27 October 2014

Challenges on tap

The domestic emergencies that hit earlier this year made me resolve to get things repaired or replaced as soon as problems became apparent, to avoid - as one insurance company ad used to say - turning a drama into a crisis. 

After all, if I'd invested in a new boiler when my old one became so noisy that it was almost drowning out the television, I wouldn't have spent 12 days without heating or hot water - in February. Although I hate the disorder that results from having workmen in my home, putting off their visits is really only putting off the inevitable.

Image courtesy of Mister GC/
So, when the bathroom basin cold tap developed a persistent drip, I texted the plumber immediately, before I could change my mind about the urgency of the situation. Both of my mixer taps had already gone the same way, and none of them would stop, unless I tightened them so much that I could hardly turn them back on again. No doubt this problem was the result of years of chronic overtightening: one of my checking compulsions is verifying that the taps are off and, in my case, seeing is never believing. 

In spite of my prompt action, I hoped the plumber would be slow to respond - I could feel good about trying to confront my fears, but not actually have to do so...at least, not straightaway. Unfortunately, he replied within minutes, asking me to send him photos of the taps. I can't take pictures with my phone and, as it happened, my compact camera was at work, where I subsequently kept 'accidentally' leaving it.

Several days of stalling later, I sent him the photos and he offered to come over the following week. Although I would be on leave then, I planned to spend the time editing my novel, so fobbed him off until the week after, to avoid having to break off from my writing. Yes, another delaying tactic, but this time verging on legitimate.

On the day, I cleared my belongings from the areas where he'd be working and emptied the lower shelf of the cupboard under the kitchen sink, so that he could reach the stopcock. Only for him to start shoving things on the upper shelf out of the way, thinking it was higher up. My stomach churned at the sight, and continued churning as he 'helpfully' pushed everything back. Yet more items for me to reposition, once he'd gone.

My anxiety peaked again, when he started banging at one of the bathroom taps that was stuck; it sounded as if he was bringing down the partition wall. 

When he'd finished, though, he told me that I'd have had a real problem on my hands, if I'd left things much longer. I spent the rest of the evening on a high, proud of myself for facing the challenge, avoiding a crisis and only taking half an hour to put things 'right' afterwards.

I did feel a bit silly asking him how tightly I should turn off the new taps, but it was hard to know what was normal, after decades of overdoing it: 'Until you feel the pinch' was the answer. If I stick to that approach, the new sets should last a lot longer than the old ones - and reduce the number of visits I need from him in future! 


Anonymous said...

Good for you, Helen! And maybe that will be a good incentive for you not to overdo it with turning off the faucets...as you say, just do it once correctly and you will keep the plumber away :)

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks for your support, ocdtalk. So far, I've managed to stick to that approach, so fingers crossed...

Unknown said...

You're right that putting off visits from the tradesmen not only delays things and doesn’t solve it, but could even make things worse. At least you took care of your issues with your taps. Now, if there's anything good about your overtightening habit, is that you've made sure there is no water wasted. And he's right that once you feel the "pinch", that should be enough. Good luck with your new taps!

Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing & Heating

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Levi. It is still quite a novelty to have taps that actually work!

Paul_B said...

Helen, I'm playing catchup on your posts as I've only just discovered your blog.

My word, but your posts are incredible, they certainly speak to me and to my experience.

This one in particular connects with me - I have real OCD issues and fears with plumbing (obsession with taps, showers, literally anything that leaks).

Furthermore, I relate so much to your description of 'stalling' the tradesman - I tend to experience a satisfying/reassuring high from making the contact call to the tradesman, however this is quickly followed by heightened and persistent fear of all the 'what-ifs' surrounding the tradesman's visit. From that moment on I enter 'stalling' mode and actively hope that I can put off the visit by another day and another day and another day.......

It makes me wonder about two things, and I would value your thoughts:

1) Is indecision a fuel for OCD? Would it help these situations to just act decisively when the event happens?

2) The flipside then challenges me however i.e. how do I gauge when an event is worth responding to? i.e. if I respond to every little thing that goes wrong by decisively calling (for example) a Tradesman, then it just becomes another compulsion!! My head hurts from this stuff!!!!

Helen Barbour said...

Hi Paul, I received another comment from you (in response to mine to you on my Home Invasion! Part Deux post), but then it seemed to vanish, so you may have replaced it with this one? By the way, feel free to email me at helenbarbourblog@gmail.com, if you'd prefer.

First of all, thanks for all your positive feedback on my blog. By the way, you can search for particular subjects on the front page of my blog, if there is something in particular you'd like to explore further.

It is funny that we both had the trauma of a boiler replacement two years ago! I am also paranoid about leaks, after I suffered one from an upstairs' neighbour's toilet cistern overflowing. I have spent hours scrutinising my ceilings...

I'm not sure I do cope any better than you, to be honest. Any lessons learnt are quickly forgotten, it seems. I am currently awaiting CBT treatment for my anxiety - but it's a 4 month wait!

Re the indecision question, that's an interesting one. OCD sufferers need certainty in their lives, yet while not having a repair done leaves you in a state of incertainty, calling in a tradesman triggers similar issues, so it's a bit of a no-win situation. I tend to leave problems until they reach critical point, as I hate having tradesmen in my home so much - so I don't call them out for every little thing...but that doesn't stop me worrying about how those little things might escalate.

Thanks again for reading and feeding back. Out of interest, how did you come across my blog? My novel, The A to Z of Normal, features OCD, too, so may also be of interest.

Paul_B said...

The case of the vanishing post confused the living daylights out of me too Helen! I was sure I had posted it, and then as if my magic it was gone again. As if I haven't enough worries and niggles going on in my poor brain :-)