Ways to Keep Your Sanity In A Natural Disaster
Yesterday, I was evacuated from my apartment due to problems with the power, the heat, the roof, and the water. I spent the night at a shelter and returned home today. It was not a fun experience, but it made me think about what people with a mental health condition should do to keep their sanity in the event of a natural disaster.
How to Care for Your Sanity if a Natural Disaster Strikes
Know Your Diagnosis and Medications
Fortunately, I had time to grab a 3-day supply of most of my medications before evacuating. Unfortunately, not all of my medications made it to the shelter. I was out of my anti-anxiety medication and my asthma medication--they disappeared right out of the pharmacy. Thankfully, staff and I knew what was missing and were able to compensate.
If you're like me and have trouble keeping your medications straight, try carrying a card with your medications and doses listed on it. This can come in handy in an emergency, especially if you're evacuated without your medications and need to get them filled at the shelter you're at. You might also want to inform helpers of your diagnosis so they know what symptoms to watch for--take it from me, evacuation in and of itself is stressful for anybody. Add a mental health condition into the mix and a crisis can result.
Look for the Humor in the Situation
Sometimes all you can do is look for the humor in a situation. For example, the identification number of the driver who evacuated us was 911. And someone made a comment that they weren't sure if describing a high in the negatives was irony or an oxymoron (English teachers, can I get a verdict on that?).
Granted, it's not always easy to find humor in a situation. In this case, we need to look for the positive. For example, I was grateful that they had free hot coffee where I was. And I was grateful that we had food to eat (when I did volunteer work during Hurricane Katrina some shelters had no food). Even the basics can be a reason for gratitude.
Ask For Help When You Need It
Remember, natural disasters are stressful for everyone. Add a mental health diagnosis and one becomes especially vulnerable. During such times, it is important to know when you need help.
I spent a good chunk of last night talking to a peer support specialist because I was anxious. She sat with me, listened to me and urged me to keep on talking. She also let me know that if I needed emergency help, they could call an ambulance and have me taken to the hospital. That helped me transition to the situation easier than I would have without support.
Remember, don't hold it all in. Know your symptoms and know when you need help. Ask for help when you need it. Natural disasters are hard on everybody, so there's no need to be ashamed if you need help.
Don't Give Up
The evacuation was not a pleasant experience, largely because people were taking their stress out on each other. But the important thing is that I survived it. More often than not, you can survive and you can do better than you think. Even in situations that seem totally out of control, you can survive and do better than you think. The key is to use positive coping skills and not give up.
That's what got me through the situation--I never gave up. And I did better than I thought I would. The same is true for you. Don't ever give up. You are capable of more than you think.
Know your medication and diagnosis. Know when to ask for help. Know this and you can survive.
Oberg, B. (2014, January 8). Ways to Keep Your Sanity In A Natural Disaster, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2014/01/keeping-your-sanity-in-a-natural-disaster