Before I actually had OCD I always thought it was just something that really clean people had and that maybe my sister had it because she always spends a lot of time cleaning – turns out she just has poor time management and it takes her forever to finish a task haha.
It first started when I moved out of home for the first time and lived on my own, I had a gas stove top which we didn’t have at home and of course all it took was one quick thought of ‘what if I accidentally left the gas on and gassed myself to sleep?’ to make me get out of bed and check it was turned off. I checked it was off and back to sleep I went, obviously I woke up the next day healthy and well which reinforced the idea that if I checked it last night and I’m fine, I better do it tonight too to make sure that I’ll be fine. Thus the routine began.
I started to build on from just the gas and moved onto electrical appliances and power points too. Before I’d go to bed or leave the house I’d have to check all appliances were turned off and unplugged from the electrical socket. I don’t know what I expect will to happen, maybe if I leave my phone charger plugged in the wall it will spontaneously combust and burn my apartment down? What’s even more illogical is that I would ensure everything in the house unplugged apart from the TV and fridge. Apparently my mind figured that was okay, but everything else has to be turned off.
From there I graduated onto before I left my car ensuring the car was in park, the hand break is up and the lights (both interior and exterior) were off. I could never get one of those fancy new cars where you walk away from it and the lights turn off automatically! I then after locking the car, near pull the door handle off making sure that the door is actually locked by trying to open it. A bit of a strange experience for first time riders in my car I must say.
All of this slowly came together to all be incorporated into my routine. It probably took the space of a few months for all these things to become a regular part of my life. It doesn’t sound that bad in writing, and I guess there’s no real harm in doing a quick once over to make sure things are turned off and secure but it’s actually quite time consuming. After a while one check didn’t satisfy me, I’d get in bed and think ‘did I really check the gas though?’ I knew I did but there was constantly this niggling feeling in my mind that wouldn’t go away until I checked again. And again, and again. It would take me half an hour just to leave the house. Who cares if the appliances did combust and the house burned down? There’s no one else at home so no one would get hurt… but I just have to check!
A few years later I moved from an apartment to a house. I was all by myself in a three bedroom home, 4 hours from any family and not living in the best area. My checking really took a turn for the worst when my house was broken into while I was away for Christmas. They took; my sheesha which I used solely for the purpose of sitting my TV arial on to get better reception, my backpack (who steals a backpack?!!!) and my hair straightener. Apart from the sheesha for my tv reception I wasn’t worried about my stolen goods but I felt so exposed. A bad person had come into my home and violated my safe place. I began checking things like a mad person before bed. All the doors, the windows, the garage, even under the beds and inside the cupboards for hidden perpetrators waiting to strike when I was sleeping. That was an exhausting time of my life, constantly checking over and over again to believe that I was safe in my own home.
I’ve since moved back home and have the pressure lifted of checking things like power points. There’s no gas cooking appliances, and as for the perimeter check to keep out criminals I have the trust that my mum would have already followed out those tasks for me. Logically I know my mum isn’t checking under beds for the boogie man, but just having other people in the house is such a load off my chest! When I’m home alone it’s a different story, I’ve even added to my routine to make sure the gate is definitely closed so the dog doesn’t get out. I’ve even thought about getting a padlock for the gate so I know the dog will 100% be safe but I know the family would call me mad and insist I put a stop to that sort of nonsense. Leaving the house takes me a good 15 minutes when I’m home alone and has even resulted in me missing the bus for work.
Honestly I don’t really know how to combat my OCD, my meds don’t seem to make much difference to it and I feel like the things that help anxiety like exercise etc don’t really help combat it either. My hands are so dry from washing them all the time and it drives me insane that I make myself check my alarm 3 times in a particular order. Thankfully though the OCD is not (in my case) as bad as the anxiety, it’s annoying and time consuming but it’s not terrifying like the anxious thoughts. Sometimes I man up and force myself to leave the house without checking the candles are blown out (I’ve not lit one in weeks but I’ve still gotta check) and while from the walk from the front door to my car I feel sick with worry by the time I leave my driveway I feel exhilarated and think oh well I’ve left now it’ll be right, but that’s an absolute rarity.
My main aim is to be able to leave the house without a second thought but perhaps the old keys, phone, wallet check. I imagine the luxury of going to bed without even entertaining the idea of being gassed in my sleep would be amazing. I’m chasing that boring feeling of normality, so if you too suffer from OCD, comment below how you cope, or what you’ve done to combat those pesky compulsive behaviours.