With the “anniversary” of the fire drawing nearer, I find myself needing to escape. People want to come together and show support but how can we pretend to feel closure when we sit here a year later and still we have no answers, no “I’m sorry”, no “we screwed up”. What happened in Gatlinburg on November 28th, 2016 was a travesty. Fourteen people lost their lives THAT WE HAVE BEEN TOLD ABOUT. It’s not something I don’t often discuss but in the last month I have discovered something; it seems that the more I talk about what happened the more I heal. I was told not even a week after the fire that I would have PTSD. I ignored this, thinking “Hello? I’m not a war veteran.” I knew I would be fine. I was wrong. Just two days ago I drove past another roadside burn and the smell alone had tears welling up in my eyes. I’ve never experienced something like this. It’s a hurt that is so hard to put down in words. I got so sick after the fire that I had no time to process what had happened. I was too worried about staying alive. Lupus is one hell of a disease, I mean come on… In a matter of five months I almost died three times. That’s still hard for me to wrap my head around! When I was packing my bag to head out West, I realized I don’t even have a suitcase to pack my things in. I don’t say that for sympathy or poor-pitiful-you’s. I say it because it is so surreal to me. I miss events and gatherings because I’m scared of things like bonfires. Logically I know it’s not going to hurt me, but the fear is unexplainable and irrational. I know that. I wish I could move on, but that honestly seems impossible. I never had nightmares, but I feel like I’ve lived one. That night just plays over and over in my head. What could I have done differently? What could I have grabbed? What did I forget? It is so hard to let go of every little thing that has ever meant something to you. Every single day I think of something else that is gone now. I’ve done a lot of reflecting and soul searching since then and I feel like I am finally finding myself. In this last year I have learned so much about myself. What I want, what I need, and more importantly what I don’t need. As I start to buy things for my new home I find myself really taking a moment to stop and think, “is this something I need.” I never felt that I was a very materialistic person but I was and it’s hard to admit, but it’s true. After losing all my stuff I realize that’s exactly what it is…stuff.
With Thanksgiving being tomorrow everyone starts asking the age-old question – What are YOU thankful for? This year it’s something that I’ve never realized how lucky I am to have; I’m thankful for life. I’m thankful that I lived. I beat the fire, I beat lupus (twice!), I beat depression, I beat hair loss, I beat surgery(twice!). I beat the odds. I realize now life is precious and short and taken for granted too often. I never want to do that. I never want to think “what if?” or “I wish I had” I want to conquer the world.
I am thankful to all of you also for listening to my story. For giving me a voice and a place to vent and heal. I have no words for what that alone means to me, so thank you for everything.
Happy Holidays ❤ Radiate positivity every day of your life because we are lucky to be living.
Here are a few pictures of my beautiful treehouse
Before the fire
After the fire
Heal & Rebuild
We are and always will be Gatlinburg Strong ❤