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Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Curious Incident of the Fan in the Nighttime

I'm back, and I have so many things to say! First off, my blog isn't really dead - as you can see I've still kept my domain name. It's just been dormant, and I've been trying to get myself to update to no avail. Considering that I've been away for almost a year, I think you guys really need an explanation of what happened in between. It's not been an entirely smooth sailing year. Last April I started having anxiety problems and panic attacks. It just came out of the blue, even though I've been a slightly nervous person for much of my life, it took me by surprise. I spent a long time trying to figure out what was wrong and wondering if I should write about it. Decided not to until I found out the cause and the solution so that I wouldn't be making promises then dropping off the face of the earth again.

Okay so this is what really happened: everything was caused by a single wall-mounted fan (and probably tons of left over anxiety from other issues). It's a strange tale, but it could happen to anyone, so sufferers - I fully understand your plight and hope somehow things manage to get resolved. At first I had no idea why I was having symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, as well as muscle tremors. I had no idea if it was due to external physical reasons (e.g. low-frequency vibrations plaguing my room) or due to some internal health issues. My imagination ran wild and I suspected myself of having various diseases at various points in time. I went to a TCM doctor, my usual GP and another  one during a 3am emergency run to a clinic when I had my first panic attack. None of them could detect anything wrong with my general health. I became extremely paranoid and my hypochondriac tendencies were at an all time high. At my worst I was seriously convinced that I was going to die at any time. I measured my pulse all the time, and the more I did that, the faster my anxious heart beat, making the situation worse. Even closing my eyes or being alone would cause me to feel anxious.

My anxiety levels fluctuated throughout the months. Only one thing stayed the same - every night when I woke up after a few hours of sleep, my muscles would feel trembly, as if I had stood on a vibrating platform for many hours. It upset me and I spent most of my time thinking about it and wondering why it was happening. Around that time I began to pick up a faint low-frequency noise in my room. It came from a corner, and I thought it was from my fan, but when I turned it off, the noise remained. I told my parents, and my brother reported a similar sound in his room. He was also having insomnia and muscle tension problems, but I seemed to be having it worse. My parents couldn't quite hear the hum, so I suspected that it could only be heard after prolonged exposure. We thought it could be coming from the construction sites near our flat, but that wasn't a very plausible explanation as the noise would carry on into the early morning when everything was quiet. We asked a neighbour in to hear the hum, and he couldn't pick up on it either. It was only after a long time that my mother started hearing it too. The hum was loudest in the wee hours of the morning, especially if I lay on my bed.

We decided to do something concrete about it in May this year as it had been affecting my sleep and well-being for many months. Not only did I suffer from insomnia and muscle aches, I also became hypersensitive to light and noise, and experiencing ringing in my ears, though thankfully I don't have tinnitus. I had to write my thesis while having all these problems, and even suffered from almost a week of very bad insomnia (no sleep for a few days, 3-4 hours per day after that) due to my anxiety. Upon calling up HDB to notify them of this problem, the guy suggested that the hum could be caused by a wall-mounted fan in the flat above or below ours. We spent weeks trying to locate the tenants downstairs, but it turns out that they were on holiday so it was not possible for their fans to be turned on during that time. We then turned our attentions to the neighbours upstairs. We found out that they had a wall-mounted fan in one of the bedrooms and it was turned on some afternoons and every. single. night. I breathed a sigh of relief upon finding out the cause of the hum. It was really killing me not to know, especially when I was still worrying about my health and constantly suffering from fatigue.

The obvious next step was to speak with those neighbours and to try to figure out a solution. I thought that once we knew the cause of the hum, the solution would be easy. I was so wrong. To ascertain if the fan really caused the hum, we approached the neighbours one afternoon, but that day the old man who had the fan in his room happened to be out. Their maid was more than willing to help us, and turned the fans on and off while I listened carefully to check if the hum was still there. She even let my mom in to look at the fan to confirm that it was located in the room above mine. It was as we had expected - turning on the fans meant the hum could be heard, and turning them off meant the hum was gone. We were very glad and relieved to figure this out, but someone else wasn't glad at all. The old man was incensed that we had "trespassed" his flat and refused to hear anything more from us. We had to call HDB many times to ask for some mediation between the two parties. Still, our neighbours upstairs were extremely reluctant to even give us the time of the day. We tried many times to contact them, only to be rebuffed and ignored. What's more infuriating is that we are completely willing to pay for a standing fan or two if they wish, just so that my brother and I aren't affected by the hum anymore. Given that the HDB guy had already explained to them that the hum from their fan was causing insomnia to two people in our house for a year or more, it was a wonder that they remained unmoved and refused to even discuss anything with us.

Finally, the owner of the flat agreed to meet us to talk during the weekends. However, she was very evasive and later claimed that she was not free during the weekends. That's when my mother decided she had enough and told the HDB guy that we HAD to settle this issue already. We're going to apply for a formal HDB mediation (with a judge) if there's still no response from the owner soon. The one good thing that has happened in the past few days is that the fan has been turned off at night, and only turned on in the morning (sometimes as early as 6am). At least I get a few hours of good, vibration/hum-free sleep. But to be honest, if this situation is prolonged, I'm not sure how I'm going to go to work (thank God I haven't started yet) or do anything without feeling fatigued. I'm just believing for a miracle right now so that this whole nightmare can end, and you can pray for me if you like.

That's basically the whole story of what happened to me for a year and why I wasn't here and probably seemed rather withdrawn even on the social front. I'm sorry if I seemed rather unfriendly to anyone. I just didn't have the mental and emotional strength to cope, and I was so stressed out from writing my thesis and having to deal with all these problems. The hum didn't just cause my physical distress, but the amount of mental stress I was under was tremendous. I developed a fear of sleeping due to this whole incident, and it's only recently that I'm beginning to feel more relaxed about bedtime. Anyway, the silver lining in this dark cloud is all the love and concern I have been shown. Thank you to: God, for being my rock and for loving me. Church, and Pastor Joseph Prince's sermons for keeping me sane. My parents for always caring for me and trying to give me the best sleeping arrangements even if it meant interrupted sleep for them. My brother for giving me hope and encouragement and bringing me back to church. Lester for his constant love and prayers. My friends QY, Sylvia and Junyi for hearing me rant about this and being there for me during the worst times. I really appreciate all of it, because it has lifted me up more than you could imagine.

Well, enough of this nightmare. I'm going to continue with my life and that includes writing this blog. 'Til the next post! And because I feel random, here are some hover cats for you...