‘I can’t unsee them’: Rockland woman copes with trauma from Haiti earthquake by writing – Enterprise News

ROCKLAND In the mountainous countryside of Des Cayes, Haiti, young Islande Schettini tucks herself away from the outside world.

Sitting next to a low hanging tree, overlooking a shallow river, Schettini loses herself in a fictional world of a good book, not knowing one day she'd publish a book of her own in a country far away.

The self-published author who currently lives in Rockland and previously lived in Brocktonfound writing poetry as an outlet to release the inner trauma. The poetry book "Strength in the Darkness" by Author House publishing is composed of 40 poems about love, the earthquake in Haiti, God, past heartbreaks from a divorce and the crippling nostalgia of leaving Haiti.

"I never learned how to write professionally. Sometimes I feel like I have to write to get my emotions out. I take my pen and start writing. I have these stories in my mind, the plot, the setting. I read so many books, so writing has become so natural to me," Schettini, 36, said.

Schettini fell in love with books at a young age and used them to disappear from reality. After the death of her father and other family members, she would sit somewhere far from human interaction to enjoy her newfound dimension in the spine of a good book.

On Jan. 12, 2010, Schettini's life was flipped upside down as a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ripped through her beloved country, killing three of hercousins in the process.

"Words cannot explain the images I saw during the earthquake. I cannot erase them from my mind. It was horrible. I can't unsee them," Schettini said. "I saw people injured bleeding in the streets, crushed under buildings, bodies being burned because there were so many of them, and the smell in the air, I will never forget it."

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At the time of the earthquake, Schettini was living in the United States and visiting family inHaiti. She hadplanned to stay for a few weeks then return to the states, but the vacation to see her family was cut short.

Schettini took her belongings and her son, who was born in America and was 7 years old at the time, and flew back to the America, leaving her family behind. She felt guilty leaving everyone abruptly after the earthquake, especially in light of Haiti's devastation.

Schettini was fighting suicidal thoughts and survivor's remorse once she returned to America.

"I kept saying if God kept me alive, that means he has a mission for me. He kept me alive for a reason, and my mom lost her house with everything inside," Schettini said.

During the earthquake, Schettini was sleeping at her aunt's house and was woken by a frantic family member saying to evacuate the home. The aunt's house was the only structure standing on the street.

All the neighbors' houses collapsed into piles of dust and debris. It was a miracle her aunt's house was left untouched, Schettini said.

Despite the house standing, the family was anxious and worried about it collapsing at any point, so they slept outside in tents with the rest of the neighborhood, who lost everything. The transition from living in a home to be exposed to the immediate elements was difficult.

Writing became a new way to heal the depressionand PTSD Schettini was feeling during this dark time in her life, she said. In Haitian culture, depression is a taboo subject. It's not something widely talked about, according to Schettini.

"I never told anyone how I felt, and I was sinking in my deep depression. In my community in Haiti, they don't know what depression is. We don't have time to be depressed," Schettini said.

Schettini was able to power through her depression and eventually heal herself through poetry, she said.

She earned an associate's degree in psychology from Quincy College and went on to receive a bachelor's in psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.

As an elective, Schettini took a poetry course at Quincy college, andthe class assignmentwas to write 20 poems. Herprofessor was impressed by herwork and urged her to publish it.

As an immigrant, she didn't feel confident in her English due to the fact she was still learning, but the encouragement gave her an extra boost of confidence.

And in February, "Strength in the Darkness" was published.

"There's a lot of things immigrants go through, but people don't know about your struggles with English, how people treat you as an immigrant and just your overall confidence as an outsider trying to fit in," Schettini said.

Schettiniis the process of writing short stories and encourages people to follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles are in the way.

As someone new to English, publishing a poetry book in a foreign language was a distant dream that became a reality, Schettini said.

Enterprise Alisha Saint-Ciel can be reached by email at stciela@gannett.comYou can follow heron Twitter at @alishaspeakss.Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.

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'I can't unsee them': Rockland woman copes with trauma from Haiti earthquake by writing - Enterprise News

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