There was a 40-unit apartment fire over the weekend. I volunteer for a large non-profit humanitarian organization, and we provide disaster relief and assistance. I don’t talk about it often… I just do it. Today during therapy, my phone was blowing up because I am the recovery manager for the county and there was this fire… so I had to explain why my phone was blowing up. I manage stuff like this… lots of moving parts… lots of people going through many emotions and challenges. Sometimes it’s a disaster relief operation here – sometimes I work on operations in other parts of the country. It does not really phase me. I compartmentalize and logically solve the problems and help people figure out next steps. I see the big organizational picture and help all the different parts work together for smooth operation of the response. I talk to the people who have been displaced and traumatized by the events, I show compassion and understanding, but it doesn’t affect me… I don’t allow it to… like I said – I compartmentalize. My therapist found this interesting.
She wanted to know when the other times in my life are that I operate this way… I had to think about that. The answer is most of the time…. this is what I do. In my main career, I specialize in foreclosures. I evict people… I deal with their dysfunction left behind. I used to have a side business cleaning up the mess also. I am the person who has cleaned up after a suicide… dealt with bits of brain matter after someone tried to be helpful and stuffed the bedding in the washer and left it for 6 months (No the bedding doesn’t leave with the body, and I do charge extra for that) … and dealt with the traumatized neighbors. I have dealt with the drug houses and meth labs… My attitude is rubber gloves, trash bags and bleach are all I need. I move forward – I solve the problem. I’ve had to evict people while their kids are getting off the school bus… sometimes it really sucks. Not everyone can do what I do… they could I guess – they just don’t. They sell pretty houses to nice people. I have seen more disgusting things than you can even imagine. (Pro tip – don’t ever open a fridge or freezer when the power has been off for a long time… just roll the fucker out the door. It’s much easier to deal with in the open fresh air.)
Also being in male dominated industries for decades, I can’t be an emotional “feely” person most of the time… not and survive or succeed. Even in relationship, I don’t usually get really “emotional” … if I get a feeling, I will discuss it (while trying not to “feel” it). I don’t have emotional meltdowns and stuff like that… I never felt I could. I’ve been “responsible” and logical and done my best to just “solve the problem”.
She pointed out that I have essentially been doing “disaster response” in one way or another all my life… basically since I was 4 years old… which had not occurred to me. Combine that with being an empath – I have had to “compartmentalize” all my life just to keep my sanity. That’s one reason why I am so in my head all the time and often out of touch with my own feelings and body. I often don’t even acknowledge I am hungry until enough hours go by that I get a headache – even then I may not immediately realize that is the problem.
She says this compartmentalizing and detachment is a trauma response. She has suggested if I learn to “integrate more” and “compartmentalize less” the rest of my life may look very different… if I want it to. I am really not sure what that would look like… I’ve kind of turned it into a useful skill… compartmentalizing and making shit happen is when I am in my element. My homework this week is to try to find feelings in my body and see what they have to say (That sounds a little scary… and most likely it will just say it wants sex – LOL). I have about 100 people in West Seattle for this disaster response I need to help first.