May 31, 2015

Finding hope in the storms: Life after the flood

It has been a long hard week for so many people in the Houston area.  When we went to bed on Monday night,  we could not have imagined what would soon be at our doorsteps, literally at our doorsteps. The thunder boomed, the lightning struck and the rain poured all night long. Many people stayed up anxiously waiting as the flood alerts rang on their phones.  And then they scrambled to move valued possessions as the waters started seeping into their homes. 

The insurance adjuster who later came to assess the damage told us enough rain had fallen in Houston to fill the entire state of Delaware with 10 feet of water. On some parts of our street,  the water came up to my chest.  The city sent rescue boats to help the elderly,  or anyone else stuck in their homes. Imagine boats where streets used to be.  The air was filed with the sound of helicopters and rescue vehicles.  It is an incredibly surreal experience. At least temporarily,  the waters had s swallowed our neighborhood. People felt dazed and confused.  

Even when  the schools reopened, you could see the empty looks on people's faces.  I remember seeing someone whose home had flooded walking up to the school. As I reached out to give her a hug, she sobbed in my arms. This is a woman I barely know,  but we are all in this together, and so, I cried too. After traumatic events like this,  emotions sit right bellow the surface,  and nearly anything can push then out. This is the kind of thing that is hard to capture in pictures. It is hard to capture how vulnerable people feel.

The beautiful side of all of this is seeing how neighbors and friends did come together to help one another. There are countless stories of people helping neighbors pulling out wet carpet, moving furniture,  making meals, and taking in neighbors who needed them. 

One of the best predictors of how satisfied you will be in life and how well you will deal with difficulty is social support.  If you have supportive friends or family,  you will likely weather the storms of life. 
We live in a very individualist society.  I think it is part of our cultural DNA to value rugged individualism  and independence. And sometimes that works fine,  but in moments of difficulty,  it becomes obvious that we are not islands. We need each other.  I firmly believe we are made to live in community. 

We are made to help and be helped. Our lives are richer when we share in people's need and suffering. I think most people can accept this.  But what many of us have more trouble with is accepting the help. We are socialized to see accepting help as weakness, and as burdensome.  I can tell you from personal experience as well as my experience helping my clients in therapy, that is not the case. 

It will be a blessing for you to let people walk with you in your times of need,  just as it will be a blessing for them to help you.  These are the kinds of experiences that make us feel human. This is how we create community which ultimately makes life more fulfilling.

We all have our own burdens to carry.  Whether you have gone through a traumatic event,  or are just having trouble adjusting to the stresses of everyday life,  I encourage you to reach out and share your story.  Your honesty and vulnerability will help relieve your burdens,  and your courage to share will help others open up. Reaching out might just be the difference between feeling drowned by the troubles of life or feeling surrounded and buoyed by love and support.

The day after the heavy rains,  we had a few hours of blue skies, sunshine and cool breezes. There was no rainbow,  but just as in the story of Noah, I would like to think there were signs of hope.  I would like to think we are part of that story of hope and redemption as we share our burdens with each other. 

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

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