Tomorrow – February 7th – will mark 10 years since my house burned down in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Ten entire years, and I still don’t think one single day has passed without me mentioning – or at least thinking about – the fires.
As I mentioned in my post on the eighth anniversary, I actually never thought the fires affected me all that much.
Sure, I was homeless, as were our two closest friends, but I was alive. I hadn’t known anyone who had died and, whilst we didn’t have any kind of insurance or savings, we did okay afterwards.
I still went to school that Monday, and we found somewhere to live pretty quickly, so I really couldn’t bring myself to complain about anything considering how lucky I had been.
I remember at the time everyone around me being concerned that I was too okay with it all. I didn’t cry when it happened, or afterwards. I talked about it to anyone who wanted to know exactly what had happened.
For all intents and purposes, I was fine.
But I have since realised that I’m not 100% okay, which is to be expected after going through such an ordeal. If you’ve read my earlier post, you’ll know that I was actually there when my house caught on fire, and that the other house we stayed also partially burned down.
What I went through was traumatic, but for some reason, it took a few years to start affecting me. The first few years afterwards I was too caught up in my own life to think much about the fires.
The year of Black Saturday was my first year of high school, and afterwards I moved four hours away from everyone I knew to the worst town I have ever been to, so I didn’t really think about the fires. However, eventually, certain things began to arise that made me realise that they had affected me, and still do to this day.
As one would expect, I am petrified of my house burning down again. It is my biggest fear. Daniel and I have certain rituals we do at night and in the morning before leaving for work to ensure that we check all switches and lights are off, just to give me peace of mind.
I am also still really, really nervous around things like ovens, stoves, heaters, and even lighters. As a baker, you can imagine how difficult having those fears is when I’m going to take something out of the oven, and suddenly something doesn’t move the way I expect it to or something like that, and I instantly freeze up and freak out.
Of course, this doesn’t always happen. I have good and bad phases, and I am confident in saying that I am mostly okay with those things – but every now and then, I’ll have a bad day with too many close calls and I end up having to just lay down on the couch and watch something funny or go to sleep to calm me down. Those days really show me what an angel my boyfriend is, as he always looks after me so well.
I often feel really stupid for being so freaked out by simple things, but he always calmly reassures me: “Your house burned down, you’re allowed to be afraid of it happening again”. He also tries his best to help me overcome my fears without pushing me to do something I am too uncomfortable with.
I really wish I could say that my house burning down didn’t affect me, but I think the fact that I put up a strong front for so long (which has a lot to do with how I was raised too, but that’s a story for another time) ended up making me a lot more vulnerable now, as I am making up for subconsciously hiding my feelings all those years.
I still remind myself every day that other people went through so much worse than I did, and that’s even more important on the actual anniversary of Black Saturday. All things considered, I am still so incredibly lucky to have come out of those fires alive and unscathed, and I will never forget that.
Tomorrow I will be thinking of all those who had it much worse than me, and hoping that the people who are still alive and lost so much more are doing okay. But, I will also be thinking about myself, and allowing myself to feel whatever I happen to feel, because my feelings are valid too. My fear and sadness is valid too, and always have been, it just took me a while to realise it.
Until next time,