Couching it…

I slept on the couch last night. Not because there is anything wrong with my bedroom or my bed, but because I was stressed and bothered and sleeping on the couch makes me feel better.

This odd habit of mine started many, many moons ago when I was in the Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles. That quake struck at 4:31am so, obviously, I was in bed. I made it out of my bedroom, dodging falling bookcases and flying stereos and spent the next several hours huddled in a doorway in complete darkness, with my roommates, braving one aftershock after another.

I never slept in that bed again.  It took me a couple months before I could even go into the room and clean things up. But from the day after the quake until I moved away from Los Angeles  I slept on the living room sofa (I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my roommates, Melissa and Steve.  Sorry Melissa!  Sorry Steve!  Love you guys!). I felt safer there. I felt like I had control there.

There is of course, no basis for this behavior in logic or reality but it has stuck with me and is now a pattern in my life.  Hurricane or tornado warnings when I lived in Florida – slept on the couch.  The days following 9/11 when I lived in New Jersey and worked in Manhattan – slept on the couch.  And when I first moved to Dublin and cried everyday thinking I’d made the worst mistake of my life – you guessed it, I couched it.  I remember crying on the phone to my sister and asking her what if I was never able to sleep in the bedroom of my new apartment.  Her response – then you don’t ever sleep in the bedroom, who the hell cares?

And she was right, who the hell cares?

We all have times when we feel like we aren’t in control.  And for me, despite all my planning and preparations and to-do lists, moving to Dublin was one of those times. I was completely shell-shocked and, for whatever deep-seated psychological reason, sleeping on the couch calmed me and made me feel better.  Eventually of course I did sleep in my bed and have established a life in Dublin that I enjoy and in which I feel in control… most of time.

And when I don’t, I have my couch.




10 thoughts on “Couching it…

  1. I think I can identify with the trauma of natural disasters, earthquake, hurricane, tornado. When I was 17 , a powerful hurricane destroyed some islands in the Caribbean and took the roof off our house, while we were in it. Horrifying ! It took YEARS, if not to say a solid decade to get over not feeling safe. I wish I had though of the couch as comfort-zone though. I think I just ate my way through the trauma. Couch sounds like the better option.

  2. Steve, your ex-roommate here. Post traumatic stress affects people in different ways. I remember thinking during the earthquake, wow this an authentic Los Angeles experience, sort like going to a Hollywood party. I actually thought it was fun. During it I had no fear. It wouldn’t be until the after shocks that I started to get freaked out. I remember hitting the floor during a movie when an aftershock hit. Hiding under my desk at work with each aftershock. I wouldn’t park in parking garages for fear they would collapse.

    We eventually moved to Minnesota, where blizzards kill more people every year than earthquakes. I still feel safer here. There is something about the seemingly solid earth moving that I just can’t shake.

    I do remember that our cat, Beast, was in the living room when the earthquake hit. In her mind the living room is where earthquakes happened and so your room was safe. We couldn’t get her out of your room. It was funny to watch the cat sleep in your room and you sleeping on the couch wearing your bicycle helmet.

    In the Midwest of America we have tornadoes, and we go to the basement. So, the basement is where I feel safe here. Probably not the best place to be in an earthquake, but very comfortable when the tornado sirens are going off.

  3. No worries, ex-roomie! Stressful times for sure. I think living rooms are just closer to exits so it feels like you’ll be able to escape if anything happens.

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