Alarms and alarmed

On Sunday morning at 5.30 I was awoken by the sound of my smoke alarm beeping for dear life. It’s a mains wired device and I hadn’t been told by the electrician that installed it that it would ever beep or for what reason. It turns out that it has a back up battery and the battery had gone flat so I had to replace it. This was much easier said than done.

I had to get out my little stepladder to get close to the alarm and, having got close, I found that the instructions on it were too small for me to see even with my glasses on. I got down from the steps and got a magnifying glass went back up them and followed the vague instructions. I couldn’t open the alarm and meanwhile it beeped at me angrily as if it was my fault the damned battery had failed it.

I got back down again and googled how to get the cover off. It would have been simpler had the manufacturers name been on the alarm but that would have been too easy to do. I eventually found an alarm that I thought looked like the one that was on my ceiling. The instructions were to shove a screwdriver in a small slot until it hit a catch about a centimetre in which would release the cover enough for me to slide it off. Twenty minutes later I was still jabbing at the thing with a screwdriver.

At this point I was frustrated, angry and in tears. A tweet semi begging for help elicited a reply about the inconvenience it must be. Inconvenience? If only. I felt demoralised and demeaned by the horrible thing. I have ultra dry skin which makes gripping things difficult and the only viable solution is to wear rubber gloves which make gripping thing difficult because they don’t fit closely enough. I have bipolar disorder and one of my stress related things is noise sensitivity; the louder and longer the beep got the more stressed I got. Eventually I got the cover off and burst into a prolonged bout of tears.

One of the other factors in the bipolar disorder I have is a bad sense of time and I often have to think about what day it is. In the panic and distress I forgot it was Sunday and had to go looking for a corner shop that was open. I eventually found one and bought a battery. It took me over half an hour to get the battery in, slide the cover on and put the electricity for it back on.#

I collapsed on the sofa in relief and then beeping started from the carbon monoxide alarm. It is shriller and more intense and I screamed at it. It ignored me. Luckily the batteries are easier to take out and put in for that device and I always have batteries of that sort in. By this time though I was shaking and finding it difficult to control it and dropped the alarm. It’s now hanging at a precarious angle on the wall bound up with parcel tape but it works and that’s the important thing.

My alarms alarmed me and I’m sure many would consider the way I felt a wild overreaction but that’s life with a severe mental health problem.  Things defeat me that I could have sorted with one hand and played table tennis with the other but no longer. I am not incapable but I am dis-abled. My dysfunction seems to be more pronounced as time goes on and this distresses me.

If my life teaches me one with it’s never to underestimate the lack of power my mind has over itself but because my mind has that lack of power I rarely remember it and on the cycle goes…

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