Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Do You Love Someone In Spite of Contamination?

I visited my 100 year old grandmother in the nursing home yesterday. Walking into that building is so incredibly difficult for me. It just feels absolutely filthy. I need to clarify that this particular nursing home is very clean. It never smells. I can easily say that it is one of the nicest nursing homes in reasonable driving distance from my house. Still, I always feel significant anxiety there.

My poor grandmother has severe Alzheimer's Disease.  She never recognizes me or my family any more. I can assure you that she has probably not washed her hands after going to the bathroom for many years. I'm sure her hands get washed when she gets baths, but I suspect that is the only time. There are times when her hands look visibly dirty. She sticks her fingers in her mouth. I'm sure she must have "accidents" and I suspect that other residents do too, so I am always afraid of sitting on any chairs (though I cannot see any visible stains). I stand whenever I visit her and insist that my husband stand as well. I don't let my husband touch anything there; not the doorknobs, not my grandmother's wheelchair, absolutely nothing. I touch everything (being careful to not touch myself at all) and then the very last thing I do before we leave is wash my hands. I also usually don't take my daily shower until after I've visited her. Yesterday, the cat who lives on my grandmother's floor rubbed up against my leg. All I could think about was the fact that all the residents touch this cat with their dirty hands.

I hate myself for not visiting my grandmother more often. She was a wonderful grandmother to me when I was growing up. I have lots of sweet memories. I feel ashamed and I feel like a failure, both as a granddaughter and a Christian. *Sigh.* Notwithstanding all of my successes in battling OCD, there are still some things that are great challenges to me, and this is one of them. I'm going to try very hard to see her weekly.

How would you fight this one? Would you sit on the chairs on your visits? Would you absentmindedly touch your face or your hair, even if you touched my grandmother's hands or wheelchair, or other possessions? I want to love her in a tangible way in spite of my contamination issues. I want to put this frail, elderly woman's needs before my own. As a Christ follower I'm commanded to care for the widows. I don't want to disappoint my Lord. I don't want to disappoint myself. I keep thinking that she is already 100 years old, and I probably don't have very much longer to get this right. This is hard.

5 comments:

  1. Dear Sunny,

    You are not a failure in any sense. And the Lord isn't disappointed, I'm sure, because He knows that you have OCD. You have an illness that makes things like contamination fears so difficult to deal with.

    You are visiting your grandmother. Many people who don't have OCD don't visit their loved ones at all, some for good reasons, probably some for not-so-good reasons. So please don't beat up on yourself. This is another OCD challenge, just like the others you have faced. It's not a bad reflection of your character or your Christianity.

    How would I fight this? I can relate a lot because I don't like nursing homes either. It doesn't matter how clean they are--they feel dirty to me too. You say you want to love her in a tangible way. Do you mean in part that you want to touch her, hug her? You may start by focusing on just touching your grandmother--her hand, her face, however you would if you didn't have the OCD fears. Whatever makes you both comfortable. That way you're making physical contact with her. Don't worry about the chairs, etc. now. Just focus on her.

    I actually don't see washing your hands after your visit to be too OCDish. There are sick people in nursing homes, and it's just good hygiene to wash.

    Take it one step at a time, like you have in the past, and it will get easier. And remember that your love for your grandmother, the love you have for her in your heart and your sweet memories of her, are what counts the most. Your grandmother is lucky to have such a kind, compassionate granddaughter.

    God bless your grandmother. I know that Alheimer's is so painful for families. God bless you too! :-)

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    1. Tina, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I have to admit that last night I was feeling frustrated. Sometimes, I just get kind of tired of always having to deal with the next OCD thing. I was feeling unbelievably great for a few weeks but now I've been brought back down to earth a little bit. Overall, I'm still doing extremely well. I just wish I could check out of OCD land for a little while!

      I know that everything you said is right. It's definitely helpful to be reminded of it though. One step at a time. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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  2. Oh, I understand the frustration. If you find a way out of OCD land, tell me about it so I can come too!

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing the link to this post and the other with me. It really helps me identify with someone else that deals with OCD and how I felt after the loss of my grandpa. I hope I can change the way things have been and the future because my grandma is still alive and in another nursing home. I know its something I need to work on so I can visit her. I hope I can find the strength so that I don't feel the same way when it's her time. Thanks again for sharing this. I'm so sorry for your loss!

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    1. Thanks, C, I appreciate it. It was a painful loss, particularly because of the guilt I felt. I'm glad you found some comfort with the posts. When I read your post I could not believe how similar our situations were. But the past is the past and all we have is today. And all we can do is try to move forward in the right direction.

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