We are tired of dealing with the wrath of Harvey. It has been exhausting. We want our old lives back. We want to forget about what happened. But we can’t. No matter how hard we try, we can’t. Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time since the storm hit, trying to get back into normal routines. All of the TVs were showing things that made it impossible for me to put my mind elsewhere. Watching Irma swirl towards Florida sent shock waves through my body. I now know what it means to live through a devastating hurricane/flood and my heart was breaking for the people who were going to suffer. Driving around town I see shrubs covered with a grayish white film, showing where the water line was. I continue to hear helicopters and wonder what is happening, whereas in the past I would not pay attention to that sound. And when I pass by the Community Center, I no longer see a Community Center. All I see is the place where I was taking elderly women off of rescue boats, in the pouring rain, carrying them up the muddy hill, with their bag of pills, their walker and their cat in a cardboard box. And then there’s my rubber boots. Those nasty rubber boots that I wore for three days. I can’t look at them. They have been relegated to the garage, and I may have to throw them away, just like I did with the dress I wore to my mother’s funeral. Too many memories. We are all in a state of acute stress. There are painful reminders of what we are dealing with and what we have been through. People who had to be rescued have horrific memories that they will play over and over in their heads. For most of us who were not direct flood victims, we will gradually resume our normal lives, despite living with the annoying inconveniences I already talked about. Our triggers will simmer down and in time our acute stress will subside. For those whose lives have been turned upside down, there will still be many who manage just fine. I spoke with one man whose house flooded and he told me he and his wife would be fine. They both had good jobs and could afford to rebuild, even without flood insurance. He was mentally strong and had a vision of things being OK at some point in the future. But that won’t be the case for some members of our community. Some will develop full blown PTSD. They don’t have a sense that life will be OK. They are struggling, paralyzed by fear, and have no compass as to how they will move forward. Some of the people affected by the flood were not mentally strong to begin with. Many already had a mountain of problems. Some had past histories of childhood trauma that are now getting reactivated . . . they feel like trapped victims all over again. These are the people I worry about because they can’t cope with their new situation. And when we can’t cope we try to numb our feelings with substances or entertain thoughts of ending our life. It’s that painful. As we move out of our own acute stress reaction we need to be there for our most vulnerable neighbors. If you need additional support please get help. If you know or suspect that someone is struggling, please urge them to get help. Alysha Roll, has been compiling a list of resources and she has posted it on our website, and we will continue to update that list as we get new information. We, and other local therapists, are committed to helping our community recover.

Mary Beth George