Megan Again: Confessions Of An Astraphobic
By Megan Wirts
This past week we finally had a little bit of rain and a thunderstorm around here. Who doesn’t love a good thunderstorm?
Well, I’ll tell you, my children and my best friends dog Ellie. They hate thunderstorms. Just the sensation of a thunderstorm brewing in the air will cause sweet little Ellie, a Boston Terrier, to tremble and...
...shake with terror. They have tried everything from special shirts to medications but no avail. Ellie is not a fan and that’s putting it lightly.
The same goes for the two small people that came from my womb. It is highly likely that I induced some of this fear in my children, because I too was terrified of thunderstorms as a child and, maybe still am a little (or a lot, depends on the storm), as an adult. I do not know why Ellie is afraid of thunderstorms, but I have my reasons.
First of all, my grandfather was struck by lightning twice. Two times!! Isn’t there a saying that goes lightning never strikes twice? Um, that’s bull crap because it happened to my grandpa. He survived both time, but just knowing an actual human being that was struck by lightning terrified me.
Secondly, I lived in a single wide mobile home until I was 8 years old. If you have never been in a mobile home during a thunderstorm you will not understand how terrifying it is to feel your entire house rocking from side to side while the wind howls outside. You will not know how loud the sound of the rain is as it pounds on a metal roof, or the way the windows shake like they are going to burst at any moment.
When you’re a little kid all of that is horribly scary. When you’re a little kid who’s a bit dramatic and also has a very wild and vivid imagination it’s even worse. My mom would tell me not be afraid, that thunder was just people in Heaven bowling.
That never comforted me. The thought of dead people bowling was scary to me too! Remember now, wild and vivid imagination. The thing that proved to sow that fear deep inside of me though, was when I was 5 years old. Our yellow single wide mobile home was hit by lightning and caught on fire.
MY HOUSE WAS HIT BY LIGHTNING AND CAUGHT ON FIRE!!!
I feel like I have a right to be afraid of thunderstorms.
It was a night that I will never forget. Let me paint the picture for you. Our home was a model from the late 1970’s. It had a yellow exterior with shag carpeting in the living room. There were 4 bedrooms, my parents room was on one end of the trailer down a long hallway along with my younger brother’s room. My older brother and I had rooms at the opposite end, just past the living room and the kitchen. There was a front door in the kitchen and a back door near my parent’s room. On this particular spring night, a storm had picked up and lightning struck the electrical box that was near my parent’s room.
What I remember from that night was the loud “BOOM!” that woke me up.
The next thing I knew my mom was grabbing me by the arm and dragged me out of bed. After she gathered the three of us kids up, she tried to open up the front door. As soon as she took hold of the handle it literally fell off in her hand and she couldn’t get the door open. I remember being so afraid that we were trapped and about to die a fiery death. In order to escape were needed to run past the orange blaze down the hallway where my dad was trying to put it out. I remember feeling the heat near my face and hearing the thunder growling and the wind hissing as we ran past.
When we were finally outside away from the fire the sky had opened up and rain was pouring down in sheets of water. We could hardly see except for when the thunder would crack and the lightning would illuminate the sky. In just the few short feet that it took to get from our home to our car we were soaked from head to toe. The rain was coming down so hard I was sure that we were about to be swept away and drown. When we finally got into the car my mom was so scared and panicked she popped the clutch three times and it felt like we were in that car for hours, when in reality it was just a few minutes. I finally felt safe once I saw my great grandpa’s calm and happy face and we got into some dry clothes and snuggled up in their basement.
The fire was eventually extinguished by my dad and the house was thankfully saved. The major damage was just to our electrical box and the walls near it and all of our winter clothing was lost. We were all safe and we didn’t lose much, but the experience really affected me.
Even after we moved to a big brick farmhouse with a basement, I was still afraid of thunderstorms. It took me years and having children of my own before I could finally tolerate a storm without a sense of panic. Luckily my kids aren’t quite as afraid of them as I was. Probably because they haven’t had their house actually get hit by lightning, but they do come running to my room with the swiftness of an Olympic sprinter at the smallest rumble of thunder in the middle of the night.
As their mother I know I need to comfort them and tell them everything will be okay, but I’m not gonna lie, I am not always that successful. I have been known to jump and let out a scream if I am caught off guard by a crack of thunder. Thankfully my husband is not afraid and he puts up with all of us chickens in the house. He will talk me out of hiding in the basement bathroom with a mattress over top of me or he will join me when he knows I’m really not coming out. (I may also be terrified of tornado warnings and I may take them very seriously.)
At this point in my life, I can honestly say I think thunderstorms are beautiful and magical, when I am safe inside my own home. Occasionally I will look out the window, or *gasp* even sit on my porch and watch one roll in. I can appreciate the beauty of the lightning flashes, the shapes of the clouds and the colors of the sky. But if it gets too scary you will find me curled up in the fetal position in my basement.
I can only handle so much.
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