After Hurricane Harvey

Dear Friends & Family of Heritage,

“We’ve never seen anything like this before.” “….unprecedented….” “largest water event in history….” “catastrophic”…. “of Biblical proportions….”

These are the phrases we’ve heard repeated over and over again over the last several days.
Hurricane Harvey is unlike anything you or I have ever experienced before, and it is a storm we will never forget.

So many emotions are being stirred as this storm has wrecked havoc on the greater part of the south Texas coast. We feel powerless, even desperate. Some of us feel relief for having been spared from the massive damage brought by flood waters. Often that relief is followed by guilt as we witness the devastation spread across our own communities. We realize just how little control we really do have over our lives.

My heart goes out to all our families, friends, and neighbors in the greater Houston area, as well as our friends all along the Texas/Louisiana coastline who have lost so much. I can also say I have never been more proud of how our community is responding to this terrible, traumatic disaster.

I never planned on being a Houstonian and had no idea this would be my home for more than two thirds of my life. Since arriving in Houston just after the oil crash in the early 80’s, I’ve seen a few economic cycles in the oil industry, some real estate industry ups and downs, TS Allison, Katrina, Rita and Ike…and now the catastrophe, Harvey. Even through the bleak moments, Houston ALWAYS pulls together, Houston ALWAYS survives, and Houston ALWAYS comes back stronger than before. I saw a newspaper headline that read: “Houston, You Are The Change Our World Needs to See”. Further stated, “We need to follow Houston’s lead and come together, not only to overcome the storm, but to overcome the oppressive divide we are seeing in our nation.” AMEN AND AMEN. My hope, my prayer is that we will continue to do just that…put foot action to that which we were called to do “Love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Today, I love Houston more than I ever have—because of her strength, her unity, her compassion, her resilience, and her generosity.

We, the Heritage Family, will continue to walk along side you, your families, and our community as we have for the last 20 plus years. We love people. We love our relationships. We love our community. And we love YOU, for Love is the foundation of our Heritage.

My heart and prayers are with you as we rebuild together,
Julie

The Mindset of Harvey: Understanding Mental Health and Natural Disasters

Flooded streets, lost pets, destroyed homes, abandoned cars, homes under water, crying babies…. These are all the images we have seen on the news, our neighborhoods, or even inside our own homes. These vulnerable images are being played over and over for the world to see. Houston is now being put under a microscope, being judged, looked at, and misunderstood. However, there is one part of this scenario that will not be televised. In fact, it will be brushed over briefly and not be prioritized, and that is the mental health of the survivors.

I am writing this blog on day 4 of Hurricane Harvey, and the only emotion I have been constantly hearing and witnessing is overwhelming feelings of numbness, anger, depression, and in some cases acceptance. Houston is in a state of shock, and we do not quite know how to feel. This disaster is still processing in our minds and we are in state of disbelief. Did this really just happen? Am I really homeless? Has everything that I have worked for just get washed away? So many questions with answers we are not ready to address. Being in sense of denial, and though we see others dealing with the same disaster, we are still toiling with our own feelings of isolation and loneliness. Millions of Houstonians are about to go through the stages of grief at the same time and in different ways.

So as you sit in your home looking around at all your belongings under water, or in a shelter looking at strangers that are dealing with similar circumstances, in a friend’s home taking shelter, in your yard picking up clothes from your front lawn, or next door helping a neighbor…. I need you to know that you are not alone. That means these thoughts and feelings you are holding in… do not ignore. This blog was not written to make you, the reader, feel better or “happy”, but rather an acknowledgement that I….we….Houston have some idea of what you are feeling and that you’re not alone.

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” However, that trauma is not only about the event but rather by one’s reactions to it and the symptoms. Any painful or overwhelming experience can cause trauma and that trauma (Hurricane Harvey) is only recognizable by its symptoms.

As Babbel (2010), stated the most immediate and typical reaction to a natural disaster is shock, which at first manifest as numbness or denial. Quickly or eventually shock can give way to an overemotional state that often includes high levels of anxiety, guilt, and even depression.

The American Psychological Association stated that the following are common symptoms of trauma:

• Feelings become intense and sometimes are unpredictable. Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression are coming manifestations of this.
• Flashbacks: repeated and vivid memories of the event that lead to physical reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating
• Confusion or difficulty making decisions
• Sleep or eating issues
• Fear that the emotional event will be repeated
• A change in interpersonal relationships skills, such as an increase in conflict or a more withdrawn and avoidant personality
• Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and chest pain

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Some survivors of Hurricane Harvey will seem at first perfectly fine, actually a little “too fine”, but these people can be beset with symptoms later on.

So what am I saying, why am I writing this blog? Well… my fellow Houstonians… my fellow Hurricane Harvey survivors… I am too a survivor. A person that has experienced this disaster, but also a person that wants to help. We, survivors of this horrible disaster, are recommended to seek professional guidance if we find ourselves unable to regain control of our lives.

In the upcoming weeks, I will attempt to update you on resources and coping techniques to help yourself and others.

Citations:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201004/the-trauma-arises-natural-disasters