It’s been raining a lot here in Skokie, the village I now call home since we moved a few minutes north of Chicago’s north side to gain more space and a backyard for gardening.
And by raining, I mean, a lot. First there was a freak blizzard, which dumped a ton of precip on us and then all melted the next day, soaking the ground. Then, it’s rained almost every day since, and apparently overnight last night, monsooned. That’s why my backyard looks like this today:
Those wooden boxes on the right with the stone base are going to be my garden, and you can see the water has risen well into that area. (But the wood is made for this, so it should hold up, at least for a few years.) And that patch in the center is where we’re amending the grass, so I guess it’s good that the rain is fueling those little seeds.
But that water. All the water. It’s effing horrifying.
See, I have lingering PTSD symptoms from a traumatic storm experience more than a decade ago.
At that time, I lived in a condo with my first husband. On a normal day in August, I was working in my home office when my friend Dee called to say she had just heard a tornado warning for my neighborhood. “What? That’s cra-” was all I got out before the lights all went out, the phone died, my ears popped, my stomach flipped, and then the sound of a freight train pummeled me. I ducked and ran for a closet, only to find it was too shallow for me. I found another closet and secured myself, holding the doorknob as tightly as I could. Minutes passed. Things quieted. I peeked out. It didn’t look so bad, some minor damage in our bedroom but nothing big.
I ventured into the back of the condo, and — I can only describe it as a waterfall. Water poured out of every corner joint in every room. The kitchen addition built by a rehabber, was pouring rain into our kitchen and dining room. Debris was everywhere.
My brain went upside down. I decided I could just mop up the water with linens, and gathered everything in the house to line the walls and floors. I called my then-husband but all the lines were busy. I panicked. I sobbed. I gripped my fists. I kept hunting for linens.
Then I looked outside and saw the devastation. Our patio furniture: Twisted like a pretzel. A car in the parking lot had a telephone pole through its windshield. Commercial air conditioner units had been tossed around like a kid throws Legos. (They found some of ours blocks away in the middle of Lake Shore Drive.)
There was nothing I could do. And my brain? It fried itself. It just shorted out. We had been hit by a microburst, a somewhat rare weather phenomenon (especially in the City of Chicago) and the roof of our condo building had been peeled back like the lid of a sardine can, so as it rained over the next 24 hours, our entire building flooded.
The next few months were a blur of insurance claims, rebuilding, sleeping at a friend’s house for weeks, help from many people, many therapy appointments, and medication. Lots of medication.
Today, my PTSD is well-controlled. I still freak out a little if a toilet overflows, or if I spill a lot of water in the kitchen, or if there’s a thunderstorm. I have lots of tools to manage my symptoms. PTSD is not something that ever fully goes away; instead, I’ve learned a ton of coping techniques.
But dang, y’all. This flooding in my backyward is a mega-trigger today.
Medication, meditation, and the new addition of a water pump to try to speed the drainage are barely touching my panic. Even knowing what I know — that this yard floods sometimes, and that it never reaches the house, and that it always drains away, and that our house is safe — those logical, factual statements aren’t doing much.
I wanted to share all of this because I think it’s important to remember that we might do everything “right” about our illness(es) and still have symptoms. Brains are, especially, unusual things that have a mind of their own, and they don’t necessarily listen to our well-reasoned ideas. I want to remind myself of that, too. That’s one of my coping skills.
I’m doing what I can. I have the water pump going strong, I bought galoshes so I can walk about later today and clear debris that might be exacerbating things. I took medication. I’m about to meditate. We’ve checked all of our windows and doorways to confirm that nothing’s leaking in. (I am resisting the urge to check them over and over and over, as I did for years after my initial triggering event. (Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night and just stare at a toilet for hours, hoping it wouldn’t flood. It was debilitating.)
And I’m gonna get outta here. I have some self-care planned today, and my hope is that when I get home, a lot of the water will have drained. The handyman who’s supposed to come Friday to finish building my garden? He’ll likely have some tips too. And the rain? It will drain. And the pump? It’s chugging along.
So that’s my day. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m starting to get back into regularly blogging, so I hope this piece is affirming and helpful. Will you share some feedback and support in the comments? It would mean the world to me — thanks.