I almost died in a car wreck that happened in the rain. For the most part (and thanks to EMDR and a lot of therapy) I don’t really have problems anymore when I drive. When I do, I have coping skills that work well. So today was a pretty big surprise when I was driving in the rain on my way to a meeting and started having flashbacks, not about my car wreck, but about the day of my brother’s accident. Clear as anything were the memories of getting the call from my mom, picking up his truck, sitting in the ICU waiting room unable to pray and barely able to hold it together, leaning on the prayers and shoulders of friends.
I’ve rarely had flashbacks of my own trauma, much less that of someone else. And while that day was traumatic for me, it hasn’t had nearly the impact that my own trauma has.
As I began to write this post, I also began to ask why and to process what happened this afternoon. I’m dreaming again… I’m processing again… I’m resolving trauma again.
I am done being afraid of the hold the past has on me. I’ve survived this much this long, and I can deal with whatever else boils up. But this was interesting, because as much as the flashback experience while driving on slick roads was not pleasant, it didn’t shake me. I’m now more curious about it, about where it came from and why that day?
I dream when I’m relaxed or when I am processing. Emotions, events – they all get run through my dream cycles in full color and epic drama. I don’t dream the exact thing, I dream versions of it, or nothing at all related. I started dreaming again this week after a long time off. My resting heart rate is slowly dropping, I’m a little more calm during the day and now memories are emerging that probably haven’t been dealt with. The human brain is fascinating.
Am I excited by this? Nope. Am I afraid of it? Also nope. Gonna deal with it and move on…
Sex and dating have been the last big issues I haven’t really dealt with post-PTSD. I didn’t have to, so I didn’t, and figured I’d deal with it when I had to. Well, now I have to if I want this relationship to continue. Which I do, because Client’s Brother is an incredible surprise, and I’d like to see where we go. He knows I still have a lot of shit to work through, and he’s kind and compassionate about it. Since I have a giant question mark about my reactions to everything (post-assault I am pretty skittish about, well, everything), I have no idea what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. I have so many negative emotions about sex and dating, and changing that is going to take time and energy that I don’t yet have available for this. He’s walking through this with me, and I couldn’t really ask for more. It’s quite wonderful.
As I’m rolling into the end of the work year and things slow down for about a month, I have some space to step away from the office and focus on myself. It’s time I really need to do this, to get ME back. I need to form different coping habits, need to resolve some background noise and pursue some things that bring me joy, things that I haven’t had the energy to pursue. As much as the recovery process is central to my life, I’m ready to move beyond recovery and be more than the anxiety and scars. I think that identity was ok for a while, and I think it gave me a bit of shelter, but I’m more than the scars and want to be more than the anxiety. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t start things on Mondays and I try to avoid high-expectation change scenarios. I’d rather start something on a Tuesday in April. So no end-of-year or new year plans, just seems like the right time to push myself forward a bit and regain some of what I like about myself.
The women who have spoken about questioning their perception of their experience? Me too.
One day away from my second trauma anniversary of the week (both 4 years ago), my resting heart rate is back down to where I’d like it to be, I’m still losing weight a bit at a time, my hormones seem to be more balanced for the first time in about 5 months and I was able to say without hesitation yesterday, “We don’t blame victims.”
With the number of celebrities stepping forward to say that they have experienced sexual harassment and assault, including rape, with the national conversation opening up about longstanding acceptance, even expectation of this behavior, and the long silence of victims who were afraid to lose their jobs, their credibility or more…Me too.
My hope is that light will be shed on the issue as well as on the perpetrators of sexual violence. This is something that lives in darkness and secrecy, and dies in the light. I also hope that we support those who choose to speak about their experiences, and we support those who do not. I’m one that doesn’t care to talk about it, but I think it’s important to say “Me too”. I experienced years of harassment and assault – I was groped and grabbed and propositioned by men who acted like they had a right to me. Like so many other women I didn’t make a big deal out of it, smiled, stepped aside, and learned to avoid them. I’m thankful my experiences weren’t violent, but that’s another thing I hope people come to realize. Harassment and assault aren’t always violent. They aren’t always blatant or loud, they are very often manipulative, and they are designed to maximize blame and shame for the victim. The women who have spoken about questioning their perception of their experience? Me too. I get it. I’ve been there. I don’t have to be there any more, again, Praise God.
For those of us – women and men – who have felt like we had to stay in the shadows, not take the risk, not lose our jobs, not lose our credibility, not lose whatever else we have at stake…I hope the current conversations about non-consensual sexual interactions provide you the opportunity to heal, to feel recognized and heard whether you choose to speak or not. I hope you get to see that blame and shame are not for you, they are for the people who perpetrated this. And if you are ready to share, I hope you have a safe space to do it. For me, it’s enough to say “Me Too”.
Today has been hard for me to get to. Four years ago I got a phone call that left me numb and horrified and unable to breathe. I got tossed aside and betrayed by a person who blindsided me, then spent the next two years emotionally beating the life out of me over the guilt they felt. That was six days before I nearly died in a car wreck. Four years ago was not a good week for me.
This is a good week, because for the first time in years I am able to recognize that it was not the end I had believed it to be, it was the beginning of four years of healing and all the good that has come from that. It was the day I learned to open my eyes, be honest with myself, authentic with others, and declare to myself that I AM VALUABLE.
Saturday won’t be about remembering the day I almost died, I am running a 5k with a lot of friends to celebrate how far I have come in my recovery. A lot was taken from me four years ago, and four years later I have gotten back so much more.
…yes, I admired grass. Like I said, I’m laughing too.
I didn’t really come with a natural ability to chill out, and post-trauma I have had ZERO ability to chill out, so I have to practice.
Yep, I practice being calm and taking care of myself. I know, I laugh at it too.
This week has been one of my best since my brother’s accident about 4 months ago. He was badly injured at work and that put my recovery on pause until recently. I was so focused on him and my family that my brain stopped working through the trauma for a while. Now it’s back, now some emotions and realizations are starting to come back to the surface. It’s a good thing, it’s part of my healing process, part of my recovery. I’m so much better prepared to let my brain resolve things now, so much better at recognizing that after working 3 long and intense days, knocking off work early to go for a hike was a great thing for me to do.
I’m pounding out my stress and anxiety by the mile. I’m over 32 miles since Sunday, which is really good for me! 9 miles today since I walked with a friend and by myself (running is not my favorite, I never get the high), and as much as my feet are sore and my muscles are not happy, I feel really good about it. I am doing this while meeting intense deadlines for clients, spending time with friends, getting hit with the same disaster coverage everyone else is and looking after my “chickens”, the lovely group of young people that I have adopted and who view me as the favorite “Aunt”.
I pushed my practice a step further by pausing on my evening walk to admire the fading rays of the sun illuminating tufts of grass seeds. Sunsets sometimes make the most warm and comforting and happy glow, and I settled into it as I walked along the trail from my neighborhood and yes, I admired grass. Like I said, I’m laughing too. But it was such a good thing to be present and notice simple, pleasant things and not be burdened by things that didn’t exist in that space. It was also a tremendous accomplishment for my brain to do that. Sometimes I practice and fail. Today I practiced and nailed it.