Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 55

Lessons Learned From a Milwaukee Windstorm

Humility and gratitude are among the lessons learned by this psychiatrist...

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Soon after the posting of my second report yesterday, unexpectedly, but gratefully, our power came back. Unfortunately, many are still waiting for theirs. At around the same time, a friend put together some hot food and hot water for us. What reliefs!

No, the Milwaukee windstorm was nothing close to the killer tornadoes experienced last week in the mid-South. And, yet, I found out after our energy was restored that this was a phenomena that had spawned some unprecedented tornadoes and deaths in Minnesota.

It was a record high for Milwaukee, 68 at midnight, which then plummeted into the lower 30s last night. The weather forecast had not sounded ominous in our daily paper: mostly sunny, breezy, and cooler, but it turned out to be mainly cloudy, windswept, and colder. To my knowledge, no one predicted we would lose power.

I did learn that this reporting helped at least one colleague. After reading my first report yesterday, a colleague, whom I did not know well and previously did not know I lived near his mother, realized his 93-year-old mother who lives alone and may have been in danger. He planned to call her right away.

For me, this unprecedented participant/observer perspective had me wondering about lessons learned, such as:

  • Despite all of our high tech computer models, we do not underestimate weather risks.
  • Uncertainty leads to more appreciation of what is taken for granted, like housing heat.
  • You find out something about people when you are in any kind of foxhole together.
  • There are limits to empathy; sometimes you can only more fully understand a situation or person when you have experienced it.
  • It is an anguishing to choose between 2 “bad” events; in this case: leaving a cold home when I should not versus staying put as my house got colder and colder.
  • Gratitude is always possible in difficult situations.
  • Nature does not know (or care) who has privilege or not, but we do.

It feels odd to enjoy such reporting in a dangerous situation. It produces an adrenaline surge and sense of purpose that overwhelms the fear and risk. Even so, I hope not to do it in the future!

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.