Monday, November 12, 2012

Post-Sandy Mood

Two weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit and the malaise hangs on. The atmosphere itself seems saturated with it. I walked through the usually busy streets on Saturday and everything felt muffled, wrapped in gauze, quiet and restrained. It felt like the feeling before a storm, when strange things happen to the air pressure and everyone sits back, waiting for the skies to drop.

I wondered how the rest of New York City and surrounding areas were feeling. What's the mood out there? So I asked on Facebook and Twitter, and I talked to people, and here's what they said.

all the words: the bigger the word, the more people said it

"Tired" is the predominant feeling--represented by the largest type in this word cloud (I collapsed synonyms like "exhausted" into it, as with others). This tiredness is a tiredness that seems to go on and on, for those hit hardest and for those barely impacted. Most of us are tired.

Curiously, no one said they feel angry. They're frustrated and annoyed, resentful and cranky, but what about angry? Anger takes energy, and when you're exhausted, it's not easy to be angry.

Along with feeling exhausted, depressed, and worried, unmotivated and annoyed, many people are also feeling grateful and lucky--for not losing their homes or for just being alive in the midst of loss. Many feel hopeful. Several said they feel empathetic for those who are suffering.

just the "up" words

Despite some optimistic feelings, comments and conversations revealed a sense of surprise and discomfort with the post-Sandy mood. "It scares me how unmotivated I've become after Sandy," said one commenter. "I've been unusually tired," said another. "Strangely depressed," said another. People aren't feeling like themselves. It's as if we've been knocked out of our selves and turned into other, wearier, sadder people. This is true for those hit hard by Sandy, and for those barely touched. We're all impacted to some extent.

Many people said they felt guilty. Survivor guilt is a common occurrence "when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not."

A number of people expressed worry about continuing climate change and future problems. (Interestingly, squirrels and nuts came up a few times. Some discussed the abundance of acorns and the bushiness of squirrel tails and their relation to the climate. One commenter feels like a squirrel herself, saying it seems like "I need to collect a lot of nuts for a winter with no definite end." Of course, it makes sense that a destructive hurricane and a coming winter would make people concerned with the business of gathering and nesting.)

just the "down" words (some could go either way)

I keep thinking about the days and weeks after 9/11, how anxious I felt, and how anxious the city felt around me. We were mostly worried then. An exploding manhole cover could send pedestrians screaming "terrorists!" We were vigilant and jumpy, waiting for the next shoe to drop. But Sandy isn't goosing our anxiety in the same way. Mostly, she's bringing us down.

If you're feeling hopeless and sad, guilty and grieving, if you're thinking about hurting yourself, please talk to a friend and reach out to a professional. (Call 911 in an emergency.) As you can see, you are not alone in your feelings. And help is out there.
  • If you don't have a therapist, find one near you on Psychology Today. You can also call your neighborhood clinic.
  • The Mental Health Association of New York City has an excellent post-Sandy resource page on their website.
  • Call 1-800-LIFENET for more resources in your area.
  • Dial the national Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990.
  • Samaritans is a 24/7 suicide hotline: 212-673-3000.


JM said...

I've been beat since the storm. At least now I know I'm not alone. Thanks, Jeremiah.

Anonymous said...

Sandy brought-out the real characters (if they had any) of these moneyed gentrifiers. They holed up to places such as The Carlyle hotel when the power went out and went back to their partying ways when the power came back.

The newer residents left and the old and poor stayed.

Am I angry? Fuck yeah, I'm angry. I don't think seeing a therapist would even help, as long as these narcissistic newbies with lack of empathy to the neighborhood that they've gentrified keeps arriving and gentrifying.

Anonymous said...

If you came out of this relatively unscathed like I did (five days w/o power or heat) then now is not the time to dwell on bad feelings or engage in any kind of group pity-party. Stop moping and either volunteer to help or else just try to be the best good neighbor, contribute-to-society person you can be. I am speaking to myself as much as anyone.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Anon, I have to disagree. People can feel whatever they feel, and everyone who lives in the hurricane area was impacted--some much worse than others, obviously. But just like 9/11, this was a collective trauma and we're going to feel it in many different ways and intensities.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling worn down by wondering what the true-cost, long term impact of this storm will be.

The damage to the shore communities is awful but at least it is obvious and repairs can be imagined.

The damage to the continued viability of Lower Manhattan is not as visibly obvious but, in some ways, much graver than even 9/11: buildings that had their cellars will with salt water will be off-line for months, and there will be heavy discussions about the wisdom of repair versus extending the "temporary" leases now being made in the highlands of New Jersey.

It is akin to what the passengers of that Italian cruise ship must have felt when, after ripping its hull open, the crew acted like there wasn't much wrong and things would be back to normal.

Two cataclysims + OWS in the course of a dozen years; it may be fun to dream of wall st's departure, but the economic reality of it will be just as devastating to the region as these other signal events.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 11:50am "Stop moping and either volunteer to help or else just try to be the best good neighbor, contribute-to-society"

What makes your think that we haven't volunteered. Speaking for myself, I too came unscathed from the storm and most of the feelings said here are from after having volunteered and seeing the devastation of the storm first-hand in the Rockaways. Everyone is entitled to their own mood or reaction.

BabyDave said...

Thanks, Anon. 9:55. I had missed that Times article. One highlight: Of a week spent at the Bowery Hotel, “It was very ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” Mr. Conrad said. “We were kind of sad when the lights went on."
From under what rock did these people crawl?

laura said...

jeremiah possibly i missed some of your posts. can you tell us YOUR experience. i saw the photos of ave C & 8th st. the water up 3 or 4 feet high, up to the car windows. shocking photo.

Ms. said...

I'm thinking you are just about the best guy on the net right now!

Versions Of Sandy


Before the great storm
I was I--Preparing.
Within the storm I was I
solid as a mountain.
After the floods and wind
I flew to Utah--Then
climbed up above clouds
where, I was I--Still.


The feeling of floating and swirling persists with me, reminding me just a bit of the dissociation of acid trips way-back-when, of being reduced (or perhaps enhanced) by the familiar becoming unfamiliar---then familiar in a new way. The sudden awareness sharpened--that we are mortal material within the great churning everything. I find it has heated my internal flame now burning brighter. I'm gonna give blood this week. It's needed.

Jeremiah Moss said...

oh god, that Times article! so much to complain about, but somehow this bugs me the most: "Manhattan and Brooklyn have always had an uncomfortable rivalry: Brooklyn with its self-satisfied 20-somethings and literary types; and Manhattan with its smug professionals and establishment class."

that description of Manhattan?

Marty Wombacher said...

I lived in Manhattan (on 16th Street) for 19 years and I moved back to Peoria (yes, that's right, Peoria!) on October 18th, because I had lost my job and couldn't find another one. I can't explain the guilt I felt having just missed the wrath of Hurricane Sandy and watching it on TV. I made so many good friends in New York and met so many cool people and I feel sorry for all of you. I hope you all are dealing with this the best way you can. My thoughts go out to you all. Take John Lennon's advice: "Whatever gets you through the night, it's alright."

Anonymous said...

Lived in the E. Village now for 20 years now. In hurricane terms I live in 'Zone B'. Four days with no power, heat, hot water, phone, etc. Regardless of all the setbacks, inconveniences, and general 1984 dystopian feeling, in a wierd way the East Village felt like the old East Village again...

John K said...

Oh my, thank you for this! I perceived the same thing both in Jersey City and the other day in Manhattan, a different mood in the air, wary, wounded, vulnerable. This storm really revealed how vulnerable we are, and as we know, there are still so many people struggling and suffering in its aftermath, people who've lost everything, loved ones, homes, all their earthly possessions, any sense of security, so many who are still not receiving the help they need. Your list of links is excellent. Thank you for posting them.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

The word cloud crystallizes the weird funk I've been in with uncanny precision. And survivor guilt: check; we never even lost power. Enjoying the ordinary "luxuries" and comforts of everyday living is hollow when so many people are rendered homeless or just hanging on in misery with so much uncertainty ahead...the city feels as if it has sustained a lasting body blow.

Brendan said...

I have felt some of that tiredness and sadness but my principal emotion is increasingly becoming ANGER at the complete failure of every big institution that should have stepped up, from the LI power utility to FEMA to (perhaps especially) the Red Cross to respond to the disaster in the Rockaways and Staten island--still, two weeks later. Local charities and religious groups and Occupy Sandy have done great things, but they should have MUCH more support from the big guys.

laura said...

just read the NYtimes. i had no idea the water was NINE feet high in staten island. that resulted in several deaths. i still find it difficult to believe this could happen in NY, drowning in your own home-like in louisiana. i tend to think we have civilized weather. heat waves yes, this no. living near a beach is not a good idea.

everettsville said...

This city was already at low vitality before Sandy: 9-11, market crash, nanny-state laws, e-gadget isolation. The storm adds to a mood that I don't quite have the right word for other than "blah"

After 9-11 we shared anxieties and reassurances in public with strangers. Now we type them in solitude.

I keep thinking it can't last much longer, this malaise. I don't know what it takes to break the mood.

Jill said...

I am fascinated by the dichotomy of response. Your word cloud tells a real story about people's emotionA response which is very low and sad, but on Facebook when you posted the notice from the west village about a support group the general reaction was outrage that people who now have their power back don't have the right to have emotional issues while others are still suffering from the aftermath.

Marco said...

You and your readers who have not seen this might find this helpful:

Anonymous said...

I'm torn, I feel a touch of the post sandy depression but kind of hopeful that this will drive the rich and trendy away if only one tiny bit.

Brendan said...

Why would it do that, anon 4:32? The rich are fine. They always are. The people hurting are middle class and working class and poor. There is no possible silver lining from any of this, except that MAYBE America will get serious about climate change. But I'm not holding my breath for that either.