning the area for that little piece of metal.
And all I could think of was that the next people to ring would have only one bell.
My scrupulosity made me feel like I needed to “confess,” so I called and left a message for the coordinator, telling him we’d broken one of the bells and there was only one left.
Then we found the little piece of metal lying on the pavement in front of us, and Larry was able to fix the bell.
So I was soon back on the phone and leaving another message for the coordinator, telling him we’d fixed the bell and not to worry about it.
He probably thought I was strange.
But he called me again this year to see if we’d volunteer and didn’t mention it, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Do you ever get tunnel vision when dealing with OCD or other anxiety?


28 comments:

  1. Funny because I was thinking about along the same lines last night. About loving others despite...

    You know it's okay that you were uncomfortable with the aprons. You still volunteered and did your jobs. I don't remember having to wear an apron when I did it but it was a long time ago.

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    1. Kristina, thank you for your encouraging words.

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  2. I think what stands out to me most about this post is your volunteer spirit :) something so important during this time of year.

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    1. Thank you, Keith. We had a good time and felt blessed to be a part of it.

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  3. You still did the job Tina!
    I sometimes am very selfish when I let my husband do things for me I really should do myself. He never minds, but it still feels selfish to me.

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    1. Thank you, Klaaske. I do the same thing sometimes with my husband.

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  4. I agree with Klaaske - you still do the job! I think this goes to show that you are beating OCD, the fact that you still signed up for a second year of volunteering shows how amazing you are! Keep up the good job, Tina!

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    1. Thank you, Ally for your encouraging message.

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  5. I wouldn't necessarily be excited about wearing a stranger's apron either. A good friend wouldn't bother me.

    I bet he just thought you were very nice for being so concerned about the bell.

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    1. Lisa, I think I would have felt differently about the apron if I'd known the person, too.

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  6. Yes to the tunnel vision..sometimes I fear I even look distracted. Sharing the apron would have bothered me too and the broken bell made me chuckle..because I would have called them and then re-called when we fixed it. Is selfish and self-centered the same thing? I have never really considered myself a selfish person but I totally think OCD makes me very self-centered. But it is more in the sense that I am gauging the environment I am in and I feel I am protecting myself from a potential OCD situation. I wish I could stop doing that, the hyperawareness.

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    1. Krystal, My husband tells me I look distracted sometimes, too. I think I am self-centered in that way, too, so absorbed in checking out the environment.

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  7. How very sweet of your husband to volunteer with you like this!!! (my hubby wouldn't be so obliged:)

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    1. Deanna, he was sweet to volunteer with me. It's a good time for us to be together and talk and laugh and enjoy the season.

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  8. You don't seem as self-centered to me as you do to yourself...you are volunteering and making people's days more pleasant. And as others have said, your OCD didn't prevent you from doing what you wanted to do. All good things!

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    1. Thanks, Janet, for putting things into perspective. OCD may affect some things we do, but it doesn't have to stop us.

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  9. At least you are doing it! Maybe in the past you wouldn't have even put it on, now you are managing the OCD with excellent skills! Good on you!

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    1. Thanks, Jodi. I know at one time I wouldn't have even been there to put on an apron, so I guess that's progress! :-)

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  10. WOW. You actually put the apron on. You are way ahead of me with this OCD stuff. First off, I'd never be able to volunteer to ring bells and second off, I'd never be able to wear an apron someone else had worn. Bravo, Tina!

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. It was easier because of the larger job I had--to ring the bells. My boss at work got me and Larry started. At first we were reluctant, but we enjoyed it.

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  11. Oh, you're not selfish! You were doing a good thing and I would have a really hard time with that too.

    Yes, I get tunnel vision from the OCD all the time. It takes a lot of practice to get out of my head and pay attention to others in spite of my anxiety. It really is a challenge and I commennd you for working so hard to fight it.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Sunny. It is really hard to get out of the head sometimes, isn't it?

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  12. Glad you got through it, all in all seems like it worked out. And thank you for sharing your experience and strength. :)

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    1. Thank you, Madison, for reading and leaving such a kind comment. :-)

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  13. Good job on volunteering. I can't always bring myself to do it, but when I do it works great: just get as "contaminated" as you possibly can by the apron right at the start. I find once there's no going back, my brain moves on to other stuff pretty quickly. It can be hard at first, but very very satisfying!

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    1. Thank you, Ann--I like that "get as 'contaminated' as you possibly can . . . right at the start." You're right, when there's no going back, it makes it easier to move on to something else.

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  14. Tina I would have felt the same way about wearing the apron-infact I would have not wanted to wear it. When I was younger we used to be part of a youth team which did mission to children as in scripture union themed holiday clubs. It was great fun but they introduced youth team t-shirts which we wore clean and new but then the second week team would wear them after us all be it washed. One year as the second week team I could not wear the t-shirt even though washed because someone else had worn it first. Infact a lot of out team felt the same way so we wore our own same colour t-shirt much to the annoyance of the organiser. I don't have OCD but having trained and worked in microbiology I am even worse now and cannot wear second hand clothes out a charity shop because of it.

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  15. Behind the Smile, I probably would have been the same way with the T-shirts.

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