Every sound machine I have ever owned included the sound of “rain”. In fact, it included the sound of rain on many settings varying in intensity from “light rain” to even “thunderstorm”. Many friends who have custom built homes even wanted a tin roof just for the sound. FB statuses used to be filled with statements like “Relaxing on this rainy day” or “Falling asleep to the sound of the storm”… but no more.
The sound of rain has become like a gunshot, triggering anxiety, fear, and a sense of danger. How does one sleep wondering if the water will again rise? How can one relax when your body is reliving the trauma of packing up what little you could and walking back into a muck covered, completely destroyed home a few days later? How can one read a book when you feel you need to grab your children and run?
PTSD. If you are struggling with your emotions since the flood, if the sound of the rain makes your chest tighten, you are not alone. Our city experienced major trauma. Reports of mental health crisis since the flood have doubled (that is not counting those who have no sought help), and it will take years for our emotional health as a city to level out again. If you are struggling, your feelings are real, valid, and completely understandable.
Depression, anxiety, nightmares, those are what we would automatically think of when facing stress reactions to trauma, but there are many more common reactions that you can see here. As we are in the midst of hurricane season, and with the threat of storms approaching, do not ignore your feelings of stress, fear, exhaustion, hopelessness, or anger. Know that there are many in our city who understand, and many who can help.
While Compassion Louisiana was a dream for several years, the services I was able to provide after the flood was the culmination of everything I had been doing for almost a decade. It was the moment that I realized the community saw me as a resource separate from the organizations I had been working with as donations poured in from around the world. Donations that helped not only with immediate recovery, but have continued to service the community since. And that was how Compassion Louisiana moved from a dream into reality.
The supplies were spread from Port Vincent to Duson and everywhere in between for individuals and their families, but also for donation centers set up in churches and homes and community centers. Individuals received not only the very basics, but supplies that could last their families for several weeks or months. The goal was to provide as many supplies as possible, so that the individuals wouldn’t continually need to return for more of these basic items. Instead of providing one roll of toilet paper, the goal was to provide one pack, instead of a handful of tampons, an entire box. And while this cut down on the number of people that could be helped, it raised the level of help they were able to get.
I also did not turn away those who had not flooded. While many organizations were limited to helping those who could show their FEMA papers, consistent work with the homeless before the flood meant that I was keenly aware of the impact on resources beyond the ones in our community that had flooded. Many shelters had been transformed for flood relief and most of the supplies once going to the consistently homeless were now being diverted from them. No one was turned away, and no one was limited with what they could take. While this is a different practice than most, the major heartbeat of Compassion is catching those falling through the cracks or preventing those who would normally be forgotten.
One of the most heart-wrenching stories from flood relief was getting a phone call one morning from a group in Mississippi that was coming with a group of youth wanting to do demolition work. They specifically listed an area they had heard of, but that area had not even flooded. It was an area that stood dilapidated and riddled with trash even before the flood waters ruined many areas. I also received many calls of “tent villages”, yet I knew only some of them were due to the flood and the others had existed pre-flood (yes, there were areas in our city that people lived in tents before the flood destroyed many homes). If there was one thing the flood revealed to many, it was the level of disparity in certain areas of our city.
My work during the flood was limited compared to larger organizations since I was only one person, but I certainly wasn’t limited as far as what one person could do. I was able to do shelter work, animal rescue work, demolition and cleanup, deliveries (so. many. deliveries.), as well as attend many townhalls and community development meetings. It was 8 weeks straight of daily hustle, but during that time it proved to me exactly why I love this city. I got to meet even more amazing people in this community, and I heard so many amazing stories. The hugs and tears will fill me forever.