Astraphobia and “The Incident”.

I remember the days when I would love to curl up in bed and watch the thunder and lightening outside my window. I loved the way the sky would light up in such a way I could see the silhouette of the tree branches blowing in the wind. I found it relaxing. Fast forward to my late teens and that feeling changed into fear. Now, the fear is real, but it stemmed from what is now a pretty funny story. Y’all know I love a good self deprecating story, so here we go. After all, if you can’t laugh at yourself, how can you laugh at other folks (easily is the answer, btw).

Now, I can’t remember if I was living with my parents full time when this happened, or whether I was home from college. I know I was in my room at my parent’s house at the time, which we jokingly refer to as “the Big House”. The Big House was so named because it was a pretty big place that was, in all honesty, far bigger than the 3 of us in our little family needed, but my parents chose it when we moved to Virginia so we’d have plenty of space for people to visit. My room had it’s own bathroom, which I loved. (What I loved less after we sold it was finding out there were walking paths behind the house which I never knew about. Since the house backed up to protected forest land, I never worried about shutting the shades. I’m sure I gave some walkers a scary sight as I shuffled around my room in my underwear.) The house itself sat on a cul de sac in a nice neighborhood.

Anywho, it was the middle of the night, and I awoke having to use the bathroom. I shuffled into the bathroom, and turned on the low light. I sat down to pee, and was sort of leaning with my chin in my hand because I was groggy and half asleep. I was faintly aware of what sounded like rain outside the window that was right behind the toilet. (Why would you put the toilet right in front of a window?) but the shade was down so I couldn’t see anything. Suddenly there was a bang. Not a little bang, might you, but a BANG that would have scared the crap out of me, except for the fact that I felt something hit the back of my head with such force it knocked me out for a second. I opened my eyes and realized I was laying on the floor.

Now, I’m not sure if it was being half asleep, being clocked in the head, or what, but I pulled up my pjs and began to scream…..that I had been shot. My parents, awokened from a sound sleep came running from down the other end of the hall, terrified. They didn’t know what had happened, only that was screaming I had gotten shot in the back of the head. With no blood, no physical signs of being shot, they weren’t quite sure what had happened, and tried to calm me down, thinking perhaps I had a nightmare. I noted my radio had turned on by itself. my clock was flashing. My dad went in the bathroom and found the cause of my injury. It turns out that lightning had hit the house and traveled through the duct work. It hit my bathroom exhaust fan and blasted the cover off, which smacked me in the back of the head, knocking me out,

So there’s that.

Aren’t you glad you kept reading to see my embarrassing story lead to that?

The cover itself and a black flash of a soot mark on it.

My awkwardness holds no bounds, I tell you.

Flash forward several years, and lightning hit the house again. This time, it hit while my mom was home alone, aside from an electrician. My parents had decided to renovate and sell the house so they could retire, travel, and be closer to me. Unfortunately, as soon as they started the demo on the master bedroom and kitchen, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My father wanted to halt everything, but my mother persuaded him to keep going with the reno, thinking he may want to sell the house anyway after she died. With their room being under construction, and me having moved out, she was staying in my old room. An electrician was down in the basement working on the panels and during the storm, he saw a fireball on the side where the chimney was. Panicked, he ran upstairs and threw the door open to the room where my mom was. She calmly got up and went to see what had happened, checking on the master bedroom. There, a giant mirror on the wall where the chimney was had exploded. Glass was everywhere, and the frame was smoldering. She put it out. She looked out the window and the deck on both sides of the chimney was smashed up, with bricks lying everywhere. The lightning had blown about 3-4 feet off the chimney. All the electric on one side of the house was shot. It was a mess. “Is anything on fire?” she asked the electrician. He responded no, and she headed back to bed. The electrician was stunned. “Not much I can do about it. I’ll call my husband and have him call someone” she said, and got back into bed. The electrician was so freaked out by it all he left. To this day I am so grateful she was in my room, and not hers, as with all the flying glass it could have been a very bad situation.

It didn’t occur to me that these events had triggered a fear in me until a few years ago. My husband and I were in the car during a bad lightning storm, and I had a full on panic attack. Frozen in place, I couldn’t exit the car. I burst into tears and had trouble breathing. He looked at me shocked, as he’d never seen me in that state, but calmly talked me down until I felt like myself again. I used to suffer from anxiety when I was younger but now panic attacks are almost non existent and I feel like I finally have a grasp on the anxiety to where it no longer bothers me much. That moment shook me. I’m not used to having that kind of fear anymore.

Now all that being said, I have kids. And kids pick up on our thoughts, fears etc. This means I have to hold it together as much as possible and not freak out when there is a bad lightning storm. I don’t want them to take on that fear if possible. So I plaster a smile on my face and get through it. They know I’m nervous around lightning, but they don’t know how deep the fear runs. As I’ve been writing this, a big storm is passing through, and my cat and I are giving each other knowing, uncomfortable looks every time the thunder booms and the sky lights up.

Still better than thinking I got shot in the head though.

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