It’s very real, and I am calling it PTSS – Post Traumatic Storm Strain. Our area has gone through something that has only happened in the U.S. three times prior to Hurricane Michael (yes, I know it is not officially a 5. For those of us that weathered it we know it hit areas as a 5). What we have yet to learn will be more than we can imagine.
70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. This equates to approximately 223.4 million people and we can now add those of us that were in the Florida Panhandle on October 10th, 2019 to this statistic.
Most of those that go through an event will not start to show signs until around the seventh month after. And more than half those that experience effects will not recognize the symptoms for what they are. It is not just the traditional, “I survived a war” PTSD, so it is not something most of us are thinking about as we try to rebuild our lives. We will soon know.
First, we were scrambling to connect with friends and family to make sure they survived and were okay, with all power and cellular systems down it was an extremely stressful time. Then it was how are we going to get fresh water, food, fuel, and other supplies with roads closed due to the amount of destruction. Trees, power lines, even entire houses were littered across the roads. 25.1 Billion in damages and still rising as assessments continue to pour in. We felt strong, we survived.
Help was not quick to come, so it was up to us to share what we had and hope aid was on the way. No one was prepared like we should have been, too many hyped up broadcasts crying wolf from previous storms had us relaxed and joking that it was time for a Hurricane-party instead of an evacuation. Gas stations went dry, grocery stores were either flattened or without power or the ability to restock, aid was trickling in but the need was too great for it to be the relief it was meant to be. We pulled together relying on each other.
We no longer saw strangers in anyone we met we saw friends in need. The generosity that came from those that had so little but still dug deep to give till they had nothing themselves will be felt in our hearts and remembered for decades to come. Locals were clearing roads of debris to open the ways for the Red Cross, Military, Utility companies and more to get through faster. Our family and neighbors cleared more than 70 trees that the first day in order to make our way to town only to find that we had to cut several friends out of their homes. The days are about to grow longer and longer.
Businesses closed down all over the place, power was out for months, food was extremely limited, people were bathing in lakes and streams, most of us were thankful if we had one room still livable in our home under a ceiling of blue or in tents… life felt like it was moving backward. We rallied thinking this cannot last forever.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and those months feel like years when you are trying to fit a full day of rebuilding into a day you already had a 9-12hour shift in. The thought of seeing a person crying in their vehicle when you stopped for milk haunts you as your strength to hold others up is waning fast. You hear the sound of hammering at 6am and in our new state of norm, it sounds like angels singing from the heavens. Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
Well in the Panhandle they say – That the county’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then, the true meaning of community came through, and the neighbor’s found the strength of ten pals, plus two!
Four months later you are coming back to your house bone tired (you are one of the lucky that still have a house) to start the next phase of the day, calling contractors, insurance companies, and cleaning up the illegally dumped debris in the alley. You have mixed emotions from trying to help people and seeing the amount of those that cannot or will not help themselves still remain great. Your favorite restaurant will not be reopening but a new place is announcing their Grand Opening later in the week. The beautiful flowers blooming on the bush that is half-flattened by what is left of the neighbors’ house is both lovely and sad. There doesn’t yet seem to be any place in your town that brings peace of mind as destruction, psychotic traffic patterns, and people who are beginning to look much older than they should are still a constant. The heroes are heading back to their homes out of town, you sometimes want to follow.
There is so much still to do it is taking its toll. Even when we get some valued rest it isn’t enough after running on pure adrenaline and fumes for so long. Now more than ever we have to hold tight and lift that stubborn chin up, pull our friends and family in close, celebrate every single step forward, make time for taking care of ourselves so we have the strength to pay it forward when needed, share our successes, and celebrate in the success of others. Fight Fight Fight
Yes, Hurricane Michael was like nothing we could have imagined and while we are a tough lot and in many ways a stronger – better community we have a long way to go. That means we have to set a realistic pace, keep a look out for signs in those around you for PTSS, dig deep for patience when our reserves are almost depleted, really watch out for each other so we all come out on the other side, and do not put off telling your loved ones they matter as well as sharing a kind word as often as possible. This is the way we survive post – #DamnItMichael. Our Story Does Not End Here…
Kristi A Kirkland