The land and the houses in Petaluma were mostly untouched by the fire itself, but its effects are still deeply felt. Many of us feel the pain, sometimes more than we realize.
My body tightens a bit seeing fallen leaves blown around by a strong wind. The smell of burnt toast means something different to me now. These are called triggers. Triggers remind us of an event on either a conscious or unconscious level. The body is on alert whether we are aware of it or not.
I find it helpful to learn the science of why my body is reacting a certain way, and to develop skills to calm myself down. When I get triggered, I use the skills and in less than a minute, I feel calm and okay.
If you are unsure whether you will be okay again, or if it takes you a long time to feel calm after being triggered, please reach out to helpers. Your feelings are normal reactions to highly stressful events.
There are psychotherapists who are trained specifically to help people who have been through a traumatic experience. Trauma-focused psychotherapy is different than “just talking about it.” You will understand what is happening on both psychological and physiological levels. You will learn skills to calm your mind and body. Through practicing the skills, you can live with more ease and joy again.