Once again, I was terrified that my life was going to collapse.
Eleven years ago, my fear was caused by my sociopathic ex-husband, James Montgomery. Because of him, my savings had been wiped out, I was overloaded with credit card debt and my business was decimated. I was fighting him in court, and even when I won, it didn’t matter. The court ordered him to pay me, and he ignored the order. I got nothing.
I had been well and truly betrayed. I berated myself for my stupidity in believing his grandiose schemes. My relations with family members were strained—they also thought I was stupid. I was 44 years old, and facing the fact that I’d never have the only thing I thought that I wanted in life—a family.
My emotions were in turmoil. I was afraid of the future. I was on the edge of losing everything.
Last week, I felt that fear again. This time, however, it was Hurricane Irene.
I live with my husband at the Jersey Shore. Our home is on a barrier island. The bay is approximately 100 feet from my front porch. Forecasts for Irene predicted that the storm would either skirt the New Jersey coastline, or make a direct hit. Irene was being compared to the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944. During that storm, the ocean met the bay and homes collapsed. Emergency management officials warned that it could happen again.
We were ordered to evacuate. But first, my husband and I had to do something about our ground floor, which is about 12 inches below grade. We use the space extensively—it’s our recreation room, his office, and storage space for many, many possessions that we didn’t want ruined.
We spent about 16 hours prepping for the storm—moving as much as we could from the ground floor, taping windows shut, tying down porch furniture. Tension crept up on me with each new official warning. As I talked to neighbors who were also preparing to leave, my voice had this strange, tense quality that I hadn’t heard in myself in a long time.
Then we left to hunker down with my father, who lives about 35 miles inland. The rain bands passed through, dumping incredible amounts of water. The winds violently shook the trees. Local television networks aired nonstop coverage of the storm, which essentially meant that they kept saying the same thing, over and over.
Hurricane Irene made landfall near Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey, at approximately 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 28, 2011. Little Egg Inlet is about 12 miles from my house.
But there were a few miracles, at least for me and the area in which I lived. The storm had moved faster than predicted, so it came ashore during dead low tide. And the winds died off. With winds estimated at 75 mph, Irene was a Category 1 hurricane—barely stronger than a tropical storm.
When my husband and I arrived home Sunday afternoon, we found leaves and twigs in our yard. That was the extent of our damage from the storm. The ground floor did not get wet at all.
But I feel so badly for other people living in flood-ravaged areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and elsewhere. Their trauma could have been mine.
Read Hurricane Irene slams into New Jersey, shuts down NYC, on MSNBC.com. Be sure to look at the photos—about 150 images of storm damage.
So what’s the connection between Hurricane Irene and sociopaths? The emotions that they generate—stress, fear and terror.
Life has been relatively calm for me for quite a few years. I had forgotten the feelings of pounding apprehension, unbearable tension, adrenaline coursing through my body. Because of the sudden change, from calm to terror, it was very obvious to me that this stuff is bad for you. When it was over, I was totally worn out. Exhausted.
Situations with sociopaths, however, aren’t over in a matter of days. The negative emotions wrack our bodies for months, even years. This continuing fight-or-flight feeling is physically, emotionally and psychologically damaging.
If you’re in a situation in which a sociopath is causing you stress, fear and tension, please find a way to get out of it. Sociopaths rip up our lives just like hurricanes, and, unfortunately, I don’t have any pithy advice on how to escape. Maybe you need to let go of possessions or people that you thought you couldn’t release. Maybe you need to hand the situation over to whatever higher power you trust.
But I have a strong suspicion that if you stay trapped in the storm, you’ll lose everything, including your life. The stress will kill you.