• Emily Stetzer / 0 comments

Unnecessary Necessary Precautions

If you were up late in NYC last night, you probably witnessed the most intense lightning storm. If you didn’t — lucky you. 

I never had a problem with lightning in the past. I actually LOVED a good thunderstorm. I’m not talking about when I was a kid — I assure you I was probably very scared. But in the more recent past, everytime we heard thunder, Lindsay and I would simultaneously let out a “YESSS.” Especially when we were living at home and were hanging on the couch with the rest of our family. 

I think my feelings changed slightly after reading an article (the internet ruins everything) about a 28 year old man who was struck by lightning in a parking lot. And then I started googling— which is never a good sign—“possible ways to get struck by lightning.” After all, it was good to stay informed and take necessary precautions during a thunderstorm, right? Ehh. 

Back to last night. I was up late doing some work. It was about 2 AM when I started to hear rumblings, unsure if it was typical city noise or a storm a brewin’. I’m fine with a little thunderstorm, especially at night as it puts me right to sleep. I decided it was time to close my laptop and head to bed to take advantage of the live version of Calm’s “Thunderstorm Soundscape” before the storm passes. 

But this lightning. It was intense. Flash after flash after flash. It was like I was Taylor Swift with paparazzi surrounding my apartment windows. 

I was about to go to the bathroom when I remembered something about avoiding plumbing and water during a thunderstorm. Of course I pulled out my trusty smartphone (which was basically dead at this point) and asked the Google Gods, “Can I use the toilet during a thunderstorm?” They served me an article LITERALLY titled “Don’t Sit on the Toilet During a Thunderstorm!

It highlights the following: 

“The National Weather Service warns us to stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets. Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.”

Greaaaaat. So I can’t brush my teeth or use the toilet? I spent the next 5 minutes standing in the hall between my bathroom and my bedroom, slowly peaking my head into the bathroom to see if the lightning subsided. Do I follow this National Weather Service guidance? Is it considered following “necessary precautions” or is it excessive? My OCD is telling me, “Even if there’s a 1 in 15,300 chance of my getting struck by lightning, why would you risk that?” 

Okay, I can live without brushing my teeth for one night. But I had to pee SO badly. What’s a girl to do? I KNOW. I’ll hover over the toilet like I would in a public restroom. Genius. But, again, I was still afraid when the toilet was so close to the window. I remained in idle mode for another 2 minutes, waiting for the perfect moment to get in and get out. 

I finally relieved myself and got into bed, careful not to hold on to the doorknobs for too long. Why? No idea. Something about them being metal? Reminder, OCD does not care about logic. 

Thankfully I didn’t have to switch off the lights with my hands. I had Alexa to do that for me. 

The next stream of thoughts went like this:

“My phones on 1% but I can’t plug my phone in because that would just be STUPID. I’ll just leave it on my bed and let it die. But if the lighting strikes it’s probably best to not leave my phone on my bed because it’s metal? I’ll put the phone and my watch on my night stand. But quickly & without touching the actual table because the night stand also has metal. Ahh crap, I’m not in my pajamas. But my dresser is lined with metal detail. Do I open my drawer when there’s a SLIGHT possibility the lightning could strike the building and the current flows to me through my dresser? You can do this, just open the drawer with one finger, in between lightning strikes. Get in, get out.”

Ahh, at last, it was time to sleep…

“Hmm, maybe I need to sleep on my side facing away from the window, instead of on my back, just in case it comes through the window because if it strikes and I'm laying on my back, there’s more surface area for the lightning to strike. Maybe I should sleep on the floor? No, I read somewhere that you definitely shouldn’t sleep on the ground. Or was that just for outside? Oh my god I’m never going to be able to sleep and it’s already—I wonder what time it is exactly? But I’m not gonna tap my phone to check so I’ll just assume it’s 2:30 something. What if the lightning strikes the building and it starts to collapse. I’d run into Lindsays room, grab her and probably nothing else? I just would rather get out of the building as fast as I could. Would I need shoes? Probably not? But then I’d be stepping on the dirty NYC floor…..” I drifted off to sleep with these thoughts — who the f*** thinks like this?!

I woke up the next morning, almost forgetting about everything like it was some kind of dream. I get up to go to the bathroom, see Lindsay and immediately ask “Did you hear that thunderstorm last night?!” She said “No! Ugh! Why didn’t you wake me!” (reminder we both like thunderstorms).  I proceeded to tell her this was not a normal thunderstorm. I’m walking her through this entire thought process that I just shared with you, both of us cry-laughing at the absurdity of it all. 

The thing that’s crazy about OCD is that, in that moment, it feels so incredibly real. It all makes so much sense because your mind and body are on high alert. And the OCD is not one to reason with.

But as Lindsay and I are discussing this, we realize how tricky it can be when the OCD is worried about something based on actual facts. With OCD, everything is ALWAYS a “necessary” precaution. But, as a reasonable-minded person, at what point do these precautions go from “necessary” to excessively unnecessary? 


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