18 January 2017


Short weeks are great, but that also means Tuesday feels like a Monday.  Hopefully that doesn't mean Wednesday feels like Tuesday.  I am already counting down the end of this week.  I haven't slept well the past couple of nights, probably due to some anxiety I've been dealing with lately.

Anxiety?  Cue the record scratch...

Remember on Monday how I told you all that there was a fire in my apartment building?  No worries there, all is well.  No major damage, you can't even tell from the street which apartment it was.

However, because there was a fire, that means that there had to have been a fire alarm that sounded.

I hate fire alarms.  It's not even the alarm itself although those can be obnoxiously annoying.  No, what I get anxious about is the anticipation of the alarm.  That it could off at any minute.  It sets me on edge and drives me to distraction at times.  Most of the time, I'm fine, but if there's been a recent alarm I'm anxious for days.

No, I wasn't in a fire as a kid (not that I'm aware of).  My earliest memory of having anxiety over it was in pre-school, as a 3/4 year old at Pied Piper Nursery School.  Like most schools, we had fire drills.  Like most schools, the sound of the drill emanated from an obnoxious, squawking box attached to the wall.  I hated it, but at 3, I couldn't articulate what the issue was.  It didn't get any better as I progressed on to kindergarten.  I just remember as a kid trying to avoid gym class because if the alarm went off while we were in gym it was even worse, echoing through that cavernous room.

My first real memory of it coming to a head was when I was in third or fourth grade.  Mrs. Zona's class.  I couldn't take it anymore and I broke down.  They were testing the alarm which was worse than a one-off drill.  It would go off and on intermittently and I couldn't take it.  I burst into tears.  I remember seeing my mom drop off my sister for kindergarten through the classroom window and asked to see her.  I then proceeded for the next 15 minutes or so to beg and plead and try to barter with her to take me home.  To take me anywhere but there.  I was sobbing so hard I was practically choking.  She wouldn't take me home.  She couldn't, she had to go to work.  She was so mad at me too, she was going to be late and she was pressed for time and here I was freaking out over what seemed like the most innocuous thing.  There wasn't a real fire, so what was there to be afraid of?  I eventually returned to the classroom. 

At that point, Mom brought me to see a psychologist to try and figure out the fear.  That was the problem.  I wasn't afraid of the alarm.   I wasn't afraid of fire.  I was anxious about the alarm possibly going off and that loud, terrible buzzing making me jump out of my skin.  I don't remember how long I saw the psychologist, but it didn't help.  I just tried to endure the anxiety.  Terribly.  I couldn't concentrate in class if it was a sunny day.  The alarm could go off at any time.  You never saw a kid hope for a rainy day like me.  I was obsessed with watching the Weather Channel every morning, hoping for the slightest chance of rain.

Finally, finally, when I was in high school I plucked up the courage to go see the Vice Principal.  I sat down with Sr. Faith and explained my anxiety.  I cried a bit, because I was more embarrassed than anything else.  She was incredibly kind and practical about the whole thing and came up with a solution that allowed me to focus in class again.  She would let me know when there was going to be a drill.  Simple as that.  I would get called down to the office or get slipped a note letting me know when there was going to be a drill.  I would tell my teacher before class (which they loved, they got to know in advance too) and then excuse myself a minute or two before the scheduled drill and go outside.  I would then meet my class outside and return with them to the classroom once the drill was over.

If you polled my teachers at the time they would probably tell you that there was a marked shift in my demeanor in class.  I was no longer twitchy and anxious.  I could focus and be engaged and enjoy school.  Which I loved!  I always loved school, I just hated sitting in class, afraid the alarm would sound at any moment.

The problem with apartment living is that there is no one to give you advanced warning.   No Sr. Faith to slip me a note when I walk in the door at night.  At work, the alarm is not obnoxious.  It's actually a voice system that says, "an emergency has been indicated in your area, please evacuate".  It doesn't bother me.  However, Sunday night, it was not the voice over that had me jump off the couch with my heart racing. With that sound still replaying in my head, it was a little tough falling asleep Sunday night and it's been tough the last two nights as well.  If you were to watch me walking down the hallway in my building you would see me intentionally avoiding looking at the alarm on the wall.

It will recede, I know, in a little time, provided we don't have any more in the foreseeable future.  I don't know what initially triggered this anxiety inducing issue in my head.  But it's there and until we permanently move out of apartment complexes, I'll have to continue to manage it and hope they are few and far between. 

I know this is a little off my usual topics, but I like to be honest with you all and since I mentioned it my last post, I figured at least a few of you were curious.  I'll be back on Friday for Friday Favorites.  Here's to getting through the rest of the week.


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