I think blizzards have become the new lightning storm. If you know me at all you know I went through a disturbing period where I was obsessed with lightning and tornados and quite paranoid about storms. My anxiety during storms was almost unbearable. I’m not sure when it started but it was at least a couple of years before I moved to Sackville and it continued throughout the two years I lived there.
My Sackville apartment was a converted shed at the back of an old Victorian house. Surrounded by towering spruce and pine trees, with very few windows and most of those only tiny, it was hard to see anything going on outside. In storms only lightning flashes were evident, I could never see the sky, watch the chains. When a storm would come up I would head downstairs and sit in the foyer with my books, sipping wine or vodka, brandy or whiskey, whatever I had on hand that might take the edge off my nerves. I would sit on my favourite chair and weave as I read poetry aloud from friends’ books. If it was nighttime I would often just sit in the dark and try to talk myself through the anxiety. Panic was common. I was very afraid.
When I moved back to Miramichi I took a completely different style of apartment. The front wall is nothing but big picture windows. My building is perched on a hill overlooking the river. I can see upriver, downriver, over the river … Chatham, Douglastown, Bushville, Chatham Head, Nelson, Newcastle … It’s a million dollar view. The sky is huge. I kind of worried about how I might react to a storm in a place like this, where I would have no choice but to see the lightning. I wondered if I would be even more anxious living here, if it was even possible to be more anxious than I had been.
But then a funny thing happened. I found myself feeling better during storms. Still a little anxious. Still taking a seat in my favourite chair beside the bookcase. Often with a drink to cut the edge. But I would sit with the curtains flung open and watch the lightning chains streaking across the sky. I could tell when I was right in the thick of it, and when it was farther off in the distance. And I realized being in the thick of it is a rare thing. Seeing is better than not seeing. A lot of my previous anxiety came from the unknown factor. Here I can see the clouds, and in Sackville I estimated the severity of storms based on rumbles and flashes.
There were a few good storms this past summer and I was okay throughout them. I would say a heightened state of alertness but no panic attacks, no overwhelming anxiety. I no longer feel the urge to check Environment Canada’s lightning map every five minutes. I may not be fully recovered but I am better, I am almost my old self again when it comes to lightning.
But now there’s a different weather beast that seems to stress me out. These winter storms with the howling high winds and the blowing snow … I don’t know what it is but I get anxious. I get anxious and I can’t sleep. I keep checking out the windows (like there’s anything to see! Visibility is nil). My heart races a little. I jump at every little sound. It’s after 3 in the morning and I was up ever so early on only a few hours sleep last night but yet I can’t sleep. I can’t relax. I pace and sweat and furrow my brow and ponder why it is that I’m so upset by a blizzard. I have lots of food, water, candles, flashlights, batteries, blankets … I’m not alone, there are lots of neighbors in the same building that I could connect with if I needed to in case of emergency. My cell phone is charged …
But the wind howls and the snow blows against my windows blocking the view and I can’t sleep. I am too tense to go to bed.