I just came across an interesting concept when reading Pat’s Soapbox Thursday for today: alarm anxiety. Alarm anxiety is the fear of the alarm not going off or of not getting enough sleep before it does. When I read her description, immediately alarm bells (pun intended) went off in my head. This is what I dealt with throughout high school and into university.
When I was at secondary school, I’d compulsively check that my alarm was on. Since my alarm was at the other end of the room and I couldn’t visually check it due to being blind, I had to physically leave my bed to do so. And I’d do so at least thirty times a night. And worry that, by the time I’d finally fall asleep, if my alarm did go off, I’d still sleep through it because I hadn’t had enough sleep. This only happened once in my entire six years of secondary school.
I had other compulsions too, but these are too embarrassing to share here. In general, I’d spend hours engaging in my various rituals at night. I wouldn’t necessarily say I had OCD, as these obsessions and compulsions only affected me at night.
They got a lot worse when I lived independently and went to university. I had to check whether my front door was locked, all non-essential electronics unplugged, window open, heating off, alarm on and I’m pretty sure there’s something I’m forgetting right now. All of the things that needed to be checked, were for a reason, of course. For example, the heating needed to be off in case of a carbon monoxide leak (even though I didn’t have my own boiler) and the window needed to be open so that, if such a leak occurred, the chance of me getting poisoned would be lower.
I’d spend hours upon hours pacing through my apartment checking that these things were as I needed them to be. It was exhausting!
Thankfully, my compulsions left immediately when I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Either the fact that a staff member was on the ward at all times, comforted me, or the mere fact of my having been removed from my apartment and its specific triggers, caused me to be able to let go. And, of course, alarm anxiety was no longer a thing, as the staff would wake me. Besides, we weren’t required to be up by a certain time anyway.