Forget those statistics about birth rates skyrocketing nine months after a major power outage.
How about the divorce rates?
As more and more time goes by without electricity, heat, hot water, flush toilets, Internet, phone and cable, even the best relationships can get a little strained.
Add in cooped-up kids with nothing to do, a freezer full of spoiling food, near-empty gas tank, backed-up sump pump and no showers and the situation at home really deteriorates.
Glastonbury resident Pam Foldvary and her partner, Paul, have been without power since Saturday afternoon. The couple and their two
are essentially camping out in their own home. As she puts it: No heat, no lights, no fun.
"It's really not good for relationships," said Pam Foldvary. "When my neighbor came over to loan us his chain saw, I said, 'I'm going to be using this soon and not on the trees in our driveway.' "
Dr. Michael Balkunas, chief of psychiatry and
, has his own experiences to draw on.
After the lights in his Burlington home went out Saturday, "My wife and I were dealing with the house and the kids and driving around looking for groceries," Balkunas said.
Balkunas agreed that
levels go up and coping skills go down when life is interrupted by natural disasters and other unexpected events.
Initially, it's candlelight dinners, conversations and cards or checkers by the fire. After a few days, living like a pioneer looses much of its charm, said
resident Nadine Fulton, whose power was restored on Monday.
"Our conversations turned into short, clipped responses. We worked it out by having my husband take care of the outdoor chores and me doing stuff inside."
"It is kind of stressful, especially if you're the one home dealing with all the chaos and your partner is going off to work and having a perfectly normal day," said Bolton resident Dana Bugl. "Nobody's sleeping well. Even the dogs know that there's something wrong."
Experts say personal responses to disasters vary widely. Common reactions include difficulty concentrating, eating too much or too little, drinking more than usual, problems falling or staying asleep, irritability and feeling restless, anxious, uneasy or worried.
You might also feel some unexpected negative emotions.
For example, anyone without electricity driving by a house with lights might develop ''power envy'' and resentment. Also, those lucky few with electricity can find themselves dealing with unexpected, long-term house guests — a situation that can fray tempers quickly.
Kelly Fitzgerald and her boyfriend lost power at their
home on Saturday. The next morning they headed over to camp in with her boyfriend's parents. Three days on an air mattress in the living room, lining up for showers and squabbling over the television remote were more than enough. (Their power was restored Wednesday.)
"We were grateful to have somewhere to stay, but you miss your own stuff and your own routine. You eat when they eat and you watch what they watch," said Fitzgerald. "And being with family 24-7 for days is a lot of togetherness."
Guilty Pleasures For Coping
While overindulging in food, drink or drugs brings a whole new set of problems, Balkunas said small treats, like a glass of wine or breaking into that bag of
candy, aren't the worst things.
"Give yourself a break and remember, this is only temporary," he said. "It's not related to something catastrophic and it's going to get better, hopefully in a few days. In the meantime, do what you have to do to get through it."
Exercising, resting and
meals whenever you can will help. Return to your daily routines wherever possible. Remember that all that enforced togetherness is a strain. Spend some time by yourself and let others to do the same.
Balkunas, whose power came back Tuesday night, said tht once routines are restored, temperaments even out and relationships usually return to normal.
"Last night, as I was leaving work, I realized I was dreading going home where it was cold and dark," Balkunas said. "When I got home and the lights went on, it was like someone flipped a switch in my head. I felt like myself again."