Healthy Life: Rituals or OCD?

It’s a very thin line between rituals and OCD. As I stated before, I suffer anxiety, so any new thing in life can be upsetting. As an athlete, we come to rely on the rituals that gave us success on game days. It’s the who sat where or next to whom, which underwear we had on, who touched who’s stick for good luck, how we lined up leaving the room, where the water bottles went... It’s a ritual. Or is it team OCD?

Whatever it was that gave you success you repeat because it worked. For me, these good luck rituals became part of my outside athletic life, which I’m not sure I can call rituals anymore, so hence I’ll say "OCD."

Going to chemo the first few times I just rode the wave because it was new, but as you repeat the process you start making mental notes: which nurse you connect with more, who seems to understand your chart better, which one settles you. You’re making your ritual notes. It’s important to know this because when there’s an issue that arises and freaks you out, you need that “go to what we did the last time" good luck. This happened one visit. The kind nurse informed me she wasn’t getting any blood return from my pick line (not good) and I freaked out. No blood return? The nurse at the CLSC mentioned this last visit and I was assured it was okay by oncology when I told them about the bumps on my arm. I was told she just didn’t press hard enough but now oncology is mentioning it. Panic!!! It can’t be good. So I asked for my good luck/go-to nurse Lucia. Lucia came over to assess and take over because now we had an issue, and as calm as I can TRY to be, when we have an issue, all bets are off. I will never be a stewardess. Ever see that Seinfeld episode where George runs over the old lady with the walker at a birthday party when there’s smoke? Yeah. So I become a complete spaz. I don’t want to, but my mind starts taking me to scary "what if" places. What if I need a new line put in, what if there’s a blood clot again? Cue the sweaty face and fainting feeling.

Lucia saw the panic in my face as I processed the information, and the fact that I had removed my wig was an indication I wasn’t f*cking around with how worried I was. She fetched a bed pan (not its real name but who cares) because I was now gagging into the garbage can in fear of what this meant. Yeah, that was part of the pregame too lol. I prepped by gagging on big game days because we won, so it became the ritual.

Anyway, she got what she needed and we were back in business. Now I waited for my body to come down from the fight or flight. Relax. Breathe. It’s okay. We’re good. Success! Small victories.

Laura Muer is a native West Islander and single mom, and she's not defined by life’s curve balls.