I started writing my quake experience story for context, but it was too upsetting. I saved the draft, so maybe later. This is what was left of my musings around survivorship.
I stayed in Christchurch after the major quakes of 2010 and 2011. I stayed in my house on the East side, later moving in with my brother in a house nearer town but in a worse affected area. For a long time after the quakes people would say to me “you’re so brave to stay!” or “you’re so brave to go through that.” Later, only about a month after we got our toilet back, people would say to me “isn’t that all over? I’m sick of hearing about it”. As time went on it became about how resilient Christchurch is.
Resilience is a dirty word around here. Christchurch people HATE being told we’re resilient. We hate being called brave. And you can keep f***ing hearing about it. Why? It’s not brave to keep going when there is no other choice. If I’d had the means to move to Sweden on February 23rd, you’d have heard a sonic boom, I’d have been moving so fast. I stayed because I had nowhere else to go.
We survived. We took what we had and we carried on as best we could because what other choice did we have? Our loved ones were going through it too, so we needed to keep going to help them. We limped along, leaning on eachother, like a group of injured soldiers just trying to get out of the line of fire.
We discovered a sense of community, which meant that surviving could be a group effort, but surviving is all that it was.
Community was so important. I never realised how important until I went to Auckland on holiday in October 2011, 8 months after the “main event”.
In Auckland they were sick of hearing about Christchurch. They didn’t understand the fear, or the stress, or how it could possibly still be going on.
I was at a pop culture expo, our version of comicon, along with thousands of other people. Usually that show feels like my community, with all the geeks in it together, flying their freak flags high. This year I’d never felt more alone.
Then I went to get an autograph off a voice actor… he was why I was there. I loved him as a kid, and I could barely talk to him I was so excited. My boyfriend tells him “we’ve come up from Christchurch and you’re the guest she’s here to see” … he is lovely, I choke some more.
We move on to the other 2 guests because why not, it’s free. “Did you say you’re from Christchurch?” “Yes” “how are the aftershocks; are you sleeping through the night yet?” I wanted to cry. This man lived on the other side of the world but he understood it. He really got it. He’s from LA so he understands. *
Living with ME/CFS has a lot in common with that post quake period. The people who aren’t experiencing it are sick of hearing about it. Sometimes we get told we’re brave or strong for living our lives. Or that we talk about it too much. Sometimes we meet someone who gets it and they ask just the right question and we nearly cry… or we do cry, because we’re tired and it’s too hard to not.
I live the life I have. I work with what I’ve got. I play the hand I’m dealt. Because what is the alternative? I don’t want to stop carrying on. I don’t have the option of running away. So what does that leave me?
* he came to Christchurch in 2016. We put on a nice wee shake for him while he was here. I went to talk to him at the show. “I met you in Auckland in 2011. We said we were from Christchurch…” “and I asked how the aftershocks were.” We both nearly cried, sharing our quake experiences with a stranger from half way around the globe. We’re not resilient, we’re just limping along, leaning on each others shoulders
… ok, I did cry, but not in front of him.