Saturday, October 5, 2013

Disaster Brings Connection

Being a Boulder County resident, reminders of the Colorado flooding are still around me.  You’ve probably seen in the news that this was what experts have called a 1,000-year rain and a 100-year flood.  By Thursday, September 12th, I saw gushing rivers where there had been only small streams. That night we were gathered with neighbors watching the nearby creek as it rushed through and took over the surrounding golf course. What most of us didn’t know was how this amazement of Mother Nature would turn to true fear before the night was over. 

Our neighborhood wasn’t alone.  Many areas experienced rising water that entered homes via sump pump pits, basement window wells, or through garage doors.  I was on the phone checking in with one friend, and borrowing her sump pump for another, when my husband came into the house and told me to hang up the phone. Things were getting potentially serious for us.  My friend, who had a different vantage point of the street than I did, explained that "...fourteen inches of water is rushing down the street right now, so we can’t get the pump to the other neighbors.”  I hung up the phone and learned from my hubby that the water was flowing up our driveway and into our garage.  We rolled up throw rugs to barricade the bottom of the garage doors and vacuumed up about an inch of water that had flowed five feet into our garage.  The driveway and streets were covered in muck.  After our barricade, we moved what we thought most important from our basement.  Then the water receded.  We were so lucky! 

After a flood there are huge amounts of debris including rocks, sticks, and mud. (We’ve been warned about what lurks in the mud and remaining water).  There are also a lot of exhausted people.  When the word came out this week that the golf course invited volunteers to pick up sticks and rocks from the destroyed property, I went to help.  I don’t golf, but I’ve walked this neighborhood for years and thought “I can pick up sticks.”  I couldn’t work for long, but did enjoy chatting with people as we dug out rocks from the clay in what was once a grassy area on the golf course.  There were almost seventy volunteers on that crisp, sunny day.  I will be there, too, when the Boulder County Parks & Open Space ask for assistance to restore the hiking trails. 

My flood story is not compelling compared to others’ experiences.  Personally, all I had to do afterward was wash those throw rugs we’d used in the garage.  They’d hung on our fence like survivors’ flags for two weeks before I hauled them to the laundermat.  I can imagine what it must be like for those who had water and mud inside their homes.  Since I talk with someone new almost daily about what they’ve been through, I have a pretty good idea, and I’m happy to listen.  I’m thankful for those that did the same for me. 

I’ve spent some time feeling a bit guilty for surviving this disaster without personal loss.  One person described it as “survivor’s guilt.”  I’ve never considered that term before, but could immediately relate to it.  Our neighborhood has now set up an online site so that we can better communicate with each other.  That is progress.  My introduction to this site included:  “It is a shame that some of my neighbors could have used a helping hand and I didn't know it!”

So, why is all this on my RethinkOCD blog?  Like I’ve said before, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a barometer and stress is something that can make people’s OCD worse.  Those in Colorado who’ve added flood trauma to their already full stress levels are in my thoughts.  From a statistical viewpoint, I’m sure they’re out there.  I am grateful for being emotionally well, though admit that I needed some time after that rainy week to rest up and restore myself.  Folks in the height of OCD operate in panic mode much of the time.  They can’t relax, at least not easily, because they feel they’re always on the brink of disaster. It really does feel that way.  Their hyper-vigilant minds continue endlessly even if they are physically exhausted.  Unfortunately, this constant state of anxiety is not making them tougher in the long haul; it will only wear them down.  Allowing time to rest is part of the self-care necessary to be present and ready to help others.  It is really critical for people who live with anxiety.  So keep working on your therapy and physical wellness.  Do whatever it takes, even though that therapy may be tougher for you than anything else you’ve ever done. 

OCD folks are some of the most thoughtful, intelligent and hardworking people I’ve met. The time will come when others really need you, if it hasn’t already, and you’ll want to be able to pitch in with a clear head.  There is more to do than the repetitious tasks of OCD.  All that determination is useful elsewhere.  Get involved in a new mission, which can help you jump off the well worn path you’ve been circling on.  Helping others can take us away from our fears and make us feel useful.  It is rewarding.  It is in efforts like these that I see optimism and hope emerging.  You can rise above your worries, but it may take some more support.  Make sure your OCD doesn’t get in the way of being able to connect with others.  That would be a loss to you and the world. 


  1. Thank you for this peek into what it's like to deal with OCD. It's so important that we understand each other, if only a little bit, in order to be a community and best know how to live with one another and to help one another. I am grateful for your sharing and how it adds to my understanding.

  2. Its so true that living with OCD can bring your overall wellness down. When one is battling with the disorder it can make it hard to pull yourself together when its needed most! I think the message of this post is to take care of yourself and be mindful so when disaster strikes, you can react to it in an efficient and effective way.