I’ve never been one to embrace the whole idea of post traumatic stress syndrome. Not for me. War veterans, violent crime victims, people who have endured mind numbing traumas? Yes. That can happen to them. But me ? Nope. That only happens to “other people“.
After Daddy died, I went to a psychiatrist. I think I was searching for the answers I wanted to hear that no one else had given me. I wouldn’t admit that I might be one of those “other people.” Despite the fact that I regularly spew everything in my mind here and on Twitter on a regular basis, I am not one to talk about certain personal things in person. My mother often says that I will give you an answer only if you ask me the right question. Speaking to strangers, especially one I have to pay, is not my forte. And a psychiatrist? That’s for “other people“, not a woman who had a picture perfect childhood and whose worst personal trauma before the tornado of 2004 was the death of my grandparents.
I am not some wilting flower. For almost half of my life, I was in law enforcement. I’ve been in shooting situations, fights, seen people killed, dead kids, murder victims, countless autopsies, and other horrors some people only see on a reality crime show. I never talked to a shrink. I never popped a pill. I used the age old cop medicine, gallows humor. Once I picked up a guy’s ear on a suicide scene and told my fellow detectives I could hear the ocean.
But that’s not my life anymore.
My life is one I hardly recognize some days.
And I guess that’s why I went.
After the psychiatrist finally gained my confidence and I put my attitude away, we started talking. Naturally, no revelations were made in the first few hours. No one gets paid that way, do they?
After awhile, his official diagnosis came. PTSD. According to him, I had experienced several of the worst things a person can experience in their life in 6 years.
* natural disaster, when a tornado destroyed my parents home with me in it in 2004.
* natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
* loss of home, leaving my childhood home in 2005 after Katrina.
* loss of career identity, when I left law enforcement in 2008.
* loss of a spouse, when Gregory died in 2009.
* loss of a parent, when my father died 9 months later.
Depressed yet? No shit, so am I. : )
So we decided we’d map out some plan of action in our upcoming sessions.
I went back once.
I used the excuse of my schedule, the money, whatever, and I never went back.
I thought I could fix myself. Yanno, since I’m not one of those “other people.”
I’ve been doing ok. I thought.
Until the tornadoes came.
Wednesday I left for work 30 minutes early because the weather had been bad and I knew the traffic might be tricky. I got a half mile from my job and sat in traffic for 40 minutes. Then the police directing traffic wouldn’t let anyone past a certain point on the highway. I could feel my anxiety rising. I tried to park my car on the side of the road and walk to work, they wouldn’t let me. Reports of damage were coming across the radio. And this was just the morning storms. The stupid freaking cell phone towers were down. I was trying to text and drive. I was pounding the steering wheel and yelling like a mad woman. I was losing it. And I didn’t even know it. The weather was NORMAL. It was warm and sunny, which all weather nerds know means Mother Nature is teasing us. And I knew we were sitting on a powderkeg. I finally gave up and headed home. I turned to my current boyfriend, food, and stopped and got fried chicken, sides and ice cream on the way. Gotta have the staples.
When I got home I hopped online on weather watch, all tv’s on, weather apps running and got my house ready. I laid out my clothes, stuff for the dogs and put my important papers and stuff in the interior laundry room that is my storm shelter. I laid down umbrellas and put away deck chairs and made sure the cars were parked in the carport. I was ready. My part of the house is 3000 square feet built into the side of a hill with the main house above it, so it’s basically underground. But I have a safe room. And I was ready. At least physically.
I couldn’t stay still.
I moved from tv to tv, upstairs and downstairs, in and out. I must have gone out and scanned the sky every 5 minutes.
And then this happened.
It took me back to this.
I didn’t lose my home, this time. I didn’t lose anyone I love, this time. But so many people did. So many people have nothing.
I wanted to help, to run out the door and save someone, do something.
But that’s not my life anymore.
So why am I feeling it so deeply? The weather, the destruction, the grief, it’s brought it all back, which is not a ride I want to take again.
I’ve decided the best thing I can do for me and for those affected is help, any way I can. I’ve spent the last two days using social media to try and spread the word and get help from anyone who will offer, and I’ve taken donations to drop off points, helped a friend with downed trees, whatever little things I can do to make even a tiny difference. I have to go to my real job today and tomorrow, which might help me, but I know Sunday I’ll be right back at it again.
If you can, please do the same. There are many resources online for donations and other ways to help. Follow the #alwx and #wearealabama hash tags on Twitter for more information as well. Donate blood. Pick up a chainsaw. Take a bag of toiletries and non-perishable food to someone who has nothing. Send your old clothes. Just help. And it’s not just Alabama, many other states were affected, don’t forget them.
This time, those “other people” are my neighbors and fellow Southerners. And me.
We are Alabama. And Mississippi. And Georgia. And Tennessee. And the rest of us hit by the finger of God.
And the South will rise again.
Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments