17 June 2017

The Fish Tank Compulsion

Many people associate hand washing with OCD. The person obsesses over hand cleanliness, so they create a ritual around washing their hands properly to alleviate the anxiety. Sometimes the ritual is scrubbing a certain number of times. Sometimes it is a certain manner of washing to get rid of all the dirt and germs. Regardless, continually washing ones hands all day does not actually accomplish anything positive. Even I have dealt with compulsions in the form of rituals to achieve the necessary level of cleanliness.

Before college, I had a fish tank. Cleaning that fish tank brought up a lot of contamination issues. I put towels down everywhere so no stray drop could get through. Once the dirty water was out and the clean water in, it was time for decontamination. Everything had to be done in a very specific order to prevent contaminating anything. First my clothes went into a pile in the bathroom. I carefully piled them such that no wet spots touched the floor. Then I washed my hands and arms three times, as three was number necessary to get rid of any yucky fish water. If I didn't feel like I sufficiently scrubbed myself, it become four or five times. Next, I wrapped myself in a clean towel and went back to my room to change. All the towels and clothes were carefully carried downstairs and straight into the washer. Just in care, I washed my hands again between carrying the pile and turning on the washer. No sense in getting fish water on the washer controls. Finally, I sprayed down everything with antibacterial cleaner. The outside of the fish tank, all nearby hard surfaces, the bathroom sink. Everything. After waiting a few minutes for the cleaner to work, all the surfaces were wiped down with paper towels. The paper towels went straight into the trash. Finally, I washed my hands another three times. Contamination from the fish water was my obsession and this ridiculous cleaning strategy was my compulsion.

What happened if something went awry in my plan? Disaster. One time I ran out of antibacterial cleaner. I needed a new bottle from under the kitchen sink. I tried to open the door with my foot, but the childproof lock kept me out. I asked my dad to open the cabinet for me. He refused, saying I should open it myself. In desperation to finish my cleaning, I eventually opened it myself while in a teary mess. My life-preserving decontaminating ritual was ruined.

For years, I refused to touch that part of the cabinet. No amount of scrubbing or chemicals could disinfect that area sufficiently, as the fish water penetrated the wood. In fact, I never touched it again. It wasn't until the cabinet was replaced that I opened the door under the sink normally.

Such a rigorous cleaning regiment is clearly not necessary to prevent fish water from ruining my life. Fish water isn't even that horrible compared to other possible contaminants. Somewhere in my brain I always knew this wasn't logical. And yet I continued for years, as performing the compulsion was infinitely better than not doing it.

After years of cognitive behavioral therapy, I now know how harmful it is to keep performing the compulsion. Instead, through countless hours of exposure and response prevention (ERP), it is possible to overcome the compulsion. Exposing yourself to an obsession and sitting through the anxiety instead of performing the compulsion is incredibly hard by itself. A therapist or ERP coach makes it mind-numbingly painful by constantly reminding you about how horrible the situation is and not letting you cheat. Eventually, the ERP makes it possible to function without performing the specific compulsion. Sometimes the compulsion goes away completely. Other times, the desire to compulse remains, but is bearable. Either way, it's better than living with horrible, time-consuming ritual.

01 May 2017

Combating OCD

It is a common trope to declare oneself as OCD due to some specific desire of orderliness. Shockingly, keeping the house clean or carefully ordering books doesn't qualify as a symptom of OCD by itself. Some people with OCD are complete slobs. Others just shove all the books on the shelf where ever they fit. Merely preferring something a particular way is normal. Having it completely take over everyday life is when it becomes an obsession.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder consists of two parts. As described above, the obsession can be nearly anything. Many of my obsessions are around what I consider perfection. The compulsion is something that eases the mind and makes the obsession go away. Mine are often fixing things to make them perfect. Even that last sentence needed to be perfect, so I rewrote it three times before convincing myself to move on.

Rewriting a sentence a few times doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is part of a much larger problem. If my blog posts aren't perfect, readers will see these imperfections and think I'm an idiot or incapable of properly editing my writing. In reality, these responses aren't actually likely. In my mind, I need to prevent people from thinking poorly of me. And therein lies the problem, causing me to rewrite sentences and even paragraphs over and over.

The only proven method of combating OCD is through exposures. Exposures have absolutely nothing to do with streaking. An exposure is purposely creating an appropriate obsessive situation and not performing the compulsion to make the anxiety go away. It often takes weeks or months of daily exposures to combat just one obsession.

Exposures suck. Really really suck. Even minor ones. You can't just do it for five minutes and declare it finished. The entire point is to sit with the horrible anxiety until it decreases. A typical exposure lasts forty-five minutes to an hour. The anxiety may not decrease at all for awhile. For it to work, you have to keep at it, repeating the same exposure daily until the anxiety decreases or disappears entirely for an obsession.

Any exposure worth its salt is mentally draining. Two a day, plus an hour of regular therapy and an hour of group is also physically draining. Just this half day routine is enough to leave me useless all afternoon.

Most people with OCD have a large pile of obsessions. That means each of these obsessions needs to be treated individually. The obsessions are usually ranked into a hierarchy, from least horrible to completely life-destroying. As the lower obsessions are conquered, the higher ones become relatively easier to experience.

Even with countless exposures, some obsessions and compulsions never go away entirely. You just have to be diligent about not falling back into old patterns. It's a lifelong struggle. And on that note, I'm going to hit "Publish", without checking for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

31 March 2017

The High Cost of Perfection

Everything must be perfect. Me, the world around me, even this blog post. What constitutes perfection depends whatever exemplar I create for the thing in question. A major example is my notebook. If I make a mistake and need to cross out or write over something, it is no longer perfect. And when something is no longer perfect, it is ruined. While other people may not even notice such a slight flaw, I need to fix it somehow. Continuing the notebook example, I tear out the page and rewrite it until there are no mistakes. If tearing out the page is not possible, well, the notebook is a complete wash. I need a new one. In the new one, I must rewrite everything exactly as it was the first time. Even the same pen(s) used the first time. Clearly this is no way to live.

The level of imperfection, and therefore damage, varies from situation to situation. Some things can easily be fixed and once fixed are of little consequence. If something is impossible to fix, such as a past action of mine, I experience high levels of anxiety. My brain can't handle it, so it ruminates on the imperfection for hours, days, even weeks. I only dwell on the perceived problem. Rationally, I know this is completely inane. Nothing in life is perfect. Things get scratched. I make mistakes. Normal wear and tear occurs. And yet it is still the end of the world when these things happen.

One detrimental way to get around imperfections is to ask for reassurance. Just hearing from someone else that something is not a problem gives me temporary relief. But temporary relief is temporary. It becomes an addiction, with my brain always needing another fix of "it's fine." As with any other addiction, I can't ever get past the problem myself when I keep getting further reassurance.

Matt used to constantly provide reassurance until he found out that it's actually detrimental in the long run. Even after years of him denying me, I continue to ask. I still crave that quantum of relief.

My inability to make seemingly simple decisions arises from this perfection problem. I need to make the perfect decision every time, so I continually mull over every option, looking for possible benefits and flaws for every option. I even ask other people for opinions. I get so wrapped up with trying to make the perfect selection that I never actually make one.

After selling my beloved car, my therapist suggested that I use a bit of the money to get myself something something nice. Nothing that I need, merely something to enjoy. I narrowed my search down to a necklace, a nice pen, and a camera lens. I was able to remove the lens from consideration as it would be slightly superfluous, but there isn't a right or wrong answer for the other two options. It's been two weeks and I've successfully accomplished is looking at both in person. The longer I take to decide, the more energy I waste ruminating on the options.

I really wish I could see the world like most people. Imperfections are okay, and things are still completely usable. I just need to convince my brain of that.

27 March 2017

Review: restaurant delivery


- multiple problems, but always resolved it easily
- wider selection

- never had a problem with the delivery
- set delivery price + service charge
- smaller selection, but "curated"

- service fee + delivery fee + tip
- doesn't know what customer service is

uber eats
- don't come to the door
- cheap delivery if no surge
- owned by the uber asshats

10 March 2017

Review: Nextdoor, letgo, OfferUp, and Close5

In my effort to speed up the process of getting rid of the stuff in the garage, I decided to take a foray into all the local selling apps that are appearing everywhere. I chose Nextdoor, letgo, OfferUp, and Close5. There are many other apps, so I narrowed my choices down to the four that seemed the most popular. I listed the washer and dryer on all of them, as well as on Craigslist.


Nextdoor is more of a social network based on proving you live in a specific neighborhood. Aside from their annoying verification system, posting a classified was easy. I had no problem using existing pictures, even in the app. The only real downside is that it is similar to Facebook's news feed - as new posts are created and responded to, your post gets pushed down. Though I created my listing through their app, I had no problems editing anything through their full-featured website.

The big drawback to Nextdoor was finding my post. There is no option anywhere to just get a page of your posts. Their help page even says to just search through your feed to find it! If there is a lot of action, this is obviously annoying. The best way I found was to search through only the classifieds section, which had fewer posts.

Nextdoor is all down to business - everything you need to know arranged in a logical order.


letgo's approach is SELL YOUR EVERYTHING! The app is dead simple to use, which unintentionally also makes it frustrating. Every page has some sort of new listing button, often taking up otherwise valuable screen real estate on a phone. Clicking any of these buttons allows you to take a picture or select one existing picture. Once selected, your post is live. That's it. Perhaps you'd like to include a price or a title? Now you have to go back and edit your listing. Don't bother with the categories; they are too vague to matter. Does my vacuum fall in "electronics" or "home and garden?" Meh.

Why was I searching for something when I could be selling my stuff instead?

They want everything to be done from within the app, but they have a website. I don't recommend visiting unless you want to lose brain function. letgo also sent a "helpful" email informing me that my item was listed. I made the mistake of clicking the link to my item; it only ever showed an error page. The worst part is the website has the same issue with new listing buttons. All of them just give you a popup saying to use the app. Even the mark as sold button doesn't do squat. Web design 101 - if you have a giant button, it damn well better work.

Both streets are a random street near me. I think they were supposed to be my city.

The listings themselves were tenuous at best. Sometimes they appeared in search results, and sometimes they disappeared from my account entirely. My personal favorite was the pictures randomly changing order until the least useful picture became the main picture. I had to delete and reupload that picture. When the listings did appear, they were listed as being in <streetname>, CA. Everyone's listings had this problem.

The one thing letgo did right was alerting me when prospective buyers made contact. Of course, the entire city was alerted by the disturbingly loud and annoying notification sound. And the entire city continued to be traumatized as notifications had to be on for everything or nothing.

Note the title they "helpfully" inserted for me. At least they got the object correct this time.

I have no idea of to where in the aether my description ran.


OfferUp's app feels a lot more pleasant to use. Creating a listing takes a few more steps than with letgo, but I felt like I created a much better listing when I was done. You take pictures, pick a price, pick a condition, and write a description. While I was happy to see condition options, they were overly broad.

My listings didn't appear immediately, but they eventually did in both searches and my online profile. Again, I couldn't edit anything on the website, but everything could be easily edited in the app.

OfferUp clearly had the same person in charge of notifications as letgo. This time it was an absurdly loud cash register sound. I desperately wanted to turn off notifications for everything but activity on my listings, but I either had to turn them off for everything or nothing. Not cool.

The cutesy tag is totally necessary.

The pictures are larger, so you have to scroll down to get further info.


After using the other apps, close5 felt like a school project that hadn't been finished, but needed to be turned in. It insisted that my location was Redwood City, CA, no matter how many times I changed it. You can pick multiple pictures at once, instead of one at a time like the other apps, but you can't remove them or change the order. Postings just have a short description, no title, and don't always appear in search results. Make sure your listing is perfect the first time, as there is no way to edit the description. close5 did let me delete postings instead of marking them as sold, which felt more correct since the items weren't sold via close5.

close5 barely has a website. It offers a basic search and nothing else. Don't even bother checking it, and definitely don't bother trying to use their search.

Why must they ruin an otherwise acceptable layout by overlaying the price? WHY?


Just stick with Craigslist. Their search actually works, posts aren't transient, you can access it easily from a computer or mobile device, and, most importantly, it is easy to update or remove an existing post. If you really feel you must get more attention for an item, then venture into the apps. But until they stop spending all of their venture capital funds on advertising and start making their apps and websites work properly, they are not worth the headache.