Cloroxing Away My Fear

“You’re driving me crazy,” my mother says, after a walk around the neighborhood. I’ve just yelled at her for touching her insufficiently sanitized phone after washing her hands.

I know, I think. I’m driving me crazy too.

“Why can’t you trust that it’s clean?”

I want to trust—that would make everything so much easier. But my anxiety is not a switch I can simply turn off. And it isn’t unfounded, either. I have spent almost a quarter of my life fighting to regain the control over my body that Lyme Disease has taken from me. Now I am battling not only the invaders inside of me, but also the threat outside my door, and my only defense is the jumble of cleaning products in my kitchen cabinet. But unlike my Lyme treatments thus far, these chemical concoctions are real, foolproof germ-busters. If I use them enough, they will work.

I look at my mother. “I know it’s irrational,” I tell her. “But please—can you just humor me?”

She sighs, nods, and gives me a hug. She wore that shirt outside, my brain shouts. But I hug her back, gingerly, before changing my own clothes and lathering my hands with extra Mrs. Meyers.