Sunday, August 25, 2019

Serenity Later

Back in January of this year, I was supposed to go to FEMA school in Alabama and learn about disaster management and pull life-sized dummies from smoking cars and walk around crisply with a clipboard being a cool head in a crisis while things went bang during mass-casualty simulations. I was relieved to get out of that whole scenario when the government shut down and they canceled all of the classes. But the government re-opened and the classes were re-booked and I got my flight information and now I guess I’m going in a few weeks. I thought I had gotten used to the idea, but I read my FEMA training manual this week, and the nerves rushed back. I know intellectually that this is literally one of the safest things I could do. It’s the definition of a well-oiled machine; a highly structured and extremely monitored operation with government officials there to guide us at every turn and make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to do at all times. For once, I’m not worried about the navigational side of things. I’m worried about my mind. I’ve been worried about my mind a lot lately. 

I have not traditionally been the afore-mentioned cool head in a crisis, especially when it comes to people being injured or hurt. I get slightly panicky and my body floods with adrenaline and I can’t think straight. (Reason #2,367 that I’m not a nurse.) I’ve gotten a little better about controlling my anxiety because on a regular basis people come in to main entrance of the hospital with wounds or sores and sometimes they are shaking and sweating and they need help and there’s no one else around and I’m it. I breathe and get them into a wheelchair and try to talk gently to them on the way to the ER and not show that I’m scared. So I’m improving in that arena. But I’m worried that my mind will betray me during one of these live simulations. What if I lose it? What if I freeze or start to have a panic attack? I was telling Mr. Typist that apparently they produce smoke during simulations to decrease visibility, and I don’t like that idea at all. (By the way, he was completely unsympathetic. I believe his direct quote was, “Figure it out, Toots. Adapt and overcome.”) What if I’m the one terrible weak link in a class full of brave and hardy firemen and cops and first responders who signed up for whole careers that involve rushing headlong into danger? As I’m writing this I realize that at core of my anxiety is simply the fear of humiliating myself. Which really isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s unpleasant, but it’s certainly not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Probably I’ll be just fine. Probably I’ll figure it out, Toots, and adapt and overcome. And probably it’s going to be an amazing experience and I’ll do better than I think I can. I should go now and do my mindfulness exercises and chill out about everything and not let my imagination highjack my system. It’s all going to be amazing. 

I’m not generally a prude about things, but my Spotify mixes that I listen to at the gym started playing songs with lyrics that are so vile and disgusting I gave up on my usual playlists and just started listening to all '80's Motley Crue. All of their talk about smoking in the boy’s room and a plethora of girls is positively quaint in comparison. Here’s an old-school video for those who like to revel in the 80’s and who may have once had a crush on Nikki Sixx. Warning: It involves copious amounts of cocaine and gratuitous dumpster fires.


--Kristen McHenry

2 comments: said...

Beautiful, Kristen, just beautiful.

Dale said...

Rehearsal jitters. It'll be all right on the night :-)