Invisible Hurricanes

Living on the east coast of Florida as a new bride in 2006, and then as a new mom in 2009, I paid extra close attention to any mention of a hurricane brewing offshore. We happily moved in 2014 back to the Midwest before any big ones hit our coastal home.

Yet, I’ve realized that hurricanes are all around us and they don’t care what coast you live on. Actually, the kind of hurricane I’m thinking about doesn’t really care where you live or that you live.

Hurricanes in the brain happen when thoughts get caught up in a death-bound spiral. Ever heard of a tropical depression? The process of a tropical storm turning into a category one hurricane reminds me of what it’s like to go from mild to moderate depression.

It’s when the hurricane categories skyrocket up and hit level five that severe depression can be deadly. The brain seems to have its own inner weather system.

As the loved one of those living with serious depression, sometimes all we can do is watch for signals telling us it’s time to evacuate our home. It’s time to go get help. Sandbags are not enough.

But how do you really know what will happen next? The track of the hurricane changes rapidly and can lose steam or strengthen or overnight.

You can go to bed with a tropical storm and wake up in the eye of a category three or four or five hurricane.

I wonder if there is a scientific method for tracking the brain’s weather system, a way to clearly communicate the level of depressive activity and level of risk for suicide. I wonder how lives might be saved if we knew the hurricane in the brain was coming. We could gather all the supplies. We could evacuate and get out alive.

We need more research on the brain. We need more mental health resources. We need more tools to help keep us and our loved ones alive. We need to do more to prevent suicide. We can start by teaching our children the warning signs and how to track the storm.

For my family, it’s after the storm. And we are safe. This time. We know that so many do not survive. And one death is one too many.

I thought I could move away from the hurricanes. I didn’t realize they were with me all along. Invisible hurricanes are all around us.

I am learning how to trust my own weather radar system. I am learning how to not be afraid of the storm. I am learning how to watch for it and how to prepare to survive.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

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