Monday, May 31, 2010

It's An OCD World

I can't remember the name of the product or the brand - and to be honest I wouldn't want to give it free advertizing space here anyway (they can pay for it like everybody else). It's a liquid soap dispenser. It dispenses soap to get your hands hygienically, biologically clean. It's no doubt the same stuff they use in chemical weapons laboratories. But this product is different.

You don't have to touch it, see. It senses the proximity of your hands and spits out a little bit of soap for your imminent ablutions. Because, as the advert helpfully points out, soap dispensers are incredibly filthy 'cos they're covered in all the crap and the germs from the last person who used them. So, hey, we've invented a product that never has to be touched by filthy human hands again - once you've installed it into your home, that is.

Yes. Home. Not a weapons lab. Not an abattoir. Not a pig farm (apologies to those of you who live on a pig farm).

Is it me or is this cleanliness thing getting out of hand (unlike the soap)?

In my early twenties - and this is a revelation that few of you will know about me (including my family) as the nature of this beast is secrecy - I suffered for about a year with OCD. I had an overwhelming, ridiculous, damaging need to wash my hands. I washed them so often and so hard that one day, whilst squeezing out the flannel, the soft tissue at the base of my thumb completely ripped through. I had washed out all the oils and goodness from my skin. It was at that point that I began to stop. It was one hell of a wake-up call.

It was tough. I did it without help. I changed job (which helped immensely - it eliminated most of my stress) and I just went cold turkey. Lived with being "dirty". It was horrible. The thing about OCD is, it makes you feel guilty if you don't wash. You could be spreading contamination, see.

To that end, at the height of my OCD, I used to wash the taps before and after I used them. It took ages. Because then I'd have to wash my hands again. And then the taps again. It seems comical now but was soul destroying at the time.

Now I daresay such a revolutionary product as a soap dispenser that you don't have to touch would have been great for me at the time. It would have saved me both time and effort in my futile attempts to render myself and my environment perfectly clean.

But looking at it now I am horrified. Because it is this type of product that fuels OCD mania in the first place. It validates all that an OCD sufferer fears: that the world is dirty; that they are dirty and they are spreading that dirt everywhere via all that they touch; it's their responsibility to keep it all clean.

A bit of dirt is fine. A bit of dirt is healthy. A bit of dirt is inevitable. Our bodies are biologically primed to deal with dirt and to use it to improve our immune systems. Living in a biologically clean bubble will weaken us and make us, ironically, more susceptible to infection from germs and bacteria.

There is no justification for this product outside of a hospital.

And it's a good job I have come full circle and feel that way with 2 wild boys running about the place. Their hands are dirty within seconds of being cleaned. They drop food on the floor, pick it up and eat it without a second thought. And I'm heartily glad for it.

It's healthy. It's sane.

A self dispensing soap pump is one gadget I will never ever have in my house - such things just make me feel dirty. And, insultingly, I suspect that is by design.


Being Me said...

Oh no, I would never ever think of your OCD as 'comical'. What a crushing thing to deal with. And you kicked it cold turkey!? Amazing.

I couldn't agree with you more WRT this both creating a worse impact in the long run (if we remain "germ-free"...) and also the potential it has for fuelling the reasoning behind the processes that lead a person with OCD to continuously land themselves in a cycle of washing.

What an ill thought-out product.

Steve said...

Being Me: like most products of this type it's sold by beefing up people's fears and preying on their ignorance. Not a marketing campaign that's going to make a buyer out of me!

Val said...

I completely agree with you on this, Steve. All this stuff is damaging people's immune systems and also it's giving in to today's tendency to worry about the smallest thing.

Sorry you had to experience OCD. I've experienced something similar.

Löst Jimmy said...

Well coincidentally your thoughts mirror mine on this, I saw the ad' for the first time on Saturday and I wondered the exactly the same thing. We must have some dirt in our lives (and I'm not talking men's art pamphlets here) to be immune, if you understand what I mean.
What happened to a good bar of soap!!
Yours live from work lunch break

Fran Hill said...

You reminded me of when our son suggested that, rather than complaining about the fact that he didn't wash his hands properly and therefore made our towels dirty when he dried them, we should just buy black towels. As far, I reckon, from OCD as one could possibly be. I've always been interested in OCD and how people who have it really feel - thanks for posting.

AGuidingLife said...

hmmm, handwashing OCD is not funny. Well don efor sorting yourself out. My daughter is on the edge of it I think and I try to offer her the opportunity to serve it (handwipes in lunch box) without fuelling it. It is hard. The soap dispenser would fuel it because she would then assume that all other bars/bottles of normal soap were inadequate.

I don't mind dirt and can eat a sandwich without hand washing if I have too but what I hate is toilet door handles. I see the person come out of the public loo and open the door without washing their hands (whilst I'm washing mine) and think "great now I have to touch that eeeeewww"

Steve said...

Val: I think OCD, in one form or another, is far more common that people think.

Löst Jimmy: I'm sure a good bar of soap is all anyone needs 99% of the time. All this scaremongering on the part of the media whores is just to sell their latest product.

Fran: black towels? Wonderful. Very un-OCD and perfectly logical to boot. If we all wore black clothes we could put the washing machine manufacturers out of business!

Kelloggsville: looking back on it I wish I'd had counselling to help sort it; might be worth thinking about for your daughter if it shows no sign of improving. People not washing their hands when they've been to the loo is inconsiderate and offensive... plainly some people are brought up on pig farms...!

French Fancy... said...

It's strange when we are finally over something and look back on our particular ism and see how absurd it was at the time. I have mild OCD - I sometimes count the things in front of me on the coffee table. I don't know why I do it but I've blogged before about my old habits (having to be kissed eight times by my parents when I was young).

Nutters - the lot of us!

As for soap dispensers - I've returned to traditional bars of soap in a slimy dish - lots of lovely germs gathering.

Steve said...

FF: soap dish slime will one day be proved to be both the nectar of the gods and the cure for all known ills. I have a friend who likes to count too but given she works as a wages clerk she's managed to make some money out of it...!

Gina said...

Crikey, re the OCD, how awful for you. I'm glad you got over it.

I'm completely with you on the hygiene thing. With three boys in the house I could hardly be otherwise. But I spend very little time cleaning anything as it seems a horrible waste of time that could be spent on more interesting things. And my children can eat out of the cat bowl if they wish - not that there is ever anything left in the cat bowl.

I don't nag them about washing their hands or anything. Life is just too short.

And we hardly ever get stomach bugs or sickness.

But each to their own I guess!! Lots of people must think otherwise or there wouldn't be all these wipes for this and that in the shops.

Steve said...

Gina: as with all things in life it's all about getting the balance right. Nobody wants ebola bacteria growing on their saucepans but neither is making people disinfect every surface and go around wearing surgical gloves particularly helpful... as I said, it's even been proved to be counterproductive. But how are these washing powder salesmen going to sell us their latest brand if all it does is get the stains out of our clothes? They need to save us from disease and killer bugs too...

Selina Kingston said...

I get so cross at all these products that claim to kill 99% germs and bacteria. We need said bacteria to protect our immune systems so why are these people messing with our heads??
I have to say I am quite clean though and don't like mess. I was horrified when my neighbour, who only dusts and hoovers once in a blue moon when she's "in the mood" plonked her new baby on the floor and said it was the best thing for her. I wanted to scoop her up and run far away with her. But I have to admit the child is now four and I have only seen her with a runny nose once !!

Steve said...

Selina: blimey; your neighbour obviously believes in the old addage: kill or cure. As I've said above, it's all a question of moderation. A bit of dirt is good but letting your kids play in a landfill site can only be harmful!

Anonymous said...

Well done on curing yourself, can't have been easy.
I'm on the 'let's have a few germs ' team, some are good for us.
I did the hand washing for a while, when I was in my early 20's, it wasn't a 'clean' thing, it was counting, like FF mentioned, I had to wash my hands a certain ( varying) number of times, to keep chaos away. I had a friend who used to sew his toes together though, so hand washing didn't seem odd at that time.

The Sagittarian said...

Funny how selling snake oil these days is such a lucrative business eh? The same theory of using peoples fears to sell a product at inflated prices, both annoys and delights me! I almost wish I had thought of it first....

Owen said...

Now how did you guess I lived on a pig farm ???

If we really knew everything about all the chemical products in our water, air, and the food we eat, we probably wouldn't give a second thought to a little grime here and there. There aren't too many cholera or plague outbreaks in England or France these days, so I guess we can breathe easy... easier than our ancestors, anyway...

Steve said...

MissBehaving: sew his toes together? So many questions are going through my head... with needle and surgical thread? Did he want to be a duck? Did he want to wear really tight winklepickers?

Amanda: no matter how full the market gets there's always room for more product. I'm thinking of marketing a product purely to clean people's chopping boards called Ebolagone - made from 95% sulphuric acid it's guaranteed to kill all known germs (and chopping boards) dead.

Owen: I've heard there are more germs on our computer keyboards than there are on our toilet seats... probably explains why I write so much shit...!

Suburbia said...

It's a strange thing OCD. I had a touch of it myself in my mid teens, it wasn't washing with me, just checking things, over and over. Like you I managed it myself and am very glad to be rid of it, however it does lead to a small understanding of how it can be so very debilitating to those who continue to suffer. Glad you are free of it too :)

Steve said...

Suburbia: I think it's definitely linked to stress and trying to control the uncontrollable world. It is a horrible mental disease and, as you say very, debilitating for anyone who suffers with it.

Joe Bloggs said...

Glad you've come clean with the old handwashing routine, Steve

Although I've since washed my hands of it; I vividly recall the horror of the 13 year old schoolboy who used to love getting grimey suddenly turning into a germ-fearing feeb. It lasted a month or so and rasied no suspicions other than my own crackers, going crackers! so it can't have been too bad whatcha talking about old man, it was torture! ...well, what did you learn then, my boy?

Let's see, oh yeah - down the local library they had this big book full of pyschosicko-mumbo-jumbo... jumbo-sized it was and all, crikey! And after having read about all sorts of diagnoses including the story of Howard Hughes, well, no offence Howard, let me shake you by the hand (ok, a wave through the double glazing then?)and thank you for having been such a curious cure.

On the other hand (scrub, scour, rinse) OCD and the likes is no laughing matter when one is caught up in them - BOOMIN HECK! around about the same period (wash cycle?) I spent hours praying to god (?! - no religious upbringing or beliefs) - even whilst I was talking to people pleasegoddontlettherebenuclearwar it would go on and on - me! why me? I loved Action Man, loved war films, war comics, toy guns etc. pleasegoddontletherebenuclearwar To top it all, there were also excruiating sessions of closing the drawers on the desk silently, no squeaking, now OR THERE'LL BE A NUCLEAR WAR! again and again and again

Then zits and girlie thoughts popped up and even though it was still the mid 1980's - nuclear war could go stuff itself, I had other thing on my hands and drugs (well just alc to start with, easy does it) and rock and roll (cheap, utuned spanish guitar in corner of room) chat, chat, natter, blahdeeblah, yak, yak

Steve said...

Joe: nail on the head as usual - girls and nuclear war have got a lot to answer for. As do alcohol and drugs. Out of the four I know which is my poison. Giddy-up! ;-)

English Rider said...

Welcome to California where there are hand-sanitizing wipes available to clean the handles of the supermarket trolley before entering the store, on the counter at the bank and on every receptionist's desk. Many people here refuse to shake hands for reasons of germ phobia. They are so numerous that they do not apologize. They are the norm and they are reproducing (although how they do that without contamination is anyone's guess).
I sanitized my hands this weekend prior to feeding an elephant, so as not to endanger him. Afterwards, I reveled in his smell and crusty hide and slobber from his moist trunk.
Same planet, different worlds.

Steve said...

English Rider: Oh. My. God. Is this the future of the world? It sounds horribly antiseptic. Give me "slobber from his moist trunk" anytime. By the way. If I was a teenager I'd be making like Beavis & Butthead at that phrase. But I'm not so I won't.

Much. ;-)