Doors open, doors close.

“Doors open, doors close” is a catchy title that for once didn’t require hard work or hair-tearing. Usually, I struggle. Unfortunately, while it popped up whole and unbidden, it’s also a smidge misleading. It sounds philosophic and while we may end up there, I’m actually referencing the literal.

My grandson closes doors. He’s not a fan of the wide-open space. Some were closed to him as he started walking as a safety precaution: we like him and want to keep him, so the consumption of noxious chemicals in the bathroom and tumbles down the seventeen steps to the basement were prevented by closed doors double-secured with knob covers only children can operate.

He takes care of the rest of the doors on his own. The pocket door to the kitchen. The doors to my office and the mudroom. Every bedroom in the house. He circles the house and closes the doors. I trail along after and open them up.

It’s odd to think that even door-quirks are genetic preferences, but both of his parents live in the closed-door camp.

Closed doors have proponents. They’re better for fire safety, for one. Closed doors slow a fire’s spread by depriving it of air; a closed door will keep smoke lessened and the temperature lower, vital when it comes to surviving and escaping.

Fun fact: open floor plans make housefires more dangerous: the fire spreads more rapidly. The time to escape drops from fifteen minutes (in a closed floor plan) to around three minutes in the open concept environment.

Firefighters are quite adamant that closed doors are the way to go. I missed the memo and did that part of parenting wrong: the fact that we didn’t have a house fire and I didn’t harm my children isn’t proving helpful in staving off pointless, retrospective guilt. Getting emotionally attached to non-existent might-have-beens is how I roll. [i]

A closed door leads to better room temperature control for non-fire situations, too. A closed door will keep your bedroom warmer or cooler, depending on how you have the environment set and your wishes. It also keeps things quieter and leads to less distractions. Important factors to consider when one is trying to get some sleep. [ii]

Then there are the psychological effects of a closed door, under which umbrella I’ll include feng shui (energy flow). Open doors apparently leave one feeling vulnerable and exposed. The privacy of the closed door allows one to relax. Closed doors also, according to feng shui, stop positive energy escaping and being replaced with negative energies while you sleep.  

I’m going to revisit that “open and vulnerable connection.”

Is there any upside to my preference for door open, then? Even my choice to leave the doors cracked to hear the kids’ cries was wrong. And although an open door does allow for better airflow, an open window will have the same effect.

I’m an “open window to sleep” fan. People in the “close it” camp should know that science doesn’t have their back. Closed doors allow CO2 buildup in the bedroom. Not enough to be fatal, but enough to interfere with sleep. Windows open and ceiling fans spinning if you’ve got them: you’ll sleep better and wake refreshed. Or, so science says.

Another plus is the open door allows my cat the freedom to come and go. I barely sleep, but being awakened or disturbed by persistent cat scratching at this or that door is vile. It’s shocking how much anger one can hold towards the things one professes to love at three-seventeen in the morning. It’s astonishing how persistent they can be in the face of your attempts to ignore.

Many people seem to feel safer with the bedroom door closed. I feel more vulnerable. I don’t know what’s going on in the world beyond my door and I don’t like that. People could break into my house. I could be at risk. It’s unlikely, but visceral. The bedroom door is open for the same reason the bathroom door is closed and locked when I’m occupying. Vulnerability is not something I like to risk.

credit: Maria Ponomariova 

Agoraphobia is an interesting phobia. It fascinated me even before it became a personal problem. It reminds me of OCD, in that it’s about not being able to leave your house the same way OCD is about washing your hands until they bleed. Agoraphobia is more complex than being locked in: it’s more than a soundbite, or the sufferings of one-dimensional character in a movie.

Agoraphobia occurs when you’re afraid you won’t be able to escape, or get help if things go very wrong. You try and mitigate that fear by behavioural adjustments. Sometimes, that might mean avoiding leaving the house. The world, after all, can be a dangerous and scary place. You might avoid transit. There might be only certain geographic locations that are problematic. Much depends on what lies underneath. For example, for me, bigger is better. A large grocery store is less stressful than a small boutique.

I also feel very unsafe and at risk, and therefore avoid situations, in which the majority of the people will be men I don’t know.

Agoraphobia sometimes emerges as a complication of panic disorder, although it does also emerge on its own. Avoiding panic attacks can lead to restrictive behaviours in a shrinking world. I’m aware of my own tendency in this regard. I try not to let my world get small. A challenge during the pandemic, to be sure, when we’re encouraged to stay small and locked down. Prolonged staycations aren’t a problem unless undoing the cocooning is difficult. [iii] I wonder how many people will find they’ve become at least partially institutionalized.

People with agoraphobia don’t like closed doors. Who knew? I’ve struggled with agoraphobia for years. No one ever mentioned anything about doors. Then again, I never brought up the fact that I need to feel open and free, even indoors.

I can’t stand the idea of being unable to escape.

The funny thing about people is our conviction that change is impossible. Or, if not impossible, too hard for us. Other people can change because they’re better, or stronger, or something: for us, it’s impossible. I’ve had that thought a lot of times in my life. I’ve had it often about behaviours I don’t do anymore.

Change is miserable. It’s uncomfortable. The interim period between the old and the new, when you’re trying to be one thing while desperately wanting to return to the other, is challenging. The interim period is when you pick up one more cigarette or binge and purge just one more time.

It’s impossible to get through.

Except, it isn’t. I’ve done it before.

I wanted “door open or closed” to be a fifty-fifty choice. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. I wanted it not to matter. How annoying that there are legitimate safety concerns that now have to be weighed against my emotional and psychological preferences.

On the bright side, having quit smoking, I can give the risk of a possible house fire less weight in deciding whether to embrace energy-preserving feng shui.

Are you a door-open or door-closed person when it comes to sleep? Why?


[i] I did run fire drills with my children, and went over evacuation plans in the case of disaster. Everyone knew not to drink the disaster water I stored in the closet.

[ii] I miss sleep. The bags under my eyes have bags of their own. You can’t even makeup them: they’re so big and dark that it looks ridiculous. Pretentiously wearing sunglasses indoors is a much easier option. I’d put ice on them but I don’t want to.

[iii] About 3% of the population suffers from panic disorder, and about a third of those will develop agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is twice as common in women as men. It usually emerges between 18 and 35 and despite treatment, approximately 20% of people with agoraphobia will experience troublesome symptoms.

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things start to make sense. I suppose that once I figure out life, the universe, and everything (my thanks to Douglas Adams), I'll have nothing left to say. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

21 comments

  1. For me it depends if there are people around. If there are people, I want the bedroom door closed. When no one’s here, all doors are open all the time. Windows are open too; I like fresh air, and I like it to be cool when I’m sleeping.

    I think the only time I’ve ever freaked out about escape was in the Cuu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. They were used during the war, and to walk in them you had to be really hunched over.It scared the shit out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, cool for sleep is imperative. Those tunnels sound like something I would’ve bought the postcard of. I love your travel stories.

      Like

        1. Tunnels are difficult for me. I have this thing where I really want to hold my breath. It works on short ones, however….😕 I haven’t even tried the nearby Seattle ones.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m also a card carrying Agoraphobic and have been for the majority of my life. I think at some point we have to accept that the anxiety will never, ever go away completely and try not to beat our self up for having it. BTW meetings are on Fridays but nobody ever shows up. 😱

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely a closed door when it comes to sleeping in my bedroom usually, but where I live, as I don’t have air vents in my window and my window is a large one to feel safe leaving open, means I leave my door a little ajar to allow air to circulate from another room.
    But if I had a visitor staying over, regardless who it was, then I close my bedroom door.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha! I’m the same with open bedroom doors and closed bathroom doors for the same exact reason. However, as an extension of this, I do not sleep with the window open, unless I’m sure there’s no way in…

    If I live alone, I leave the doors open but if I share space with others, I close certain doors. My space is my space. Also, if someone comes to visit, I close doors. I don’t need people snooping around.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I close the door when i sleep because my ears and eyes are sensitive when trying to sleep. My husband stays up late and watches tv and if I left the door open I’d be annoyed by all the noises and lights that i would never fall asleep. It already takes me 1 to 2 hours to fall asleep

        Liked by 1 person

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