Some OCD-Adjacent Insights Into Avoiding Contamination

By OCD-adjacent, I mean I’m in a long term relationship with someone who has been diagnosed, and getting treatment and support for OCD. While I don’t have it, it’s a major part of what I live and breathe on a daily basis. 

If there’s anything my husband has been preparing me for over the past five and a half years that we’ve lived together, it’s this. 

Hello, hope you’re doing okay with whatever degree of isolation you’re dealing with at the moment during this, our viral outbreak of 2020!

Personally, as an introvert, I am thriving. At the same time, as someone with The Anxiety, I’m a nervous wreck. Am I worried about running out of toilet paper? A bit, thanks to all the panic buying. Am I worried about stocking up on bottled water? Not now that our water pump has been fixed (after breaking while I was in the shower, thanks Murphy’s Law) and the water has stopped running yellow from sitting in the pipes for a few days. What I’m really worried about is running out of sanitizing wipes, sanitizing spray, and hand sanitizer.

Not for the reasons you might think. I’m not worried about catching the Coronavirus, and I’m reasonably optimistic about members of my family not being exposed. What I’m scared for is my husband’s mental health, which on some fronts is being propped up by the ability to sanitize things on an everyday basis. None of these behaviors have increased because of the pandemic; in response to the current availability (or lack thereof), we’ve even made compromises to decrease our use of sanitizing products in order to conserve our supplies. 

With concerns about contamination being more or less mainstream right now, I feel like I have some experience I can share. 

Before California’s shelter in place orders came through, it was interesting to suddenly start hearing people talk about how hard it is to not touch their face—something I’ve had to think about on a daily basis for about half a decade now. (Ngl, it’s still hard not to touch my face.) 

How long to wash your hands was another one. Now, in my house we don’t count seconds so much as use bar soap to wash for a certain number of times. Classic OCD, right? Well, we’ve been washing our hands for well over twenty seconds for years, so we’re all set on that front. And I can tell you right now, if you’re using a pump soap to wash up and you pump more soap at any point during your twenty seconds because you didn’t get enough soap to maintain a meaningful amount of suds, you are resetting the clock and need to start over… or switch to bar soap, which is more self-cleaning and incidentally less quick to dry out your skin. 

Image of LEGO man literally washing his LEGO hands in a LEGO washing machine.

With this experience in mind, I have some overboard cleanliness tips that are, for the time being, maybe not so overboard after all. 

Things to sanitize after being in a public place:

Cell phone. 

Keeping track of what you’ve touched before touching your phone, or what surfaces you might have set your phone down on, is right up there with keeping track of how many times you’ve touched your face. Do you put it in your pocket or purse with your car keys or wallet? Did you wash or sanitize your hands before touching your car keys or wallet? Are you coming home from a grocery store? Congratulations, you could have cross-contamination between the grocery store and your cell phone. 

Many cell phones come water-resistant these days, but even if yours doesn’t it’s still relatively safe to wipe it with a sanitizing wipe. Just try not to scrub too much moisture into the charging port or any buttons and don’t wipe too many times, especially considering how hard it is to buy sanitizing wipes right now. 

Laundry machines.

Dryers aren’t as important to sanitize, but when was the last time you wiped or sprayed down your washing machine? If you’re coming from the grocery store and shedding your outer layers, that outer layer touches your hands and possibly some of the outside of the machine as you’re loading it. You touch the laundry soap, the lid of the machine, and the controls of the washer to start it. Then, when the laundry is finished? You touch the lid in the same place to move the washed clothes into the drier, and touch the same laundry soap and washer controls to start the next load. 

Once you’ve started the wash cycle, give the outside of the machine a quick wipe and/or spray. Then you won’t have to worry about any of that overlap.

Important Note: Don’t spray the control panel or do anything that might get too much moisture dripping down in there. It will disable the machine, and getting the panel fixed or replaced is a huge pain. 10 out of 10 would not do more than once.

Door handles and doorbells.

This is another class of stuff that people don’t always register how many times and under what conditions they touch. I wouldn’t advise using sanitizing spray on a doorbell, but just give it a thorough sanitizing wipe every now and then—especially if you have a higher volume of deliveries coming to your home right now. 

Similarly, you’re touching the same boxes and bags that have just been delivered. 

Dealing with the results of using Purell and washing your hands constantly:

The best time to use lotion is right after drying your hands—and if you can pat dry instead of rubbing dry, that’s better. 

Avoid air hand dryers because, while scientists disagree on whether they spread pathogens (source: New York Times), some models are difficult not to bump your hands on while using. If you’re bumping your hands while drying them, you’re basically shaking hands with everyone else who’s done the same thing and should wash your hands again. 

This far into the global panic about COVID-19, we’ve pretty all heard the recommended hand washing guidelines about a billion times:

“Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people should scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds to effectively curb the spread of germs. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol can also be used to rid your hands of germs, though they are not as effective as soap and water at removing visible dirt or harmful chemicals. Sanitizers also do not get rid of all germ types.

Frequent hand washing, though a reliable way to ward off illness, can lead to and exacerbate dry skin issues, according to dermatologists.”


Invest in a good, healing, unscented cream-lotion. Scented products feel fine going on, but usually end up irritating more than they help in the long run. Lotions are more water-based, which will also dry out your hands; creams are more oil based, which don’t. Personally, I like Lubriderm. 

If your hands are already dry and cracked, go for vaseline or Aquaphor, another favorite. Basically, anything recommended for eczema is going to be your friend!

Just make sure not to clear the shelves, because people with pre-existing eczema are really going to be hurting right now (from both the extra hand-washing and stock-pile buying). 

If you end up having to use a public restroom

When there’s no other option, these are things my husband does regularly in the interest of not having a panic attack in public when using a public restroom. I’ve picked up most of these habits by osmosis and, lately, it’s become more and more practical. 

  • Go in, lock the door, wash your hands, and use the paper towel you dry off with to turn off the faucet. Throw it away. 
  • Roll out the toilet paper out a little and rip off the end that the previous person using the restroom might have touched. Throw it away. 
  • If you can’t (or don’t want to) hover above the toilet without touching while using it, put a paper cover or toilet paper on the seat. 
  • Use toilet paper (a square or two) to flush. Throw it away. 
  • Use toilet paper (a square or two) to turn the faucet on and pump the soap dispenser. Repeat as needed every time you have to pump more soap, otherwise you’re resetting the level of contamination. 
  • Use the paper towel you dry your hands with to turn off faucet, unlock the door, and exit the bathroom. Yeet it into the nearest trash can when done. 

These habits are… intense. I know it is; so does my husband, and this is less intense than it has been in the past because he’s constantly working on it. Using a public restroom has not always been an option at all, it’s a big step that he can do this, and these are the obsessive-compulsive tics that made it possible. For now, they’re training wheels until we get to the next step of less intense, whatever that might be. I am hugely proud of him. 

Again, I want to stress that none of the above is a requirement for most people, even now.

But some of these practices might help, at least with peace of mind, if you’re in any of the high risk categories.

If a credible source offers advice that directly contradicts mine please let me know. This is just the balancing point my husband and I have been able to reach for the sake of his mental health, and the only change that COVID-19 has brought to the table is a greater scarcity and higher price point on sanitizing supplies. 

Anyway… That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head, but feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to give an opinion. Otherwise, let me know in the comments what your favorite 20-second hand washing song is!

(Mine, then I use that method, is I’ll Make A Man Out Of You from Disney’s Mulan.)

A Bunch of Months In Review: Fall & Winter 2018

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m dusting the cobwebs off this blog as best I can, in the form of a review.


I have a confession to make… I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year, breaking my three year streak. It was a hard choice, but I’m still underemployed — my weekend job is juuuuust shy of paying my half of the rent — and I needed to focus on applying to jobs and doing freelance writing. The latter is going well. I’ve made $30 so far, and it’s just a matter of gathering my remaining brain cells between holidays to do more. The former is going… Yeah. It’s just going. I had a few interviews last week and I’m still waiting to hear back on both. One is full time with benefits and would be so much fun, according to my inner foodstuffs marketing nerd, plus the company is international which bodes well for maybe moving abroad someday. So, fingers crossed.

As far as writing goes, I’ve been creating fanfiction works somewhat regularly. It’s fun, it helps me keep my edge, and the community aspect of fandom is always a source of entertainment. Side bonus: in doing so, I’ve also got a front row seat in watching tumblr sink itself with the staff’s new ban on “female presenting nipples.”


In wedding news, we have sent out our save the dates! Most of them, anyway. With a few stragglers still letting us know their current mailing address, there will be another small round going out this week, and then that’s all done. We’ve also signed a catering contract and it’s a huge relief. Yesterday the wedding planner came over for a Facetime with a potential DJ who, considering she knew exactly what I meant by “White Horses by The Rolling Stones except the specific cover that was on the prom episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” definitely has the job. Now it’s on design, wedding website final touches, figuring out a couples shower date that works for some key people, etc etc. (If my mom has a bell concert schedule conflict with this one like she did with the engagement party, I am going to lose my shit. But that’s another story.)


Courtesy of my work’s Thanksgiving potluck, I got to take a turkey carcass home and make stock from it. It’s funny, considering I went off to college unaware you could actually just buy stock (thanks Dad), but this is the first time I’ve done it. The other night I used some to make keto onion soup, and it was excellent — though certainly different, considering I usually use plain chicken stock from the store instead of turkey stock that was made with rosemary and thyme simmering in there.

The thing about being my father’s daughter, though, is that he obsessively freezes and vacuum seals this sort of thing in very specific portions. I just sort of used whatever tupperware I could find, and didn’t thaw anything in advance because pfft, that would require being organized. So I actually used two cups more than the onion soup recipe actually called for… Whatever. It turned out fine. It’s just that next time I’m going to have to pick between the giant brick of stock or the teeny tiny cylinders of stock, and I don’t know how much volume any of the containers hold. Fun!


Six parts Christmas, half a dozen parts the wedding.

My family has a… complicatedly haphazard system of demanding Christmas lists from everyone and then claiming different gifts via email sound-off. This year my list was basically gift cards, no socks, and no aprons. (I have so many aprons. Do I ever actually wear aprons? Nope.) However, since we sent our save the dates, including a link to our wedding website, people already have access to our registry and someone, somewhere, has purchased a flame colored Le Creuset casserole dish that I am Very Excited About.

I have one Le Creuset pot already and I have never known love of a piece of cookware like this.


Currently I’m relistening to Clariel by Garth Nix in the car, and when I’m done with that I’ll listen to Goldenhand again. I’d explain why, but technically that would be spoilers.

But I just added a new audiobook to my collection this week, for the first time in a while — Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.


We always have something on, once we clicked into holiday season mode my fiancé started playing all the Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and now Christmas episodes of Friends, That 70’s Show, and occasionally Fraiser.

Did you know that Friends, in all ten seasons, only ever did one explicitly Halloween episode??

Also, if you haven’t seen The Haunting of Hill House, I recommend watching it twice. Once for the story/context/family drama, and again so you can catch all the hidden hints and the ghosts staring at you from the background of almost every scene.


Happy, but slightly restless. I need a job. I need… a project?

I’ve focused a lot on self-improvement this year, with going keto and making more of my own food and losing weight and attending Mindful Eating classes at the local health center. I’ve been using my Fitbit to keep track of how much I sleep, how much water I drink, and how often I get up and move around, to make sure it’s enough. (Protip: The feature that’s kept me the most tuned in is Hourly Activity. You set the range of hours you want to be active get a dot for every hour you take at least 250 steps.)

I think part of why I’m restless is because I haven’t been creating as much as I’d like. I need to get back to working on my original novels — though there’s nothing that says I can’t still noodle around with fanfiction on the side. 😛


To hear back from the places I interviewed with last week…! I sent a follow-up email yesterday to the place I’m really hopeful about and got an “out of office until Dec 10” reply, so maybe that’s all the delay is about.

I just. I owe my parents a lot of money while they’re also paying for half of the wedding, my credit card bill is ridiculous… That’s all the debt I have, at least, but I’m anxious to be able to chip away at it more effectively.


The holiday season. My fiancé is an excellent decorator. Today he has promised that he will do the tree, which basically means he plans to spend several hours lovingly wrapping every single branch of our seven foot tall live tree in string lights. This is not a requirement I have set for him, it’s all his doing. He and his mom are obsessed. However, the results will be beautiful and cozy, so I’m just going to sit back and revel in the joy of not being required to help.


How many different, ahem, political and/or public figures that I could mention in this section of the review. But I won’t.

No, what I chose to side-eye with seething dislike is the way my family treats my uncle. Now, admittedly, he is a few cards short of a full deck sometimes, but I hate the way certain people openly act so done with him. It’s like an attempt to publicly shame him into better behavior or something? I don’t know. I’ve had some rocky relationship stuff with my fiancé, similar enough on the mental health front that I can understand the deeply embedded frustration and sadness and anger and helplessness of it all, but I would never wear that so openly on my sleeve and vent all the crap until the crap is all anyone else knows about.

If anyone is going to take anything from the cryptic paragraph above, please… please let it be that kindness is a virtue, especially towards someone who is struggling with some deep shit. Even if they’re a pain in the ass.


For better things. Better political leaders, in the US and elsewhere. Fewer wildfires. More compassion. More creativity. More sustainability. Lower carbs, lol.

And that my wedding dress will fit! I have lost thirty pounds since February — I just got my official 30 lbs badge from Fitbit this past week — and I want to shave off a little bit more.

As always, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with this blog. Perhaps I’ll start sharing some of the random things I find as I go through my drafts on tumblr — prompts, interesting images, worldbuilding ideas, that sort of thing. I’ve got to back that stuff up, just in case that ship finally sinks.

Wishing you all a happy and as drama free as possible holiday season!

#AtoZChallenge — We have labels

This post is part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I am challenging myself to reflect on other A to Z posts that I come across.

Our world is impossibly complex and often quite dangerous, it helps to have a system that can quickly process what kind of thing you are looking at and react appropriately. Categorization helps us make sense of a world where quick decisions have to be made, and a large amount of information has to be processed. It’s also a pretty reliable system for helping us get through situations that we may have not faced by providing a reference and a good guess. If you’ve seen a brown bear, you’ll have some idea of how to respond to a polar bear. If you’ve seen a mountain lion, you know that a tiger is dangerous. …

We have labels for what a man is supposed to be, what a woman is supposed to look like, how black people behave, what jobs a 60-year-old is capable of learning, what opportunities a poor person deserves, whether or not Muslims can be Americans. Our labels and categories help us understand our world, but they also put limits on it too. We aren’t good at seeing the shades, the subtlety, or continuity. We aren’t good at seeing the variation between two individual examples of a thing.

Kinds, Zen & Pi

I was reading Lisa’s post, quoted above, and it makes sense. Evolution has prepped us to categorize things on the fly, and in modern society that doesn’t always work well.

One thing people aren’t always good at recognizing is sexual orientation. Bisexuals and pansexuals get the brunt of this because, regardless of who they’re with, at first glance there are parts of their orientation that are always going to be invisible. Couples with one or more trans person might, on the surface pass as heterosexual, erasing their queerness, or if the trans person(s) doesn’t “pass” to the viewer’s standards then there’s several kinds of erasure there too. If someone says “partner” and the listener assumes that automatically means a same sex relationship — which could be true, and/or it could mean that the couple prefers the word as an acknowledgement that they are both equals in the relationship.

Everyone wants to be seen as more than just a first impression, as more than just a bookcover to be judged by. We may not be wired that way but we can, by virtue of self-awareness, train our brains to do more than just what evolution wired us for. We’re a social species, and we can adapt.

We can ask what pronouns people use.

Parents can ask their kids what synonym for “partner” they’d prefer used in the family holiday letter.

Before you hug someone, you can ask if they’re cool with hugs because, for example, someone with OCD might spend the rest of the day quietly but frantically going over and over and over it in their head for the rest of the day.

You can’t just see these kinds of things. Sometimes, you really just have to ask.

10 Ways to ‘Reach Out’ When You’re Struggling With Your Mental Health

10 Ways to ‘Reach Out’ When You’re Struggling With Your Mental Health

10 Ways to ‘Reach Out’ When You’re Struggling With Your Mental Health
— Read on

I can be awkward as hell and tend to shy down when I can’t think of anything to say in an important moment, but if someone needs my help I’m down for any of these. And if it makes any difference to say this, my strength is #4. I can hands down do #4 any day of the week. And #5, with my handy Reminder app there to help me build that habit.

Self-Care for People Trying to Adult Good

This guide was meant specifically to help people with ADHD and ADD. While I don’t have either of those (as far as I know, I am increasingly less and less sure of anything about myself these days), some of the self-care tips struck me as Really Good Ideas. Halfway through reading it I stopped and downloaded the Grid Diary app. Sam’s examples of his own questions he’s set for himself to answer at the beginning and end of every day are, after some slight tweaking, a good reminder for me to be more mindful. Some of these are (tweaks included):

  • What are some strategies I can use to be effective and get shit done today?
  • What’s one way I can support my mental health today?
  • Am I worried about anything?

And one suggested by the app, which I decided to keep:

  • What problem did I encounter today? How did I solve the problem?

As Sam comments in there somewhere, these tips won’t be perfect for everyone but work for him as he spends a lot of time on his phone anyway. My partner, who most likely does have ADD, swears by bullet journals and didn’t seem as interested in this app as I am when I mentioned it — but then I’m more of a phone person, and any time I spend on my phone that’s not noodling away on Candy Crush Soda Saga or Solitaire Tri Peaks is probably a good thing.


That’s when I knew: I didn’t want to live like this anymore.

via ADHD Survival Guide: How I Stopped Procrastinating and Got My Sh!t Together — Let’s Queer Things Up!

Title Pending: National Novel Writing Month

This is not the first time I’ve attempted National Novel Writing Month. I made a vague attempt while still in high school, which probably peetered out after about a week, week and a half tops. Then there was the rest of high school, and college, and seeking gainful employment. I could never imagine finding the time. But this year it boiled down to the decision that I would make the time, and spending the two weeks leading up to Halloween world building and outlining.


I’m just barely making my word count for most days but it’s going pretty well so far and I feel confident… to a certain point. The outline I have only goes as far as about six chapters because I don’t know what happens in the middle of the book. Past that I’ll be relying on random word prompts from NaNoWriMo sprints on Twitter. I’m making peace with this by remembering something I was told in a Mindfulness and Meditation class about building a meditation practice: it’s hard, and if you fall short of what you set out to do it’s completely counter productive to beat yourself up about it.

Continue reading “Title Pending: National Novel Writing Month”