Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who's Afraid Of A Little Light Switch?

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.

15 comments:

  1. Ohhh light switches half on/half off... that's a biggie for me as well.

    I am also afraid of fire and have to inspect and touch all the light switches and stare at electrical outlets. If I see or hear anything that in any way could be anything that could possibly be a sign of fire.... I'm a mess!

    I completely understand the vigil you kept at the bed and breakfast. I too have kept vigil over fear of fire.

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    1. I'm sorry this is so hard for you too, Elizabeth. I think the thought of fire is just so scary because we have very little control of it and the consequences could be unbelievably devastating. Somehow, someway, I'm really trying to learn that I can only do so much to prevent these things, and then whatever happens, happens. It's a very hard thing to accept though.

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  2. I saw the lightswitches post, and thought for sure your issues would be like mine. Or that they'd be a touching compulsion. But this is a whole other side of them that I had never considered.

    I totally get the anger issues, though. My lightswitch issues were contamination fears. I had to use my feet to turn them on and off. Thank heavens I'm over that now, but for a while, I'd get so angry at my hubs because he'd turn light switches off and close doors, and I had to then turn the switches on and open the doors with my feet - often while carrying other things like laundry or children.
    So, totally different, but I really get the whole anger aspect. :)

    I'm glad you can now look back at the situation and realize that it was the OCD talking.

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    1. Shana, I can definitely see how frustrated you would be because your husband was acting "normal" and then it made it harder for your OCD compulsions. My husband and I have had a few "discussions" over those types of things! I've also had some contamination type issues with light switches too, so I get that.

      Yes, it sure was the OCD talking and I see that. To be honest, though, if that same exact thing happened again, I still don't think I would be able to sleep. I don't know. Let's hope I never find out!

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  3. Sunny, I used to have light switch issues but mine don't concern safety. I would press on them over and over, it was kinda a touching-checking compulsion and I don't do that anymore with them but I do it now with doors (making sure they are closed, like I can't believe they are shut by seeing it). Sorry it ruined your B&B weekend.

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    1. Thanks, Kyrstal Lynn. I'm sorry it ruined the weekend too. But then again, OCD has a way of ruining a whole lot of things, doesn't it?

      I have also struggled with checking things over and over because I don't believe my eyes just by looking at them. That is probably one of the weirder things about OCD. I would love to know why our brains do that.

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  4. Sunny, That must have been terrible! I would have freaked out. I wonder if there was already a problem with the wiring?

    I am really trying not to check as much. I've learned that any checking I "allow" myself to do doesn't really help me and just makes the compulsions stronger. I've learned a lot from reading your posts like this one--thank you!

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    1. Yep, Tina, it WAS terrible! Freaking out is pretty much what I did all night. I too suspected that there was probably already a problem with the wiring. It was a very old house.

      Oh, it's true - checking really just makes things worse.

      I'm so glad that anything I've written has been even a little helpful for you. I'm grateful that you have helped me too. : )

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  5. I like that you say your worst case scenario occurred, and still all was fine. I've always found that interesting and I've mentioned it on my blog as well. Sometimes what we (those with and without OCD) worry about the most actually does come true, but still.....we get through it, we can handle it, and it's rarely as bad as we imagine. Great post!

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    1. Thank you, Janet! It IS rarely as bad as we can imagine. But boy, can we imagine really bad things, can't we? Sometimes, I just can't seem to imagine myself getting through something. It's like I don't have the ability to picture it for some strange reason. Maybe it's the cognitive distortions that get in the way.

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  6. I use to have the same problem. I feared once that I left a light switch in the half on/off position in my university's library. I went around to each light in each aisle on a specific floor(since I couldn't remember which one in was) to ensure it was turned off. In the process of doing it though i started to obsess that in the process of doing my compulsion that I would actually make the situation worse... such as that one light switch was completely off but in the process of doing my compulsion I accidentally made it go into the half on/off position. I actually obsess a lot during my compulsions that I am accidentally doing the very thing I am obsessing about (such as in the process of cleaning germs and decontaminating things I will actually spread the germs more or poison everyone with the cleaning product)... I'm weird I know... but anyway with the school situation I finally had to go home where I curled up into a ball listening for sirens of a fire truck and whether they were rushing in the direction of my school! I was so frightened that I was going to cause a fire! I can't express my relief when I went to school the next day and my library was still there! Thankfully this doesn't bother me too much anymore... I read somewhere once (I think an Ian Osborn book titled something like "can christianity cure OCD") that it helps OCD people to transfer responsibility to someone else about a situation that they are obsessing about (such as... what if I didn't lock the door? Ask someone else to lock the door... that way if it isn't locked it isn't your fault). I have actually found that this has worked for me but I have been making it into a compulsion which I don't think is good. Dr. Osborn actually suggest that Christians should focus on transferring responsibility for everything OCD wise (and well everything really) to God. God won't let anything slip. If your house burns down b/c the oven was left on... then it was in God's will... if your house doesn't burn down then it was God's will. I have a hard time with this.. since to be honest I'm not as close to God as I once was or as close to God I would like to be. But I am trying. :)

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    1. I also sometimes wonder if I'm doing the thing my compulsion is supposed to catch. Like looking behind me to make sure I didn't hit me, at which point I didn't pay enough attention in front of me, so I want to look behind me again... I would guess it isn't unusual for people with OCD.

      I read that book by Ian Osborn, so I'm very interested that you brought it up. I haven't found it helpful for me. I think you're right about it can be a compulsion. It still puts value on our less rational fears. And also, I think God sometimes PERMITS houses to burn down, but I don't think that he necessarily MAKES houses burn down. I think that straight exposure response prevention works better for me, when I can get myself to actually do it. And sometimes, especially with the depression and OCD, I don't FEEL as close to God, but that doesn't mean I'm not actually as close to GOd. If you are like me, it will help to believe that what you FEEL doesn't define your relationship with God. :)

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    2. Brooke - I have been in that exact same situation. I'm pretty sure I've messed something up, but I don't remember exactly where I messed up, so I have to go back and check every single thing. Utterly horrible. I'm sure that evening for you was tormenting. I'm so truly sorry for your experience.

      I would also worry that my compulsions would make things worse. This has been a real problem for me with Hit and Run OCD. I'd go back to double check, then worried that I actually did cause an accident on my doubling back to check. Round and round we go. Ugh.

      I've also read Ian Osborn's book - in fact it's in my Helpful Resources list! I understood it to mean that when Osborn mentioned transferring of responsibility, he was only referring to transferring to God, not another person. I think that is because another person can be part of our compulsions, but because we don't see God do an actual physical action (usually!!!), that it doesn't feed into our compulsions - of course, as long as we don't start praying compulsively. I appreciated that book because I felt it was a kind, compassionate Christian response to an excruciatingly painful mental illness. However, I also agree with Abigail that ERP is more effective. But I liked Osborn's viewpoint.

      Thanks for commenting. I learn so much from other sufferers who share their experiences.

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  7. Yeah, I remember the light switch issue came up with the first counselor to diagnose me. I was afraid of sparks from the light switch. And my mom backed me up. She said, well, that was a true risk in our old house. Which, of course, makes any new therapist look shocked that my mom would back me up. I do, however, recall looking into the wall from the doorway (I'm guessing the doorway was missing trim or something) and turning the light off and seeing the spark. Of course, the spark didn't go on and on, it just went once. But anyway, there IS some small amount of actually substance behind this fear, same as I'm pretty sure a very few houses have burned down because of stove fires (though I don't know that for a fact). So probably our issue here is not that there aren't any facts to support us but that we are blowing the risk out of proportion.

    I'm sorry you had such a miserable vacation. That would have been very tough.

    Have you dealt with the newer light switches of the kind that, if you push them to their limmit, they bounce back just slightly since the actual off position is just slightly in from all the way up or down? I've spent a little time on those. :)

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    1. Abigail, you hit the nail on the head! There definitely are some facts to back us up. I think that's what makes OCD so unbelievably sneaky. People with OCD aren't dumb. We've usually done our research about stuff and we know what the risks are. I think we just focus so incredibly on them, and then, like you said, blow them out of proportion.

      I live in a home that is only 14 years old. All we have are those stupid newer light switches that bounce back. I know just what you mean! They have been frustrating at times. Thankfully, though, I haven't obsessed much about them.

      Our vacation was not good, but the best part is that we went back almost exactly one year later and had a much, much better time. Although my husband was v-e-r-y careful with that light in the basement! ha ha

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