When I was in elementary school, they tried to teach us pertinent life skills, like “Where to Fly a Kite” and “What to do if You Spontaneously Combust.”
Another thing they taught us was “What to do in a Thunder Storm.” This included helpful tips such as “Don’t be outside” and “Whatever you do, get in the closest safe building.” We were told that if we were in the woods, get away as fast as we could and go find a safe building in which to hide. We were told that if we were in a field, get away as fast as we could and go find a safe building in which to hide.
I remember asking my teacher, “What happens if there is no safe building?” If we were in a field, go find a safe ditch and lay in it [because that’s going to help a lot]. If we were in the woods, GET AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN AND FIND A SAFE BUILDING IN WHICH TO HIDE.
They really weren’t helpful. All they did was drive in my intense fear of thunderstorms. My family can tell you: every time I’d eventhink I heard thunder, I’d either instantly throw up or have diarrhea – or both – my fear was so intense. [I’ve since learned that I probably had generalized anxiety disorder as a child.]
I also had an intense fear of fire, but I’m not going into that this time. [I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that before or not. I’ll have to check some time.]
Fast forward about 15 years to Memorial Day, 2012. Dad and I decided to go for a hike, taking along my dogs Buddy Boy and Mei Mei.
There were some slight sprinkles of rain, which didn’t bother Dad and me. The dogs don’t enjoy rain that much, but getting to sniff all the sniffs was exciting enough that they didn’t really care.
Then there was lightning and thunder.
We were about 3/4 of a mile away from the car. We were surrounded by trees.
As we hiked our way back to the car, I started pondering what I’d learned in elementary school. I realized that it wasn’t so scary being in the midst of a forest [my teachers never really explained why it was dangerous being near trees in a thunderstorm] compared to being in the middle of a clearing.
I realized my teachers probably didn’t know what they were talking about, but were told to say this and didn’t anticipate a smart kid like me asking probing questions. They also probably didn’t anticipate me taking things so seriously and refusing to be outside ever if there was even a slight rumble of thunder.
No, I’m not scared of thunderstorms now. Dad systematically desensitized me to thunderstorms through a long, arduous process when I was 8 or 9, which helped a lot, and as time went on I was less afraid to the point of not being afraid even when being outside in the middle of the woods and having lightning strike less than a mile away from where I was standing.