January

I had a boyfriend that broke up with me. He told me it was because of my anxiety. It was too much for him. A week or so into us not being together anymore he wanted me back. He begged me and cried and said to me,”Is this what a panic attack is like? I need you in my life, and I understand now what it’s like to have anxiety.” I told him I would think about it.

Then, my life was thrown for a whirlwind. January 21, I will literally never be the same. I went to sleep the night before because I knew bad weather was approaching. I had always had a fear of lightning. Then, I woke up at 3:36 to a tornado warning alert on my phone. I couldn’t hear anything outside but all I could see was lightning and I started to cry. I then called the aforementioned ex boyfriend because he told I could call him if I ever needed anything and he knew of my fear of bad weather. If only I knew my fear was about to get much worse. I put on a jacket and some shoes. I grabbed my purse, sat on my couch, and made my phone call. “It’s just some bad weather, it’ll pass. You know it never gets that bad.” He said to me as the power in my apartment went out. I carefully made my way to my kitchen window. The brightest flash of blue light lit up my whole apartment, I watched a tree and light pole leave the very secure spots in the earth, and I ran. As I closed my door the roof of the apartment style dorms I loved and cherished so much disappeared. I was still on the phone with my ex, but the line died. I don’t remember how I made it downstairs. I remember making it to the first floor landing, the front down swinging open and shattering, and huddling in the corner with the other girls in the dorm. I held their hands as the walls started to crack and lightning flashed around us. I wasn’t crying anymore. I was wanting to protect these girls. I knew only a few of them but it didn’t matter. Then, everything went quiet and we lifted our heads to look around. There was fiberglass in my eyes and mouth but I could see the insulation pouring out of a wall, the ceiling barely hanging staying up, and glass literally everywhere. The wall we were all sitting against had fallen and with just a small push would have been on top of us. Minutes later our campus security guard showed up. He looked soaked from the rain and was completely out of breath.

I text my mom and let her know that I’m okay but I no longer have a place to live. The police finally arrived and moved us to a safer location. As we ran across campus in the rain to Bass Hall I saw small parts of the damage. The porch of Ross was rubble, trees were everywhere, the side of Johnson was destroyed, and then I was able to look up at my room and see the roof was completely missing. I had no time to get emotional. All I could think about was, “What now?” We got news there might be another tornado so we sat and waited. There wasn’t another one. Thank god. Once the weather had passed we were moved to another building. As we walked we looked around shocked as we saw cars flipped upside down, pillars had completely fallen, and building completely trashed.

From that point on it was mostly a blur for me. I just wanted my stuff from my room and I wanted to see what I lost and what I still owned. I made my way to the music building because the thing I wanted the most was in there. My saxophone, the last thing my grandmother gave me. They told me I couldn’t go in because of the glass but I didn’t care, I walked in, opened my locker, and grabbed my saxophone. If that was all I had left I would be fine. The man told me that it wouldn’t be possible for me to get my stuff. I told him I better be able to at least get up there and grab some stuff. I know that was insensitive of me at the time but I knew none of my windows shattered and that I could at least grab some stuff. I was able to grab almost all of my stuff. I went over to my friend’s house and she made me some food and let me relax in her bed. My ex boyfriend called me and wanted to see me so he drove to her house and picked me up. I got a message from my roommate saying that Johnson was condemned and we needed to get everything out before it completely fell. We made our way back to campus and I grabbed the rest of my stuff. When I would walk in certain spots of my apartment I could feel the floor move. There was no saving Johnson. One of my best friends made her way to Hattiesburg from the coast to pick up me and my stuff. We fit it all in her car and her dad’s truck. We drove back to Gulfport and I stayed with her that night. While I was at her house my ex asked me if we were back together because he did all of that stuff for me. I told him I literally could not think about that for a while. I sat in my friend’s bed and finally cried. My university would never be the same, and I would never be the same.

A week later I went with my mom to run some errands. We were in the gaming commission building and it was storming again. I literally couldn’t stop shaking, my hands were sweating, and I started to get a headache. Then, the lights went out. I picked up my legs to my chest and hugged them. I could hear my heartbeat and I was breaking out in a cold sweat. It was in that moment that I realized I will now have to live with a new illness: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had never been more scared of myself. I had lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life, but this illness was deeper.

By the end of January I could feel myself slowly drifting away. I didn’t know myself anymore, everything scared me, and I felt simple felt alone.

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