The door is not locked unless the handle leaves a mark in my hand.
I need to push down hard when I check just in case it is unlocked and I am not trying hard enough.
Usually four hard shoves will be conclusive proof I have locked it and I can finally be on my way.
- The urge to keep checking the lock
- The need to push my hand onto the handle until it hurts to validate the ‘check’
- Staring until I feel content it is locked
- Opening and closing the door again until it ‘feels right’
- My night time ritual
- Anxiety before going to work or on vacation
I recently moved into a co-living building with probably 500+ rooms in it.
Imagine an apartment complex crossed with a hotel. I have a room with an en suite (my only necessity!), I share a kitchen with my next door neighbor and that is it. We also have larger shared facilities such as bigger kitchens, a library and a gym.
Whilst I am in London, it will do just fine.
My door situation
Similar to a hotel, I had an electronic room key that I swapped with a wristband. This has helped me escape another aspect of OCD in constant key checking.
I haven’t yet locked myself out of the bedroom, but it is coming.
This feels safer as I know it takes two doors to get into my room. I don’t keep anything valuable in my kitchen, so that door isn’t as worrisome. Despite this I still double-check it.
If I am leaving my flat, I have to shut it hard and push down hard on the handle. To be completely satisfied I need the sound and I need the feeling.
It is important to feel the pressure of the metal against my hands to register it as locked. I stare as I do this to make sure it is sealed.
I make sure this feeling is still there as I walk away to make sure I don’t go back to check again.
Feeling the indent in my palm validates it is locked as I head for the elevator.
Sometimes one check is enough, other times it takes more.
I know that although checking keeps me safe, door checking OCD makes it worse.
Previous experiences may have fueled this behavior
I am from a small village in the north east of England surrounded by fields, farms and a foul smell of horse manure.
It is one of the more deprived areas of the country. Low incomes, low job prospects and a pretty high crime rate. The sound of the police helicopter over our roof was a regular occurrence at 3am.
One day, an alcoholic tried to get in our house. He lived a few doors up from us and frequently visited the village pubs in the afternoon.
Thankfully the door was locked and he didn’t succeed.
We were right there in the living room… he tried the door, failed and walked up the street. We wondered what would have happened if he was able to get in, and tried to forget about it.
About an hour later, my friend (also living in the same street) called me.
‘Mate! You know the alcoholic that lives between us?! My dad found him asleep on our front couch!!!‘
He was asked to leave after being very rudely awakened by my friends parents. He found his own house, and I am sure had some questions the next morning.
I sometimes have to open and close the door again if it didn’t ‘feel right’
I do have ‘Just Right OCD’ in my life, but I rarely have to redo a door check because of a sensory urge or it simply not feeling right.
Mine are always because of an intrusive thought I had at the time.
As I mention in my mental contamination page, when I have an intrusive thought- usually about a family member- I have to do the check again.
I cannot close my door for the night knowing it has been contaminated by a negative thought about harm coming to myself or a family member.
My door checking OCD when I am out
If I do my compulsions correctly, my mind is usually at rest.
Sometimes I leave the house when OCD isn’t causing me so many problems. This is extremely rare but on those days, I don’t remember my ritual and do worry that I may come home to an empty apartment.
I also want to mention that any other door in my life isn’t an issue. I don’t worry about doors at work for example as I know they are shared by many.
Any door that is used frequently- and I don’t have sole responsibility for- isn’t so bad.
The checking increases if I am going to be away for a while
My checks just before heading to work are worse than if I am just popping to the store.
They are much worse if I am going to be away for a week or so.
If I am going on holiday, I need to see that damn handle mark deep in my palm all the way to the airport.
When I am away I am fine, because I know that I would never leave until I was absolutely certain.
But this only adds pressure in the checking phase, and this is as stressful as it gets.
My going to bed ritual
As my locks are electronic, I don’t need to lock it from the inside. I can double lock it, but I know it can’t just be pushed open.
All I need is to hear the ‘click’ and keep pulling it a few times to make sure this is locked properly.
The problem with this is that I will surely need to get someone to fix the handle when it becomes loose… I tend to pull it harder than it should be pulled just to be on the safe side. Multiple times.
The main front door isn’t so important to me as I know my flatmate is in and out with his bike frequently.
I still check it before bed and sometimes notice it isn’t closed fully. If it isn’t closed by hand it tends to stay slightly open.
This drives me mad.
I need to check it right before bed. If I check 15 minutes or more beforehand, it isn’t going to satisfy me. I need that fresh image in my mind and pain in my hand or I have doubts.
Door checking OCD final thoughts
Door checking OCD is probably a solid 8/10 in terms of stress.
Mainly because of the repetition and not being able to sleep without completing the ritual. And the inevitable cost to fix the handle when I eventually pull it off.
But growing up in a pretty rough village, the worst things to happen were farm animals wandered in and an alcoholic fancied a nap. This helps reassure me.
On top of this I spent two years in hostels with sometimes fifty strangers in one room.
No doors kept me safe, and I never needed one.
This is one of the aspects of OCD I want to escape the most.
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