Recently, my good blogging friend Tina, over at Bringing Along OCD, wrote a post that described her difficulties with touching compulsions. One of these compulsions included light switches. Over the years, I have also had struggles with light switches. In particular, I really fear leaving a light switch half on/half off. I am afraid of this because I believe that a switch in that position will cause an electrical fire, burning the building down.
I'm not sure if certain things happen to me because I am simply more aware of them, or if sometimes I am just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe these things just seem like they happen to me more than they happen to other people. I really don't know.
A few years ago, my husband and I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast. We were having a good time, but as usual, my OCD continued to mess with my head. This bed and breakfast has a really fun game room in the basement. The only thing about this room though, is that the staff asks you to turn off all of the lights if you are the last person in that room at night. I hate being the last person in the room. I don't want to be responsible for this kind of stuff. It sends my anxiety skyrocketing. What if I do something wrong?
One night my husband and I were the last people in the room. I had had a lot of anticipatory anxiety about the end of the night, as I knew it would be up to us to shut everything down. When the time came for bed, we turned off all of the lights. We were walking up the stairs and there was just one more light switch at the top of the stairs that we had to turn off. My husband flipped the switch, but his hand partially missed it. Unfortunately, the light switch got caught in a half on/half off position. My husband and I literally heard a crackle of electricity from the switch to the overhead light bulb. I screamed at my husband to hurry up and turn the switch off all of the way. I thought I would die. This was so upsetting to me that I felt like I was going to vomit. I was just sure that the old house would go up in flames, killing everyone in their sleep.
My husband went up to bed, but of course, there was no way I could sleep. I grabbed a book and kept an agonizing vigil in that basement room for quite a while. I had to make sure there was no fire. I eventually moved up to our room, but again, sleep was impossible. There was a large walk-in closet attached to our room, so I grabbed a chair and sat in that closet most of the night, reading my book. I felt that it would be irresponsible for me to sleep that evening and I had to make sure everyone was safe. It was tormenting.
The next morning, I quickly told the staff about what happened. They put a note on the light switch saying not to use it and they called an electrician who planned to come by later to look at it.
I was so afraid that I would hear about this place burning down in the days to come, but it never happened. In fact, the following year, we visited this same bed and breakfast again. Everything was fine. There had been no fire and they did not sue us for damages (I was very afraid of that too).
In fact, everything turned out fine. It did not feel alright during that weekend, however. In fact, OCD ruined our weekend. I was a walking tangle of anxiety when we left there. I was also angry at my husband, because I felt the situation had been all his fault. Of course, I realize now, it was just a human type of thing. His hand slipped. No big deal. However, when you have OCD and your anxiety is ramped up to the point that you feel like your head will explode, you tend to get angry and blame whatever you think is the cause of your pain.
I still occasionally worry about light switches. I continue to be careful to make sure that any switch is fully turned on or fully turned off because I don't ever want to go through that nightmare again. The interesting thing, though, is that my worst case scenario occurred, and it still ended up being alright. Hmmmm.