The word alone was enough to send me over the edge.
I was so afraid of germs that even if I was speaking to someone on the phone, IN ANOTHER PROVINCE, and they sounded sick, I would be overcome with anxiety.
I had multiple containers of hand sanitizer around the house, in the car and in my purse. If I left the house without a purse, there would be a container in my pocket.
I couldn’t touch anything in public and I was constantly chasing after my kids to try to ensure they didn’t touch anything either. You can imagine how well that went.
But seriously… Germs?
In a world where so many awful things happen, it seemed ridiculous that my worst fear could be something so insignificant. I tried to convince myself of that, but my brain wasn’t having any of it. The germs were out to get me.
When the kids got home from school I would ask how many kids were away and then ask how many in the class seemed sick. I would never let people visit our home because I was afraid they might be sick.
And if someone in the family actually got sick… those were the very worst days of my life. That sounds like an overreaction, but it was actually like that. I literally felt like I wouldn’t survive.
It was time to face my fear.
All the wishing in the world wasn’t going to make it go away. Even if my family and I were home alone, healthy, with no germs in sight, I would be worried about the potential germs lurking in places I hadn’t yet considered.
I confessed my truths to my counselor and she told me I had to get rid of the hand sanitizer. That was step one. A small step to reach my bigger goal.
Of course, hand sanitizer has it’s place and knowing where and when to use it is perfectly reasonable. In my case though, I had to stop spraying it on everything all the time. The kids touched a door handle? Sanitize. I touched a railing? Sanitize. Somebody was coughing near us? Sanitize!!!!
It wasn’t going to be comfortable or pretty, but I knew something had to change.
The unexpected outcome.
I can’t tell you that breaking my “safety routine” was easy. It wasn’t. It took everything in me to try to stop the behaviour I had relied on for so long.
My counselor had told me that my actions were actually fueling my anxiety. The more I thought I was controlling the situation, the more it was actually controlling me.
Over time, I began to see that trying to eliminate all the germs was actually calling attention to the fact that it couldn’t be done. Trying to control the germs was causing more anxiety than the germs themselves. It was a realization that I didn’t expect to have. I truly believed that ridding the germs from my environment would ease my anxiety, but it was actually fueling it.
Germs are everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t make me happy to know that germs are everywhere. It’s a fact of life I don’t think I’ll ever completely accept as easily as I wish I could.
However, now that I have proof that letting go of my attempt to control something that can’t be controlled helps EASE my anxiety, I can live with that.
I am moving forward in my fight against anxiety. One less spritz of sanitizer at a time.