Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tornado Warning

GA, where I live, is simply amazing in the spring. Trees burst into life seemingly overnight and flowers color every landscape. Unfortunately, we are also located in tornado alley which means the benefits of a glorious spring are coupled with severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings and hail. I was born in VA and lived there for 11 years until my father was transferred to GA so I wasn't familiar with the weather upheaval that comes to GA every year as spring in VA (particularly my hometown) is rather quiet. The night we moved to GA I can recall my parents, brother and I looking at each other in confusion as these weird sirens started going off and tornado warnings started flashing on the screen. We honestly had no idea what that meant and we actually stood in front of the living rooms windows trying to see what was going on. As the years have progressed, I have not only come to know what tornado warnings mean but I have developed a downright terror that borders on phobia of severe weather. When I hear that the possibility of severe weather is coming it colors my entire day. I obsessively check the Weather Channel, listen for the alerts that could come and watch the radar. I even have my favorite weatherman, Kirk Mellish on AM750 WSB, who never gets riled up like some local TV weather people. My husband and I have a saying that if Kirk freaks out the world is going to end. Last night was one of those nights when Kirk freaked out.

I had been watching the weather all day but didn't really see anything that worried me so I let my guard down a bit as far as the obsessive checking was concerned. I was working on the computer (right next to the french doors that go out to our deck) when my Mom called and told me there was a warning for my area and to take cover. Our county is so big that sometimes there can be a warning for the southern end of the county while my area is blue skies and no rain so when I looked out the doors and saw very little activity, I thought Mom had the areas confused. I checked Weather Bug and sure enough, my area was under a tornado warning. Hubby and I quickly shuffled our boys to the inside hallway, grabbed a few books and pillows and waited.

As soon as we got to the hall it sounded like the bottom dropped out outside: the wind was ferocious, the hail sounded like it was going to break every window in our house and I just waited for that train like sound to come. I was, in a word, terrified. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn't hold my phone or sit still. I desperately wanted to cry but I didn't want to get my kids scared- panic in small places is not a good thing. We don't have a basement and our house is a ranch so I always feel like the roof is just going to peel off and suck us out or a tree will fall right on top of us since we don't have that protective second level. Without being dramatic or overstating things, the 25 minutes we sat in that hallway and heard the pandemonium outside was sheer hell for me. When the all clear sounded, we looked outside, saw little damage and went back to our normal Monday night activities. Well, my husband and kids did but my adrenaline drop was so severe that all I could do was just sit on the couch and try to regain my bearings.

I never want to pass my fears on to my kids- I firmly believe that they should develop their own so sometimes I really struggle with keeping my crap together when I am at my worst. A lot of my issues in therapy in the past have been about either hiding my fear/anger/sadness and having physical symptoms or bringing those fears out in inappropriate ways. I feel like I did a really good job last night of recognizing my fears yet not letting them control me and asking for what I needed while in the moment. I didn't freak out, which would have freaked my kids out, but at the same time I didn't pretend that everything was lovely. I just calmly stated that I don't like this weather, did my deep breathing exercises and then asked my husband to make the kids dinner as I just wasn't capable. I had my Xanax but I didn't take any because the deep breathing and mental exercises worked. Happily, my coping techniques worked as my boys were calm and were able to eat a hearty dinner and even invent a game named "Tornado Man." I am proud of their imaginations but I don't think I'll play that game any time soon.

Mentally I am getting better but I still hate spring in GA.

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