My ex used to tease me about having OCD because I always had to check the door knob to make sure the door was closed and locked when we left the house; Likewise, when I came home, I had to make sure the door is securely closed and locked before walking away. If I was heading out and leaving my children home alone, I would check twice. I knew my two large teenage boys were fully capable of taking care of themselves; I just wanted to assure myself they’re locked safely inside. I would even check my pets' cages regularly, always tugging at their doors to assure myself that they’re properly latched. I am admittedly obsessed with everything being locked and secured. This isn’t something I do occasionally. It must check the doors EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. If I am not the last one out, I will always ask others if they’re SURE the door is closed and locked. Regardless of their response, I will often apprehensively run back and check again for my own peace of mind. My actions are not driven by OCD. They are just one way that my anxiety presents itself.
When I was a child, my mother did not believe children should be allowed locks on their bedroom doors. Doors could be temporarily shut when we were getting changed, However, children were not entitled to shut doors or privacy. Instead of sturdy wooden doors, we had flimsy accordion-style doors that could be easily opened and closed or broken through. This lack of security and safety led to my childhood being filled with physical and sexual abuse. I was never safe in my bedroom from beatings or sexual assaults. Anyone could come in since the doors could not lock and many times they did.
Locks mean safety in my mind. I need to know that my children and pets are secure and that my life is safely locked away. I know these actions are not rational. While I know that a locked door cannot always protect everyone from all the evils of the world, that realization does not change my apprehension. As a child, I had no control over my life. I never felt safe. Checking the locks on doors is one way I have of regaining control of my life and assuring the safety of those I love.
My anxiety does not end with locked doors. It is present in many ways. Since mental illness runs in my family, I am forever checking in on my children, wanting to make sure they’re feeling okay and they know I’m here if they need to talk. I live in constant fear of loss and betrayal because I’ve been cheated on, abandoned and discarded so many times in relationships. I want to trust those I love, however when things don’t go completely according to plan, my mind searches for reasons and usually latches onto the worst case scenario. I need steady reassurance that I’m loved, wanted and not forgotten because I’m terrified of being hurt again. Money and bills make me anxious because I’ve been homeless before. Doctors and hospitals terrify me because I’ve watched people I love be eaten alive by illnesses, dying in hospice not even remembering who I am. My greatest fear is that something will happen to my children so I am forever reminding them to be careful and safe. A steady stream of fears run through my head on any given day.
I am constantly battling to keep my anxiety in check. I get peace of mind when I can maintain even the slightest bit of control, even if it means obsessively checking locks on doors. There are so many things in life I have no control over that it keeps me up at night. I don't know the last night I slept peacefully because I’m not sure I ever have. When one of my fears becomes even partially realized, everything escalates. I had a complete breakdown when I found a lump on the side of my breast a few years back because I could not go through cancer eating me alive like it had my father; Even though it turned out to be benign, my anxiety convinced me I was dying each and every moment of every day until my results came in. Each and every time my ex was unfaithful, my anxiety would charge in, full force, reaffirming all of my fears of rejection and abandonment. When a fear is fully realized, anxiety attacks begin.
It is impossible for anyone who has never had an anxiety attack to fully understand them. I cannot breathe because my chest tightens like a heavy weight has been placed on it. My whole body shakes. My heart feels like it will burst from my chest, pounding fiercely and wildly. My mind enters panic mode. Tight knots form in my stomach and I have to throw up. I cannot form the words to express myself, nor can I control my mouth to verbalize anything. I want to scream, sob, tear the world in pieces and shrink into nothingness and disappear all at once. My mind is everywhere and nowhere. I have no control over anything. I feel like a stranger trapped in a foreign body where nothing is familiar. I am frozen like a deer caught in the headlights, completely and utterly terrified. I cannot move, cannot get this barrage of feelings to stop, cannot stop crying. At most, I might plead with myself to make it stop and give me back control. If I'm lucky, I hyperventilate and pass out.
I’ve tried many times over the years to explain how my anxiety feels; Again and again, others have responded that my anxiety is completely irrational. I always want to laugh as if delivering some hysterical punch line and exclaim “Exactly!” Anxiety is NEVER rational. It NEVER makes any sense. Anxiety springs from past traumas and bleeds into every aspect of my life. It digs at me like an itch I can’t scratch, gnaws at me so fiercely that it cannot be ignored. Any thought anxiety puts into my head becomes an obsession. When my fears become realized, there’s no way to avoid breakdowns or anxiety attacks. I try to control my anxiety as much as I can, repeatedly doing things like checking locks for my own peace of mind because, while I know I cannot control everything in life, I need to feel I have even the slightest power over my anxiety disorder and my life.
This blog originally appeared under a different title at https://unlovablebook.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/checking-doors/ and has been edited and rewritten specifically for EmpowHer.