Sometimes my walk through PTSD, trauma, severe stress and its aftereffects resembles the photo above. A walk on a pier. Except that when the bear (who strongly resembles Papa Bear) reaches the end of this pier he will stop, maybe take a look around, turn and head back to tierra firma. Not so with victims/survivors of trauma. It seems like in my journey, the on-going journey through trauma and recovery, is like that walk on the pier. Except the trauma doesn't know enough to stop at the end of the pier, look around and turn back. It keeps on going straight ahead off the pier and and into deep water. With no warning. It doesn't even know that the pier, the safe territory, has ended and unfathomable depths are ahead. Uncharted territory.
Also, unlike the picture above, there is no lighthouse to warn of shallow water, rocks, or other dangers. To guide us from danger to safety.
In the journey of trauma, especially since so few people understand it - unless they've embarked on the journey themselves or are walking with one who is - the journey is largely based on trial and error. Stumbling into deep water i.e. extreme fatigue, stuttering, memory loss, loss of cognitive skills, balance issues, et al. and then working with each affect individually to find a solution. Rest. Right brain activity. Going out with someone rather than alone. Staying inside where it's safe. Determining who are the safe bears in the den. And, most importantly, who are not. Finding out what works - and what doesn't.
I was suddenly plunged into such a time on my journey during the latter half of 2012. Unexpectedly. I didn't even see the cliff (or the end of the pier) until I had unknowingly stepped off it and found myself falling, falling, falling....
A person I had considered safe was going through rough waters of their own - and started lashing out at me. Hurtful words. Words that caused significant re-injury to an already fragile psyche.
Words like: "After all you don't have cancer." "You turn everything around to yourself." "I don't think you can go an hour without using the words 'I', 'me' or 'my'. (I dare you to try it. Since our worldview begins with ourselves and radiates outward, this is an impossible task - especially (a) in the middle of a shopping trip and (b) when the other person is not following the same guidelines).
This ushered in a whole new phase of re-injury and trauma, depression, which as day followed day began to resemble brain injury. During this time, I was following a blog about a young girl in our area who had been hit by a truck and her journey through physical recovery from the injuries and also from the brain injury caused by the impact. As I read the blog, I began to see some (slight) similarities between this girl and her journey toward regaining what she had lost and my journey. She often felt overwhelmed when re-learning skills. Re-learning skills, i.e. therapy, would leave her so exhausted that she would have to take numerous naps during the day. She would become overwhelmed with the task at home. Irritability followed. Frustration at not being able to do the things that she used to do easily. Etc. And, also, not understanding why the truck had hit her. Why she had been traumatized.
Going out for a short time left me exhausted. Trying to plan a meal or go grocery shopping left me overwhelmed. I stayed home in my safe place more and more. My life constricted by the sensory and other overload imposed on me by the re-injury, the re-traumatization.
Brain injury? Was it possible that I had sustained something similar to a brain injury through the trauma?
I broached the subject with my therapist who said that trauma creates chaos in the brain.
Chaos in the brain. Who would've thunk it? Not me. Not the people who inflicted the various traumas on me. Nor the people walking with me.
As I walk through this particular phase of the journey, a phase in which my cognitive skills go up and down on any given day; a phase where words sometimes dessert me and I resemble a mentally deficient person; a phase where the physical affects such as extreme fatigue, lack of balance, etc. are still there, I'm learning to go with the flow. To embrace life as it presents itself in my current circumstances. To enjoy what I still have. And to value those who have chosen to walk with me. Those who have not given up on me as the journey progresses.
Once again, thank you to all those who are walking with me on the journey. Helping me up when I fall. You are my lighthouses. The light shining in and illuminating the darkness giving me hope when all seems hopeless.
God bless you.
Until next time....