Friday, September 1, 2017

Anxiety and Hurricanes

by Victoria Duerstock

 In the aftermath of Harvey, I have thought long and hard about my experiences once again living on the Gulf Coast of Florida for many years.  We saw many hurricanes over the years, some with very little damage and others with devastating effects for many months.  I hurt for the people of Texas, knowing that very soon, the rest of us will move on with our lives, while they start the very long and difficult process of rebuilding their lives, their homes, and their mental health.

Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach.  Although it’s been several years now since the landfall of a major hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain, likely forever.  As a wife and mom, the effect of the hurricane was not just in the packing and evacuating but also in the separation and difficult decisions that had to be made not just before the storm but after.

While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts.  My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear. 

I’ll leave his escapades for a future post for another day, but suffice it to say he and the rest of the crew are true heroes and some of the most selfless people I have ever known. They were even featured in an episode of Storm Stories that the Weather Channel used to produce.

The kids, my mom and I evacuated, remarkably now in hindsight - since we now live here- to the Memphis area to stay with dear friends.  It was a forever long week, and the recovery time even longer.  It sobers me today to even think about it again.  We had significant damage in our home, our community and elevated fears for myself and the children. 

Our future for the next few years was marked by distinct changes with regards to how we watched hurricanes.  For me, I was constantly check the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa, the naming of the newest “invest #” and tropical depression status all the way to hurricane.  Once it had a track, I was tracking it.  I watched the radar, and could tell you each wobble based on the eye movement.  Literally obsessed with it, I remember vividly the anxiety of going through another Ivan brought me. 

Katrina arrived the next year and while the landfall was clearly west of us, I still evacuated once again because it was terrifying. The reality is that hurricanes wobble and turn even at the last minute and that fraction of a degree can either really hurt you or let you off the hook. For the kids, it was the fear of having to grab just a few items and evacuate again.

We have moved since then, and Florida hasn’t seen a major hurricane in years.  I stopped tracking every single movement of every dust storm off of Africa, and I’m thankful.  I didn’t realize at the time how very fearful I was, it’s only in retrospect that I understand the grip it had on my heart.

Today, I feel great empathy for my friends along the coast. The added expenses if you are already financial strapped can be crippling.  The anxiety of the “what if’s” and which way will it go can be unbearable mentally.  I empathize. I have been there and done that. I pray for those who endured the hurricane's path to dwell in the knowledge of His care for them. I pray for them as the rebuild their lives once again.

Hurricane season doesn’t mean what it used to for me, but I will never forget.  I have travelled that road and it wasn’t easy.  I am thankful for the comfort of Scripture!

Perhaps you don’t actually have to face a hurricane today, but there is another circumstance in your life that feels as overwhelming as a hurricane.  I wrote about my own experience with just such a "hurricane" here.

I know that mentally the anxiety can build for you as well.  I spent time praying this morning as well for my friends and family who are facing cancer and it’s treatments and surgery, for those facing the loss of a loved one, and those who are enduring financial burdens.  I pray you keep your eyes on the One who will sustain you and carry you through those turbulent days as well!

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