Last Saturday my parents took off on their first solo vacation, heading to Disney World. By now I’m sure most of you have heard something or another about Hurricane Irma. It’s devastated areas in the Caribbean and the severity of the storm has led to evacuations of several Floridian counties. People have boarded up their homes and began to move across state lines. You’ll be hard pressed to find a flight to jump on out of Orlando International Airport (I looked) unless you want to have a handful of layovers and excruciating travel times. Plus, getting yourself to the airport is bound to be a hassle.
My parents have flights back home on Tuesday which means they’re stuck in Orlando while the storm hits. Disney has already begun making their preparations and has decided to shut down the parks this evening. They hope to reopen Tuesday morning but that will be decided closer to. It’s kind of a downer for my parents who have been waiting to go on this trip for a year now. It’s also a little scary for their only child who is not Poseidon, ruler of the land and sea, and therefore cannot stop a hurricane.
Here’s the thing: Kristen Bell is stuck on Disney property too, and if a Disney Princess isn’t able to get out, chances are neither are my parents.
So what does that leave me with? A head full of worries and nothing I can really do about it. Except that’s not true. Maybe a good cry would take some stress off of me but ultimately there are more useful things I can be doing for my family and for my mental health. So that’s what I wanted to share just in case you or anyone you know finds yourself in a hopeless situation where loved ones are in danger.
Get in touch with your family
I have heard from my parents every day of their trip so this wasn’t really an issue for me. But if you know a hurricane, or any sort of natural disaster is rolling into the area your friends or family are in try to get a hold of them right away. I found that FaceTime and Skype made me feel a bit better because I actually got to see them and it didn’t feel like they were just telling me things were fine when they weren’t. But texts and messages can be equally as useful for getting a hold of someone, especially if wifi is spotty. Connecting will give you some peace of mind, even if it’s only for a little bit.
Get contact information for their hotel, airline, etc.
Once we knew there was a chance that the power might end up going out and that their flights home might get cancelled we started talking about what our responses to that would be. My mom told me to expect to lose contact for a bit but not to worry. She gave me the hotel number and her room number in case I wanted to try calling the hotel. She also gave me their flight number so I could watch their status. This all will allow me to stay updated even if we do lose touch. Getting all the information you can about where your loved ones are and where they will go is really helpful.
Log off when you’re feeling overwhelmed
You do not need to read every newspaper article about the storm. You do not need to answer or respond to every post. You do not need to be involved in every conversation about it either. You can walk away. You can turn off the computer. You can change the channel. It’s okay to need a break from it, to think about something else for a while. You’re not callous or uncaring, you’re not insensitive. You have to look after yourself. If you’re becoming overwhelmed by what you’re reading or seeing then step away from it. You can’t control it, you can control how much you are being bombarded by it.
I’ve had to walk away from conversations or log off messenger because it was becoming too much. Hearing about how bad the storm is wasn’t helping. I don’t click links about Irma unless it’s talking about what is going on in Orlando in terms of lock down or evacuation. My primary source of information is my parents who are getting everything firsthand from Disney. I have focused my attention in because looking at everything is just too overwhelming.
Do not feel guilty for needing a break. Do not feel guilty about carrying on. I have two big events with work tomorrow and while my parents will be on my mind, I am going to try to not going to feel bad about having a good time. I know they wouldn’t want me to. Your family will not benefit from you putting yourself in a bad place so if you need to walk away for a bit, walk away.
Get support from those around you
You do not have to deal with this alone. Talk to people about what you’re feeling and what’s going on. Ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or someone to take you out for dinner so you can get away from it all, make sure you rely on your support network.
This also includes letting people know when you don’t want to talk about it. You can be upfront or you can just change the conversation. No one will blame you for being scared. No one will blame you for not wanting to talk about it. That’s your choice. Get the support you need from others but you decide what that support looks like. Don’t let anyone tell you how you should or should not be feeling and acting. Everyone deals with crisis and trauma in their own way, find those who will help you through your own process.
This includes the last two points I mentioned as well as a myriad of other things. You may feel a bit powerless in the situation and that really sucks but be mindful of what it is doing to your mental health. I had a little bit of a panic on Friday evening where every emotion I was feeling suddenly came flooding out of nowhere. I had trouble getting to sleep that night and I was plagued by nightmares. Knowing how wrecked I was I had to refocus and find things to make me feel better; we played our new board game, I FaceTimed my parents, I did a fresh face mask from LUSH, and we ordered a bunch of comfort food Friday night. I had to go through the whole process again this evening and it was even harder but I did what I could to pull myself out of it, with help of course.
Do things that make you feel good. Don’t feel like you have to be in crisis mode the entire time. Do what you need to do to keep in touch and help your loved ones along but also take care of yourself. It’s a stressful time and you don’t want to find yourself overwhelmed with dark thoughts and deep worries. These will come of course, it’s absolutely normal to have trouble eating or sleeping, or to even end up overeating and sleeping too much. Your body will react to the trauma, make sure you look after yourself through that. Self-care looks different for everyone. Find your ways of self-care and give yourself the time to practice them.
My heart and mind are with everyone down south during this tragic time. Please, please stay safe. To mom and Bryan, I love you and I promise not to worry too much, I’ll see you when you get home.