Wash your hands. And then wash them again.
Wash your hands with soap and hot water. The hotter the better. Wash them for 30 seconds, following the surgical hand washing procedure. Dry them with single-use hand towels - not a dryer. Never a dryer. Follow with antibacterial hand gel with an alcohol content of above 60%. No, I’m not talking about Coronavirus. I’m talking about the everyday reality of life with OCD.
My OCD has always centred around the threat of contamination, and every ritual is performed with prevention in mind. I cook food until it’s on the brink of burning, I always check the hygiene rating of a restaurant before booking, and I wash my hands - a lot. In the past, my OCD has been all-consuming, taking up all of my head space and preventing me from completing even the most minor of tasks like taking the bins out. Luckily, at the moment it’s well managed and barely impacts my day-to-day life. Even so, the threat of a novel virus that’s quickly becoming a global pandemic is news that would send the most rational person into a tailspin of anxiety, let alone someone who already holds their breath for 20 seconds when someone coughs.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus first started making headlines in January, I’ve been on high alert. I already have an arsenal of antibacterial and antiviral products, as well as 1000 latex gloves (don’t ask), so I was well prepared in that sense, but what about the rest of my routine? I get the Tube every day and live in the most densely populated city in the UK. I travel internationally for work almost every month, with trips to Rome and New York just weeks away.
After the outbreak in Northern Italy, I cancelled the Rome trip (which was just as well, as a quarter of the Italian population was put into quarantine on the day I was scheduled to return). My New York trip was cancelled, and my company began discouraging international travel due to the ever-increasing numbers of confirmed cases. I decided to ditch the Tube altogether, favouring walking that part of my commute. I still get the overground train, reasoning that the carriages are ventilated with fresh air at every stop. The Tube, however, is the bacterial version of Dante’s Inferno - and that’s at the best of times.
As well as hand gel and packet of tissues, I now keep two pairs of latex gloves in my coat pocket - one for each half of my daily commute - in case my anxiety switches up a gear. Meanwhile, hand sanitiser stations have been installed in my office enabling my obsessive cleaning even further. Every time I pass them, I disinfect my hands and my phone. I’m washing my hands so often that the skin over my knuckles has started to crack.
While I’m probably taking more precautions than I need to as a healthy 29-year-old, I’m hyper aware of the pandemic potential of this virus and worry for the vulnerable people in my life, and indeed, the wider community, so don’t resent my slightly obsessive preventative behaviours at all. I just hope it doesn’t trigger the compulsive element of my OCD to creep back in there at the same time…
This article originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK