Withstanding Meltdown in the Face of Tornado Aftermath

While everyone I know has the next week and a half filled with family, friends, relaxation, and fun.. we’re using the time off work to make a big dent in our tornado repairs / cleanup.

Porter will be working on starting the kitchen cabinets – and least the base structure. We don’t have the milled/dried wood back from our fallen black walnut tree yet, but I’m going absolutely insane with NO kitchen cabinetry. We have a sink, fridge, stove, and microwave stand, as well as 3 little rubbermaid shelving units for groceries, paper plates, plastic utensils, foam cups etc.

I am so sick of the disposable plates, etc. There’s no way we’d be able to handle actual dishes right now. It’s so completely bizarre and maddening to not have a proper kitchen.

But then, everything about dealing with the tornado has been bizarre and maddening. Running to our house, through a sea of downed trees, decking materials, peoples ROOFS, power lines, etc – nothing was where it was supposed to be. Coming back to our house, with our giant black walnut uprooted and ON our house, water pouring through our kitchen ceiling, the kitchen ceiling on the floor.. our arborvitaes up front uprooted, one blocking the door… Trees sticking through our bedroom wall…again, NOTHING as it was supposed to be.

In the 7 months since the tornado, I’ve had to get used to nothing being where it’s supposed to be. Aside from the kitchen issues, the front entryway, living room, and dining room have pretty much become staging areas for repair – tools and building materials and random stuff EVERYWHERE. It drives me insane to go to use the washroom, and have to step carefully over a power cord, and then move a power drill, or whatever. In the spot where a medicine cabinet should be, there’s several wood stain samples, sandpaper, drill bits etc. My tooth brush and tooth paste is upstairs by the jacuzzi, because it’s just easier to brush my teeth into the tub drain, than to deal with the bathroom issues. Plus, I don’t want sawdust in my toothbrush!

Our two offices have basically become dumping grounds for whatever doesn’t fit / needs to be easier access than the living & dining rooms. It’s extremely difficult to concentrate with boxes of random crap surrounding me.

This morning is step one to actually getting RID of the tornado aftermath in the house, once and for all. The plan is to have ALL of the building materials / equipment / etc OUT of the first floor living space. We haven’t been able to use the living room, dining room, or front entryway since the tornado.

I’m starting by clearing the front entry way, which has been used as both a staging area for materials (The bathroom tiles, etc), and as an all-purpose dumping ground/storage area. I’m talking, knee-to-hip deep filled with various crap. It’ll be like a geological research mission, by the time I get to the bottom. I don’t even know what’s down there, closer to the floor.

Had a really hard time coming up with motivation this morning. I want to be able to enter the house without seeing “aftermath” anymore… but I just look at the pile, and feel totally overwhelmed. It took several attempts – each time walking over to the area, looking at the piles of random crap, pausing to work up some courage, feeling overwhelmed, and walking back to my computer – before I even started.

I had to take a few small breaks, but I was making good progress. At one point, NKOTB’s “Hangin Tough” came on the radio, and I felt like I was in an 80s movie montage. Had to giggle at the feeling.

But then, it started. The first few, familiar strains of the crescendo of a meltdown. You know, I really have way more to worry about than to have to try and control myself through this. Here’s one of the few times I wished I was a bit more neurotypical.

I don’t like thinking about the tornado, and all of the mess it’s caused the past 7 months… so I wasn’t starting out on the best foot. Having to deal with THAT much random mess, piled that deep? Didn’t help.

Then, there’s just a bunch of little things that don’t help. Dust everywhere, which NOW gives me allergies – a new, post-tornado thing. Nevermind the feel of it.. ugh. The skin on my hands feels like it’s crawling.

Then, there’s the issue of not knowing what’s down there, but having a keen knowledge of the possibilities. We’ve had a mouse in the house since the tornado. We’ve had ever manner of creepy crawly awful, disgusting bug in here. That’s just what happens when you have holes through your walls, and are missing a good chunk of roof for a couple of weeks.

Doesn’t make it any better for me, of course. I don’t mind mice so much, WHEN they are in a cage. It’s the random popping-out of places they should not be that freaks me out. I’m really sensitive to sudden movement, which is why bugs and mice bother me so much. I wouldn’t say I’m skittish overall, but yeah – that kind of sudden movement freaks me out. So, with every piece of material or equipment I move, I’m sort of steeling myself for something to jump out at me. It’s not good on the nerves to be on that kind of guard!

Then, there is the texture thing. This may be the worst part of all, for me. Man, I wish we had workers gloves here – we tore through them all when doing the patio.

I CANNOT handle certain textures. As a kid, I couldn’t touch chalk. I had to endure all sorts of ridicule for it, for having to wrap a paper towel around chalk if I was forced to use it.. a new one each time, because it would invariably pick up chalk dust from the ledge. Ugh.

As an adult, we had to be very careful picking out our bathroom tiles, for the same reason. There were a few that I just couldn’t even touch, to put them in the cart. I’m not the BEST with the ones we picked out, as far as the sides/backs go – but my husband handled them for the most part, I used gloves when setting them, and now they’re fine.

Well, now I have to touch the leftover tiles, along with other textures that skeeve me right out. Stuff with dust and dried dirt on them are bad enough.. but there are a bunch of leftover pieces of “Cement board” that we used for behind the shower tiles. HOLY SHIT, that stuff is just as bad as chalk. I pick up a piece, and I can feel my skin crawl. It starts at the tips, and radiates out to almost my wrists. It’s a slow, creepy crawl… and it feels like the moisture just drains out, as it crawls. It’s the most disgusting, nerve wracking feeling I can even imagine. By the time the “crawl” reaches my wrist, it usually sends me into a full-body shudder.

Even now, 20 minutes after lifting a few pieces, the skin on my hands doesn’t feel “right”. I can’t explain it. I know there’s absolutely NO reason for it. I’m not OCD, I don’t have any kind of mental illness, and I certainly don’t have any weird traumatic experiences with chalk in my childhood. It just feels AWFUL.

So, I managed to carry out 3 pieces of this cement board, and then felt the meltdown coming on pretty strong. I figured I’d rant out a blog to distract myself. It seems to be working – I think I’ll go back to it now.

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