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We need to talk about Christchurch
20 February, 2016
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We need to talk about Christchurch

If you’d asked me a fortnight ago what the mood of Christchurch folk was, asked for a precis of our psychological landscape I would have said that we were doing okay. That we were finally moving on from our quake traumas, at least those of us not in the seemingly unending embrace of an unresolved claim (EQC will tell you that most are now resolved and it’s only the most complicated claims that remain open but everyone knows someone who is in this situation). These people excepted though, my sense was that we were doing pretty well.

And I would have been dead wrong.

The magnitude 5.7 aftershock that shuddered through Christchurch on Valentines Day didn’t just shake up people’s china cabinets and bookcases, it struck a psychological blow that I think it will be hard for those who haven’t lived here for the last 5 years to understand. I’m going to try to explain anyway because I think it’s important for me personally but also for us as a country to try and get our collective heads around it.

When the aftershock hit it was sudden and already quite violent but it ramped up a bit after the first second or two, which was fortunate as it gave my partner a chance to get down from the ladder he was on, propped against the side of our house. The worst of it was over fairly quickly with some gentle rolling to finish (all aftershocks have their own personalities about which a person, if they were so inclined, could pen “tasting notes”). By then I was bolting for the other end of the house where my 2 year old son was taking his nap. I burst into his room running high off adrenalin and parental panic…only to find him miraculously asleep.

This was a blessing for more than one reason as I spent the next hour attempting to stop my hands from shaking. I couldn’t seem to calm myself. I’d had such a tremendous surge of adrenalin that I couldn’t actually do anything useful beyond texting loved ones and sending sweary tweets.

My heart continued to pound. I had a small whisky in an attempt to calm my nerves. I cried a little bit.

I was upset, yes, but more than that I was completely taken aback by my physical reaction to what I knew was not a particularly destructive seismic event. The rational part of my brain understands how aftershocks work, what to expect, and how they vary in destructiveness. Most aren’t especially damaging and very few indeed are lethal. This one wasn’t and that became clear pretty early on. The fact that I still have a full compliment of stemware and fridge contents that stayed that way is testament to that fact.

But my body, even though it’s had nearly 4 years of no significant aftershocks, knew differently. It kicked straight into high anxiety, flight or fight, do or die mode. I was unprepared for how fully prepared it was. If it reacts this way after 4 years of relative calm, will it always be this way? Will I always be a little twitchy at the rumble of a passing truck or bus? Will I always be digging my fingernails into the arm of the couch, every time the wine glasses rattle? Was I so thoroughly conditioned during those early, frightening, cortisol-infused days that the effects are now permanent?

So that was a bit of a revelation but the Valentines day aftershock has done something more than just rattle us in mind and body. It’s shaken the dust off our ongoing mental health issues that we have all been pretending that we don’t have. The illusion of normality, or even the “new normal” has started to drop.

Broken sure to rise printOne of the few breakages we had that day was a framed print of local icon, the Edmonds Factory. Somewhat ironically it was some cookbooks toppling off the edge of a shelf that did the damage. Later I picked out the dangerous looking shards of glass and examined what lay beneath thinking that the print might be okay if we put it in a new frame. But on closer inspection I could see a very fine line traced across a cerulean blue sky. An almost invisible scratch where the glass had cracked against it.

That is what Christchurch is now. If you’re not looking for it, you probably won’t see it but if you hold us up to the light and turn us a certain way you can see the damage. What do I mean by that? Well certainly I mean the elevated number of suicide call outs, and the alarming number of children with PTSD only 8 percent of whom have access to counselling (it’s hard to imagine how, as a society, we could be failing our smallest and most vulnerable members more with a startling fact like that in front of you), but this is actually just the extreme, more noticeable end of a very wide spectrum.

It manifests in less dramatic, more ordinary ways too. People who avoid going into multi-level buildings. People who even now will only park on the roofs of parking buildings, never the lower levels. People who still feel uneasy in movie theatres. People who self-medicate with alcohol or other calming substances. People who get nervy about the idea of walking over the Bridge of Remembrance again, even though it’s been fully repaired and earthquake strengthened. Panic attacks. Getting headaches more often than you used to. Anxiety. Insomnia.

I’m lucky in that my own anxiety is limited to during and immediately following an aftershock. I don’t feel excessively anxious at other times (though in the last week there’s been a low level sort of hyper-alert state that has definitely messed with my sleep).

And yet there are other dark, earthquake-related thoughts that sometimes haunt you. As a personal example, I sometimes bike past the site of the CTV building on my way into town. Every time I do I find myself thinking about people being trapped in that building, sending their loved ones text messages or calling them, and waiting for a rescue that never came. I imagine being trapped under a desk with only my mobile phone as a light source and being overcome with heat and smoke. Every time. Every time I pass that building I have these thoughts. If that strikes you as rather dark and more that a little morbid then you’ll get no argument from me. It is. And our city is dotted with these ghosts now.

I’ve never actually told that to anyone before. It’s just not the sort of thing you can drop into polite conversation. Not without the conversation in question veering awkwardly off into a discussion of the weather… and isn’t Richie McCaw a top bloke?

But this recent aftershock has prompted a few of us to let our guard down and actually reveal to other human beings that we’re struggling a bit. You’d think it would be easier to do that. We’ve all been through this together, after all, but I think that trope of The Resilient Cantabrian that’s constantly trotted out has done us no favours. It’s a lot to live up to, being stoically nonplussed for five years. And if you don’t then you feel like you’re letting the side down. I for one can’t keep the performance up any longer so I’m not going to bother.

The last week or so life has been harder than it usually is. I’ve had trouble sleeping and I’ve been tired, worried and unsettled. Every aftershock has made me anxious and then I’ve felt annoyed and disappointed in myself for feeling that way. I’m not “fine”. I need gentle and kind words and actions and some nice quiet time with a book and a cuppa. But the miracle is, if I ask for those things I’ll probably get them.

Sadly, not everyone has the comparatively manageable level of anxiety that I do and they need more than just a bit of “me time” and a cuddle. That there’s some doubt as to whether anyone is sufficiently funded to give it to them should be a matter of burning national shame (or burning National shame – take your pick). It’s hard enough to admit to yourself, let alone other people, that you need help. Can you then imagine being told there isn’t any? Or that you’ll have to be put on a waiting list?

I don’t know if there’s anything that I can do about that but I know that I can at least be honest about how I’m coping (or not) and in doing so maybe give other people permission to join me in shattering the myth of “resilience” that we’ve been collectively trying to live up to.

People that may be able to help –


43 Responses

  1. Felicity

    This is a wonderful piece of writing, Moata, and more than that, an important one. It’s vital that people in Canterbury don’t allow their experiences to be minimised or hurried along by misguided and politically expedient concepts such as resilience. It seems especially unfair that those who have put up with so much for so long should have their endurance used against them. It’s not a time for stoicism, it’s a time for getting real, and getting everyone the help they need. And it looks like we’re going to have to do that in spite of the government rather than with them.

  2. Ruth

    What an excellent piece of writing. Yes, yes to everything you say. That Valentines Day shake had me sobbing, and we weren’t even living here for the big ones. So glad my younger child was just out of Christchurch and didn’t even notice it and didn’t have to see my reaction.
    And yes that KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON narrative as a long term solution is not helping and actually being a hindrance when going to the MOH for more funding.

  3. Margaret

    I too agree with what you have written and how well you have expressed the feelings of so many of us. Although I was one of the ones who fled Christchurch after February I was back there when they had a 4.2 a few weeks prior to the Valentines Day one and although I knew I was fine and the grandchildren I was looking after were fine, my body just shook and went through a lot of the emotions it had in Sept and February. I am one of those who always looks for an escape place from a Mall, tall building etc and wont go to the Movies in ChCh anymore. Yes my life as I knew it has changed and whilst I thought I was overcoming it all, just that simple small earthquake brought it all back so the folk of Christchurch who have remained for whatever reason are, in my mind, very courageous and I can only feel for them in what they are currently dealing with. I believe I will always have this on going fear (as much as I try to fight it) but know I have to move on and make the most of our very precious time in our shaky but wonderful country.

  4. Craig Millar

    Great piece of writing that cuts close to the bone for me indeed. I moved our family to Melbourne 4 years ago after living through the first year of quakes in red zoned Dallington. I had to seek out professional help over here 18 months ago for anxiety issues around my children that I am certain stemmed from heightened senses that were switched on and stayed on after living through the constant quakes and aftershocks. My heart still races now when I hear a loud noise or truck shakes the ground nearby. My wife and I both felt physically sick when we heard about the Valentine’s Day shake so can only imagine what it was like for the cantabs living through it. My heart goes out to everyone experiencing any sort of anxiety or mental anguish caused by these aftershocks…Kia kaha Christchurch!!

  5. Lys

    I feel for you all living in a state of constant fear and dread. Not knowing when the next quake will hit but being fairly certain that it WILL hit again and again. Having no power over when, where or the strength of the hit, must be so draining on every fibre of your being. And worse still, to have to let your kids out of your protection so they have some normality in their life, must in itself be beyond the bounds of fair. The whole Canterbury region should be classed as a danger zone, for that is what it is. The beauty that was once Christchurch is long gone. Now it’s a fractured landscape with a future that could hardly be called bright. With all that in mind I can only say ‘don’t let the fear consume you. Get out and find laughter and enjoyment. Don’t let a small passage of time define how you spend your days.’
    Hold your head high and remember there will always be others worse off than you and know there are millions of people that would trade places with you in a heart beat. Be thankful for what you have, not angry for what you have lost.
    Kia Kaha Kiwi.

  6. Joy Maree Whinwray

    Thank You for sharing this well spoken article,it is so bang on. }}}}}}}}} Hugs {{{{{{{{{{ to Us all who have lived through this Hell since it first started at 4.35 am on the 4/9/10 . There are some day’s where I feel so uneasy ,that it’s not funny. I do not like it one little bit when it’s quiet outside. Some mornings when I’m up early for work, as I was on the 4/9/10 the memories of that morning haunt me, they come back unprovoked. The slightest noise can bring back memories of the day We’ll Never Forget . Sunday’s aftershock brought back the 22/2/11 instantly , We ran for Our lives & We haven’t done that in a long time. :(…… We were burgled just over a year ago, when I seen the mess that was left, what I saw in My mind was the mess in the house after the 22/2/11 & yet it wasn’t anywhere as bad that day, but that’s what I seen & how I felt. We cannot afford to Dwell on the the past, or We couldn’t & wouldn’t be able to function, life must go on, but We know what is beneath the surface ,We’re messed up <3 You Christchurch My Heart, My Home, My Life

  7. Donna

    Thank you for sharing your voice, so that I, can share mine. The untold EQ story is like a vast hole in our local community and society. It’s an uncomfortable silence. The silence.

  8. Rachael Cunningham

    Marvelous piece of writing- I’m sharing to as many Chch friends as I can. People need to talk about this and your piece is a wonderful way to start the conversation

  9. Nikki Davies

    Your writing on the earthquake experiences are the ones that have resonated with me the most and here is another one. Even though I haven’t lived in Christchurch for many years, I was there on 22/2/11 so I know how it feels. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is leave my mum to go back to the UK three weeks later, knowing that it could happen again. Just hearing about the Valentine’s Day shake brought back those feelings and even though Mum has relocated to Timaru after finally admitting she could no longer cope living with constant stress, I know she felt the same. She copes by not talking about it much but I wish she would.

  10. Graeme W

    Great piece. I related to it so well. After the shaking had stopped on Valentine’s Day I thought “hey the house is alright, and we are alright, so we can just carry on. ” but no, I was just kidding myself that it would be that easy and short lived. I was so unsettled that I couldn’t concentrate to work any of the following week. Like my wife I felt cheated that we had to be “on guard” again with the inevitable sequence of aftershocks stemming from the 5.7M. And the “what if there’s a bigger one coming again” thought lurking in the back of my mind. It’s all so exhausting.

  11. susan bragg

    Yep, that’s me, perfectly described.

  12. Janet McGrath

    Great article, was exactly as I felt even though I never expected to feel that way, I burst into tears and ran and stood under the doorway for over an hour, worried that this may have been a foreshock to a larger event as had happened with previous earthquakes. As much as I knew I should have been checking on our new neighbours I couldn’t bring myself to move from where I was anchored, I rang my grown up children to check that their families were all okay from the safety of the door frame as well as a workmate that I was with in the June events that I knew was also struggling with them. It is odd how with the passage of time my mental state had not improved at all & had actually become more fragile, I say this as I did not shed any tears in the major events & felt aside from suffering from insomnia I had dealt with them rather well, obviously this is not the case. I have talked to many more who reacted the same way on Valentines day.

  13. Chris

    Thank you very much for sharing ‘our’ feelings, thoughts and anxiety! I will b sharing this with my friends and am hoping we’ll all start aknowledge we’ve got a long way to go yet.namaste

  14. Valerie Marshall

    Last evening, and again this morning, I started crying for no apparent or good reason, and I am now wondering if has something to do with last Sunday’s 5.7 quake which left me feeling jittery and shakey. In fact, for a number of months I have “jumped” at the sound of trucks grinding through very low gears after having stopped at the traffic lights – it reminds me so much of the sound of another largish earthquake coming. And remembering the absolute out-of-the-blue- ness of the damned things. My body has not forgotten. My mind has not forgotten. Thank you for writing as you have and telling me that I am not the only one affected by last Sunday’s shake in what appear to be inappropriate proportions to the actual event and the resultant somewhat minimal damage …

  15. Dee Owers

    Thankyou for describing how this affected you, as I feel the same and I know many others that do too. Just when you think you’ve put it all behind you and that finally you’re getting on top of things like finally getting a settlement to repair your home yourself after moving out for 4 months and having to shift back into an unrepaired home, dealing with rental properties that haven’t been repaired to standard and having to be “fixed” again and the poor tenants who are affected by losing their home because the work wasn’t carried out to standard the 1st time… Working in your full time jobs, and trying to keep a sense of “normality”. Thought we were doing OK until Valentines Day and now it’s that “when is the next one?” thought in the back of your mind, or the jumpiness when you hear a rumbling noise or a thump or bang. When you finally relax and those thoughts hit you that you shouldn’t completely relax, “just in case” that sense of being on standby. Cortisol levels are probably unhealthily high and definitely too much adrenaline being pumped about. Thankyou again for this piece and I will share. A lot of people don’t understand and belittle the feelings that others are experiencing after this latest aftershock. Please support and not judge those who are feeling vulnerable, stressed and upset. Everyone has a different way of coping and there is no wrong or right way. Kia Kaha Christchurch, stay strong and keep supporting one another

  16. Jane England

    Excellent article and I hope it is pivotal in helping the Government realise that people in Christchurch need affordable access to good mental and holistic health care. The Government services often focus on mindfulness but this doesn’t help people move beyond associative trauma. Young people particularly need more than brain training that focuses on being positive and more than care which is just a cop out. Real, honest articles like this are so helpful and I hope the right people will listen and do something to help us gain what we need to recover our lives and to live fully and meaningfully because these shakes are too much for those who already live with instability.

  17. Adele Theobald

    What a great empowering article! I fled to Australia after the two big ones as I couldn’t deal with the uncertainty and fear of more aftershocks, big buildings and car parks, or being home alone. Distance doesn’t heal the terror, it just makes it more bearable. Each new quake brings it all back. It’s the total helplessness I found the worst, Nature has no master. I applaud your comments about resilience, people’s fears need to recognised, the “fight/flight response is what allowed us to evolve, but we shouldn’t have to use it daily!

  18. Katy Hay

    Once again Moata you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head!

  19. Kate

    Thank you for sharing your feeling on this most recent event. I am feeling exactly the same as you and when I have felt safe to do so, have said as much to those who have asked after me (from other cities) their concern and thoughts are kind and well meant, but it think that when I said I’m not ok, they didn’t then know how to respond. Which in turn made me think I have to go back to pretending I am so that they feel comfortable. I feel comforted to know that this is not a feeling I am alone in and I really appreciate reading your words.
    If I could convince my husband to leave, I would be gone. I cannot find any more strength to continue this gruelling wait for repairs, for roads, for calm, for an end to this nightmare I think we (many of us) are stuck in; and yet, I feel I have no choice. It is so draining to continue to pretend that all is good.

  20. Mel

    Thank you for the courageousness in speaking out about a subject which is on the verge of becoming taboo. I am a teacher and increasingly hear children, and adults alike, being told to “get on with things”, “suck it up”, “deal with it, you can’t change it”… While maintaining normality for the children in my class, my own son has been heading to school in a tailspin all week.
    5 years ago, we were among The Lucky Ones. We fared pretty well on the surface. He had been putting his lunchbox in his bag, under a stairwell at school. In the aftermath, it would be 18months before that building would be useable again. He’s a bit of a thinker, silently pondering every imaginable scenario without giving voice to those ideas. He can still wake up in the morning and tell us how many “wee ones” we had in the night… Yet he’s always been a heavy sleeper. He suffers silently from anxiety, hiding it beneath a veil of clowning and jokes.
    The children of his school year missed out on school camps (parents hesitant to relinquish from sight), prizegivings and graduations (halls closed for repairs). Just when they are beginning to develop an independence that had been unimaginable in the aftermath of 5 years ago, us parents are now thinking of every scenario before okaying anything.
    During the Valentine’s Day quake, my son was on a Flying Fox Platform in New Brighton. He held on for grim death, petrified it would give way. He couldn’t cave to emotion in the aftermath, as he was out with his siblings and grandmother and they needed him too.
    5 years on the ongoing effects are immeasurable and we probably will never know the full extent of them… We need to make sure we Cantabs don’t exacerbate them for each other.

  21. Judy Dransfield

    I totally agree with all the above. As a counsellor, I am wondering what we in other parts of the country can do, It is appalling to think Mental Health help is not readily available. Any suggestions?

  22. Chris Bone

    When we feel the quakes here in Temuka, I know Christchurch is being hit with a big one. No-one talks about it any more, but I wish they would. We lost our best friends to Perth because of the quakes, and even though we have not been affected physically, my heart cries each time there is another big one….not for me, but for all of the residents of Christchurch and the surrounding districts….and I feel helpless.

  23. Jude

    Great piece and great to read the comments. Somehow it feels a little bit better knowing others feel the same. For me it was the earthquake a few weeks before Valentine’s Day when I so unexpectedly burst into tears at work. I was so annoyed at myself that an earthquake i would have shrugged off in the ‘old’ days did that to me. The 5.7 was a final straw for me! It was the catalyst for me deciding not to go back and work in a 1980s 6 storey building I don’t feel safe in – even though engineers say it’s fine. I don’t know if there’ll be a fight with my employer for me to keep working in another building I do feel safer in. I hope not. I hope they’ll want to look after my emotional wellbeing….even though they might think it irrational. But if this is my one thing I need to do (and I think it is) then I hope they’ll get it.

  24. Claire

    This is such a good way to put in words the lasting effects of what happened in Christchurch.

    These consequences should not be minimized or ignored.

    I am one who eventually left the city and NZ all together with my two children some 4 years after the events.

    Each and every time my kids go back to Christchurch, I live my eyes riveted on geonet.

    We feel everyday for our friends left behind.

    It took us almost a year away from the whole thing to realize the ongoing effects of the adrenaline on our bodies: startled responses, tiredness, tears, heightened anxiety compared to non traumatized population, wariness…

    We sometimes felt like refugees coming from a world unknown to the living ones.

    What I also realized is how the lack of immediate psych support to the whole population is likely to be part of the ongoing trauma for the Christchurch population and some of the ongoing consequences on one of my children.

    Arriving to where I now live, I saw people smiling in a way that could no longer be seen in Christchurch eyes.

    I rediscovered what it felt to be in a community who is not scared or not on edge for the most simple acts of daily life.

    It is unbelievable how we can forget what normal life should be and is for anyone who has not gone through sudden dramatic and unexpected life changing events.

    After this latest quake, and after shocks, I really hope that Christchurch will have all the support it really deserves.

    I realized that around the world, governments with the help of Non governmental agencies have provided large scale specialist psychological support to traumatized populations.

    They have provided ongoing material support without leaving it into the hands of the private sector.
    There is no reason why the Christchurch people needs and situation would have been different.

    The government’s approach may also have to answer about the ongoing trauma.

    I hope that this time around the psychological support will be made immediately available and easily accessible to the whole population.

    Wanting to leave the city is not failing.

    It is not showing weakness.

    it is not abandoning the others behind.

    It is not a lack of endurance or strength (it does require a fair amount of it to start again away from what you may have always known).

    Wanting to leave is taking the step that you believe is good for yourself and your family.

    It is wanting to rebuild and live.

    It is to give yourself an other chance.

    It is to start again to write the beautiful story of your life in a way that is meaningful to you.

    Thinking so much about the ones staying behind, whatever are their reasons.

  25. Fiona

    Thank you so much for you honesty. I am not a cantabrian and only lived there briefly before and after the quakes. But my mental health has suffered ever since. I cannot image what it is like to try to live up to the resilient manifesto but am glad that I no longer have to and have found since leaving that people everywhere don’t expect anyone to, it is only our strange sense of self that feels the urge to hide our honesty and pretend everything is getting better.
    Having been back a few times to check on my property I am astounded when people say things are moving forward because it doesn’t feel that way to me. Out east is still shit and I cannot help but think that progress is far too slow and that the media and the government have given everyone false hope.
    I can only hope and pray that things will get better, that thought honesty there will be more help available to those who need it.
    Love, peace and strength to you all!!!

  26. Lisa Preston

    A beautiful piece of writing Moata . Thank you . I can relate to every word and i feel comfort from reading I am not alone in my feelings this past week .

  27. Geoff Lye

    So well put Moata.

    It is freaky going about your day, while in the back of your mind everyday, holding out expecting another shake, while trying to go about your normal everyday things.

    The Valentines day shake had my adrenaline buzz on high.

  28. Ali

    Thanks for the writing Moata – Now if we can only get the EQC and the insurance parties to hear us to help us move on. 5 years and counting to getting fixed. Yeah Right we’ll get you sorted AA insurance. Not happening or EQC missing a lot of compensation. How does one lose a $100,000.00 of damage??? How can reports be dismissed from reputable firms. Keep writing we know we aren’t alone and it helps to know a fellow cantab gets it!

  29. Rae Cook

    Alone at home and so so so shit scared it brought back all the memories and fears flooding back! I was a mess! I still feel abit shaken! and I hate the aftershocks! xxxooo

  30. Karen Parker

    Well said. I find it hard to go up or down escalators don’t ask me why. I can use lifts but only if all enclosed. I can’t go near glass like at Riccarton mall on 2nd story I suppose I fear the glass will fall and I could go with it. When the earthquake happened on Sunday I had just got off the bus and was walking down the road I managed to grab onto a post so I wouldn’t fall. I heard a lady screaming “NOT AGAIN ” and she was holding onto a man I think was her husband. I managed to get on a bus home quickly JUST IN CASE. Some things had fallen down but it took me a while to settle down a bit. You don’t think it has affected you but obviously it has. I was fine in the other quakes so it just goes to show that our emotions run deeper than you think.

  31. Dani

    I shed tears as I read this. Your thoughts are very close to my own. I’m not sure what to make of how I feel about what Christchurch has been through. I’m terrified at every shake, waiting for it to get get worse…I feel crazy like I’m over reacting and I try not to think about the quakes and that we must move forward. But my mind often takes me back to the tragedy that unfolded here and I Cy so easily at the thought of it all. I too would like to ask about how I feel, so was nice to read I’m not alone xx

  32. Bernie

    I too have moved to Australia after 5 years of living thru all the shakes and the trauma of fighting the insurance company. My nerves were shot and I worked a full time job on 3 to 4 hours sleep a night. I am so pleased to be able to go to bed and actually sleep 6 to 8 hours. I still freeze when I hear a roar of a truck or plane engine and wait for the shaking to start. I guess it will never leave you. My heart was in my throat when I heard of the latest valentine’s day one and my thoughts were with everyone of you. I’m not going to say stay strong people as I could have screamed when that was said to me each time we shook. I’ll just say stay safe!

  33. Claire English

    Heartfelt excellent writing. I am a Kiwi living in Victoria , Oz, and have returned to Melbourne after many years living in North Central Victoria. The smell of smoke had the same surging of terror for us, every Summer we lived with the threat of bushfire. But today we live in relative safety of the Western suburbs.

  34. Thank you so much for writing this. I don’t live in Christchurch but after 7 years lived on and off in conflict zones, I know something of the shock of how quickly my nervous system will go into full alert, the low but noticeable level of ongoing anxiety & vigilance after a trigger, and the subtle (an sometimes not subtle at all) pressure to be stoic, resilient, to be okay. I too sometimes wonder whether I’ll ever get my old nervous system back, the one that didn’t fly off the handle at the sound of a car backfiring or the bark of certain kinds of dogs. It’s not the same, and I don’t want to pretend ‘I understand’ but there is a kind of parallel and that’s why I’m a passionate advocate for talking and writing about this. When I wrote my book, 6 years ago, colleagues asked me ‘Aren’t you worried you’ll never get another job in the sector?’ Resilience is a required competence for an aid worker. But I was done with pretending to be doing okay. Six years later ‘aid worker wellbeing’ is being talked about more than ever, and some funding is even starting to follow the talk. So I really wanted to say thank you for writing this. It’s not only great writing, but it’s important writing – on so many levels. Also, lots of love to you and everyone else in Chch.

  35. DubDub

    PTSD is a nasty thing. Growing up in NZ you get used to living with that low level of seismic anxiety, but it’s moments like these that throw into stark relief just how broken Christchurch really is, and how much help is needed to get its collective health back.

    I found it difficult to explain to my friends in Canada why I jumped every time someone bumped the table. Even more difficult to remain calm in the face of a friend who said it must be so cool to live in a place that got lots of little earthquakes, cause he’d never experienced one.

    I’ve never talked to my cousin about what happened that day – she was an intern at the CTV building – but I’ll be forever grateful that she was sitting over the road having lunch at that moment.

    We’ve all got horror stories. Maybe if we stop pretending we don’t, we can start healing the damage they’ve done.

    P.S. Long time no see.

  36. Alma Rae

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Beautifully written and oh so true.

  37. aqua

    A great piece of writing and a huge lump in my throat reading all the comments. I am not from CHC but I can imagine the “resilience” that you all are told you are must be extremely tiring. I always have low level earthquake anxiety going on because I live in Wellington but I have never gone in a carpark building since 2011 and always check for escape routes wherever I go. I can recall the absolute panic when I couldn’t get hold of my brother who does live in chc on that day and the raw internet footage was unrelenting in its horror. My brother is not the man he was. He is jumpy, gets headaches, always on edge. Pretends all is ok. He hates CHC now but feels like he be letting people down if he left, although he has utmost respect for people that have left. I don’t know how you all do it. It has fucked with my head and I don’t even live there. My heart is with you all xxxxx

  38. Matt

    Although i can understand some of your points, especially about losing loved ones and friends in the quake, at the same time people need to get over it. I was very jittery for a month or two after that huge quake but i moved on with my life and i feel others need to as well. Shit happens, things dont go to plan and sometimes you just gotta let it all go and enjoy your life.

  39. Steve Meikle

    I learned the hard way years ago that it was a total waste of time seeking counselling. Yes, I was more shaken by last weeks tremor than all the events of 2011, but you either get over such things or die. People do not care or even if they do such compassion has no practical value when dealing with emotional issues. Of course I have my own means of dealing, but no one here will want to hear that . So, we need to talk about Christchurch? Talk is usually useless and only a society soaked in the quackery which is therapy thinks otherwise

  40. Janine

    14th complete terror took over shaking tears even now I sit on the couch & swear the earth is moving. It’s my internal equilibrium I think.
    I’ll point out tho in the beginning my child needed help so off to Mental Health Services we went. His treatment a star chart for a 12 nearly 13yr old. Yeah right for having panic attacks & checking hourly I was alive.
    There was little knowledge of how symptoms would present in the begining &very little support unless your child was acting out or had very clear diagnostic issues. In the daytime he was normal.
    His friends mother was in Cashel St CTV building & perished.
    bright little spark worked out I was his constant in a moving world. He became terrified I would die. Cos “she did just like that Mum” we are back to managing that again.
    Thank so.much for making me & he seem so normal. More tears more sleepless nights & my mother said “well at least you’re alive some others are not ”
    It takes all sorts to make world just don’t expect keep calm in mine rt now.

  41. Neil Hobbs

    THank you Moata for a beautiful and courageous piece of writing. I am up in the North West Territories of Canada working, and turned 69 on February 21st. I am not a New Zealander but have lived there [memorably] twice, including a year in Te Puke and a few months in Levin, when we also visited Christchurch. I attnded Selwyn College Cambridge, the reason why the cathedral had a special place in my consciousness. My wife and I remember the beauty of the city and the total disruption that the quake brought. I recall with guilt that five years have passed so quickly and the events of 2011 have passed out of the minds of us ‘forgetful people’. It was thanks to friends in Christchurch that your piece was brought to my attention.
    Thanks to you for this – blessings.
    Neil Hobbs

  42. carla burgers

    Bless you Moata. Thank you soo much for your very special article. Keep safe.

  43. Moata this is excellent – I’ve not read such a moving account of how the earthquakes have affected residents before. I live in Sydney now but I come from Taumarunui in the North Island – we were accustomed to earthquakes but not on this scale. It’s disgraceful that services haven’t been offered in time to help you all – especially the children. PTSD is still so often misunderstood. Left untreated it can sneak up on people years later. And my blood boils when I hear the stories of people still waiting for their insurance payouts. Thanks for your blog.

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