Thoughts on an Emergency Home Repair
This past week, I had an emergency situation in my apartment. One evening, I noticed a slow dripping from my bathroom ceiling, accompanied by a slight bulging a short distance away. Since I rent my apartment, I had no idea what this could be from, but it was clear it wasn’t good, so I called my landlady to discuss. Apparently, she had had this issue several years before and knew it was from a leaky pipe, so she talked me through what to do. I turned the water off (or so I thought), and then we thought it would be a good idea to poke open the spot in the ceiling where the drip was coming from to see if I could drain it and relieve some of the pressure. Of course, when I did this, a steady stream of water came pouring out, which did not stop (I found out later there was a third shut-off valve for the water that I didn't know about). Now the panic really set in. It was 9:00pm, I was alone in an apartment that I didn’t own, and there was a massive leak coming from the ceiling that I couldn’t find the source of or stop.
My landlady called a plumber, who came out shortly thereafter. He also had a hard time shutting the water off, but he eventually succeeded enough so he could start to find the source of the leak. He ripped open the ceiling where the original drip was - no leak. He then ripped open the part of the ceiling where the bulge was - no leak. Now, I’m really getting worried. In trying to locate the pipe, the plumber had to take out the insulation in the ceiling and rip out the drywall and some of the wood. The floor is a mess, everything is wet, and the wet drywall and paint on the floor are starting to form what looks like clay. I’m freaking out just thinking about the massive cleanup ahead of me.
Finally, the plumber finds the hairpin leak (in a third spot) that must have been leaking for several months and patches it until they can come back out the next day and repair it. Then, he goes, leaving me with a serious mess to clean up in my only bathroom, alone and late at night (although he was nice enough to take the insulation out to the garbage when he left – thanks, Anthony!).
The Reality of Living, Well, Anywhere
Does this story sound familiar to anyone? The one thing you can count on, especially if you’re a homeowner, is that something will go wrong, and it will probably go wrong at the absolute worst time imaginable. I don’t know why, but it always seems to happen at night, or when you’re out of town, or have something important that you need to leave the house for. And anyone who has dealt with it knows that there’s not much you can do, you just have to take it one step at a time and live through it as best you can. And that's often the hardest part.
For me, someone who is so sensitive to their environment (I am a feng shui consultant after all!) and lives in a small apartment with only one bathroom, it’s hard to let something like this roll off my back. Especially when there are three gaping holes in my ceiling that remind me of what I just went through every time I walk into my bathroom! I feel betrayed by my home, which I always treat as a sanctuary and think of as a place of consistency that I should be able to rely on.
What To Do When It's YOU in That Situation
The only thing you can do, in reality, is make a concerted effort to control your reaction to the emergency. While I really wanted to cry, have a panic attack, or run away, I focused on cleaning up the mess one area at a time, taking a shower, breathing, and trying to get some rest. There wasn’t anything more to be done at that hour. And until the job is completely finished and the ceiling is fixed up, I have to try hard not to let stress and worry about the mess and disruption to my life overwhelm me.
It's also super important to practice self-care. When these things happen, it's easy to forget about yourself and focus all of your attention and energy on fixing the problem. But worrying about the situation won't resolve it any faster, so try to do things that make you feel good and take your mind off the chaos, like reading, walking outside, or seeing friends. The other thing to do in these instances is to focus on the positives. For me, I had a lot to be thankful for: none of my stuff was damaged or ruined, I caught the problem in time before it became a real (gushing) emergency, and I had a supportive landlady who coordinated the repairmen and stayed on the phone with me while they were working.
Although we try our hardest to be prepared for anything that could happen to us, there are situations, like home emergencies, that are truly out of our control. When they happen, we need to take it as a sign to release, relax, and do our best to ride it out gracefully. Drywall bits and all.