Friday, March 17, 2006

Panic Song

Ready for a cheap escape
On the brink of self destruction
Widespread panic


(Continued from previous post, The Roof is On Fire).

Here's the low-down:

Wednesday night I get my nails done after work. Am relaxed, happy, polished and looking forward to a hot bowl of soup and some serious catching up on blogs time.
Crown is going out to see a movie with GParty. The house is all mine.
I get in the door at approximately 7:30pm.
There's a "smell" in the air, possibly smoke, burnt food, exhaust, I can't place it.
Fear is triggered.
I am frozen for a few moments, glancing around the main floor, I check the oven and stove, both are turned off. I notice a pan in the sink and it registers.
Crown cooked something.
I do a sweep of the house, all floors, there's no smoke, no fire, everything appears to be fine.
I begin to relax a little, but my instinct to get out of the house is still strong.
I have not put down my bag, or removed my coat, gloves or scarf. I put the collar on the dog and go outside.
The first thought in my head once outside is, "maybe we'll just wait out here until Crown gets home."
I realize that is probably about 3 hours away.
After walking around with the dog for a few minutes, I force myself to go back in the house.
Once inside, I feel a little better.
I open the windows on the main floor to air out the smell. It works.
I realize that I still haven't taken off my coat, or let the dog off the leash and I laugh at myself because clearly I have lost my mind.
I go to take my coat off and for some reason happen to glance up at the main floor fire alarm.
Big mistake.
The red light the indicates "smoke" on the alarm is flickering. I've never seen it flicker before, except for the one and only time our fire alarm actually went off, when we cooked a chicken.
Fear comes flooding back, this time with a vengence.
I cannot remove my coat. I'm frozen in place. A thousand thoughts are racing through my head, most of them are logical, yet I can't control the physiological reaction.
"There's no smoke."
"Why is the light flashing? I must be missing something."
"It must be carbon monoxide."
"Maybe the neighbours are cooking something?"
"The alarm is not going off, surely flashing can't be a warning?"
I decide that the alarm is clearly picking up some toxin, fire or not, and I turn off my furnace.
Why? No clue. It made sense at the time.
I still have the dog on the leash and my coat on. It's after 8pm.
I leave a message for Crown, then call my best-friend Weirdo.
I want him to come over and I tell him I'm freaking out.
He's sick and can't come.
I get off the phone and sit, coat and all on the edge of the couch for about an hour, staring at the fire alarm and convincing myself to stay inside.
I don't make food. I barely drink the glass of water that I've forced myself to pour.
I'm shaking and my mouth is dry.
Finally, I have had enough and decided to "do something normal."
Laundry. I go upstairs and am folding some laundry and feeling a little better. Nothing like a little cleaning to relax this kid.
Until, that is, I glance up at the second floor fire alarm just in time to see the red light for smoke AND the white light for CO2 flash.
The alarm still does not make a sound.
Game over.
I'm out of the house in like 30 seconds. I take only enough time to open the rest of the windows in the house, grab my wallet, my keys and my cell phone.
Good thing I still had my coat on.
It's just after 9pm. I call Weirdo again. This time I'm outside, freezing, and I'm NOT going back in the house.
I'm in full panic.
I'm close to tears. I don't know what to do. I don't know who else to call.
My mind is blank.
Weirdo tells me he's going to call his sister, she and her husband are fire fighters.
I say okay and hang up. I try Crown again and he answers.
I tell him what's happening and beg him to come home right away.
He tells me to calm down, he's sure everything is fine, and asks me to please go back in the house.
I say I will, but I don't.
I walk around in the cold for another 10 minutes or so. I take the Momes down to the parking garage because it's warmer.
I actually pretend that I have garbage so people won't think I'm weird.
The thing is though? I AM WEIRD.
Finally, after about 25 minutes, I force myself to go back in the house.
It's really, really hard to do.
I take the dog off his leash. Even he knows I'm going crazy by now.
He is seriously looking at me like, "What is up with this bitch?"
I stand at the counter still in my coat and wait for Crown.
Weirdo calls back and is talking to me about what his brother-in-law has said to do.
I can barely listen, I only hear " 911 if you're that worried...ask for a check-call... only one truck will come..."
Crown walks in and asks why all the windows are open. It's freezing in the house.
I hang up with Weirdo and show Crown the flickering lights.
He says the alarms have always done that. It's normal function and is meant to show you that they are working correctly.
I don't believe him.
I still can't stop staring at the alarms. I ask him to find the manual and prove it to me.
He can't find the manual. I look up the company online. Many of my symptoms disappear as soon as Crown gets home. I feel safe for the first time all night.
I confirm what he said online.
They are functioning normally. Unlike, me.
Then I ball my eyes out.

I can honestly say it's one of the most frightening things I've ever been through. Worse even than the time in our old apartment, when our idiot of a downstairs neighbour set a fire in her wood stove "just to see if it worked" and then put it out with WATER and promptly left the house. Of course my entire house filled with smoke and I ended up banging on my landlords door at 11pm, dressed in my PJs a touque and Crown's running shoes.


So why this panic attack? Why now? It's not like there were any really strong triggers. No smoke, no alarm sounded, no nothing. Just sheer, irrational panic. Well, I hate to beat a dead horse, but I blame The Pill.

I told Crown that night that I thought I was extra anxious because of the detox and then today I read Scarb's post, Scrambled Eggs, about her panic attacks and how they began after she quit The Pill and are especially severe during ovulation.

Just guess what I was doing for the first time in 12 years on Wednesday? Go ahead, three guesses and the first two don't count.

Coincidence? I think not.

Insanity? I think so.

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