The Soap that Signified Worry

March 11, 2020

I loaded my cart with the typical items and headed to the checkout. Only this time, I was praying no one would pay attention to the products loaded on the conveyor belt. This time, it felt different, even though there was nothing different about this cart full of items. 

“A little worried?” she said as she rang up the endless pile of hand soap. I made a slight chuckle and joked, “Sure looks that way, doesn’t it?” 

Except, this wasn’t worry. This was OCD. 

This cart of soap had nothing to do with the new virus spreading across the nation. This was a typical amount of soap on my bi-monthly trip to the grocery store. Only now, people noticed. People were paying close attention to the items purchased by the patrons in front of them. Each employee was carefully glancing over the items as they scanned. Silently and not-so silently judging. 

Eighteen. There were eighteen bottles of soap purchased. 

For me, that wasn’t odd or different. That was a typical number. 

18 today. Sometimes 12 or 14. Always even numbers.  Numbers are important. That’s part of OCD too. 

Usually my stack of soap bottles are scanned as quickly as the baby food and canned goods. Without care or intrigue. Not today. Today it was noticeable. 

For me, OCD is nothing new. I’ve lived with it since I was a little girl. But now, I felt exposed. What was once easily hidden by the busy and chaotic atmosphere of the local grocery store, had now been exposed by the media coverage of the latest epidemic. 

Suddenly the caution tape that’s constantly wrapped tightly around my mind and actions had suddenly found its way into other people’s minds too. Suddenly people are washing their hands compulsively, disinfecting, and taking extra precaution. For me, that’s a daily routine. 

That, my friends, is OCD.

It’s seeing caution tape around every person, every situation, and every place filled with people. It’s a brain that’s constantly telling you to be careful and to be prepared. It’s a mind that controls your purchases, your scheduled activities, and the weight you carry each day. It’s a brain with obsessive routines that demand to be followed. 

OCD-Obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s buying soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning products in bulk, often. Not because a new virus is making its rounds. But because your brain is in constant survival mode. It’s having a brain that needs continuous organization. A mind that is perpetually checking and rechecking. 

It’s counting. It’s fear. It’s dwelling. It’s intrusive. It’s constantly managing the obsessive thoughts. The ones you know are irrational and dramaticized.

This is OCD. 

Sometimes it looks like 18 bottles of soap and an impending apocalypse. Even worse is that it sometimes feels like it too. 

Be kind to those with grocery carts you don’t understand. They may not be stockpiling in fear of the latest illness. They might be living with something that requires these things. Even if that means a mind that you don’t understand. And in that case, be glad you don’t. 

I wish I had that choice. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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