Barefoot with OCD


This post is really only for one of two groups of people, the first would be the foot-people, the second would be people who want to understand obsessive compulsive disorder a little better. So, WARNING: If you don’t fit into one of those two groups, don’t read this post, it’ll just be annoying.

So here’s an answer to “How does an obsessive compulsive function as a barefooter?” Well, the answer is, not terribly well, but one compulsion (let’s say “passion” instead: that of going barefoot) clashes with the obsessive compulsive disorder. Firstly through my fear of germs, bacteria, and viruses, which I largely simply don’t allow myself to worry overmuch about, and the other clash mostly involves poor (emotional and intellectual) handling of injuries to my feet (which are somewhat inevitable if you are living purely barefoot every day of your life).

A case in point happened yesterday when I tore off my pinky toenail IN MY OWN ROOM! No, I wasn’t even out being wildly barefoot in unlikely and challenging situations and environments so that people could say “Well, that’s what you get for going barefoot all the time.” No, I was IN MY OWN ROOM barefoot like anyone else, and I stubbed my pinky toe on a tile (don’t want to explain that, just accept it) only to find that my pinky toenail was separated from my toe… BIG time! It’s still hanging in there, but it’s flappy, and it bled like crazy all the way around all four edges.

That wasn’t the hard part. I don’t get too wound up about pain. It just comes and goes, and I seem to have a fairly high threshold to pain, which is good as I have such a low threshold for the accompanying worry and anxiety (even outright panic). I don’t worry about or fear pain, as it passes quickly, I worry about things that last. And yes, ripping off (or nearly off) my toenail spun me into a panic and depression that, in the mind of a normal person not afflicted without OCD, seems so terribly out of proportion to what another person’s reaction would be to such a seemingly trivial injury. I didn’t sleep at all last night and I still feel sick to my stomach now.

This happened last night about 8, and today around 2:30 in the afternoon I am STILL feverishly and tearfully devastated by it.

There are reasons, anyone who knows me well and has known me deeply for a very long time, will understand how important my bare feet are to me. A passion for bare feet essentially dominated the driving and creative forces behind most of my best work, and that passion in many very real ways led me to becoming who I am. In the words of one hardcore barefoot woman I met on the Renaissance Festival circuit who once told me in reference to her own ever bare feet, “I’ve designed my life around it.” Well, as have I (and for a very very very long time in many different ways). So, as you can see, underneath the trivial obsessive nature there lies at least a little bit of logic. Bare feet have always been important to me, inspiring, arousing, frustrating, compelling…

So, with all that set up, what is it I’m so worried about?

Well, actually, for the most part, that I know that this will be preying on me for months. For months now I know that my obsessive nature will make this an ever present drone sticky, warm, and wet in my skull. When I am especially miserable with fear and anxiety I actually get feverish, I’m feverish now. THAT really upsets me, that this injury will take many months to work itself out, and the whole time it will be in the back of my mind. That really is the biggest problem, the thing that has really devastated me… yes, the circular logic of being obsessed with the misery caused by the obsession itself! Think about that… the obsession itself IS the primary source of the misery and NOT the things I’m actually worried about. My mood lately has been fragile to say the least, and I’m deeply depressed to know that this is going to be making me miserable for a very long time to come.

Then what are the things I’m worried (obsessing) about? Well, aside from the worry itself, the (largely unfounded and rarely occurring) possibility that it won’t grow back at all ever. Of course, I know this is possible, but it’s extremely (and I mean very extremely) unlikely. I’ve been through this twice with my big toes (and like this time, neither happened because I was barefoot in unsafe or even remotely unhealthy or unusual places, in other words, neither time was my barefoot lifestyle to blame), and both times they grew right back. Additionally, in a moment of mini-digression in defense of the barefoot lifestyle, as I researched this on the internet (loss of toenails/nails falling off) I realized that many many cases happen NOT due to a person’s being barefoot, but due to ill-fitting shoes! Yes, lots of people lose nails to their shoes, dancing, and all sorts of things that don’t involve being barefoot. So don’t blame my being barefoot for it, that’s simply not factual.

My other fear, and this is the one (that though still unlikely), is still somewhat possible, and that is that the nail will grow back ugly and deformed. This does happen, but usually not very often nor very badly. So, logically I know this is probably not going to happen (as both my big toenails not only came back, but they look great), but the fear that it might happen preys on me almost endlessly. Additionally, I believe that nails grow back deformed and ugly because of the crimping and cramping that goes on in shoes that deforms nails that most likely would have grown out beautifully if they weren’t pinched into shoes.

Of course I also worry that if it all goes badly and I’m left nail-less and deformed… what will I do? I’m a barefoot chick… I LOVE my feet and foot beauty. I can’t imagine being able to handle having deformed feet. I would feel, in a sense, ruined. Yep, that is the mindset of an obsessive. But it’s not all that irrational or illogical if you think about the fact that I am a very visual and aesthetic person.

And lastly I can label one of the fears the one that is real and now and in no way based on fear of the worst case scenario, and that is that I will absolutely have to deal with the ugliness and feelings of incompleteness every time I look at my feet no matter how well it all turns out. I will have to deal with and see this injury for many months to come no matter what the final result. That is a real drag.

Those are the things that will be darkening me from the back of my mind for months to come.

In the reality of the here and now I am doing healthy things, using hydrogen peroxide, neosporin, avoiding infection, wearing band-aids, being careful. I am not going to a doctor because the last time I did that the doctor more or less shrugged me off and told me to wait for it to fall of and let it grow back, there’s not much they can do. I’m also not going to a doctor ’cause I don’t yet have one. I’m also taking it easy, staying off it, and avoiding infectious situations.

But for now, I have to accept the fever, the worry, the disappointment, the fear, and just how long this will last. Of course after the initial shock wears off, people won’t know the difference, as an obsessive I’ve learned to share some of it with people, but for the most part I just keep the constant flow of this stuff stuffed in, smile, and do all the things I am supposed to do… and do them well. But underneath all that you know I’ll be worrying about something that most people would eventually simply forget about.

I felt compelled to write this so that anyone who wants to understand it might stand a chance, and because really thinking hard about it rather than flinching from it or letting it run the show is an effective way to help let go of some of the panic and worry.

In the meantime, if you comment, be gentle and encouraging, I really don’t need some pinhead telling me things that will just freak me out more.

7 responses »

  1. Sorry to hear about your mishap, Justine! I’m a fellow barefooter, though still aspring to be as dedicated and *brave* as you are to be going 100% barefoot, 24/7/365. I really admire that and that’s why I subscribed to your blog.

    The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself, especially if you take good care of it with conscientious nutrition, adequate sleep, and so on. I’m sure your baby toe will heal in a reasonable time frame. In the worst case scenario, if it ends up slightly less beautiful than it used to be, then perhaps you can still hold it up as a badge of honor for being so committed to the Barefoot Lifestyle. More likely, since the baby toenail is so small to begin with, it’ll grow back and any difference will escape notice except upon extreme closeup inspection.

    I hope that you’ll bounce back quickly (on all levels) and that this won’t deter you any in your enjoyment of being barefoot and continuing to delight in the experience. Hopefully you’ll decide (or already have) that barefooting remains viscerally pleasurable on the whole, mishaps notwithstanding. Your example of living your life barefoot will continue to inspire other people who value going barefoot (or long to), and helps to counteract the general public’s spiral of ignorance regarding the wholesomeness and viability of going barefoot.

  2. Well, first off, thanks! Second off, thanks again for being encouraging and positive, that really helps my OCD mindset inch closer to a healthier perspective. Nextly, I tried very hard in this post to not make a case against the barefoot lifestyle as all three of my incidents could have happened to anyone at any time (IN MY ROOM!). And lastly, yes, if it comes back ugly (not terribly likely), it will bother me an awful lot, but I am barefoot (I don’t simply “go” barefoot), so nothing will deter me. If this is the price I pay for it (which it isn’t… again… I was in my room, not out working or doing anything dangerous) then so be it. I’m keeping ’em bare! And perhaps whatever comes, it will have to be looked at as a little badge of honor/right of passage. But, again, OCD kicking in, I don’t think that’s all that likely. It’ll probably just heal up like it’s nothing and I’ll have wasted a lot of good worry (once again) on something that wasn’t really worth it… but that’s OCD for you.

      • So glad to read that your commitment to shining on as a barefooter isn’t dilluted by this mishap. That it happened in your room seems less important to the story than that you go barefoot 100% of the time!, and once in a while you get an ouchy, but it never shakes your resolve to keep on keeping on with barefooting. : )

        Glad, too, to know that the words of encouragement were timely. I can be a little OCD myself, but my sense of the notion of worrying is that it’s really only helpful if you use it to impel you to avert whatever it is you’re worried about. In this case, you’ve applied the antibacterials, perhaps put on a bandage… You’ve done what there is to do. On you go! Enjoy your bare feet (and everything else)!

  3. Hey Justine,

    I’m sure you’re over this little trauma by now but I think moments of fear are entirely natural to a barefooter. We fear what might hurt us, to say nothing of the complexity of obsessing over the concept of fear itself.

    It’s all a natural response, such is our capacity to analyse ourselves and be both objective and subjective in the same instant.

    To me it’s the eternal battle of the ‘what ifs’ and reminds me of the smoker’s predilection. One man smokes his days away, dies at 96. Another does the same and checks out at 42. Is the morale not to smoke at all? There is no answer, no defined theory or remedy to these many complex scenarios.

    But I think that if you can look back and justify to yourself your decisions and their repercussions then you’re at least half way to being happy and content with your lot. And that, perhaps, is the answer we all seek….

    • Oh yeah, way over it. The thing is, with OCD, one of the techniques we use to conquer the obsession is to go deeper into it, rather than flinching from it. This was an exercise in that, go to the core of the fear or worry and stare it down. Anyhow, it’s one of the most effective techniques for treating OCD, a problem I have largely conquered through this sort of work. Anyhow, all you have said is also true, and thanks for the comment.

      I hadn’t read this entry in a longtime, and rereading it… it seems quite mad! It was hard to read, as I can recall how I felt at the time… dreadful. The real question is… why do I share such things? The answer seems to be… why not share such things.

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