“To Carry The Universe Or Be Crushed By It”

Very timely was the day of posting about peace on 4 November (see my last post Dona Nobis Pacem – 2016). Just four days before the American Elections.  I am a strong advocate of peace, and of peaceful interaction amongst individuals. I simply don’t see any other acceptable way. But I tell you, beyond this desire for peace is a desire for all people to be treated kindly and with compassion. It breaks my heart that this is not happening right now.

I know that my approach to treat all people with kindness and compassion, even my enemies and those intent on harming me, is a little unusual. I know a lot of people don’t understand my thinking. But then I know that I’m not alone in this quest for humanity. It may be that you consider me weird that I have no desire to harm those who might harm me or my loved ones.  I can assure you that people greatly qualified in weirdness have said previously that I am weird. It’s okay with me.

And maybe you think “what does a (white, heterosexual) kiwi from somewhere at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the United States know about anything?” Fair call, except what is happening in the US affects me too. What is happening there affects our whole planet. But perhaps more than anything the US political scene affects me because my American friends are suffering. I hate that. I hate that some of them are in the minority groups targetted by the President-elect.

Over the weekend I learnt a Facebook friend of mine had been told to kill herself by trolls commenting on a post about the Klu Klux Klan’s planned parade in North Carolina. Complete strangers (yes, more than one) telling her to kill herself! I was beyond shocked. I had earlier read it was happening, but when I learnt it affected my friend I admit I was crushed. It literally stopped me in my tracks, and I found it difficult to function for the rest of the day. Firstly, out of concern for my friend but then just pure horror that people treat each other with such disdain.

I kept asking myself, where is the compassion? And you may think that compassion has no place in what is happening in our world. I respectfully disagree, as I have suggested above.

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

— Andrew Boyd (Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe)

I admit that I have been swaying between being crushed by what is going on in the world, and by being able to “carry it”. It’s tough for all of us. Especially those people in the US and people targetted by the President-elect. But for a moment, I need to take a slightly different angle to perhaps explain why it is so hard for some of us.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) usually have a great deal of trouble with feelings they experience to the extreme. That is, we feel it perhaps more deeply than people without BPD.

Whatever your understanding of this personality disorder, and whatever your experience of people you know who have it, let me say that when there are such terrible things happening around the world, even in our own backyard, we have a very hard time. This can show itself in a variety of different ways, but for me, I have this overwhelming need to express compassion and to want to see other people do that too.

For the life of me, I can not understand this hatred, contempt, and antipathy for fellow mankind. I can not understand wanting to hurt another human being (or animal, for that matter). I even can not understand this desire to strike back at someone who harms, or threatens to harm me. It’s just not me.

I am no better than any other person on this planet, but I simply do not get it. I am sure that my particular BPD (and it is slightly different for all of us) is to blame for my desperate need for compassion to spread. And while it doesn’t, I admit I am crushed by it. It is completely overwhelming.

Last night I started to go through my Twitter feed, something I admit I have put off for a few days. There I came across a list of fifty people who were being targetted by those spreading hatred. These were innocent individuals who had done nothing wrong. They had maybe expressed fear or weakness in a recent tweet and that was now causing them to be targets of this movement to encourage people to kill themselves. I put myself in their shoes, and immediately had a sense of how they must be feeling. Punished for feeling afraid. It is simply wrong.

I can’t tell anyone else how to act, I can only choose for myself how I will be. But please, think about it. Don’t spread fire with fire. Just because another chooses to spread hatred, don’t be pulled down to their level. I am convinced that if I treat each other (including our enemies) with kindness and compassion then I can contribute to what can be a peaceful world.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I will still speak up against what I see as wrong. Always. But I hopefully do it in a way that doesn’t seek to harm anyone. I’m sure this is possible.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

— Martin Luther King Jr. (A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches)

PS. Last night, after I started to draft this post, a 7.8 Richter scale earthquake struck New Zealand, north of Christchurch where I live. There has been major damage and so far, two people have died but I am happy (and amazed) to say that I slept through the whole thing. I have no idea how that happened.

Thanks to those people who have expressed their concern for me and my family today. I am a little shaky to be back in an active earthquake region. Here in Christchurch, we could definitely do without that.

Wishing those kiwis cleaning up after this, much love, a speedy end to the never-ending aftershocks and a peaceful night’s sleep tonight. Kia kaha (Be Strong).

Thanks for reading!

 

Cate

 

Vicious Circle

It goes round and round. Each time the circle escalates and the effects grow more.

Stress causes Pain cause Stress

Oh, and add in depression.

It looks like this:

Image credit: www.orthop.washington.edu
Image credit: http://www.orthop.washington.edu

I have one month to find somewhere else to live.  At that time, the repairs to earthquake damage to my home will finally begin. Don’t get me wrong. Because I’ve been waiting nearly five years, I am happy that they are finally about to start. Very happy. The repairs will take approximately six months.

The biggest stress right now is that I hope my insurance company are going to help with the costs of shifting and somewhere to live. But they won’t tell me how they will help (I mean specifics beyond what the policy document says) until the insurance company doing the repairs provide a specific completion date. I’m waiting. And I understand because they can’t finalise exactly how long the work will take until they lift up the floor and see just how bad things are down there. Meantime though, what my insurance company want is a best estimate.

The reason that’s the biggest stress for me right now is because I can’t find somewhere to live until I know what assistance I’m getting. You see I expect to have to pay three to four times what I am currently paying in rent. Yes, three to four times! And that is more than I get in income each week. I REALLY need my insurance.

My current rent is low, thanks to my family who own the property. But equally rents in Christchurch have skyrocketed since the quakes because of demand for housing, and a little bit (that’s generous!) because many landlords have been mean and taken advantage of the situation.  The Government keeps reporting that rents are coming down again, but not when you look at what is advertised. Rent is still really steep. The demand for rentals is not as great as it was maybe two to three years ago. Repairs are getting completed and homeowners are moving home. But it’s still not going to be easy.

So there is plenty of stress in my life, and the vicious circle kicks in because, for me, stress is the biggest trigger to fibromyalgia symptoms. Stress equals pain. And pain equals stress because pain means I can get less done. And when pain goes on, increasing stress, then I start to get depressed. Or more accurately, more depressed. Oh, and add in fatigue… and an unhealthy amount of brain function. In other words I can hardly function at all and I’m hardly likely to come over as a great budding tenant to an agent or landlord.

This week I have been in a lot of pain all week (it’s Thursday here). I have rated my pain  as “being able to leave the house several times a week. Moderate to severe symptoms much of the time. Able to do about 2 hours a day of work at home or activity like housework, shopping and using the computer“.

I have limited activity to visiting my mother (she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t really understand why I can’t visit her). I don’t know for sure but I suspect an Alzheimer’s patient works on the way many people choose to view Invisible illness. S/he can’t see it so it doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I think it’s something like that. Certainly there is little understanding. From Mum’s perspective, I get it. Some others, I’m not so charitable.

Of course, Mum’s illness simply adds to my stress. Today I decided to say “no” and not visit her. I wondered whether by keeping up the daily visits, whether I was exacerbating my own illness.

There are actually more and more facets to my vicious circle. What I really need is that completion date and then the details of how my insurance company will help me. Right now insurance companies are not my favourite people…

Instead of focusing on the negative, the positive is that by mapping out that vicious circle I actually remind myself what is going on. Better yet, maybe I can stop it all winding up just through awareness. I know for myself that if I can limit the flow of stress then I can limit the onset of pain and depression. And that will make for a happier Cate. Anything for that!

PS. By the way, do you remember Lucy? Lucy is my music hallucinations, and she continues. This week she is louder and more invasive than ever. I’m starting to think that Lucy is also affected by stress.

 

River of Flowers, 2014

“What’s all this talk about an earthquake?” says Mum.

That was my 86-year-old mother’s question for me when I arrived at her home a few days ago.  I was astounded that she didn’t know.  It was pretty much ‘the’ topic here in the past week.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the deadly earthquake that struck my city of Christchurch at 12.51pm on 22 February 2011.  Naturally the anniversary has been in the news this week, but Mum couldn’t remember an earthquake being at this time of year.  Actually, I was really thankful.  This woman had lost so much in that earthquake.  More than most.  She deserved to have it lifted from her memory for a bit.  I was glad, for once, that she had no idea what I was talking about.

As we then talked, her memories came back, but we had over 12,000 earthquakes over a period of about 18 months so it wasn’t surprising that she couldn’t remember one of them. Then she was confused as to which quake she had fallen over in.  I assured her that in that quake, thankfully, she had already been sitting down when it struck and she managed to remain in her chair as her home fell to pieces around her. My father though, was thrown to the floor.  So was I.

Heathcote River, Christchurch, 2013
River of Flowers, Heathcote River, Christchurch, 2013 (Used with permission)
Image credit: River of Flowers, Healthy Christchurch and Avon Otakaro Network
See:  Healthy Christchurch on Facebook or their website Healthy Christchurch

As part of a range of commemoration events in the city, there is one that I find draws me each year.  The River of Flowers is an opportunity for the public to share their experiences and hopes for the future by throwing a flower into one of the two rivers that flows through the city, and by writing a message of hope and tying it to a tree as various points.  Throwing my flower into the river which has always been important in my life, is for me, letting go for a few moments of the sadness, trauma, loss, and worries about the future.  It feels healthy to me, and I like that.

Natural disasters, like our quakes, happen across the world all the time.  Something that had never occurred to me until I lived through this, was that the aftermath goes on for years to come after a disaster.  When the media and their cameras have all gone away, and the rest of the world isn’t hearing anymore, the sad reality is that people go on suffering.

Three years on and my life is still unsettled (to say the least).  I now have a chronic illness (fibromyalgia) which is attributed to the trauma of the quakes.   I live in a severely damaged house and still have no idea how that will be fixed.  My house is pretty cold in winter because of the damage, but aside from that, I’m simply used to the damage.  That said, don’t suppose for a minute that I like living in a house that is now tilted on a bit of an angle.  Or the curtains blowing in the breeze even though no windows are open.  But it’s just life here in Christchurch and I know there are people here worse off than me.

I know full well that mental health is a major issue in my city.  Children are still badly traumatised, as well as many adults.  Free counselling sessions just don’t go far enough.  Three sessions per person is not enough.  The use of anti-depressants has risen significantly.  The psychiatric hospital is overflowing and they’re talking of putting inpatients into caravans out on the lawn.  Suicide statistics tend to run behind by a few years, but I understand the numbers are sadly picking up in my city.  Let’s not forget too, that there is a major housing shortage here now as well as significant poverty.  These both contribute to the state of mental well being.

But this is what really disturbs me…

A year before our deadly earthquake, Haiti (Port-au-Prince) suffered a quake too.  220,000 people are estimated to have died on 12 January 2010.  In Christchurch, there were officially 185 people died.  At the height of the Haiti quake, one and a half million people were displaced and sheltering in tent villages.  That’s just huge.  And it makes me say “what have I got to complain about?”.

While I wonder about the ongoing mental health of those who lived through the quakes here in Christchurch, I wonder even more what is being done for the people of Haiti.  Do they get access to free counselling like we have?  Are the children getting the resources that are being pumped into Christchurch.  It is so difficult to know what is being done for victims of natural disasters when the lights go off on the media bandwagons.  That said, I have a fair idea of the answers to my questions.

Whether it is an earthquake (or 12,000), a volcanic eruption, a hurricane, a bush fire or any other devastating event somehow we need to remember that life afterward is changed and will probably never be the same again.  Not just the physical welfare of victims matters, not just the infrastructure and buildings that have to be rebuilt, the mental health of victims will continue to be a major issue for years to come.

Somehow I think we forget, once the media have gone, and even more so we forget when the media never really got there.  It seems to me that third world countries recovering from disaster, do it very much on their own.

While today, I remember a day I never want to experience ever again, I want to remember people in other countries doing similar recoveries.  I have been fortunate to have access to welfare, Red Cross funding and the like.  I never ended up in a tent city.  I have insurance cover to rebuild my home (when they finally get to it).  But for so many people there is none of this, and those people are the ones I have on my mind today.

“How strange it (the earthquake) must all have seemed to them, here where they lived so safely always! They thought such a dreadful thing could happen to others, but not to them. That is the way!” 

― William Dean Howells, A Sleep and a Forgetting

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Certainty

Certainty is one of those things that we never realise how much we appreciate it until we don’t have it.  I’ve realised that I am lacking certainty, and right now, I miss it dreadfully.

If you have been following my blog for a while you’ll remember that I live in Christchurch, NZ where we have been ravaged by a procession of earthquakes since September, 2010.  The quakes have finally died away (pretty much) but we live with the aftermath on a daily basis.

The most devastating quake to hit the city was on 22 February 2011.  People died, buildings collapsed, and lives would never be the same.  My home sustained substantial damage including basically splitting the building into three pieces and knocking it off its foundations in one corner.  But hey, after some emergency repairs it was deemed liveable.  It’s just not entirely weather-proof (it’s winter here, so I’m feeling that) and the floor slopes to one side.  Aesthetically it doesn’t look too good, but then there are many worse off than me.

Since then, certainty vanished.  I have little idea whether the house can be fixed, or whether it will end up being demolished.  I know that to fix it will take some major work, not to mention money.  In New Zealand we have a government agency, the Earthquake Commission (EQC), whose responsibility it is to fund the repairs of damage caused my natural disasters.  That funding is through a tax levy on insurance.

EQC has become the organisation we love to hate.  Personally I think a lot of that is justified.  Between them and my insurance company (that’s another story entirely because they literally fled the country) they hold my life in their hands.  My certainty is at their mercy.

For some residents of Christchurch, including my parents, their future was determined on the day of that quake.  Their home was immediately deemed only fit for demolition, and they were instantly homeless.  Not entirely homeless, because they just shifted into my home, until we were able to find a new home for them some months down the track.

That would clearly be devastating for anyone, and there were thousands of people in that boat. I don’t wish that for myself, but sometimes I think it would have been a bit easier.  At least I would know.  At least I could get on with my life.

But instead life stopped that day, and it’s been a waiting game ever since (for me, and thousands of other residents in the same boat).  Will my home survive?  I don’t know.  Will I have to shift out?  And where will I go?  I don’t know.  Will there be a fair settlement?  I don’t know.  I’m just waiting.

So today as I write, there is a small army of assessors from EQC roaming my property.  This was last done in September 2011 but they have come to the conclusion that the assessment they did at that time was not accurate.  Basically they didn’t take into account that my home is physically joined to three others.  How could they miss this fact?  I don’t know.  This has particular implications for me because my foundations need to be repaired and to lift the house in order to do that, they would probably have to lift the other houses too.  That starts to sounds complicated, expensive and possibly simply not worth it.

As this team of EQC staff (I think there are about 10 and apparently they are combining the assessment with a staff training exercise) go through my property (and my neighbours) inside and out, I wonder just what will be the result.  I certainly won’t know this today, and I suspect it will be months more before I get any certainty from them.  That’s just the pace they work at.  And this… is just life.

So does certainty matter?  Is it something I need to ensure lasting mental health even?  I’m inclined to think it does matter, simply because I like to know what is ahead.  Even if change is ahead, at least if I know, then I can prepare for it (mentally and physically).  But in this situation that’s not possible.  It’s no worse for me than for many other residents of this city.  We all face this indeterminate wait, with a foreboding that our future is in someone else’s hands.

Perhaps the major thing that I have learnt in this whole earthquake nightmare (which included the subsequent death of my father) is to live one day at a time.  The only problem is that sometimes it is just so damn hard to do that.

Some days I can do the ‘one day at a time’ philosophy.  I can accept that at some stage I am going to have to leave my home, either permanently, or temporarily while repairs are undertaken.  That I don’t know when that will be, and when it happens I probably won’t get much warning.

But other days, like last night when I was trying to sleep, it just seems all too much.  I just want to know.  I just want that certainty of what is ahead. Some days I can live with the uncertainty, but on others it seems like my entire mental health rides on those 10 EQC assessors who are here today.  But then here in Christchurch, that is the only certainty so many of us have.

“The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyranny of the dull mind forever threatens — but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end it’s love and love alone that really matters.” 

― Tom Robbins

When Your World Turns Upside Down (reposted)

A few weeks ago I published this post but removed it shortly after, when I felt uncomfortable having shared what is contained in it.  I now feel more comfortable with sharing it, and so am re-posting it.  I apologise to those who read the original post and commented, before I deleted it.  I did appreciate your comments.

Today has been the second anniversary of the worst earthquake we lived through in Christchurch, NZ.  185 people weren’t so lucky and lost their lives.  Many more were injured.  And yet many more have suffered health problems (and for some death) following the quakes.  For me, my father died six weeks later, my mother is a completely different woman and my own fibromyalgia is attributed to my trauma from that experience. 

Our lives literally turned upside down.  While recovery, repair and rebuilding slowly take place, for about 450,000 residents life will never be the same.  This post is about what came to matter.

My world has literally turned upside down in more than one occasion. It has been frightening, life changing and heart stopping (both literally and figuratively when I look across my family who also experienced this). It happened, for me, by way of massive earthquakes, but for others it might have been tornadoes, hurricanes, bush fires, floods, tsunamis or a number of other events that we know as ‘natural disasters’.

It might be ‘natural’ but nothing seems ‘natural’ at the time. Everything is totally unknown and shocking.Out of nowhere, comes complete devastation. The question that repeatedly came into my mind as I was in a number of major earthquakes in Christchurch, NZ was “how can the earth do this?” It was simply beyond my wildest imagination that the world was capable of moving like this, yet now it was my reality.

If you have read back through my posts you may have read some of this before, but this is a different angle than that which I have shared previously.

In a few weeks it will be two years since Christchurch experienced its worst (although not biggest) and deadly earthquake. On 22 February 2011 a 6.3 earthquake, centred just 10 kilometres from the central city, hit on a busy, summer Tuesday. It wasn’t the first, or the last quake to devastate the city.

Nearly two years on, it seems that finally the after shocks might have died away. There are still occasional ones just to remind us of our terror, but mostly now it is about concentrating on rebuilding ourselves, our homes and our city. Or waiting. There is so much waiting. In early days for supplies of fresh water, now we wait for the Government and Insurance companies, and of course we wait at the thousands of roads-works holding up traffic as the repairs to roads, water pipes and sewers go on.

Five months earlier on 4 September 2010 at 4.35am I was woken by our first quake. It was a 7.1 quake centred just out of the city at Darfield (about 30 kilometres away). It was dark, and I woke to this incredible violent shaking. Initially I had no idea what was happening. In New Zealand we are used to minor quakes but this was far beyond anything I had experienced.

As children we had been taught that in an earthquake you make your way to a doorway or under a table. Instinct somehow kicked in. Moments before my cat had been asleep by my feet, but I couldn’t see or hear where she was. That instinct saw me grab my teddy bear and try to make it to the doorway. It was only two metres but it seemed like miles because the cupboard doors on one side, and the bed on the other, were being tossed and thrown around the room. I literally had to fight to get past.

I clung to the door frame, and as I did I realised that there was an old doll on my bedside table. I had grabbed the teddy bear but I hadn’t grabbed the doll, and now I wanted her. I wanted to go back. For a moment, she was everything in the world, but then I knew I wouldn’t make it back. Right then I wasn’t sure if this was the end of the world, or was it a very bad earthquake. I just hung on and hoped it would end. I hoped my doll would still be there when it stopped.

When these ‘natural’ disasters strike they tend to be life-changing in many ways that one would never have expected. What is important takes on new meaning and you find that things you thought were important, don’t hold the same value you thought they did.

On that dark September morning, all that mattered to me was my cat (who I didn’t see for another two days) and the teddy bear and doll. I thought my world was ending. It would have been useful to have my mobile phone from the bedside table, but I didn’t think of that until it rang a few minutes later (what became a regular ritual of checking on other family members).

There wasn’t much logic to what was important but in time I would repeat the same choices. Five months later, when the February quake struck it caused much more damage because it was closer to the city centre, it was very shallow and it was lunchtime on a busy work day. My parents lived in an apartment building in the city centre, and when they (and I) struggled down the damaged stairs some time after the quake, they were leaving the building forever. I was with them that day, and while I had time to grab my bag, they had no time to grab anything. Dad had his car keys. That was all.

Their experience made me question my priorities again. What really mattered? Actually a lot didn’t matter. Mum was understandably upset because she hadn’t put her wedding rings on that morning.

We were fortunate that my brother and I were able to go back into the building for a short while several months later. By then we had worked out what really mattered. There was mum’s rings, my grandfather’s World War Two medals, and family photos. Of a houseful of possessions we had narrowed it down to that.

It seemed a little crazy to walk past broken china on the floor. Items my parents had got as wedding gifts and had been part of our family for my whole life. They didn’t matter. They just weren’t important. I’d like to say that what mattered was that we were all alive, but by that time my Dad had died. The stress of everything had beaten his heart.

But we do have everyone else, and some families weren’t so lucky. We are fortunate. We found mum’s rings and Granddad’s medals (although they mysteriously disappeared later). We retrieved most of the family and ancestor photos that couldn’t have been replaced.

For me, I lost precious items in my home too, particularly gifts from friends. Smashed on the floor. But two years on those things don’t matter. The things that did matter, which were of my heart, were my cat, my teddy bear and the doll. Oh, and I never take my rings off now. I learnt that lesson from Mum.

“You can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right; but spelling isn’t everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn’t count.”

― A.A. Milne

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Good From Bad

‘Good from Bad’ in the form of the new Christchurch CBD shopping area…
created solely from shipping containers.
Image credit: flickr.com/photos/jjprojects/6335876035/in/photostream/

Regular readers will hopefully forgive me for going on again about earthquakes, and earthquake recovery.  I do realise that while it is a very important issue to me, that it is not so interesting to others, especially if you have never even experienced a mild tremor in your lifetime.  I wrote a couple of days ago in In My Corner Of The World… There Is Hope that today is the two-year anniversary of the start of our earthquake nightmare here in Christchurch, New Zealand.

I was thinking, and came to the conclusion that today’s date, 4 September is significant for me in more than just the reminder of the quakes and the destruction.  I realise that it was the trigger to finally beginning my road to recovery from mental illness.

What I have learnt through this nightmare is to take one day at a time.  In so many ways.  People often talk about taking one day at a time.  Actually, it is almost too often sometimes, because it is difficult to understand how that might possibly make a difference.  Let me explain…

Every time an earthquake strikes there is no certainty of whether this will be a tiny shake that you just wonder whether it was actually just the wind.  Or will it go on, and build to a much more traumatic and damaging quake?  Many times I have sat here at my computer as a quake starts and I wait a second or two to decide, do I run for cover, or do I just ride it out?  Sometimes I have run for cover only to feel a little silly when it was just a small tremor.  But other times I have been glad I made the choice to move, as things come crashing down around me once again.

The other thing I don’t know is when the next one will come.  I always knew that after a major quake, smaller quakes called after-shocks would follow, but I had no idea that after-shocks, and then new major quakes could continue on for years.

It’s difficult to know exactly what to do after the quake stops because I don’t know what will follow.  Is it worth putting all the photos back in the shelf?  Should I pick the television up off the floor? (actually we Cantabarians got clever eventually and screwed televisions down.  Actually anything that could be screwed down was)  I have now had one new television courtesy of insurance, but I don’t really want to have to go back for another.  And to be honest there are some things that now live in the floor so they can’t fall any further.

I had heard people say that animals often gave advance notice of earthquakes about to hit, and that the birds went quiet, and the like.  Well my cat Penny lived through a good number of the quakes and never once gave me any warning.  She would look as shocked and terrified as me, except usually she would move a whole heap quicker than me.

When you’re in an earthquake zone, like I now know I do, you realise that there is little certainty.  I have learnt to have bottled water on hand, extra non-perishable food, and batteries in the torch and radio.  Actually I know have a solar-powered torch/radio so that solves the problem.  These things are so much more important to me now that I have experienced needing them, but not having them.  Now if I am prepared for that uncertainty, then it becomes manageable.  I know exactly the things I need to do if, and when a major quake hits.  I can just go into that action plan almost on automatic pilot rather than the shock of it paralysing me.  I know what is important.

When I learnt to take one day at a time with regard to my material needs, I started to take one day at a time with my emotional health too.  I have finally realised that worrying about my future, won’t make it any better. Worrying about the past wouldn’t make it have not happened.   I have finally learnt to say what is on my mind because I don’t know if I will get the chance again.

I particularly learnt that with the death of my father.  At the moment he died, he and I were having a very rare argument (about chemical toilets of all things).  Clearly it was heated enough to literally stop his heart, on top of the stress he had already experienced.  What I struggled with afterwards was the fear that in the argument he would have lost sight of the fact that I loved him.  There was no time, it was over in an instant, and if only we had stopped and just appreciated each other rather than arguing.

I should say that I have dealt with that now.  I know my Dad knew I loved him and while it is unfortunate that our relationship ended in anger, I know it is okay.  I feel at peace with that, and achieving that in itself is a very big difference from the person I was, who would have felt bad and guilty for the rest of her days.  I have learnt to say what’s on my mind, at the time.  I will never know if I will have another opportunity to say I love someone.

By learning to live in the moment, and be very clear about my feelings with those I care about, I have been able to correct some of the other things that were screwing me up, particularly in terms of my relationships with other people.

I never want to live through another two years like I have just been through, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  But good does come from bad.  I have learnt so many things that otherwise might have taken years to discover, if I ever did.  While the experience has been a nightmare, my mental health has strengthened in leaps and bounds, when for so many years nothing seemed able to achieve that.

We usually look at mental illness as being a bad thing, and quite rightly so, when you stop and think of the anguish and pain for the sufferer, and those around them.  Again I wouldn’t choose the last 19 years again.  Not for one minute.  I lost so much, and I know I hurt people along the way.

But the suffering I went through created a new person.  I am not the person I was in the 1990’s, and actually I am quite glad I’m not.  I am a better person.  I have new opportunities because of the person I have become, and so I would go so far as to say that good came from the bad of my mental illness.  I fully expect that some people may have difficulty accepting that, and that’s okay.  I am just saying that for me, there is good as a result of the pain and suffering I experienced.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In My Corner Of The World… There Is Hope

Map of New Zealand         Image credit: freeworldmaps.net

In my corner of the world, today is the first Saturday in September, a day I will never forget.  It is the beginning of spring.

Two years ago residents of my city, Christchurch, and surrounding areas were violently woken at 4.35am by a 7.1 earthquake, the first of thousands of quakes to follow in the next two years.  It was the first time the city had ever really cared about earthquakes, because it wasn’t known to be an area at risk.  Now we are obsessed by them, but trying to rebuild and slowly move on.

That morning I woke and immediately tried to get out of bed and race for the doorway.  It was only a matter of metres to run but between cupboard doors swinging wildly and the bed being tossed and turned, it wasn’t an easy pathway to tread.  I got there and hung onto the door frame for dear life.  It was beyond anything I had ever imagined and I wondered how the ground could possibly move that much.  I was terrified.

By the time the shaking stopped, power and phone lines were down.   A few minutes later I got a call on my mobile phone, from my sister-in-law.  We were both terrified and needed to know everyone was okay.  Amazingly there was no visible (once it got light) damage to my house.  That was too come in the months ahead.  But everything had fallen off its perch, the television had taken its first of many dives onto the floor (it’s now been replaced), and my cat, Penny was nowhere to be seen.  She didn’t appear for a day and eventually I found her, also terrified, hiding under the bed.

The daylight broke eventually into a beautiful spring day.  Blue skies, calm and warm.  It was in stark contrast to the events of several hours earlier.  I have noticed that same beautiful spring weather over the past couple of days and actually the beauty of it takes away the horror of the morning.  Somehow thankfully, I have a better connection in my mind with the beautiful weather, than the terror.

I tried to head to my parents home to make sure they were okay but even my car had responded to the quake and the battery was dead.  Was this coincidence or not?  I have no idea.  It wasn’t an old battery and there was no other reason why it should have drained.  But now I was car-less and new batteries were hardly on anyone’s list of priorities that morning.  Eventually I got a lift over to where I was going and it was incredible to see whole street frontages of buildings having collapsed onto the road.  In Christchurch we grew to be used to destruction like this, but that day it was all brand new and it completely blew me away.

My parents were fine although they had a lot of breakages.  We worked to put their place back together again, with no idea that we would repeat this exercise over and over again in the next five months, until the building was so badly damaged that we couldn’t go back in.

That afternoon, back at home, I walked down the road to the nearby Avon River (which flows through the city).  The river itself was a milky colour.  Almost like a milk tanker had tipped in its load.  It didn’t look right at all, but was a sign of the silt that raised from the earth below into the river.  That silt was something we became very used to.  Called liquefaction.  It wasn’t just the river, but land for miles was almost drowned in the stuff and residents had to work hard to clean it up before it set solid.  Liquefaction is something I had never heard of, but was a repeated problem every time there was a big quake in the years since.

I’ve written about the quakes before but the reason I write today is to mark the anniversary (actually on 4 September) but to also note that finally the ground seems to be quieting down.  Three days ago it was reported that we hadn’t had a quake (that could be felt by humans) for eight days.  Wow!  This is really big news for us because the quakes have been rolling constantly for the two years.   To finally go that long without them is a very great gift to us all.  I’ve just checked, and I don’t think we have had any since that news report, which would take it to eleven days.  There have been small shakes (under 3 on the Richter scale) but that is all.  Of course we all are reluctant to tempt fate by celebrating this quieting down of the ground.  But maybe it is coming to an end for now.

It has been a heck of a two years.  Constantly alert for quakes.  There have been over 11,700 quakes in that time and most of those have been very shallow and centred very close to the city.  There has been much loss, and for  me aside from a very badly damaged house, my father died as a result of the stress of the quakes.  Many people have suffered badly in terms of both physical and mental health.  While I have been fortunate that my mental health wasn’t affected ( and that in itself is a miracle), my fibromyalgia has been put down to being a result of trauma from the quakes.  I am not alone.  Many people continue to suffer.

I love spring.  I think it is my favourite season because I love to see the new growth, the warmer weather, the city filled with golden daffodils.  I love that my daphne bush in the garden is flowering.  It just makes me feel better after a long winter in a damaged home.  Here in Christchurch we have a long way to go in repair and rebuilding, but perhaps now that we see the quakes dying down, and winter is over,  we can begin to have hope again for restoring life.

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.  The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.  People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” 

―    Ernest Hemingway,    A Moveable Feast

Kia Kaha

Kia Kaha    =    Be Strong

Kia Kaha’ in Maori means ‘Be Strong’ ( or sometimes ‘Stay Strong’).  It is a regularly used phrase here in New Zealand in a huge range of places.  For example, when the three kiwi soldiers who died in Afghanistan last week were returned home in recent days, Kia Kaha has often been repeated to their friends, families and colleagues.

It is a warm expression of support and encouragement, sometimes used as a greeting; used by Maori and increasingly by Pakeha (white-skinned New Zealanders) alike.  It is uniquely New Zealand, and I admit that I like that.  If regular readers hadn’t noticed I am proud to be a kiwi.

Kia Kaka chch
(Photo credit: KimMcKelvey)

Kia Kaha Christchurch

The phrase Kia Kaha Christchurch became a popular call after 22 February 2011, when we were struck by the deadly earthquake that killed 185 people.  At the time, and since because it continues to be heard today as we rebuild, it seemed like a nice expression of support that the rest of the country was giving us.  Actually even Prince William used the phrase when he addressed many Christchurch residents at a Memorial Service in the months after.  Someone had clearly told him that it would be a welcome phrase to use, and I’m sure many who heard the speech were encouraged by it.

Yet to be honest, the use of kia kaha after the earthquakes is nice in terms of support but it just  doesn’t quite sit right with me.

I read a comment on a blog recently that caught my attention and perhaps summed up what I was thinking but hadn’t dared to even think, let alone, express.   It said:

“… I just find the whole earthquake terribly cruel,
depressing, crushing, and awful, and nothing
to be kia kaha about” 
(1.)

I accept the phrase kia kaha in the manner in which I think it is meant, but when people have lost lives, limbs, homes, possessions, businesses… I’m not convinced that being strong is always the appropriate  response.

Don’t get me wrong, being strong was pretty much the only option for so many people in the days immediately following.  My own experience was that I had no choice than to be strong as I turned my attention to helping my elderly parents deal with the losses they had encountered.  Neither of them were thinking straight, yet there were many things that simply had to be done.  They had left their home with nothing, so had no clothes, no money, not even any identification.  There was help available for them fairly quickly but it involved dealing with bureaucracy.  Yes, even in a disaster someone is going to want forms filled in.

So I had no time to do anything but be strong.  There simply wasn’t any other choice.  But while being strong was appropriate in the early days, there came a time when it was necessary for me to feel the emotion that I had switched off and buried.  It was buried so well I hardly knew it existed.  It was only in rare moments with just my brother that I was even able to feel the stress that was building.

Six days later I was fortunate to get half an hour of my weekly appointment with my psychotherapist.  It didn’t matter that I was sitting in a field on my brother’s farm talking to my therapist by phone.  My friend Plonker was alone in being able to listen in.  It wasn’t the usual environment but the chance to talk about how I was feeling made a huge difference to me.  I didn’t have to be strong right then.

I worked out at that point where I needed to be strong, and where it was safe to have the feelings that were bubbling over.  That made an enormous difference to me, because I knew that there was space for me.

What concerns me is that not everyone has that space, and for many the term kia kaha is the only words they’ve heard.  A friend of mine (a man of about 60) told me some months later that he had been diagnosed with depression following the earthquakes and had come to accept that he didn’t have to be strong.  For the first time in his life he saw that it was okay to be sad, it was okay to be weak.  Having realised that, and with the help of medication and counselling he was starting to recover, but understanding that he didn’t have to be the stoic one in his family was the break through.

Today I came across a blog post saying a similar thing.  I’m not exactly sure how I came across it.  I guess it was something I fell upon but was exactly what I needed to read.  It fits perfectly with what I am saying, although I admit that the post is addressed to men.  Carlos Andrés Gómez says in his blog:

…I was fifteen when I heard about my closest childhood friend being killed in a car accident, and I will never forget this tremendous burden I felt to “stay strong” and “tough my way through it.”  I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was hurting.  I didn’t want to ask for help.  I accepted it as a given that I would bottle up all of my emotions and deal with them alone.  I took great pride (at the time) in the fact that I excused myself from the table to cry alone in the bathroom after my father told me the news. I never shed one tear in front of my sister and dad, and it somehow felt like undeniable proof that I was finally ready to be a man. I quietly celebrated that moment of shutting myself down emotionally, as though it were an accomplishment.  I wore it like a badge of honor that I could conceal the hurricane of emotions in my chest…”

Whether man or woman I think there are times when shutting down probably seems like the best course of action.  It’s what I did in the immediate days after that quake because there was simply too much else that needed to be done.  And while I welcome anyone greeting me with kia kaha I’m not sure that it is the phrase I need to hear now.  Now I need to hear that I don’t need to be strong.  Even if it is only me that gives me that permission, I need to know that it is okay to be as I am.

This doesn’t just apply to the aftermath of natural disasters.  It applies in day to day life.  I spend a lot of my time concerned with the well-being of other people, and have recently attached a note to my computer screen.  It says “sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else“.  For me, this is the message I need.  I don’t always need to be strong for others.  Sometimes it is okay to simply look after me.

PS. If I have offended anyone in my interpretation of the term kia kaha, I apologise.  My intention has not been to criticise the use of the term (which is one I use and appreciate), but to explore the use of it.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are
strong at the broken places.” 

―    Ernest Hemingway,    A Farewell to Arms

The Tale Of Plonker The Pig

A ‘relative’ of Plonker’s                Image Credit: thornypup / Flickr.com

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that people (and animals) come to us at exactly the right time.  I have long struggled with the phrase that there is a reason for everything.  I knew in my head that it was probably true but there were some things that really stumped me.  How could there possibly be a reason for some of the terrible things that happen?

Last year I developed a rather good friendship with Plonker, one of two pigs then living on my brother’s farm.  Plonker was named by  my nephews.  I’m not exactly sure how he earned this name and I can’t remember what his friend’s name was.  No doubt something apt to their then, thirteen and eleven year old’s minds.

I admit that I have been known to talk to inanimate objects (selectively) and so to talk to animals is not strange for me.  My cat Penny and I used to have long conversations, each taking turns to speak.  We didn’t necessarily know what the other was saying but we at least had our timing worked out.  And I always felt she understood.  So when I met Plonker and his mate it was quite natural for me to strike up conversation with them.  One can get a lot of sense from talking to animals.  Often much more than humans.  For some reason Plonker has a special character and he became very special to me.

The time was the days immediately after our deadly earthquake in February, 2011.  I had my parents staying with me, after they had lost their home and belongings  in the quake.  I had temporarily lost my car (for a few weeks) because it was parked trapped between two damaged buildings in a cordoned off part of town, and so I was reliant on my parents for transport.  We were asked not to move around the damaged city if we could help it but because I had no water, no sewage, and for a while no power we opted to go out to my brother’s farm during the days.  For some reason my parents wouldn’t go and stay out there.  I think they wanted to be near their home, in the hope that they might gain access.  That didn’t happen of course, and so for the sake of everyone’s mental health, we went to the farm (where water, sewage and power were operational) during the day and returned back to my home to sleep.

It was very stressful, and that is a big understatement.  Actually it was probably the most stressful time of my life.  Aftershocks continued, as we listened to news reports of bodies being dug out of collapsed buildings.  The personality of both my elderly parents changed markedly at that time (my father died six weeks later as a result of the stress).  The change in their personalities wasn’t really any surprise, considering what they were going through, but it was difficult for all of us, grandchildren included, to adapt.  It was almost like suddenly having completely different parents to those we had known before.  The only one who didn’t struggle seemed to be 10 week old L.  She slept on regardless.

I quickly took up walking around the farm to get some space from everyone.  It was also a chance to have a smoke (a habit I had taken up again when the quakes started several months earlier) which I attempted to do away from the kids.  I regularly went down to the pig’s hangout to visit Plonker and his mate.

Finally someone talked sense.  Plonker was interested to know if I had food for him.  He would start to get excited about company when he saw me walking his way.  I hadn’t completely forgotten that he was a pig but I felt appreciated, especially when I brought food.

I don’t know much about pigs but I understand they are social animals, and so when Plonker’s mate headed for the ‘dinner table’ (my vegetarian tendencies start to struggle at this point), Plonker seemed  to be lonely.   I used that as an excuse to hang out with Plonker more often.  The thing about Plonker was that he had no expectations of me, and what’s more he didn’t seem rattled by the constant quakes.  He was in my mind, the perfect company at the time.

Plonker has since made his own way to the ‘dinner table’ sadly.  Thankfully I wasn’t told who dinner was until after I had eaten.  The thought still leaves me feeling a little unwell, and I admit I haven’t formed such a close attachment to subsequent farm animals.  Saying good-bye was not easy and while my nephews laughed at me giving Plonker a leaving present (a bag of fruit purchased just for him), he will always have a special place in my heart.

Plonker saved my bacon (pun intended).  Spending time on the farm with him soothed the trauma of everything else happening, and the stress of suddenly finding myself living with my parents again (after nearly 30 years).  Plonker was there at the right moment for me.

In the same way there have been special people along my way who have appeared in my life at just the right time.  One was my friend A who I came to flat with just months before first getting sick.  At the time she was recovering from a two year battle with depression and actually that was significant in helping me accept my own depression that would follow.  We were only in each other’s lives for a couple of years and since have gone our separate ways, but I firmly believe that she was there for a reason.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is more than just coincidence that particular people (and pigs) come into my life.  There is a reason for these things, and actually I don’t need to know what that reason is, I simply have to accept them.  I’m slowly realising that I don’t have to understand, all I have to do is accept the gift I am offered.

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.” 

―    Jim Morrison

Cate’s Crocodiles

Image via thefabweb.com

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.” 
―    Albert Camus

On the surface, everything can look calm, everything can seem okay.  But hidden under that calm there are those ever-present Cate’s crocodiles.  If you’re not sure what I’m on about this time, check out Crocodiles & Three Wise Men.  While I had never stopped to consider crocodiles much before, I find myself drawn to them (well, pictures of them) and there is always a good reason.

My last post Courage Required was a little bit cryptic, and apologise for that.  The thing is there is a calm look on my face for anyone who sees it, but my mind is racing at ninety miles an hour (144 kilometres for us kiwis) trying to work some things out.  At the time I posted I could get as far as telling you that what I needed to find a healthy dose of courage, but I was unable to do much more.  The racing mind had me stalled, flicking through websites aimlessly, not taking anything in, unable to even concentrate to catch up on reading other blogs because I just couldn’t concentrate to do anything but generally looking… calm (to anyone but my imagination).

When I started blogging,  I set myself some rules.  The biggest being that I would largely leave my immediate family out of my blog.  Why?  In my desire to do my little bit to reduce the stigma of mental illness I wanted my blog accessible to my friends and family.  That kind of changes the focus a bit because family, for most of us, have a pretty significant part to play in our lives now or in the past.

I made the decision to not write anything about my immediate family that they might be unhappy about.  This is partly because of a previous disagreement over something I had published in the past.  Some parties were not exactly happy with what I had put on the internet, and while I didn’t take it off (because after a lot of soul searching I didn’t think I’d done wrong), I did resolve to be almost over-cautious in what I published in future.  So at this point you occasionally might read of my 19 month old niece’s activities, but that is it (and I should say she seems to be quite okay with that).

Now I find myself in a situation that involves my family, but if I don’t find a way to write about it somehow, I risk those crocodiles rising up through the calm and biting me on the arse.  So I need to write about what is going on for me, without betraying their confidences.  Easy?  Not at all!  But here goes.  Forgive me if there are gaps that mean this doesn’t make sense.

On 22 February 2011 life changed forever here in my corner of the world.  It came with an almighty earthquake (that I have regularly mentioned and) that killed 185 people in my city.  I knew one of those people personally.  My family was lucky to avoid death, but incurred great loss both physically and mentally.  An earlier (and larger) earthquake on 4 September 2010, almost destroyed my brother’s business (that he had only bought one month before).  In February, my parents lost their home and about 70% of their possessions.  They walked away with the clothes they were wearing and it wasn’t until four months later that my brother and I were given a few hours to go into the destroyed apartment and retrieve what we could.  By that time, in April 2011, my father died suddenly in my home  The cause of death being heart failure caused by stress.  My home was severely damaged in February but the three of us had been living here ever since.  There was no other option.

Sixteen months on, my parents home is now demolished, and just yesterday I received the offer for my mother from their insurance company.  My home is still severely damaged and it is looking like it will be years yet before it is repaired (it seems it’s in the too hard basket and many homes are in that same basket).  My brother’s business is still badly damaged and awaiting an insurance decision.  He struggles to keep it running.  The dream he and his wife had of owning their own business hasn’t quite been what they’d bargained on.

But all these things are the relatively easy pieces of the puzzle.  These are the material pieces that can perhaps be fixed with the provision of a cheque, or a builder.  It’s what goes on in the minds of the people who live through all this, that is not so easy to fix.  We have all changed and are not the people we used to be.

For me surprisingly I think the trauma of everything actually helped me take a leap toward wellness.  Like everyone else here I struggled to sleep at night (the first and largest quake happened at 4.35am and that was one heck of a way to wake up), I became super vigilant about not just more quakes but the safety of my family.  My ‘performance’ of the past nearly 20 years would have suggested that I would completely crumble at this.  When my father died six weeks later and my effort at CPR was unsuccessful, again past ‘performance’ would have suggested that I would crumble.  My brother admitted that for a while, when the telephone rang, he would expect it would be a call to say I had been admitted to the local psych hospital… or worse.  Actually that was the furthest thing from my mind.

I think I got flung into a position where I needed to take some control, not just for myself but for my parents too.  They were never the same again and I almost swapped roles.  For years I had been the ‘sick child’ needing to be handled with care in case “she spun out and did something crazy”.  Now, from the day in their apartment when the quake struck, and I needed to clear a path for them to get out to the stairway and out of the building, to arranging to replace their necessities and find a new home for Mum.  It’s hard to put into words, but it was (and I mean them no disrespect) like we reversed roles.  They became the ‘sick children’ and I the ‘adult’.

This week I have been almost overwhelmed by some of the practical issues that this has raised, that no one really has time for but they still need attention.  It has been hard, there have been a few tears (I don’t cry that often) and there has been an enormous sense of being alone.  I have been angry with my father for dying.  He was always the person I could talk my problems through, and I knew that this time he would, again, know what I should do.  But damn it, he’s gone.  He was my voice of reason (mostly!) but now while I can rant at my memory of him, he can’t respond.  And I seem to be finding it harder in the second year since his death, than the first.  I realise just how much I, and my family have lost.  It’s not just his physical presence but the part he played in our family.

I am the youngest in my family and the only girl, so I always assumed responsibility would fall on my brothers shoulders, particularly my oldest brother.  He does not live nearby and circumstances have meant that it is me on the spot, and I find myself having to take on things I never expected.  This week it has been hard (as I said) and while I know I have come a long way in my recovery in the last 16 months, I have yet again found myself really struggling with the same old doubts and fears arising.  Yet this time, it’s not just me I have to consider.  In some ways that’s really difficult, and leaves me in deeper distress, but in other ways it, yet again, saves me.  What I need though right now, is a whole heap of patience, and that sure doesn’t come easy with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  I can be incredibly patient with people I don’t know but with my family, it is a whole other ball game.

It’s totally understandable that the rest of the country, and the world, would think we have just picked up our lives and moved on.  Unfortunately that’s not true.  We live with the aftermath of the quakes everyday, both practically (you should see the state of our roads) but more importantly, mentally and emotionally.  We have all changed, and while some of us will pick up our lives and move on, particularly for older people, life will never be the same again.  My mother (at 83) lost her husband, her home, most of her possessions, her church (it completely collapsed) and many other friends who have also died in the last year.  Again, I mean no disrespect but she is not the woman she used to be… and how could she not be different having lost so much in practically 50 seconds of the quake?

At this stage I have no idea whether my home, and my brother’s business, will be restored in her lifetime.  Certainly it is unlikely that she will be alive to see the city restored (80% of all buildings in the central business district have been, or are still being demolished).  Mum grew up in this city and, as she knew it, it is largely gone or certainly cordoned off.

It makes me laugh (a slightly skeptical laugh) when I hear that our Government has made provision for five counselling sessions for each resident of the Canterbury area (my guess is that is about 500,000 people).  It’s a good start, but five sessions doesn’t give you much when so many have been through such enormous trauma.  I suspect every one of my family (that lives in this region) could do with that counselling, but I know it’s not going to happen for most of them.  Aside from the ‘stiff upper lip’ mindset, there is also just the enormous need to just keep going, one step at a time.  People don’t have time, because the basic necessities of life are what still matters right now.  And I can’t imagine that the city has enough suitably qualified people to meet the need anyway.

Image via FB/Soul Speaking

I was lucky to already be in psychotherapy and be able to talk about a lot of this with a therapist I knew and trust.  [Unfortunately I am in the middle of a month of my therapist’s holiday.  Nice for him… but damn him, for having his holiday!]  I think many more people will just let the crocodile slide back under the surface and hope it never rises again.  I know my mother will.  But all you need to do is watch the face of a Cantabrians when another quake (they’re happening all the time) strikes.  People are living in fear, because it’s what they’ve come to know.  What does that do to their on-going mental health?

PS.

I can’t help wonder how other places that have survived such terrible disasters fair.  Japan was hit by a much deadlier quake (and tsunami) just three weeks later (March 2011) and I wonder what happens to the emotional and mental needs of all those survivors.  Other places like Haiti, Chile and Italy raise the same wondering in me.  Actually we were really quite lucky, but still, lives will never be the same.  There was an amazing outpouring of support here from other countries, and other parts of this country, but the scale of the distress is so much more than what was seen in the first couple of weeks.

And one final thought?  No, I have yet to summon up that courage I need.  I guess I am procrastinating, which unfortunately that means the problem does go away.

.

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become.  No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell.  There are no maps of the change.  You just come out the other side.
Or you don’t.” 

―    Stephen King,    The Stand