Monday, July 02, 2012

Power Outage Disorder, Moderate, Recurrent, With or Without Psychotic Features

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we've been having issues.   In fact, we've gotten a whole new type of weather event, the wretched Derecho.  And, to think, I believed I'd heard of all types of weather.  Mostly cloudy.  Partly sunny.  Rain.  Wind.  Cyclone.  Typhoon. Toronado.  Tsunami.  Hurricane. Gale-force winds.  Snow.  Blizzard.  Hot & Humid (we do that well).  Fog. Hail.  Wintry mix.  Now we have derechos.

Known as a derecho, the string of storms combined intense lightning and rain with hurricane-force gusts as it swept from the Midwest into the mid-Atlantic Friday night. Meteorologists blamed the violent weather on the prolonged 100-plus temperatures that blanketed the eastern United States last week. 

Derechos typically form when an atmospheric disturbance lifts the warm air in regions experiencing intense heat, causing thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds to develop, AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Edwards said. Traveling at an average speed of 60 miles per hour, Friday's storm took 12 hours to cover more than 700 miles before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. 

Okay, so I admit, I was not here for the event.  I was in the tropics, enjoying sunshine and 85 degree weather (70's at night), far away from the heat of my hometown, only to return north to massive power outages, downed trees, and 102 degree heat without air conditioning.  I spent my first day back in a laundromat, chatting with another psychiatrist while my laundry twirled and my laptop and phone charged.  Funny, I imagined that laundromats would have upgraded since my younger days and have air conditioning and wi-fi, but that was not to be.  

By 10 o'clock last night, I was one of the lucky ones.  My power returned to both my home and office.  It returned before I had cancelled my patients--my office mates were less optimistic and it made for a quiet day in the suite.

The joy of social media, 3G, 4G, and constant connectivity is that one can make interesting observations about how power failures/ cable outages/ and technology failures-- as people post their angst on Facebook.  I will tell you that I've noticed that the symptoms one sees with power/cable outages and the resultant rise in body temperature and withdrawal from technology...well, it all looks a lot like what we see with psychiatric disorders.  Maybe a diagnosis for DSM-5-revised?
  • agitation
  • marked irritability
  • sleeplessness
  • restlessness
  • pacing
  • decreased socializing (especially as the food goes bad and the beer gets warm)
  • decreased motivation
  • repetitive pushing of power buttons on non-functioning devices
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • +/- guilt
  • boredom
  • indigestion &/or nausea
  • fear and a sense of impending doom
  • anxiety
  • frizzy hair
What symptoms do you experience in a power outage?  


Sarebear said...

I would say that having a ton of fires burning around the state, leads to a heightened state of generalized anxiety.

In talking about the rubberneckers getting in the way of fire and other essential personnel getting to the fires, the Governor said, "You can't outlaw stupid!"

Although I thought hindering such officials in an emergency was a problem with a statute combatting it, somewhere.

When you've seen a wildfire/forest fire from less than two miles away as it crests over the ridge of foothills you are right next to, when you've seen a wildfire/forest fire at the bottom edge of the foothills about to devour some homes, and this is less than a mile from you, having a bunch of wildfires tends to create some anxiety.

Even if I know they're not near me and won't hurt me other than inhaling the extra particulates floating around.

The bi-weekly updates via phone recording sent out to all city residents about even more fireworks restrictions, the constant barrage of warnings, evacuations, animals left behind and suffering, and tales of close calls and animal rescues, makes me leave the tv off ALOT. If a fire pops up here, I'll turn it back on.

You'd think the whole state was on fire, with the media and city officials blitz, bi-weekly press conferences by the Governor, etc.

I'd better stop typing now or I'll have ruined the benefits of leaving the tv off.

Anonymous said...

I once blew my computer's backup battery during a power outage. We were on hour three and my mother was becoming whiny about not being able to drink coffee. I knew it wouldn't work, but that certainly didn't stop me from hoping for a miracle. If it had gone on much longer I'm fairly certain we would have revved the car and sat a pot on top of the engine so she could get her caffeine fix. I can't even imagine what it would be like living with her for 24hrs post-coffee, I always get stuck at hour twelve when I dangle myself off the edge of our balcony. :P

Tawny said...

I know you may have meant this to be funny, but sitting here in the Residence Inn at National Harbor where I have taken my 90-year-old mother and my brother's family from California, and where I just finished blowing up at my mother for everything that has caused me to be in therapy for the past 14 years, I assure you this is no joke. My mother did not protect me from my father, who was physically and verbally abusive to me. We have been in the same hotel room for three days with 100 degree heat. And we are the lucky ones. But my relationship with my mother will never be the same after tonight and there is no chance in hell I ever would have let my guard down this much if it hadn't been for the damned storm. (And on top of that, all of National Harbor has had two six-hour power outages since we have been here.) This is hell. I want out. Don't laught until you have walked a mile in my Maryland shoes.

PS - the word I had to type to prove I wasn't a robot was mmomtrom which is way to close to what I want to scream right now.

Sunny CA said...

I am so sorry for all of you.

When I have suffered power outages in the past I generally have initially sworn out loud as I see the work I was doing on the computer turn to black (large desktop computer). We had so many outages a few years ago that I had candles around the house and a supply of flashlights to provide light until power resumed. Once I rented a motel room so I could finish photography work for wedding clients on time. The last outage here was about 30 seconds, a few days ago, which was just long enough to require resetting every electric clock in the house.

In generally I think I get calmer in outages because there is nothing to do but read by candlelight or go to bed early, which are both calming and good "activities" for me.

Sarebear said...

power outage while hurricane force winds are battering your apartment, and peeling strips off siding off one by one, you can hear the screeching of it, and they wack the window so hard you're afraid they'll smash, so you have to stay away from the windows which is the main source of light. Big ole windstorm last Dec. Usually the winds will sink down into the canyons and blow on down, but sometimes there's this wierd weather phenomenon (I don't know the name) where the winds will spead across the back of the mountain range, and instead of settling down into the canyons and proceeding, it will pour over the tippy top of the mountain range and slam downwards like a giant waterfall, building extra velocity as it hurtles down towards the valley.

The violent winds roaring all around, tossing all manner of debris; your husband out in it going to work, ten minutes before the chief of police tells everyone to stay put it's 96mph (and went to 106).

I sympathize with you guys. The heat sucks too. I was pregnant w/no ac the year we had a whole ton of 105+ degree days in a row. Like 7 months pregnant in that, ugh.

Oh, for outages, we have a backup power supply for the computers, so we can save what we're doing and shut em off even if the power goes off. Also, we have a lamp plugged into it so that my daughter won't panic, and we won't have to stumble around in the dark finding the flashlights and stuff. Having the lamp plugged in there has actually come in handy quite a bit.

I hope your dogs are doing well through all this, Dinah!

pdf doc said...

My experiences with disasters is limited to the ice storm of 1998 which affected much of Eastern Canada and the Northeastern US, and to the forest fires in the west in 2003.

During the ice storm I was living rurally. We were out of power for 15 days. Luckily I was still married and we had a home built in the 1870's that thoughtfully was provided with a cook stove. We had 2 young children (6 mo and 2 1/2 years), and a live in nanny. My ex, the surgeon would go to work each day and I stayed home with the nanny, children, and various animals including 6 horses. It was a full time job keeping the woodstove and fireplace going, cooking on the wood stove (and throwing away spoiled food from the fridge), feeding and watering the horses, dogs, cats, children. We also had an old well with a pump outside (we had yet to find out that the water was contaminated). We bathed using an old baby bath - kids in the bath, sponge baths for the rest. In spite of that, the bedroom temperatures were just above freezing and the room with the cook stove was a balmy 9 degrees celsius. It was a huge bother, but also an adventure. It was amazing how quiet things were without power, even in the country. I know that we were far better off than many, but it was a big lesson in taking things for granted.

During the forest fires, my soon to be ex and myself were competing in an Ironman Triathlon. The race was actually cancelled and then reinstated due to fires near and on the course. This was tricky to communicate and there were constant power outages. By chance, we had rented a motor home as our hotel, and were oblivious to many of these. In the end, the show went on with modified swim and run courses. It was surreal to see the huge plumes of smoke in the forest as the water bombers droned overhead. The race went without hitches, although by the time I finished my throat was raw and I coughed for days. We felt almost guilty driving away the next day while so many had lost homes or were in danger of losing homes.

I have learned not to take for granted our day to day existence...and in terms of news,I have found my world to be increasingly fragile. When things get to be too much, the first thing I do is to stop reading, watching, or listening to news. It just increases my sense of helplessness and desperation. A colleague once told me that it was my duty to stay abreast of the news. I truly think that he had no concept of mental illness (in fact he did not know about mine), and that the news at that time may drive me too close to the line that I couldn't cross back over.

Anyway, I feel for all of you in the heat. I don't have air conditioning either, but my old stone house retains some cool air in the daytime if I air out overnight and close up again in the day.

Kaliki said...

I laugh. I grew up in Virginia, and we NEVER had air conditioning. We had to sleep without touching our own skin, it was too sweaty. We drank sweet tea and moved slowly. Then, I was in the Peace Corps in North Africa, where a handwashed pair of jeans would dry in the sun in about 15 minutes. Old people and kids did not die from the heat. C'mon, quit whining, people.

Dinah said...

Yes, my post was meant to be a little light, but having had large tree fall on my house during a hurricane, and having been out of power during winter months, I suffered from post-traumatic tree disorder, and I don't like the helpless feeling of being inside a house, powerless during a scary storm. Without true devastation, fear, or catastrophe, there is a humorous element, but certainly that flies away quickly. Sarebear--the fires sound horrible.
And having been in NOLA after Katrina, there was no humor there.

My one day without gadgets did have it's moments of humor, and there wasn't any suffering involved.

Lee said...

I did not have indoor plumbing or air conditioning until my third decade of life. I do have those things now. I did miss them during a long power outage during which we also lost water and phone service. Fact of the matter is that we all need to be aware of the need to have emergency supplies of water and tinned food, batteries and flashlights and for those who can afford it, a generator doesn't hurt. It helps to keep cash on hand even if we are ATM addicts. You will often find someone to sell you things you need if you have cash. Small bills are good- no need to make change. From my experiences in Lower Manhattan, it also is a very good idea to keep filter masks on hand. From my experiences in war zones, keep gas masks handy and have a bucket that you and your family can use as a makeshift loo.Let us also remember that a good number of people on this planet live their entire lives without electricity, artificial heating and cooling and adequate food or clean water. Falling trees are a danger but generally not as much of a worry in places where wild beasts of the human and non human variety roam.

Anonymous said...


Some people respond best with laughter. I know I did when I watched my apartment building on fire. We were out for five months, living in a box hotel room facing the highway with thin walls and party people every weekend. If it weren't for laughter, I don't believe I would have been able to get through it. And it wasn't me generating the laughter most of the time, it was others reminding me of the few funny things about my circumstances and joking about their inability to cope in such a situation. Them positing their demise reminded me that I was strong and made me proud of my ability to deal with all the horrible things I had to deal with. For myself, laughter was the best medicine, and looking back it sticks out more than the memory of the fire itself.

Those who laugh and joke aren't necessarily trying to offend you, nor do they view your situation lightly, it's simply the way they've found to be best when dealing with disaster. Every person responds differently; for some people, they have to laugh.

Anonymous said...


laughter is good, too. Whatever it takes.Why would I take offense to such a suggestion? I wouldn't. My points were about what people all need to consider about survival. We can be faced with a dangerous situation no matter how generally comfortable we my be. If laughter helps one to survive, it is a good tool. My last point was about those who live in danger every day, which I do not. We need to be grateful that our own troubles, no matter how awful they seem at the time, are not the same as those of someone who has no access to assistance medical supplies, adequate nutrition, clean water and the like. That is the only thing I would find hard to find humor in.

Anonymous said...

I have always lived in the country. For me it is exciting and fun. It is a life or death situation but if your prepared it brings the family closer togeather and its fun. I live in the city now and miss it at times.