Short Story #7

Content warning: OCD

Please keep in mind that this is a piece of fiction, and is meant to portray a characters experience with a mental health disorder/learning disability.


I go to sleep at 10:00 every night, or at least I try to. I can’t simply go to bed at this time. I have to sanitize my hands.

Most people may assume that one spritz of hand sanitizer in one’s hand before bed is reasonable. That’s how it always starts. I have to sanitize my hands before I go to sleep to get rid of the germs that my hands have accumulated throughout the day to avoid a cold. It’s then that I get into bed. I start watching tiktok, and I set my alarms. Then, all of a sudden, my hands start to itch. They feel contaminated. I must have accidentally touched the charging cord of my phone. I somehow feel the plethora of germs multiply through my body. It’s then that I get up and sanitize my hands again.

I try the process over. I get into bed, but oops, I touch my nose. The nose is a breeding ground for disease. Even if I only barely touch the outside, I get up, walk across my room, and put on another glob of hand sanitizer.

I try to go to bed again, and this time I’ve managed to settle for about ten minutes. However, I begin to realize that I need to sanitize my hands again. I haven’t touched anything new and my hands are still as clean as they once were, and I am finally comfortable in my bed. But nevertheless, I feel the intense urge to get up and squirt hand sanitizer on my hand one more time.

It’s now that I crawl back into my bed. I feel my eyes start to slowly close as my body sinks into my soft mattress. But wait-I wake up in a panicked sweat at the realization that I didn’t sanitize my hands five times. Four is no good, no, it leaves room for the germs to grow-it has to be five. So I get up, sanitize my hands, and finally fall asleep peacefully.

I hate that I have to do this every night before I fall asleep. When I try to tell people about my nightly routine, they assume it’s my choice. They tell me to just stop. But I can’t stop. If I don’t sanitize my hands, I cannot sleep, but more importantly, I fear that I will die. I literally fear that if I haven’t removed all the germs off my body I will become horribly ill and ultimately die. It’s awful, feeling like I’m so close to death all the time that I have to do something so tiny and seemingly unimportant just to feel safe.

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