Words don’t always come easy. Sure, there are times when they flow on to the page.
But, there are other times that the words we want to write are simply hijacked, by the words we need to write.
It is a reminder that writers are a conduit for words to take form in reality.
The words on my mind are not light. They are not easy.
That does not make them any less important or true.
I shiver as I think about writing something so deeply personal.
About something that makes me so distinctly different from many.
But these words, they have been residing in my mind for far too long.
It is time they become part of my pages.
It is time to let go of the illusion that, “Because I am not like others, then that must mean there is something wrong with me.”
It is time for me to share what it is like to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It is not pretty, but it is what I struggle with everyday.
It is my reality.
This is the work that I do.
This is what consumes my energy and time.
Though my reality is not always clear.
Day to day, year by year-
My sense of time is scattered and fragmented, split, and ill-defined.
Hours, weeks, months, they seem arbitrary and seemingly linear.
They are not viable representations of the time that exists in my mind.
Once yesterday becomes part of the past, I plunge further into the future and my history becomes a bit longer.
Yet, the memories are free floating in time.
With no anchor.
Such memories emerge throughout the year.
Some come through as emotions or physical pain.
Some are triggered by emotions or sounds.
Others make it through as a vivid reel of memories with no emotion attached.
Each sensation is haunting.
Like a manifestation of misunderstanding.
These struggles, I thought had overcome.
I thought I had overcome the fear of being awoken in the middle of the night by violent outbursts.
I thought I had overcome the rage that comes along with being a survivor of sexual assault.
I thought I had overcome the sadness that is so real in losing a home.
I thought I had overcome the confusion that surrounded the chaos.
I thought I had learned to talk, accept, and forgive.
I thought I had gotten better.
But I had only shoved each experience away as a fragmented collection of features.
Quickly shoving it deep into my baggage, straightening my shirt, standing up straight, and choking out: “I’m fine.” “Really I’m fine.”
Over and over again, until I believed it.
And so the cycle continued.
Each traumatic memory is unique.
Like the time that I found myself in solitary confinement.
Or the time that I saw my mom get thrown to the ground, heard her skull crack, and had to fight with all my might to keep the same (or worse) from happening to me.
Or the time I hid with my brother and sister, trying to keep warm after the electricity was purposely cut, trying to convince them everything was okay.
Or the time that I was called a slut, pushed down onto a pile of someone else’s dirty laundry, and had to use every bit of martial arts training to get the hell out from underneath that sorry excuse for a boyfriend.
Or the time our house was on fire and I called 911, only to be redirected to the local fire hall… who’s line was busy.
Or the time the police broke down my door, guns drawn, only to find that they had the wrong house, and the suspect next door was already on the run.
Each of these happened.
And they are only a brief fraction of the chaos I speak of.
Each event was real.
Each one is in need of excavation and repair.
Because the common thread running through all these incidents is the fact that I did not feel the emotions that were a natural response to the trauma.
I disconnected, but continued to move forward.
I did what I needed to do.
Working through through these events is not as simple as setting aside time to do so.
Recovery does not happen in real time.
A certain stance, movement, phrase, sound, or smell can trigger the sensation that an event is indeed happening now- complete with a full set of physical responses.
Escalated heart rate, shortness of breath, hot chest and face, cold hands and feet.
The urgent need to respond, sweating, dry mouth, ringing ears, a full heightened sensitivity, intensified reflexes.
Sometimes for no reason at all, in the current reality. For everyone else, everything is okay.
For me… I become consumed by the displaced anxiety, fear, anger, despair, sadness, and rage, each living out its shelf life in the wrong place and time.
No matter it is an inaccurate interpretation of reality- it feels real.
And it is TERRIFYING.
Each day is new, even if it feels old.
Old feelings and responses need to be sorted, assigned to their appropriate site of origin, and be contained.
Filed away in a safe place for later reference.
It is almost certain that it will be connected to another incident in space and time.
As each displaced memory is restored, categorized, and filed away, new path ways open.
New possibilities emerge.
New perspectives allow me to experience the now.
With a crisper and clearer lens.
And a better sense, of what was then.
And what is now.
I think you captured the nature of response to trauma. Time (and writing) often works like a kaleidoscope, shifting one’s perspective a bit at a time until one day you are standing atop the very thing that was suffocating you. I hope you can breathe freely sooner rather than later.
Thank you for your words Michelle. I absolutely love your kaleidoscope analogy!
I see you as a strong, resilient person after reading your poem. What is on the inside of someone is often hard to know, thank you for sharing.
Thank you for the comment Abby, it is often so hard to share the inside. But comments like yours help me be glad that I did.
Feelings are terrifying. Especially when they are so disconnected from reality. Addiction of all stripes feeds on this — in order to not feel, we do, we drink, we smoke, we gamble, we work.
It takes tremendous courage to face the things you have been dealing with, now and from the past. It does pass, in its own time. It also opens up life in ways we can’t possibly imagine in the moment.
They say the only way out of hell is to go through it. So keep going.
Yes, and just by sharing so many possibilities emerge. Definitely a shift in perspective. Thank you so much for the comment!
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