In previous explanations of my OCD I’ve exposed some of the antics of my ‘worry OCD bully’, but not the ‘checking bully’.
I do work constantly on trying to fight back against this one, but the weight of responsibility makes me buckle, such as locking my (valuable) car and (my biggest valuable) house door when leaving, and then returning for a cheeky re-check. I feel conspicuous when I walk back to re-check my car doors, because on CCTV I could look like someone trying to break in to the car!
Leaving my home for more than a few hours means several checks of doors, windows and taps but when I go on holiday it involves far more lengthy checks and double checks of:
1. Are all the plugs switched off?
2. Is the fridge door closed properly? Push it and then stare for several seconds (just to ensure my eyes don’t deceive me).
3. Is the water heater off? This means staring at the on/off switch for several seconds and then touching it to check followed by more staring to ensure I didn’t move the switch by accident.
4. Is the television plug removed?
5. Is the washing machine switched off?
6. Ensure there are no small appliances plugged in e.g. irons, hair curlers etc?
7. Are all the taps in the house turned off and the plugs nowhere near the plug-hole? Now due to my ‘contamination OCD bully’ we now have two bathrooms, shower room, cloakroom and obviously kitchen, meaning 14 taps and seven plug-holes in total!
This takes a great deal of staring followed by my hand underneath to check my eyes aren’t being deceived, by the transparency of water, and then more staring and a counting ritual. Each tap is given a number (which is always an even number) and counting to that number whilst staring e.g. one, two, three, four, five, six. I continue wandering around the house checking and if I’m very whittled I go back to the tap and count through to that number again. My mind has to be comfortable with the level of checking before I can head for the door.
9. And finally … Locking the door? Once locked and the key removed I try the handle whilst counting to a number (2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12) and if worried return to the door and recount to that same number again whilst trying the handle – this is not helpful for the longevity of the handle and my partner goes potty when he catches me doing this!
I have read many books on OCD, the potential causes, and the most effective fixes, so I am aware that I do not trust the message being sent from my eyes to my brain that for instance the tap is not dripping, meaning I stare, or put my hand under the tap – presumably a trust issue? As I mentioned at the start, I am trying to kick-the-butt of this ‘checking OCD bully’ on a daily basis, but ….
Thank goodness I’m not working set hours for someone else, because when I did have a pressurised job with lots of responsibility I would go through the above checks and then be half-way through my journey to work and start to panic that I’d missed a check, or not done it thoroughly enough. Was I preoccupied when I left the house and the vision I have in my head of locking the door was from yesterday? I would imagine the house being burgled and thieves going through my personal belongings, so I would turn the car around a.s.a.p. to go back and re-check.
I should say at this point, that so far, returning to double-check something worrying me has not been fruitful – I have never found a sink full of water at the point of starting to drip onto the floor and flood everywhere, or the door left unlocked or worse still left open with cats and dogs roaming in, doing wees and poos everywhere and then leaving. Recently the worse thing I have found is the washing machine was not checked (by my partner !!) so it was flashing as finished even though the contents had been removed.
On occasions I fought this instinct to return home, but it would play on my mind for several hours meaning extra pressure to the job, but obviously when I did take the time to return home it would make me late for work and then I faced those consequences. Even though the company operated ‘flexi’ hours (thank goodness), this generally meant cutting comments like “Morning part-timer” or “Had trouble getting out of bed today”. This is what OCD sufferers contend with rather than face the ridicule of explaining the life they have to live with this condition – it is so sad.