Dr. Monique Koll
A few months ago I had made a commitment of 1hr/week of writing to NOMV. I managed that okay at first, and then, I was hit by Hurricane Harvey. I live just north of Houston and am a single mom living alone with my kid and pets, and to further complicate matters our 15yo Spanish exchange student had just arrived two weeks prior. But no biggie! I really wasn’t concerned. I had a quite serious boyfriend, but I was just fine on my own the way things were. I was renting my house, and besides I *really* didn’t think I was going to flood. I grew up in New Orleans so I’m an old hand to this flooding business, and it’s just stuff, anyway.
My son turned 11 on August 26, about a day before Harvey was scheduled to affect us, and the city was eerily quiet as we went out to celebrate. In the wee hours of the next morning, my boyfriend and I made the decision to pack the kids and pets up and leave. It would be no fun being stuck in my neighborhood, so we made a vacation out of it and went to Dallas for the weekend. We had so much fun!
I came back to find 8” of water had gotten in my house. It had mostly drained, and I had picked a lot of my stuff up, but the carpets were ruined, the insulation inside the walls were ruined, it was too early to tell about my piano yet and we couldn’t stay there, at least right then. I did the best thing for the house; we stripped out the carpets right away, started cleaning up. The landlord didn’t want me to do the sheetrock at first but I convinced her. My kids pets and I could stay with my boyfriend so no big deal, but he lived 30 minutes away, and they still had to go to same school and I still had to work, so I was super determined to get back in my house asap.
It didn’t work out that way. Under Texas law, I had the right to abandon that rental and get my deposit back, but it’s not what I wanted. I wanted to move back in asap. My friends and I worked really hard on the house, but the landlord still did not want to give me enough of a break on the rent to make it worth it. We did thousands of dollars worth of work, but the landlord did a shoddy job to get it together as cheap and as quick as possible. They did not remove the cabinets to remove the wet insulation behind them. They replaced the floors with cheap tile.
So then,, I’m waking my kids up at 5a, driving them to the bus stop 30m away, driving to work also 30m away for my 12 hours shift, repeating in the evenings. I work as an emergency veterinarian and we were busy, no rest for the weary! I was not happy anymore about moving back into that house, and life as it was was not sustainable. My exchange student was contemplating living with someone else. My son couldn’t attend Cub Scouts or anything after school. Sure, it is “just stuff” that I lost, but now what? It was easy to sink into depression for sure.
It was time to make some big decisions that I wasn’t ready to make. Fighting depression, for me anyway, means changing my circumstances. This is not always feasible, I know! In this case though, I made the huge financial leap and decided to buy a house! With the recent flood I was scared the market was going to skyrocket, and I wouldn’t be able to afford rent anyway. At that point, my boyfriend and I discussed our future. Buying a house now meant either buying one again in a couple of years if we were really going to move in together, or him and his kids moving in on my turf which would be less than ideal. In what was not the least stressful decision but maybe the one that made most sense in the long run, we decided to get engaged and buy the house together. Living with someone all of a sudden isn’t easy, especially since we were both just fine by ourselves, never mind four kids under one roof. The house-buying process was a whole other headache that I don’t want to relive enough to type. BUT, it worked! We are now in a house we love, in a neighborhood we love, where my kids can get to their school easily and attend all activities they like. I am engaged to the man that I love and we get to start our lives together earlier than we ever expected. I am not one to think things happen for a reason, but good can come from bad, and I am so thankful and fortunate that it did for us. We are not unscathed, financially or emotionally or otherwise, but I still have my job and my family and now a beautiful home that I own.
I know a lot of veterinarians in my city that did not make out nearly as well as I did. There is so much chaos and pain in our area still. It was wonderful seeing the community come together to help people and their pets. My son and exchange student grew so much out of it, and gained a sense of societal responsibility that they may never have had before. I’m still thinking of all of you that are still struggling with this disaster. Please let me know if there is any way that I can help you.
Monique Koll, DVM
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.