I used to work at a vintage clothing store. I also shopped at thrift stores, second hand clothes stores, etc. But then I went on a mission, came home, got married, and had kids. Somewhere along that path, I became more “normalized.” Maybe without me cognitively realizing it, the OCD also helped to steal away my love of vintage clothing with worries of “that’s dirty,” “who knows who has worn that before?” and the like.

I feel like style can be a revolving, rotating, and living part of a person. I thought I was evolving my style by wearing different types of clothes, and I suppose that’s true. There was also the practical side of it: availability and quality (or lack thereof) of thrift and vintage stores, having to wear maternity clothes while pregnant, gaining/losing weight, etc.

Now I’ve come to a golden land of vintage and thrift stores and finally I have tempered my OCD enough to be okay with buying and wearing second (or third or fourth…) hand clothes. This is a victory.

Another victory, and one that I had to work out with encouragement from my doctor, was trying on clothes. I felt like I had to or should buy any clothes that I tried on because somehow the act of them touching my body or underwear made them contaminated and dirty. I would then feel guilty putting the clothes back on the rack for someone else to buy. I usually tried to buy clothes online so I didn’t have to face the issue at all.

This was a hard one to break. I had to try on various types of clothing (even underwear) and not buy them. Since then, I still hesitate to try things on and often instead play the guessing game of “will it fit?” or buy from the same brands/styles that I know already do fit. But in a way, second hand clothes are a great baby step because, well, they have already been worn and loved and tried on many times. What harm can I do?

The nice thing about doing exposures is the sense of accomplishment you feel when you finally overcome what you were worrying about for so long. For me, I find I usually have to work to overcome them each time, though some get easier after the first exposure.

What may be small (or huge) victories for those with obsessive compulsive disorder are often commonplace, everyday, routine actions for the “normal” person. As such, he or she can’t truly appreciate the courage it takes to try on a skirt in a dressing room, use a door handle without a paper towel, shake someone’s hand, or go to the bathroom on a public toilet. But we can–so remember to appreciate those victories and use them to fuel yourself to make the bigger, larger changes you need to take back control of your life.