The lights at work—specifically, the two lamps I use in my office—have been a checking nightmare for me.
My ritual has been to turn off the floor lamp first, then unplug it. I then stare at the lampshade, trying to convince myself that it’s dark, that the light is off.
Then I stare at the electric receptacle, trying to convince myself that there’s nothing plugged in.
Then I turn off the desk lamp and stare at that lampshade, again trying to convince myself that the light is off.
I don’t unplug that lamp, which shows just how inconsistent OCD can be: I feel the need to unplug one lamp but not the other. If it’s dangerous to leave one lamp plugged in, why not the other, you might ask.
I have stayed behind while the others left work, to be alone to check the lamps and make sure they were out.
On my checking fear hierarchy, leaving the office without checking the lamps is a 90. That means that I have extreme anxiety over these lamps.
I’ve been working on this checking dilemma for weeks, with mixed results. I could turn them off and leave fairly quickly, but I was first trying to convince myself that the lamps were off before leaving. I couldn’t figure out how to get past that.
Then I had a talk with my therapist last week about OCD and logic.
He reminded me that there is no logic in OCD and that I can’t use it when trying to combat an obsession or a compulsion.
According to what my therapist told me, when I turn off the lamps, it’s time for me to leave the office and focus on something else.
I’ll have anxiety, he said. But I need to be actively engaged in whatever I do next, like driving. Don’t engage with the thoughts about the lamps, he said.
And it’s helping. I turn off the lamps, and though I’m still glancing at them, I’m no longer spending time convincing myself that they’re off. I’m packing up and leaving the office. I feel the anxiety, but it dissipates quickly as I focus on other things.
Now I want to get to the place where I’m not even glancing at the lamps, where I’m not even thinking about them after I turn them off. I hope I can build on the success I’m having.If anyone has advice on how to do that, I’m all ears!