Family issue that has nothing to do with names, please look

Okay, so I love names and I always go on baby name websites even though I’m a kid and have no, and since this is the only website my mom allows me to go on that has a forum, here it goes:

So my father’s had several strokes, and even before then he had a vein of mental instability. The strokes, however, really exacerbated the mental illness and now he’s extremely difficult to live with. I can deal with pretty much everything except for the obsession he has with washing his hands. He’ll randomly get up and wash his hands, he’ll wash his hands before he goes to the bathroom, after he gives the dog food, before and after he gives the dog water, after he touches the TV remote, if he touches a doorknob, etc. etc. etc. When he washes his hands, he has the water running full blast and soaps his hands for a long time, then rinses them for ages, so he has the water running, full blast, for about a minute.

[name]Ever[/name] since my dad started with this hand washing thing, I’ve gotten a thing about conserving water and can’t stand when people waste water, and I’m always using as little water as I can, I’ve stopped bathing as often as I should, and I use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands after I go to the bathroom. This used to be okay for dealing with the hand-washing thing, but ever since we got new faucets, the sound of water running drives me insane. I can’t deal with hearing it. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. And no matter where I am in my house, I hear it. I begin twitching and sometimes start crying, it drives me so insane. Sometimes I plug my ears and that helps, but if I’m in the middle of a conversation I can’t exactly do that. My mother’s told my father to stop it a couple times, but he doesn’t listen to her, it’s a complicated relationship.

I can’t take hearing it anymore, it’s gotten to the point that whenever I hear water running I get insane. I don’t want to approach my father about it, because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and he’s not gonna stop anyway.

What do I do? I’m desperate, I don’t know how to deal with this aynmore, I need help. Should I speak to my father about it? [name]How[/name]? I’m desperate, please, I really need help and I don’t know what to do, any answer will be appreciated, thanks a lot in advance!

[name]EDIT[/name]: Thank you all so much for your answers. I’m honored at the amount of responses I got, and I’m happy that so many people care. I thought I was one of the only ones in this predicament, and knowing that I’m far from really makes me feel better. I plan on speaking to my father about this…thank you all so much again.

[name]EDIT[/name]: I don’t think anyone’s checking back at this point, but if you are, then I just spoke to my dad, and he said that he’ll try not to keep the water at full blast…hopefully he’ll stay true to his word. Thanks for the support…I never could have approached him about it if it wasn’t for you guys who answered my question. Thank you so much, I owe you guys my self-peace.

Your dad’s hand-washing is an obsessive-compulsive behavior. Does he have any other compulsive tendencies? Are there any other little “rituals” that he goes through every day (for example, constantly checking to see if a door is locked, or having to touch a light swtich three times every time, etc.) If so, he might have OCD and he should see a doctor about it.

You’re right in thinking that he won’t stop - he probably CAN’T. Without the help of a professional, anyway. But it might be good for you to talk to him. [name]Say[/name] something like, “Dad, I’ve noticed this behavior and it worries me. Are you okay?” He might be embarrassed about it and hate it just as much as you do. [name]Just[/name] listen and try to be supportive. If he does say it bothers him, you might suggest that he talk to his doctor about it.

As for you, you’ve developed a hyper-sensitive response (can’t think of a better word, sorry) to your dad’s behavior. For starters, I know you realize that bathing regularly and washing your hands is just part of good hygiene and it helps you stay healthy. You should get yourself back in the habit of doing these things - maybe you can keep a small calendar or chart where you decide how often you’ll shower and in what circumstances you’ll wash your hands. You can start out slow and gradually increase until you’re taking showers every day (or whatever is normal for you.) Give yourself a little treat for following your “rules” for the whole day. It sounds stupid, but I think it will help you.

Also, is there anything you can do to get yourself out of the house for a few extra hours each day? [name]Do[/name] you work part-time or belong to any clubs, or is there a close friend you could visit? Getting away from your dad and all that running water can help you relax. If your parents resist, explain to them how it feels for you to be at home. [name]Just[/name] be prepared that their feelings might be hurt at first.

Your feelings are normal, but the way you’re dealing with them isn’t helping you, and it might be setting you up for your own problems in the future. Find someone that you can talk to about it - your mom, a friend, or even a school counselor. Sometimes just having someone to listen and offer an outside perspective makes all the difference. I really hope that things get better for you. Good luck, sweetie.

First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your father’s strokes.
He has obsessive-compulsive disorder. This may, in his case, be a way of exerting control (it sounds illogical, I know, but people often do that, and having a stroke would make you feel very out of control). There are many reasons people develop it, though, and people who are already a bit … perhaps mentally unstable would be a good term, as you said your father has a history of mental illness, have an increased likelihood of developing it.
Some people are generally more prone to it, too - I am, and have been all of my life. I used to have exactly the problem your father has, when I was a child, actually, and it occasionally returns. There are several unfortunate side effects - he will probably develop cracked skin on his hands, as the skin dries out from all of the washing (this is unbelievably painful, so may in itself actually halt his obsession).
Try explaining to him, very calmly, how you feel. You will want to decide what you are going to say, and pick a moment to say it, beforehand, as you don’t want to appear accusatory or patronising.
Point out that he could use hand sanitiser instead sometimes, and open doors with his elbow/jumper over his hand etc. (I do this). Point out that it is more unhealthy to wash his hands so much, as the cracked skin he will develop is likely to get infected. He will probably be greatful for the excuse to stop, even if he doesn’t seem it - obsessions are time-consuming and tedious for the people who have them. Also, encourage him to develop a hobby - try and assess his interests. As soon as he is busy, and has something else which he can think about a lot, he will start forgetting the need to wash his hands so much. He may in time move onto another obsession of his own accord, which may be harmless (I have to check in wardrobes, under tables etc. before I can sleep. While this is very strange, it is not harmful to anyone, nor particularly annoying, as it is now part of our routine), but I think it is probably a good idea to bring the issue up yourself. Whatever you do, do not suggest he goes to see a psychiatrist - while he probably should (I didn’t, though) it makes people very, very angry to be told that sort of thing.
As for you - make sure you shower at least once a day (it doesn’t have to be very long), and do wash your hands manually occasionally. Perhaps you could conserve water in other ways - if you take baths, use old bath water, and water used for cooking, to water the garden, or collect rain in a bucket to water plants. I’ve been told that some people don’t flush the toilet every time they use it, to conserve water that way, too. Google other ways, as well - I’m sure there are many which don’t involve being unhygenic!
Your hyper-sensitive response - things like this happen when you find something annoying, then you dwell on it and let the annoyance fester until even the thought of you makes you twitch. A good idea is to practice breathing deeply whenever you hear the tap running, and inform the others in your family (apart from your dad) of the problem, so that they understand why you are annoyed. Also, your username suggests you are very creative, so imagine you are somewhere else whenever you hear the water running (this works for me).
Good luck, and feel free to ask any more questions you have!

I grew up in a very dysfunctional household. We didn’t have any intense hand-washers, but we had plenty of other horrid stuff going on.

It’s amazing how much family therapy and the correct medicine can help! If you go to school, contact your school nurse or social worker and tell her what is going on in your household. The nurse or social worker will make sure your family gets some help.

If you are not in school because it is summer, you can tell a trusted neighbor, the parent of one of your friends, or even your pastor if you have one. Or you can even look in the phone book, find a church (when I needed help in the past I asked a Presbyterian pastor to refer me to a good therapist. Another time an Episcopal priest gave me the name of a therapist. They were both a lot of help.) If you need more help, let us know, okay? We care about you and your family.

Having a parent who is ill or disabled can be very hard. I think the first step is to talk to your mom about how you are feeling. I know it may seem like your mom has a lot on her plate, but I think she will want to know how you’re feeling about all this. Maybe she’s noticed that you are not showering regularly or are out of sorts, and is waiting for you to come to her. Tell her what you’ve told us - that you are concerned about your father’s handwashing habit, and that you have developed a hyperawareness of water usage/running faucets in your house that is preventing you from showering regularly, etc. It might not be a bad idea to find a professional that you can talk to about all of this. If money is an issue, talk to your school. They may have information about low-cost programs that can help.

[name]Hi[/name] writeratheart,
The others have already shared such good advice that I don’t think there’s much I can add, except to say that I noticed your post and I wish you all the best. There are several good options to explore here; remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and most of the time when you share something difficult, the people in your life are eager to help in any way they can, and appreciate your courage and honesty. If you decide that it’s a good idea to look into some sort of counseling or whatnot, I recommend the resources of the public library–there is usually a librarian who specializes in information and referral for local services. Good luck! :slight_smile:

I agree that your father is having OCD-like symptoms. If this is due to a stroke he has no control over it and you shouldn’t add to your stress by reacting as though he is doing it on purpose to bother you or your mother. I also think that your response to the hand-washing could be considered OCD-like or possibly a symptom of anxiety. Your response (ie not bathing, hearing water driving you crazy) is out of proportion to your father washing his hands too often. Perhaps you could see a psychologist or physician. There are some excellent medications that could calm your (and your father’s) symptoms, or even get rid of them entirely.

Thank you, everyone, for your generous and thoughtful responses. I feel so honored to know that nameberry is a community where people have such caring for and trust in each other. Writeratheart, we all feel for your problem and want to help. We’re moved that you reached out to us here. But we hope, if you really feel that you’re at the end of your rope, that you will reach out to those who have a real presence in your life: a relative, friend, teacher, anyone you might be able to trust. I definitely know how difficult that can be, to expose yourself and risk having the other person mishandle the situation or drop the ball. I think we all just really want things to get better for you.

I should say that I’m impressed that you’re strong enough to open up here to all of us. I think that shows a lot of self-confidence and it gives me faith that all will be well with you as you go forward with your life.

I have OCD. I used to be really bad and get really sick because of it. I used to wash and wash my hands. They got very sore and red. I went to a Docter who talked with me about it and made me feel so much better. He gave me some medication and I’ve been a totally diffrent person ever since. No one would even guess I had OCD. I had a relapse a few years ago but it turned out I just needed stronger medication and now I’m fine again! I’ve been dealing with my whole life. When I was little I had alot of symptons but it kicked in probably around 4 or 5.

Writeratheart, I am very sorry to hear that you are in this situation. Regardless of your dads OCD, or your hyper-sensitive reaction to it, I second Pams suggestion of reaching out to a teacher, school counselor or even a friends parents - that is if you dont feel comfortable reaching out to your mom firstly. I believe that what you are doing in response to your dads hand-washing is simply a much needed outreach for attention. Attention that you should have as a child. Please talk to someone about this. You probably can not change your dads problems but you can change the way that you deal with your dads problems… hopefully in a way that does not inhibiate you from living your life.

Best of luck you to you. I am glad that you have some kind of outlet for your problems. You seem like a smart girl, please be smart.