Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 22 May 2019 12am







    Monday, May 20, 2019-10:57:45P.M.






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Staying sane post-Yutu

MY aunt recently spotted a friend across the Joeten Susupe parking lot.

“How you holding up?” she asked her.

“I got Yutu brain,” her friend responded. She went on to say she couldn’t seem to think straight since the super typhoon hit the island. She was still having trouble focusing, and was more forgetful than usual.

She’s certainly not alone. Yutu has taken a toll on our island community; most lost power and water, many lost their homes and businesses, and the most unfortunate among us lost loved ones. And while the CNMI is in many ways uniquely prepared to face natural disasters — for example, the Mariana Islands’ tightly woven, family-oriented social fabric has served as a safety net for many — at times, the devastation, chaos and grief following a natural disaster can be overwhelming for even the most resolute survivors.

“I was having a hard time eating,” Tina Concepcion said of the days directly after the storm. “It was hard. Like every day was a task.”

“You get stressed out,” said another Saipan resident who chose to remain anonymous. He lost his home and his car in the storm. “You try and figure out how you’re going to get help, but it’s like you’re trapped and you don’t have an outlet to escape.”

According to Mental Health America, there are several common reactions to natural disasters: disbelief and shock, fear and anxiety about the future, disorientation, difficulty making decisions, difficulty concentrating, apathy and emotional numbing, nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event, irritability and anger, sadness and depression, feeling powerless, changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite or overeating, crying for ‘no apparent reason’, headaches, back pains and stomach problems, difficulty sleeping or falling asleep, and increased use of alcohol and drugs.

“Each survivor experiences the disaster through his or her own lens,” reads an extensive toolkit for Pan American Health Organization mental health workers. “Factors such as the meaning assigned to the disaster, personality type, inherent personality, coping skills, world view, and spiritual beliefs contribute to how that person perceives, copes with, and recovers from the disaster.”

With full recovery stretching so far into the future, we all have to find ways to stay sane. Some tried-and-true methods include sharing stories about the event with loved ones and community members (feel free to email me at, spending time with friends and family, self-care, limiting exposure to disaster images, setting aside time for enjoyed activities, helping others, avoiding excessive drug and alcohol use, asking for help where it’s needed. and taking things one task or one day at a time.

“Prayer helped. And music. And listening to KKMP,” Concepcion said when asked how she managed her stress.

“There’s nothing new about the stressful feelings you get when you see destruction,” added the resident who lost his home. “Automatically you’re stressed. You have to keep busy, maintain a positive attitude, listen to the sources of help…live in harmony, be glad that you’re alive.”