Candy is a mother of two toddlers. The twins keep her very busy, and require a lot of attention. But when the weather turns for the worse, Candy’s attention is divided…between her children and the impending doom that lies outside her window.
Candy is still getting used to this new fear of storms. She moved here shortly after the Nappanee tornado, and soon found herself in the thick of the destruction.
“My husband said we had to go help his cousin clean up his house. We got there, and it was a shock because the entire town was really destroyed. We ended up helping a lot of the other people there. It just really kicked in that this is serious, and it can hurt people and damage things.”
On top of that, about a month after they moved into their home, a tree fell on their house, just 10 feet away from her daughters' window.
The storms and strong winds 2 weeks ago put Candy over the edge.
“I couldn’t really do anything but stare out my window and watch the TV and my computer and my cell phone and just watched, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t go to bed at all that night, and probably 2 hours the night before that I slept. I’d rather stay awake and know if something’s gonna happen. I’ve gotta protect my children.
Doctor Robert Gorman tells us that people with severe weather phobia are overcome by the need to protect themselves and their family. They often have safe places in their home, usually in the basement, and these safe places are usually above and beyond where most people keep emergency water and food.
But Candy is no stranger to threatening situations. She is an Iraq War Veteran, and had many close calls with mortar attacks.
“You’re driving at any minute the road could blow up. But even that, it’s like, this is my job. But here, it’s just the tornadoes. I don’t understand it. It’s like it overcomes me. I can’t put that aside and say, this is where I live, this is my home. I’ll get nervous, I just can’t stay still. I’ll start shaking or sweating, almost like I feel sick. I’m just getting myself really worked up.
“But, I’m like ashamed, I don’t want them (her daughters) to see me like that. I want to deal with this, and accept it, and not be afraid of my home. This is somewhere I should feel good about being.”
So, how do you tell the difference between just being a little scared of storms, and having storm phobia?
According to Dr. Gorman, it all depends on how it affects you: Does it interrupt your daily functioning? Do you do things differently in response to a storm coming? Do you decide that you’re not going to leave your house? Do you hole yourself up in your basement, in your safe room? Or do you go about your normal day, with some degree of being tuned in to the weather, but at the same time you are going through your daily habits.
Counseling and group therapy are recommended for weather phobics, as well as learning ways to control your anxiety. Learning relaxation techniques can be very helpful, along with meditation, prayer, or anything else that may help to stop the avalanche of anxiety when it is triggered.
Dr. Gorman: “the key is for them to learn and realize that their fear is out of proportion to the actual threat. And then give them some tools to use to try to get them through it. And then once they get through and have success, then the old saying, success breeds success, and they start to feel a little bit better, and they’re less affected.”
Severe weather season is just getting started, and for someone who suffers from this phobia, it can be a very long season. If you find that storms have these same effects on you, seek help from a therapist or psychologist.
To read part one of this series, click here.