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  • Jason Wood

Brave The Storm

My love of storm chasing started as soon as I received my driver’s license. In the age before radar on cell phones, I would actually call back home to my mom for weather reports to help me find the best locations to chase. Ask any of my high school friends and I’m sure they’ve got a story to tell about me dancing around in a hail storm or scaring them to death with getting too close to a possible twister.

Storm chasers are a different breed! I believe you’re born a storm chaser. I love the challenge of the chase, spending days analyzing models to pick the perfect spot. Then trying to navigate various road networks and terrains for the perfect view. It’s an adrenaline rush to come so close to something so powerful. Some days are busts, some days are lifelong memories. I spend hours driving around rocking out to music for a glimpse at a tornado or even a nice wall cloud. Total weather nerd! Those hours are my me time, a time to reconnect with myself and with nature.

I find it ironic that I spent years chasing and yearning for storms only to be living in my very own storm. My storm, however, did not have gusty winds or large hail. My storm was fueled by fears, insecurities, anxiety, and regrets. There were no tornadoes in my storm; instead, I faced destruction at the hands of an eating disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Usually, when a tornado is imminent there will be a watch and then a warning issued to allow residents time to take shelter. My storm didn’t have these early alerts; I was hit without warning on May 15, 1997, when my dad succumbed to cancer. As a storm chaser, I always plan escape routes if things get bad. Unable to realize I was even in a storm, I failed to look for an escape for over twenty years until last year when I found my shelter.

People will usually refer to storm chasers as either crazy or brave. I’d like to think I’m a little bit of both! I braved the loss of my parents at a young age. I braved the harsh words of bullies. I braved broken relationships with my family. I braved eviction, homelessness, and arrest. I braved insecurities, obsessive thoughts, and anxiety. I braved an eating disorder. And if that made me a little crazy, well that’s a-ok with me because I survived!

Reed Timmer, extreme meteorologist and one of my idols is quoted as saying, “Not only am I enjoying what I do out there chasing storms, it can also provide helpful information to people in the path of these storms.”

These are words to live by! No, I’m not saying you need to go out and chase tornadoes. I mean that we’ve all braved storms in our lives, some more severe than others. Our survival stories can help others who are in the midst of their own storms. That’s why we need to speak up and keep talking about mental health. I went through my storm and now I hope to provide inspiration and empowerment to other people in the paths of their storms.

This post was inspired by my participation in This Is My Brave's Brave The Storm Virtual 5k coming up June 11-13. Registration is free and I would love for you to join me for this special event aimed at raising awareness of mental illness and promoting the power of storytelling. Or feel free to donate on my fundraising page. I cannot thank you enough for your support of this incredible organization that has empowered me through my recovery!


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