Beach with storm approaching

Hurricane Pandemic

Hey all. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written on this blog. It started as a way to connect during a hard time in our lives. And now we’ve all stepped into a really difficult time in all of our lives. And I don’t know about you, but I process through writing – so welcome back!

This pandemic has brought up familiar feelings and thought you all are probably experiencing similar feelings right as well. And, if there’s one thing for sure in life, it’s that shared life experiences bring us together in ways that cross all divides. Ask any one that had cancer who have friends in the same boat – it’s like an instant friendship because you understand each other on a different level. You just get where the other person is at. No questions asked.

As far as familiar feelings go, I’ve never actually lived through a pandemic before. I mean, we lived through H1N1 and many of us, including myself actually had it. It was absolutely awful, but it was not what we are currently facing.

Every step of the way, this pandemic has felt like we are helplessly watching a slow moving hurricane.

In January we were seeing reports out of China. We could see the slow churn of the hurricane (this pandemic) which was going to make its way across the Atlantic and make landfall here in some way, shape or form. Jason and I began to mentally prepare and looked at the data and concern began to rise. Reports were differing. The hurricane path was unpredictable. It felt similar to looking at the early spaghetti models of storms moving across the Atlantic. Some folks didn’t think the hurricane would make landfall in the US, or if it did, that it wouldn’t be as bad as other places. I mean, there’s no way a Category 5 hurricane is going to hit all of us, right? And then you start to think, holy crap, is there such a thing as a Category 6 hurricane??

As the days went by and the data is rolling in, the waves across the world began to get bigger and those hurricane watches turned into warnings, as it made landfall here in the states and other countries. We are sheltering and worried. Well, most are – some are still surfing the dangerously high waves. Schools and businesses are closed and more warnings are published. But our healthcare and essential workers are navigating dangerous rip currents. We tune into the news, check our phones, check in on our people and prepare our homes.

But, just like an actual hurricane, you aren’t able to get concrete answers on exactly how hard the hurricane will hit your town or exactly when. So all the questions flood your mind. You try to prepare, but quite frankly, nothing you do feels like enough. There are so many “what if” situations playing out in your head.

So you sit and wait. You continue to watch and read the news. You look at the data and the models and pull out your own map. You track it. Which brings on more thoughts like, “I feel better about this… But I’m more concerned about this pattern now…”
And more questions…

Oh my god, how long before it gets here?
Once it’s here, how long will it sit over us?
Will it stall and just dump rain? And that will mean all the rivers and creeks will flood, thus bringing more damage and destruction to more people.
Will it be a Cat 1? A Cat 5?
Will people be injured from straight line winds, tornadoes and trees down?
How high will the flood waters be?
Will the flood waters reach my house?
Will it fill it?
Will my family be okay?
Will my friends be okay?
Will I still have a job?
Will my business survive?
Am I in danger because I have to go to work?
What if I get sick?
Do I have enough food to live on for two weeks in case we lose power?

For those that don’t live near the coast, all these things go through your mind (and then some) when a hurricane is approaching.

At this point we are experiencing what I call “hurricane fatigue.” The storm we are watching is here and it is stalling over us while also building strength. We are home and sheltering. None of us have any idea the total damage it will cause to our communities, our towns, our cities, our economy, our lives. Feels like during hurricane Florence when we couldn’t stop checking the hydrograph as river levels rose to unprecedented flood levels. Now we sit here watching the numbers, watching companies, big and small being hit and shutting down. Some many are already closed and it’s unbelievable how many folks are already out of work. Wrapping our heads around this stark reality it isn’t easy. Our lives and news and thoughts and conversations have been filled with all things hurricane (substitute: pandemic/COVID-19) related. We are mentally exhausted and emotionally drained already. Jobs and lives have been lost. Many are working from home for the first time and your new office is a bit crowded and loud or maybe just too quiet. Many of you are stepping full blown into homeschooling – while also trying to work. That is, without question, incredibly hard. Many seniors are mourning their last semester at school and all the things they are missing. We are missing our families and friends and being able to leave our homes and feel safe. Many people are grieving in so many different ways.

The other part of this feels a lot like when you are diagnosed with cancer. It all feels surreal. Like, this cannot possibly be your reality. You keep having moments when the gravity of it all hits you and it feels like a someone punched you in the stomach as hard as they could. I remember standing at the sink in my kitchen during chemo, and just out of the blue it hit me hard. Like my brain just shouted at me, “you REALLY have cancer.” And I absolutely fell apart right there in my kitchen. Just sat on the floor and sobbed. And at some point, I caught my breath, stood up and got through the rest of the day somehow. Those hard hitting moments of the reality of the situation happened many times throughout treatment and beyond. Last night I was helping to assemble face shields (thanks to some wonderful people here at Reconsidered Goods in NC doing so much good) and the reality of this pandemic hit me hard again. Like that same gut punch. Thinking to myself, this stuff only happens in history books. Yet, we are living history right now. We are collectively facing our own mortality right now. We are losing our jobs. And we are scared. This is some heavy shit folks. And it’s collectively traumatic for all of us.

A very dear friend Sarah Lewis, MSW, LCSW, from Virginia Family Therapy, posted these much needed words yesterday:

“No one has coping skills for this, and we are all beginning to see our degrees of separation get smaller.

Please don’t be afraid to reach out to talk with a professional about things right now. Even if you only talk once, it might help. Also remember, kids are going to present symptoms of anxiety and stress differently than adults. DM someone who works in the field for a referral or some times to talk.

Be kind to yourselves.”

Fear and trauma can be all consuming at times. And that is what we are all dealing with right now. I have certainly worked with a therapist during difficult times in my life and it has truly helped me through it all.

Throughout the hurricane, the number of people doing good things was amazing. To the people that came together in so many ways to help our family before, during and after hurricane Florence, that I tear up every time I think about all of you. It meant the world to us. (In case you didn’t know, Mom and dad’s house, along with many other family and friend’s homes, flooded during hurricane Florence. It had to be gutted, raised and rebuilt. It took a year before they were able to live there and are still working on things.) But we always circle back to those that helped and the joy and appreciation it brought to all of us.

Whenever we worked at my parent’s house, it never felt like we could get enough done. And last night, as I sat at my (cleaned and sanitized) work table making face shields, it didn’t feel like enough either. Like there is just so much more we could be doing. But every little bit helps. Staying home, is actively helping. Which instinctively, feels the opposite, but it is absolutely crucial.

Please take those “hurricane watches and warnings” seriously and stay home if you are able to. Our nurses and doctors and emergency responders are there to keep us safe, but they depend on us heeding the warnings. We are not escaping this storm, we have no choice but to hunker down and ride this one out together. And we will weather it. It won’t be pretty and we will spend time “rebuilding” but we will get through this together.

I hold out hope and I’m holding space. If you can hold space for yourself and for another, imagine if we all did that for each other. I don’t know what the other side of this pandemic will look like and certainly think about it a lot. My hope is that whatever the other side of this looks like, that we all learn from our past mistakes. That we don’t take anything for granted anymore. That we appreciate good health when we have it. That we love a whole lot more. That we don’t let political leaders and news outlets to divide us. That we come together in ways we didn’t think possible a few months back. And when we get through this, to make damn sure that this earth is a better place.

Much love y’all and please stay safe as we weather this hurricane together,
S~

 

P.S. A side note to all you parents: We have homeschooled for 4 years and if it’s any comfort, we still don’t have “all the answers” nor maybe any answers, because every family is different, every situation is different, every parent, every kids, every learning style is different. The first year homeschooling felt like landing a plane without landing gear on a runway you can’t see through the fog. But we got through! So take some stress off – our kids are going to be fine. We are all working through this to the best of our abilities. Keep helping. Keep your people safe. Keep staying home if you can.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Tracie Stewart April 4, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you so much Shannon! I had foot surgery on January 17 and have been house bound since surgery. Everything went well. However, now with this “hurricane” it is definitely starting to wear on me. Thank goodness, I already work from home with my full time job. I will be going back to my part time job (Tractor Supply) after the 14th. The true hurricane season is creeping up on us. I was also flooded bad from Florence, so that is on my mind as well…Doing everything I can to stay healthy and safe during these times. Thank you again! Please take care and tell everyone at the river Hello for me! I miss everyone down there!

    Tracie Stewart

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