Day 27 - PTSD & Firestorms
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Very relevant diagnosis. We hear this term thrown around a lot today. Seems that everyone has it over something. While perhaps overused, it appears to be addressing something in our society that has long been left untouched...trauma.
While I believe that people have always known that the effects of trauma on people’s psyche’s leave some pretty awful scars. I don’t believe that until more recently that people have really looked at the cumulative effect of trauma. Or perhaps the layered effect of trauma and how much of it is stored in the body.
Everyone experiences trauma. Some horrific and some more benign. Everyone suffers from its effect. Some people are naturally more resilient. Some people are naturally more susceptible. I am sure in another 40 years they might even know why there is this difference among people.
What I know today is that I had no idea how much trauma has altered and continues to alter my life. It seems the less I have been willing to numb out with various and sundry things: booze, men, shopping, food - the more I have kind of made a deal to look at my traumas. Now I did not do this willingly - it is just happening.
Right now, there are fires burning all over California and I am unsettled, fearful and reactive. My nervous system on high alert and feeling raw. Currently, there are no fires immediately threatening my life or property. But the threat is real and palatable.
I can feel my heart racing, my thoughts disconnected and jumbled. I am having a hard time thinking and an even harder time sleeping. Emotionally I feel like I am being transported back in time to two years ago when the Thomas Fire almost burned down my town.
I cannot disassociate from the fact that animals are in peril, people are in peril. Lives will be lost and injured and maimed. Wildlife will be lost. Open, natural spaces destroyed. Families and children displaced. Fire brings chaos. Fire brings fear. Fire brings trauma.
It was almost two years ago when I had my first real introduction to wildfire, evacuation and displacement. I was lucky besides sleep and a sense of well being, I lost nothing else. Well, maybe a certain amount of naivety regarding how much I did not know about wildfire.
It was during that particular firestorm that I also lost a relationship that meant the world to me.
So as this year’s fire season rages on, I can’t help but revisit my feelings from before. I can’t shake the unsettled feelings in my gut. I walk around feeling like anything can happen at any point in time. I can’t help re-evalute old wounds that are marginally healed.
I can see how my past trauma is coming to bear on my present circumstances. I can see how relatively minor my trauma is compared to that of others. My point is that we all have stuff from the past that was traumatic and it will affect us in some way forever. Treatment helps. Talking about it helps. But trauma of any kind, large or small, leaves its mark forever.
I do not know if I will be running for my life. I do not know how my life will change this fire season. I know that seeing all of pain and anguish of those gravely affected affects me. It hurts me to see others in peril. It pains me to see others in distress almost as much as it does for me to be in peril myself. I feel helpless, scared and impotent to do anything but wait and pray that the winds will die down, rain (but not too much rain) will come, and this fiery storm will pass quickly .
There are many treatments for trauma. What worked for me was writing. The Thomas Fire so impacted my life that I returned to writing. And I haven’t stopped. The trauma of loss and fear and sadness led me back to writing and gave me a forum to work with my trauma. Share my trauma. Sift through my trauma.
I want to end this blog on a positive note but I am just not feeling it today. I had bad dreams all night long. I wanted to check my phone all night but was afraid to and instead avoided looking while I stared at my ceiling. I think the best I can do today is to allow myself to just be mired in this traumatic situation. To reach out to others whose trauma with fire way worse than mine. To take it easy on myself and realize that regardless, I am affected by my experiences. I can’t avoid that fact. No matter what.
Praying for all of those in harms way...